Visiting Walt Disney World with a 3 Year Old

This post is meant to be a followup to last year’s post, Visiting Walt Disney World with a 2 Year Old. I’ll be referring to, and updating, that post with the elements that were different this time around. For one, I said she wouldn’t remember the first trip. While that’s certainly true in the long run, three year old Scarlett definitely remembered the previous trip. She asked for rides she’d been on last time and she remembered going on the monorail.


Danielle and Scarlett in front of Castle
Danielle and Scarlett in front of Castle

Last time I said it was an average of $100 a day for Danielle, Scarlett, and I. In the intervening year she found her appetite and so our food average was closer to $150 a day for the three of us.

When it comes to the flight, this time she was of age to pay for her seat. That added up to about the cost of another Disney ticket. To offset that we combined it with a trip to visit the family. Certainly this is one of the biggest reasons that families out of driving distance only go to Disney rarely.

Just as last time we went just before Scarlett’s second birthday to avoid the flight costs, this time we went just before her third birthday to avoid the cost of a Disney ticket for her.

We once again stayed at the Fairfiled Inn that was right by Disney. It continues to be a good deal with free parking, nearly a dozen restaurants nearby, and free breakfast.

When to Go

My advice on when to go has not changed since last time. Spring is still the best time. This time it was winter and it was sweater weather during the morning and night we were able to get by on tshirts midday. As a reminder, it’s a tossup during a Florida winter. The week after we left it was in the 70s.

How It Went

This time around we decided to check out some of the other parks on my mother’s insistence. Because Scarlett caught a stomach bug that cut our trip short (she had to go to the hospital on dehydration concerns), we only ended up doing Epcot and Magic Kingdom this time around. As I did last time, I’m not going to bother with the chronology of our trip and I’m just going to expound on the experience as a whole.

Scarlett visits Epcot for the first time
Scarlett visits Epcot for the first time

I’d like to start with Epcot. As we get older the difference between each year mush together. I think that’s what happened with my mom insisting that Scarlett would enjoy Epcot at three. I was a huge nerd growing up and I always insisted we go to Epcot when we went for my birthday (and thus I could choose the park). But I didn’t think there was much to offer a three year old. It turns out I was right. Scarlett did enjoy the Nemo revamp of The Living Seas, but that’s about it.

The Living Seas - now with 100% more Nemo
The Living Seas – now with 100% more Nemo

Personally, I found the revamp took away what was special about the ride and made it a generic tie-in that, like The Little Mermaid ride, didn’t seem quite up to Disney standards. (Although, I’ll admit there may be a bit of a nostalgia filter on the older rides) She took Captain EO reasonably well considering her age and the spooky nature of the 3D show. I mostly went to show my wife a ridiculous relic of the 80s that had finally returned now that Michael Jackson was dead (and, somehow, no longer controversial). We also rode the renovated Imagination ride. I felt that the older ride, with its stronger focus on Figment, was much more kid oriented. My younger brothers Dan and Dave, who were just little tykes the first time we went to Epcot seemed to really enjoy it. (One of Dave’s favorite toys growing up was a Figment toy) The new ride seems to skew for much older kids. The World Showcase continues to be completely boring for kids. If Disney can afford it, they would do well to add more rides. One of my faves, the Norse ride, was closed for conversion to a Frozen ride. Scarlett did enjoy meeting the characters, though.

One of the things that tipped the balance in favor of taking Scarlett to Epcot was the fact that it was the only place to see Mulan. (Meanwhile Belle is both in Epcot and Magic Kingdom – in different outfits) The biggest change from 2 years old to 3 years old is that Scarlett asked to see certain characters and was excited about seeing them. Additionally, instead of commenting on their clothes, she asked them about their characters. She asked Mulan, for example, where Shang was. Generally speaking, she asked nearly all the princesses where their princes were.

Two other things were different this time around. First, she was a LOT less impatient with waiting in line. Last time around she kept telling us to “go go go” instead of waiting. This time she understood she had to wait. She did sometimes complain that it was taking a while, but overall she got that if she waited, she’d be rewarded with a ride or a photo with a character. Second, she wanted to see more shows. Last time we couldn’t get her excited about seeing shows. If we wanted her to see a show we had to entertain her until the show happened and then she was happy to see it. This time she wanted to see shows and asked to see some more than once. (That includes parades)

Scarlett and the Fairy Godmother
Scarlett and the Fairy Godmother

Last time I complained about Fast Pass causing me to run around getting and using fast passes. This time Fast Pass+ was finally active. We set up all our fast passes before we even left from home. So we purposely chose them through a combination of which rides and photos we were most excited to see as well as putting them in an order that kept us from having to run all over the place. It was a vast improvement that made the park fun again and not a tense experience. It also made the app much more essential for planning with wait times, Fast Pass+ reminders, and letting us know where the characters would be.

Overall, it was a rewarding trip and very interesting to see how differently she approached the park while only being one year older.

Review: The Beautiful & the Damned

The Beautiful & the Damned (The Ballad of Nick & Mina 2)The Beautiful & the Damned by Jonathon Wolfer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This book was an improvement over the first. First of all, there were less missing apostrophes. But, second, the plot moved along a lot better. I’m not sure if it’s because of the changes in the plot structure (which we’ll get to) or Mr Wolfer had yet another novel under his belt, improving his prose, but I enjoyed it more.

The last book took place during the school year and the classrooms were the locations of many a scene. Wolfer did a good job last time of conveying Nick and Mina’s lives, but I think things could have been tightened up a bit. This book takes place in the summer so more or less every scene moves the plot along. Nick’s scenes are a little more pointless than Mina’s. We could have probably had maybe 25% less of his scenes and still conveyed what was going on with him. But, as I said, Mr Wolfer did improve and there was some character growth with Nick. I think the best thing Mr Wolfer did to grow the characters and stretch his storytelling muscles was to separate Nick and Mina.

Very early on Mina does something we didn’t see Buffy do until Season 6 when she’s been brought back to life twice – she becomes reckless and bored with her skills within the confines of Connecticut. She finds herself without a challenge and so she goes on the road to find one. In a scene that reminded me of the first X-Men movie (2006ish), she joins an underground fighting ring.

We gain a lot from this – we get to see more of the supernatural world of The Ballad of Nick and Mina (the name for the series). Mina gets to have some people she can be semi-open with. Nick gets to be less dependent on her to fight his battles – literally and metaphorically. We get some closure on the Adam situation.

Overall, it’s a good middle chapter in a trilogy. As I said last time, this is not my favorite way to do trilogies – in essence The Ballad of Nick and Mina reads like one book chopped into three. And really, it’s almost 3 novellas with the length of these books. (That might be slight hyperbole) So while the plot advances more than I thought it would (specifically when it comes to their enemy), there’s still no real conclusion at the end of this book. And that’s always a bummer compared to trilogies in which each book has a story that concludes.

As the last thing, I love whoever does the covers to these books. They do a great job of conveying exactly what’s inside without being spoilery.

View all my reviews

Taking Fedora 22 KDE Spin Beta for a spin

It’ll be of no surprise to regular readers of this blog that I’m both a fan of the Fedora distribution of Linux as well as the KDE desktop. For the first time in six years, the KDE desktop is changing again. While the change is not as radical as the change from KDE 3 to KDE 4, it’s still a big technological change. I decided I couldn’t wait until May to experience it, so I took a look at the current beta from within virt-manager. Here’s the default desktop:

Fedora 22 KDE Beta
Fedora 22 KDE Beta

As you can see, it’s a cleaner default than KDE 4 where they were showcasing the folderview widget up front. Additionally, like everyone else in the tech world, they’ve gone for a flat look on the icons. This is easily seen on the “Leave” part of the Kickoff Menu:

Fedora 22 KDE Beta Leave Menu
Fedora 22 KDE Beta Leave Menu

There are two things I like about it: 1) it’s a clean aesthetic and 2) it does not hinder people with color or contrast eyesight issues. On the taskbar they’ve taken some steps to reduce clutter. I currently have mine hidden on my KDE 4 desktop as I find it useless for all but knowing the time, but I did find myself sometimes thinking there was a bit too much clutter in the past.

Fedora 22 KDE Beta Status Bar
Fedora 22 KDE Beta Status Bar

Here you can see that a number of previously separate sections have been joined into one. Clicking on either of those tells you about them. Sure, it’s one more click than it was before, but it does save screen real estate.

I certainly appreciate that the activities menu is now vertical. I think it makes more sense with the way we’re used to dealing with information on a screen.

Fedora 22 KDE Beta Adding Activities
Fedora 22 KDE Beta Adding Activities

I decide to go ahead and add an activity. It asks me to name (and potentially select an icon):

Fedora 22 KDE Beta Adding Activities 2
Fedora 22 KDE Beta Adding Activities 2

It does so. Interestingly, it does not ask about templates as it does in KDE 4. I’m not sure if this is to simplify things or simply hasn’t been readded. I tried to add a new wallpaper from the “Download Wallpapers” button, but the wall paper service get an API error. So I download one of my own so I know which desktop I’m on. I try the shortcut key for switching activities, but it appears to be mapped to a different set of keys than it is in KDE 4. It should be the same key. I’m going to chalk this up to the fact that it’s a VM.

The movement between activities is smooth and fast even though it’s in a VM which is more than I can say for the activities in KDE 4 (at least on my machine). So far on my Kubuntu laptops I’ve gone from KDE 4 to KDE 5 and they seem to have done the smartest thing (even if it’ll mean an annoying day or two) which is to start from scratch rather than trying to migrate settings. As my long-time readers know, I’m a heavy user of widgets. For example, here’s a recent version of my current Internet desktop on the main activity (I have the same widgets now, but in a different configuration):

Main Activity - Desktop 3
Main Activity – Desktop 3

So if I look at the current KDE 5 offerings, I can do some of this.

Fedora 22 KDE Beta Widgets 1
Fedora 22 KDE Beta Widgets 1

But I’m missing some stuff. The Ktorrent widget isn’t there. The Quicklaunch isn’t there (although I can add in the icons one at a time as separate widgets). Again, the API isn’t working for getting new stuff. (And the internet’s working – that’s how I got a new background for my second activity).

Fedora 22 KDE Beta Widgets 2
Fedora 22 KDE Beta Widgets 2

KDE 5 comes by default with only one virtual desktop.  I went searching for how to add more and came across these settings that probably explain why the shortcut wasn’t working:

Fedora 22 KDE Beta Activities Settings 1
Fedora 22 KDE Beta Activities Settings 1

I think they still haven’t added my wishlist item: different numbers of virtual desktops per activity. I think that would make activities WAY more valuable for me and possibly even make it make sense for those who still don’t get the point. When I’m compiling software I might want a half dozen virtual desktops so I can have all my Konsole windows maximized, but for my regular activity I might only want 2 or 3.

Overall, nearly everything about KDE 5 seems more professional and polished than KDE 4 which was more polished than the cartoony KDE 3.

Here’s a video I shot with RecordMyDesktop showing how smoothly KDE 5 runs (even in a VM!)

Overall, I’m pretty excited for Fedora 22 to land with KDE 5. I’m going to miss some of the widgets. (I also make heavy use of the Kate and Konsole widgets) But I’m sure some of those will reappear soon enough. Overall, KDE 5 seems to be in a much better place at 5.3 than KDE 4 was at the same time.

Ads and Cultural Imagery

Nike ad with Purity
Nike ad with Purity

Today I saw the ad above which is part of an ad campaign that includes the ad in the header. As you can see by comparing these images, the photographer had many permutations of clothing available for the athlete, Purity Kirui, to wear. But I think each of these images reaches into the viewer’s mind differently. The header image is a standard athletic image. Purity seems to be enjoying her incredible athleticism and the implied advantage of doing so in Nike gear. It’s been shot in such a way as to make it seem as though she’s almost literally flying through the air or jumping as if she had Flubber on the bottom of her shoes. It’s a good ad and a great photo. (Note: I have cropped image horizontally – original photo here for as long as Nike keeps it up) On the other hand, let’s look at the image I saw at the mall today. At first glance it seems a less dynamic and less powerful image. Yet it kept my attention for longer than the header image. Why is that? Because the photographer is reaching into the zeitgeist – super heroes. The way her shirt is pulling behind her is evoking the current super hero trend. Even though the other image has her in the air, this one seems as though she’s running to go save someone. By tapping into this feeling, she seems even more powerful and as though she’s running even faster. It’s almost implied that Nike’s the shoe of power and integrity and even, subconsciously, that it’s the only shoe that can withstand the speed. This is the power of imagery and it’s one of the reasons we are more censorious with images than we are with words.

WP Super Cache and the New Theme

Because I’m using WP Super Cache to reduce the strain on the server, there’ll be a lot of older posts and pages with the old theme. I didn’t notice this until I loaded up my blog at work. The main page was fine as it’s incredibly dynamic, but many of the pages (as opposed to posts) were stuck with the old theme.

I also noticed it’s often stalling before it can finish, so I changed it from every 12 hours to ever 24 hours. If that works well, then at most a few days from now everything will be on the new theme.

Review: The Pen & the Sword

The Pen & the Sword (The Ballad of Nick & Mina 1)The Pen & the Sword by Jonathon Wolfer
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I think all the problems I have with this book can be summed up with one sentence. This book needed an editor. If it had an editor, it needed a more experienced one. I am not going to fault someone for small spelling errors and grammar mistakes -I make them all the time in reviews and blog posts. But there were a lot of grammar issues, especially apostrophe use. Still, what an editor would have done is tighten up the story a bit.

Now to what I enjoyed about this book. It was fun to see a book take place in the eighties. This also allowed the main characters to be without the net, cell phones, or social media. All of those would have complicated the story inn an unnecessary way. The conceit is pretty interesting – a two-person Buffy story. In fact it’s almost Buffy and a gender swapped Willow, but that wouldn’t do justice to the creativity in display here. After all, Nick has powers in his own right. Once I start thinking of it in those terms, however, the school scenes seem less superfluous.

This book didn’t see me in fire the way Wool did, but the world is interesting and I really like Mina’s personality. In the real world a teen me would’ve wanted to befriend her and wish we could get together.

Additionally, the pacing issues I felt were less is an issue once I got to the end. This is clearly meant to tell the entire story over a trilogy. The sequel is not “More adventures with Nick and Mina”. It is the climax to a sorry begun here. Not my favorite style, but the pacing is probably ok over three books.

The significance of Mina’s name was not lost on me.

Well, on to the sequel.

View all my reviews

Let’s Do the Theme Change Again!

Almost exactly two years ago, I changed to the Twenty Thirteen theme. It was a breath of fresh air after what I’d used before. The font is beautiful and it was much less cluttered than the themes I’d used before. One of the things I like is that the color scheme quickly tells the user what kind of post I’m making. In practice, the post types made a bit less sense for the way I blog than if I were a Tumblr refuge, but it does make for a nice, colorful theme.

Of any theme I’ve ever had, I was most proud of my header image. Took me about a day’s worth of time over a couple weekends to get it right. I based it on another website I’d seen at the time.

I’ve enjoyed it for the past two years, but there have been some small drawbacks. For one thing, if I used the theme as intended, many things go in the footer, but that essentially means I can’t use an infinite scroll. Also, the sidebar, with its background, makes it a little ugly over the beautiful colors. Finally, my theme doesn’t quite work as it should on phones. It’s very, very close, but not quite right. See the image below.


Blog on Phone - notice the header causes a huge white empty space
Blog on Phone – notice the header causes a huge white empty space

I’ve decided to once again go with Automattic’s default theme, Twenty Fifteen. It was designed by a professional and it uses a beautiful font. The other things I like about it are the focus on content and post header images and the cleanliness of it. It’ll probably take me a few weeks to get it customized exactly how I want it as I’m not dedicating a lot of time to it now – I’m trying to finish up grad school.

So, as usual, here’s a few screenshots of my current theme (for posterity):

Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 1 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 2 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 3 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 4 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 5 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 6 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 7 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 8 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 9 Blog Twenty Thirteen Theme 10

As is traditional, here are previous posts about theme changes:

The MPAA members know damn well there are legit uses for bittorrent….

….but pretend there aren’t.

Main quote:

In some ways, this is so incredibly shortsighted. Here Sony is so committed to the idea that torrents can’t be shown to have any legal, non-infringing uses (even though there are plenty), that it won’t even allow its own staff to experiment with ways to use the new technology to their own advantage. But just the admission in the email alone shows that Sony’s top execs know damn well that there are legitimate, non-infringing, uses for BitTorrent, and they’re deliberately trying not to use them just to make BitTorrent look much worse than it is.

The Long-lasting damage of cop misbehavior

The lives lost are tragic, but the constant police misbehavior has an even worse effect on society. I came across the following today on an article about Stingrays:

Well, the supposed “good guys” (cops) no longer really care what is legal and what is not, so why should I?

Once this type of sentiment becomes entrenched, civil society is in danger. Just like paying taxes, we need people to believe in the social rules or the illusion comes crashing down.

The Socially Awkward Questions Have Begun

Scarlett has become hardcore obsessed with the BBC show Octonauts. Nothing she used to care about – Mulan, My Little Pony, Beauty and the Beast – can be put on the television for her. All she wants to watch is Octonauts. So for Easter we got her all the characters. She has two favorite characters/toys: Shellington, a koala bear, and Kwazii, a cat descended from a long line of pirates. This is what Kwazii looks like:

Kwazii from the Octonauts
Kwazii from the Octonauts

So, two days ago we went out to eat and Scarlett saw a veteran on a wheelchair with an eye patch. Silly me – I thought she was going to ask me about the wheelchair. She has a wheelchair-bound toy, but doesn’t see too many people in wheelchairs. Nope. She asked me, “Daddy, is he a pirate?”


And that’s all I had to say because they called us to go to our table and I don’t think the guy heard us. But, based on my memories of my brother David, I think we’re in for a slew of “Look, he’s fat!”, “Is she a witch?”, etc. Time for her to start learning public interaction manners, I guess.

Concerts 2015: Anamanaguchi

Anamanaguchi Show - First Opening Act
Anamanaguchi Show – First Opening Act

Originally my first concert of 2015 was going to be a little later in the year, but with Danielle away for the weekend, the email letting me know about a concert in just a few days seemed quite fortuitous. I’d had a couple chances to see Anamanaguchi in concert, but the timing was never right. This time it was perfect – weekend and wife out of town. So I decided to go.

Anamanaguchi Show - Second Opening Act
Anamanaguchi Show – Second Opening Act

It was an interesting scene and an interesting concert. Lots of men with eyeliner and girls with blue lipstick and pig tails. But also people dressed like they were going to a rave, complete with glowstick fingers and people dressed like every other concert. The only negative was that there were four opening acts so while the show started at 2100, Anamanaguchi wasn’t up until 2300. The selection of opening acts was well-aligned given the sound of Anamanaguchi – pop, dance, and chiptunes. So they had lots of DJs open for them – some with more conventional dance music and some with more chiptunes music. But, given that Anamanaguchi plays with real instruments, I thought a better complement would be a band like I Fight Dragons.

Anamanaguchi Show - Skrillex Hair Opening Act
Anamanaguchi Show – Skrillex Hair Opening Act

Of the opening acts, I thought the best vibe came from the duo in which one of the guys had Skrillex hair. While others were grooving, these guys were jumping around and really having a good time. It made me want to have more of a good time, myself. I usually go to concerts with bands, so it was interesting to see the 2 two-man DJ groups at this concert. While I understood the gains from a two-man group – one can control the knobs while the other looks for the next sample and/or they can jump back and forth between their tastes, I’m more used to groups like the one between those two where it was a one-man DJ set.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi Crazy Clip Art Video
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi Crazy Clip Art Video

Then came Anamanaguchi. I had a feeling for what they’d sound like live as I have their Live at the Knitting Factory album, but they weren’t nearly as chatty as they were on that album. I didn’t know this going into the concert, but it was the last show on their Endless Fantasy tour. So I don’t know if they were tired after a long tour or if the Knitting Factory album is just an unusually chatty set for them.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi  guy on the right
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi guy on the right

Since a good chunk of any song involves a lot more than the instruments, I was wondering how they were going to perform. Would they have a computer playing the music? So I was surprised to find 3/4 of the band come out with guitars or guitar-like instruments. From what I could tell, the guy in the middle with the white guitar-like instrument was playing the non-instrumentals. I’m not sure exactly what that meant – was he modulating a pre-recorded track? That seems to be the most likely scenario. But I’m not sure.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi guy in the middle playing what I think wasn't a guitar
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi guy in the middle playing what I think wasn’t a guitar

The most interesting aspect of the set was the video screen behind the drummer. Somewhere between a quarter and half of the bands I’ve seen perform use some kind of video in their performance. None have ever matched the trippiness of what Anamanaguchi had going on. For at least one of the songs (Pop It) the video was a remix of the music video. I’m not too familiar with most of their videos, so I can’t say if that holds true for the rest of the songs, but the overall feeling was that of a sentient Internet having seizures and displaying some representation of everything we geek out about. There was povray-looking 3D renders, clipart, anime, and VCR nostalgic recordings.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi crazy background and topless drummer
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi crazy background and topless drummer

There was one seemingly over-zealous fan at the front who I wasn’t sure what to make of until the end of the night when I found out that this was the last stop on their tour and that guy had been on every stop on that tour.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi  enthusiastic fan
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi enthusiastic fan

Overall, I had a very good time and I was jumping and dancing and just enjoying the crowed vibe that is the entire point of going to a concert. It took me a while to warm up to the opening acts and I think that was only partly due to their unfamiliarity. I’d definitely go see Anamanaguchi again. Although, according to Wikipedia, their next album will be chiptunes-less. So I’ll have to see if I like the next album.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi guy on the left rocking out
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi guy on the left rocking out

Sorry the photos weren’t so good, I only had my cell as my wife had the nice compact camera.

Anamanaguchi Show - Anamanaguchi best, clearest image (during the song Pop It!)
Anamanaguchi Show – Anamanaguchi best, clearest image (during the song Pop It!)

Post Script to yesterday’s btrfs post

Looks like I was right about the non-commit and possibly also about the df -h.

Last night at the time I wrote the post:

# btrfs fi show /home
Label: 'Home1' uuid: 89cfd56a-06c7-4805-9526-7be4d24a2872
 Total devices 1 FS bytes used 1.91TiB
 devid 1 size 2.73TiB used 1.99TiB path /dev/sdb1
$ df -h
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
devtmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /dev
tmpfs 3.9G 600K 3.9G 1% /dev/shm
tmpfs 3.9G 976K 3.9G 1% /run
tmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/sda3 146G 52G 87G 38% /
tmpfs 3.9G 296K 3.9G 1% /tmp
/dev/sda1 240M 126M 114M 53% /boot
/dev/sdb1 2.8T 2.0T 769G 73% /home
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/media/xbmc 1.8T 1.6T 123G 93% /media/nfs/xbmc-mount
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/fileshares 15G 6.5G 7.5G 47% /media/nfs/babyluigi
tmpfs 795M 28K 795M 1% /run/user/500

And today:

# btrfs fi show /home
Label: 'Home1' uuid: 89cfd56a-06c7-4805-9526-7be4d24a2872
 Total devices 1 FS bytes used 1.80TiB
 devid 1 size 2.73TiB used 1.99TiB path /dev/sdb1
$ df -h
Filesystem Size Used Avail Use% Mounted on
devtmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /dev
tmpfs 3.9G 600K 3.9G 1% /dev/shm
tmpfs 3.9G 976K 3.9G 1% /run
tmpfs 3.9G 0 3.9G 0% /sys/fs/cgroup
/dev/sda3 146G 53G 86G 38% /
tmpfs 3.9G 248K 3.9G 1% /tmp
/dev/sda1 240M 126M 114M 53% /boot
/dev/sdb1 2.8T 1.9T 862G 69% /home
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/media/xbmc 1.8T 1.6T 123G 93% /media/nfs/xbmc-mount
babyluigi.mushroomkingdom:/fileshares 15G 6.5G 7.5G 47% /media/nfs/babyluigi
tmpfs 795M 24K 795M 1% /run/user/500

So whether or not this ends up functioning better with database programs, I have freed up some space from some snapshots so old I probably wouldn’t have thought to look through them for an old version of any particular file.

Review: Wool Omnibus

Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) (Wool, #1-5)Wool Omnibus (Silo, #1) by Hugh Howey

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Hugh Howey does a masterful job in this book. It is definitely a contender for my favorite book of 2015. So much of what makes this book great is how Howey subverts all of our expectations. It is technically a dystopian book, but it is unlike any I’ve read before. One of the ways in which it’s unique, for example, is how the dystopian element is almost irrelevant to the story. I found early on that it reminded me of the video games Analogue: A Hate Story and Hate Plus with many of its elements. The video games take place on a generation ship that’s had so many generations removed from its initial launch that some of its early history is viewed as perhaps just stories. Additionally, there’s the erasure of a previous uprising from the computers. There’s also a dictator-like government masquerading as a democracy. That’s not to say that it’s entirely irrelevant to the story. After all, it is essentially the MacGuffin, in a way, setting the story into motion. But the story is more a character study than a treatise on the dystopia.

If one considers The Hunger Games or Mars Rising – the moral/message of the story is worn on its metaphorical sleeve. (Also see 1984, Farenheight 451, etc) Wool almost threatens to let us go without ever finding out why people are living in Silos. Oh, the metaphor with grain silos is plainly communicated. But we never TRULY find out why the population is in Silos – although Bernard’s explanation is pretty convincing. Speaking of that, if I may skip around a bit – his vitriol for the originators of Plan 50 humanized him in a way I wasn’t sure was possible. He wasn’t cartoonishly evil, but he wasn’t far off. The explanation he gives for why the Silos were built and how they could have gotten everyone into them in time is quite chilling. I could DEFINITELY see it happening in real like – the death throws of nations can be horrific. But it’s delivered so late into the story as to be mostly irrelevant – and one gets the feeling that was Howey’s intention from the start.

I don’t want to risk spoiling anything else, so I’ll go into a bulleted list of things I really liked about the story:
-Like George RR Martin (and many stories I’ve loved reading since I discovered the technique in middle school) the perspective of the story switches around to different characters. I always enjoy the opportunity to get in different character’s heads.
-Also like GRRM – no character is safe from death. This sets up stakes that make you really fear for your main characters and it’s nice to have stakes.
-I’ve mentioned on here and in various places that I’ve gotten pretty good at predicting narratives and so when a story can surprise me, it delights me – as long as it doesn’t feel like an M Night Shamalayan “it’s a twist”
-Related to that, Howey uses his chapter breaks like the best kind of cliff hangers – sometimes he doesn’t come back to a character for 1-3 chapters.
-Related to various things I wrote above – I’ve come to read a few literary criticisms that have been formative on me. One is the journey itself being a valid story. The other is that sometimes it’s better NOT to know. When an author leaves the source of the zombies (note: no zombies in Wool) unsaid it can often be more satisfying than a horrible reason that few find reasonable
-It seems mandatory for science fiction to have love interests and even sex scenes between main characters. It can fall anywhere between expository and revealing to lame and gratuitous. But what was awesome about Wool was that not only was the love/”sex” scene the former, but it was also between two elder characters. I know that gives away a plot point, but it’s telegraphed almost since the moment we meet the characters. It was so tender and awesome and genuine and we NEVER see that. (I’m sure I’ll be proven wrong when I read Old Man’s War) Still, it’s an important part of life – even for older people and it was awesome to see it portrayed rather than the sexy hero/heroine.
-Finally, I love that for about 2/3 of the book our main character is a woman. Sure, she’s ‘one of the boys’, but the voice Howey gives her sounds like a tomboyish woman. Not, as we often see in comic books, a man with lady bits. The ship is making a huge course correction and we’re starting to see a lot more women in fiction (including SF and F), but I always enjoy having a female perspective character for its freshness. For me it’s doubly neat – first of all, because women have been underserved outside the romance genre. Second of all, as a man it’s neat to get in the head space of a woman. It changes the way I see the world because I’m able to be more empathic with members of the opposite sex – to think about what is the same and what is different about the ways we see the world.

This book was great and not the dystopian book you thought you were getting – for better or for worse.

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