Wednesday, May 27, 2015


Just finished "Apex", by Ramez Naam (@ramez). This is the 3rd book in the "Nexus" series, the 1st 2 books of which I blogged about here. It is a real page turner - I read the > 600 pages in a couple of days. It continues the story of the 2 new cybernetic singularity technologies of the 1st 2 novels: the nanotech-based wetware that lets you run apps, including a group mind app, and otherwise reprogram your brain; and the scientist uploaded into a quantum computer who becomes a (threatening) superintelligence.

The book has all the positive attributes of the 1st 2: breakneck pacing, tons of action and explosions, great computer geek authenticity, lots of memorable characters. The message of social justice, civil rights, and equality for all is even stronger, yay! I also liked how much of the story involved China and India - realistic for 25 years from now.

The conclusion of this installment of the series is such that I think that he is done with the series. It definitely is uplifting in its attitude, and I strongly recommend it. Interesting that in an appendix on the tech, he doubts that this tech will be available by 2040, which is when the novels are set. I think I concur.

1 odd thought I had reading this final novel: I kept wondering, why didn't he leave the uploaded intelligence out of this series, and put that in a separate series? The 2 memes are both very strong, I think there could have been plenty done with just the wetware meme, perhaps even a more thorough exploration of the meme, and, somehow, the uploaded intelligence meme muddied the waters? Ha ha, I'll have to ask him to refactor it into 2 series! I bet with modern tech it wouldn't take that long.

Thursday, May 14, 2015


So 2 weeks ago, I played 4 times in 5 days:
  • Sunday at the blues jam at Shamrock's.
  • Monday at the blues jam at Patchen Pub.
  • Tuesday as part of the house band at the Funkabilly Groove Jam at Champion's Bar & Grill at Galaxy Bowling Center in Richmond. Lindsay Olive and I filled in for Dane Sadler who was on vacation. Got to take my rig out - Lindsay insisted on my taking the Super Reverb since the Funkabilly bass player has a 1200W head and 8x 10" speakers. Got to wear my "getting paid" hat, and of course, a cool t-shirt.
  • Thursday at the new blues jam at Austin City Saloon. Man, great acoustics, house PA with mixing board at the back, nice large stage with a drum throne.
Since then, it looks like Monday nite is done, and Tuesday nite has changed to Thursday in a new venue. So down to 2 jams, Sunday and Thursday. Much more reasonable.

Several recent discussions re putting a band together, but nobody seems to follow through on action items. I may quit jamming for a while. I seem to be trying to take things over, I believe a sign that I think I could do a better job of running things. But when I did run that jam at Henry Clay's Public House 2 summers ago, I had the same small turnouts that other jams see sometimes. So there is no support for the theory that I could do a better job.

I think that I've gotten to be a great jammer. Playing lead, rhythm or bass guitar; singing lead, harmony, or backup; and leading the band. I've done 80 songs at jams, probably still good for most of those lyrics. Plus, I know hundreds of other songs. It was funny in Richmond, they'd get women wanting to play songs no one knew, it was "Chris, you know this song?", and I think all but once the answer was yes. "Fever", "Jolene", "Runaway". That's what comes of being old ...

So I may quit jamming for a while and work on my solo act. I am now ready equipment-wise. I bought a mic, mic stand, conductors music stand. The mic sounds OK from the voice channel of the Fender Accoustasonic amp I bought. I also got a Digitech Vocalist, which will sing 2 or 3 part harmony with you. Your guitar runs through it so that it can detect the chord playing and know how to harmonize. It also has a built-in tuner and reverb and chorus that I like better than the chorus in the amp. So I took my looper out of the pedal box and have as my solo rig just the looper and Vocalist, running into the accoustasonic. The Vocalist is not like other pedals. You have to rehearse with it and figure out how to get it to sing the harmony you want. It also has autotune - get behind me satan!

Meanwhile, my main pedal box is completely out of control. I added a little utility pedal I got from Lindsay - I like its rotary setting. I also got an ElectroHarmonix C9 organ emulation pedal. Pretty odd stuff. That makes 10 pedals in my box. I had to get a 2nd OneSpot 9V power provider - they can only handle around 7 pedals.

Monday, May 11, 2015

Letter to the Editor

Today you published 4 letters reacting to a letter which compared climate change denialism to slavery. I share the 4 writers frustration. We should all agree to not compare anything to slavery, Hitler, or Nazis - it never furthers a discussion.

Beyond that, tho, there is nothing to agree with in these letters. "There really is a legitimate debate about whether and to what degree mankind is responsible". In the scientific community, this statement is completely false. 97% of climate scientists and 99% of all scientists agree that the evidence for human-caused global warming is overwhelming.

Another letter: "climate is always changing" - yes, but over time periods of 10,000 to 100s of millions of years. We can clearly see the effects of fossil fuel burning over just the last 200 years. The fact that there are longer-term influences on climate don't mean we can just ignore this data.

Perhaps the most incredible statement was that of the writer who didn't care if New York was underwater in 5 years. "Let those future residents deal with it". I think a lot of those future residents are current residents now. They are trying to "deal with it", and would like our help. But, Lexington is indeed 900 feet above sea level, so why should we care?

The fossil fuel industry spends $700 million/year spreading disinformation about the climate crisis. Head-in-the-sand attitudes like those from these 4 letters show that they are getting their money's worth.

Thursday, May 07, 2015

More Short Stories!

1 good collection, 1 mediocre collection.

The good collection is "Twelve Tomorrows - 2014", published by MIT's Technology Review magazine. A very good collection. I particularly liked "Countermeasures", by Christopher Brown, and "Petard: A Tale of Just Deserts", by Cory Doctorow. In addition to the short stories, there was also an interview with Gene Wolfe and a collection of sci-fi art by John Schoenherr. The only disappointment here was surprisingly "Death Cookie/Easy Ice" by William Gibson. It was a disappointment because it was the 1st chapter of his latest novel "The Peripheral", which I had already read and blogged here. I was looking forward to something from Gibson I hadn't already read. Plus, I didn't think that this really worked as a short story.

The mediocre collection is "The Alien Chronicles (The Future Chronicles)", edited by David Gatewood. "The Future Chronicles" is a series of collections on different themes put together by Samuel Peralta. These are mostly (all?) new writers, this kind of has a self-published feel. The editor says that they are aiming for quality in the stories. Generally, these stories are OK, but not up to the level of say, "Twelve Tomorrows" above or "The Years Best" edited by Gardner Dozois. The stories that stood out did so by being really not so good.

  • "Hanging with Humans" by Patrice Fitzgerald reminds me of something from the 1950s, with wacky aliens. It just doesn't seem to work in modern times.
  • "Remember Valeria", by W.J. Davies was just really badly written. I find myself trying to put my finger on identifying what triggers my "this person can't write" response. I know unnecessary words is one thing. Stating the obvious too many times is another. Using names from mythology for no apparent reason seems wrong as well.
  • "Life" by Daniel Arenson again seems like something from the 1950s, and its subject matter I found pretty unbelievable.