Archive for February, 2008

Things I have learned

Posted in Programming on February 27th, 2008

Adding a BoxLayout to a JTabbedPane will cause a spectacular flame out in a Java GUI. This is a bad thing.

Reading in 2007

Posted in Books on February 22nd, 2008

So I managed to get through 108 books in 2007. Almost double my count for 2006, showing what being self-employed will do for your free time (though it also reflects the huge increase in travel time that I incur as a consultant). That number includes re-reads, of which there were 8, and graphic novels. Graphic novels were counted by series and not by individual volume, so all of Y: The Last Man counted as one book. I’ll be going through and talking about my favorites in the next couple posts (top 5 overall and then top 5 fiction and non-fiction), but I’ll content myself with throwing out some honorable mentions. Books which caught my eye and interest, even if they didn’t make the top list.

Iron Sunrise, by Charlie Stross. A Stross novel which doesn’t suffer from a massive last act drop off. As much as I love both Glasshouse and Accelerando (which made the top 5 in 2006) neither of them had much of an ending. One hundred pages of really hot ideas and then some meandering towards an unfulfilling conclusion. So while Iron Sunrise doesn’t pack as much in the way of crazy future world (has a more standard sf, less singularity feel) it does bring the plot.

Kim Stanley Robinson’s Fifty Degrees Below and Sixty Days and Counting. No one writes better eco sf and better scientist characters than KSR. With the exception of The Years of Rice and Salt which just confused the hell out of me, nothing he has written has failed in inspire and enthrall me. This trilogy is like watching the Day After Tomorrow, but with better science and characters you actually give a shit about. KSR is one of those writers who is so predictably good that I always overlook him when making my yearly best of lists. I just take it as a given that he’s amazing and move on.

Carnival and Undertow by Elizabeth Bear. Another author who suffers from my consistently high expectations. I read three books by her last year, and finished off Dust as my first book of the new year, and as a result none of them made it into the top 5 lists. I was thinking the other day and I came to the conclusion that Bear is the modern-day Heinlein. I’ll post more about that soon. As a side note, I am really looking forward to reading Whiskey and Water once I get all my shit out of storage. There are too many unread books sitting there. grrr. . . .

Farthing by Jo Walton. I agonized over leaving this book off my top 5 fiction list (and I really did agonize over it for a long time, which gives an idea of the level of bookish insanity I am prone to) and I still feel bad about it. The book draws incredible tension from its juxtaposition of a ‘traditional’ British murder mystery with an understated alternative history premise featuring the Nazis triumphant. Most incredible for the sheer lack of time she spends establishing the geopolitical reality. If you don’t pay close attention you can miss the large amount of effort she put into world-building. A very different, and welcome, change from the more traditional alternative history that beats you about the head with the fact that it is sooooooo different.

Sun of Suns. Karl Schroeder isn’t the most amazing writer, but he gets mad props for world building. Giant sailing ships in a solar system sized air bubble fulled? It is like all the good things about the Disney flick Treasure Planet without the crappy music and lackluster plot.

Old Hobo Smell Update

Posted in Life on February 22nd, 2008

So in the end, I caved and sent my coat out to be dry-cleaned. I got it back the next day, not cleaned because the drycleaner claimed 1) the zip-in lining was ripped and 2) the zip-in lining zipper was broken and wouldn’t come out. From the position of the rip, it appeared to me that they ripped the lining trying to remove it and then once they had damaged my coat, gave up and sent it back to me. It also reeked of cigarette smoke. This was a lesson to me about trusting strange dry-cleaners. So I went ahead and put the coat out on the balcony of my hotel room overnight, which managed to eliminate most of the smoke smell and the hobo smell. The coat, however, is still not cleaned.