August 2005

"I started getting depressed. Probably the late hour and the silence. I decided some music would cheer me up.
Boy, that Billie Holiday can sing." - Why I Hate Saturn, Kyle Baker


August 4th, 2005

My bedroom has been turned into a swamp.

A poorly designed gutter wore away the seal along a cement drainage channel. The water, forced into the crevice behind the drainage channel, eroded the earth along the foundation of my building. Torrential downpours last week finished the damage, creating a sinkhole right next to a window well. Last night, when it rained again, the gutter essentially directed a torrent of water directly through the sinkhole, into the window well, and from the window well directly into my bedroom.

So... that's been fun.

I haven't had a chance to polish up the education standard I was hoping to post yesterday. Instead, I'm going to give you five more What I'm Reading reviews:

  1. Warrior's Apprentice/Cetaganda - Lois McMaster Bujold
  2. The Vor Game - Lois McMaster Bujold
  3. Downbelow Station - C.J. Cherryh
  4. Diplomatic Immunity - Lois McMaster Bujold
  5. A Song of Ice and Fire - George R.R. Martin 

These would have originally been written in October and November of 2003. As you can see, I was on a bit of a Bujold kick at the time. Basically, I think her books need to be classified as an addictive substance. If I read one of them I literally can't stop myself from reading all the rest.


August 7th, 2005

"Justin!" I hear you cry. "Why have your updates not been forthcoming? Why have you left us bereft upon the cold currents of the barren Internet? Why have you abandoned us? Why have you robbed us of your pearls of wisdom?!"

Or, at least, the six of you who check this page on a completely irregular basis may be wondering why I've only updated twice in August. Possibly. (I'm not putting any money on it.)

Well, partly because of My Bedroom the Swamp. And partly because my brother graduated from Iowa State University yesterday. (Congrats!) But for the past couple of days it's because my brain has been eaten by a Bigger Better Fnord. Check it out. And then you can pop over to this thread and give us all a helping hand in untangling the unfathomable mysteries of the Fnord.

And tomorrow I'll have some honest-to-god content. Maybe. (I wouldn't put any money on it.)


August 9th, 2005

See? Didn't I tell you not to put any money on it?

I'd tell you why this update has been delayed, but you wouldn't believe me anyway. In order to distract you from gnawing curiousity, allow me to present some nice, shiny What I'm Reading content:

  1. The Graveyard Game - Kage Baker
  2. The Mote in God's Eye - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  3. The Gripping Hand - Larry Niven and Jerry Pournelle
  4. Ethan of Athos - Lois McMaster Bujold
  5. The Misenchanted Sword - Lawrence Watt-Evans

And speaking of Lawrence Watt-Evans, you should check out the Spriggan Experiment. Mr. Watt-Evans is writing an entire Ethshar novel and offering it to the general public under a variation of the Street Performer's Protocol and the Storyteller Bowl. I think of it as a Distributed Patron System, and I think it presents an elegant solution to the problem of compensating creative artists in an era when the enforcement of copyright is becoming an increasingly difficult (if not impossible) task.


August 10th, 2005

Justin's Top 10 Science Fiction Novels

  1. Foundation Trilogy (Isaac Asimov)

  2. Use of Weapons (Iain M. Banks)

  3. Memory (Lois McMaster Bujold)

  4. Lord of Light (Roger Zelazny)

  5. The Stars My Destination (Alfred Bester)

  6. Fury (Henry Kuttner/C.L. Moore)

  7. A Deepness in the Sky (Vernor Vinge)

  8. Cyteen (C.J. Cherryh)

  9. Diaspora (Greg Egan)

  10. Ender's Game/Speaker for the Dead (Orson Scott Card)

Honorable Mentions

  • Snow Crash (Neal Stephenson)

  • Rendezvous with Rama (Arthur C. Clarke)

  • Dune (Frank Herbert)

  • I, Robot (Harlan Ellison Screenplay)

  • At the Mountains of Madness (H.P. Lovecraft)

  • Lensmen (E.E. "Doc" Smith) (GP-CoL)

  • Contact (Carl Sagan)

  • The Forge of God (Greg Bear)

  • Door Into Summer (Robert A. Heinlein)

  • Gateway (Frederik Pohl)

  • Dragon's Egg (Robert Forward)

  • The Trigon Disunity (Michael P. Kube-McDowell)

Novels Also By...

  • The Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge)

  • The Player of Games (Iain M. Banks)

  • Look to Windward (Iain M. Banks)

  • Mutant (Henry Kuttner/C.L. Moore)

  • Northwest Smith (C.L. Moore)

  • The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson)

  • Childhood's End (Arthur C. Clarke)

  • Robot Novels (Isaac Asimov)

  • I, Robot (Isaac Asimov)

  • The End of Eternity (Isaac Asimov)

  • Barrayar (Lois McMaster Bujold)

  • Mirror Dance (Lois McMaster Bujold)

  • A Civil Campaign (Lois McMaster Bujold)

  • Shards of Honor (Lois McMaster Bujold)

  • Borders of Infinity (Lois McMaster Bujold)

  • The Demolished Man (Alfred Bester)

  • Downbelow Station (C.J. Cherryh)

  • Merchanter Novels (C.J. Cherryh)

What do all these categories mean? Well, the Top 10 list itself should be fairly self-explanatory. The Honorable Mentions are works which just barely miss the Top 10 list for one reason or another. The list of Novels Also By is a result of self-imposed rule which limits an author to a single work on the Top 10 list. The other books listed in the Novels Also By are works by authors already appearing on the other lists which, if those slightly superior works did not exist, would themselves be considered for placement on the list.

This is not, needless to say, a precise science.

The conspicuous absence from these lists, I think, is Heinlein. In general, I think that Heinlein was at his best in his early, short fiction. ("The Green Hills of Earth" is my favorite Heinlein piece.) Of the novels I've read, the best two are THE DOOR INTO SUMMER and THE PUPPET MASTERS, and even those are flawed in fairly significant ways. STRANGER IN A STRANGE LAND is mush; STARSHIP TROOPERS is a short story padded with political essays; and THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS is a novella padded with political essays. (Which isn't quite far to THE MOON IS A HARSH MISTRESS, but makes for a nice line.)


August 11th, 2005

Justin's Top 10 Fantasy Novels

  1. The Lord of the Rings (J.R.R. Tolkien)

  2. The Hour of the Dragon/Conan Series (Robert E. Howard)

  3. Small Gods (Terry Pratchett)

  4. Song of Ice and Fire (George R.R. Martin) (preliminarily)

  5. Deadhouse Gates (Steven Erikson)

  6. Harry Potter Series (J.K. Rowling) (preliminarily)

  7. Good Omens (Terry Pratchett/Neil Gaiman)

  8. First Chronicles of Amber (Roger Zelazny)

  9. Elric Series (Michael Moorcock)

Honorable Mentions

  • Fafhrd and the Grey Mouser Series (Fritz Leiber)

  • Chronicles of Narnia (C.S. Lewis)

  • Dragonflight (Anne McCaffrey)

  • Wrinkle in Time (Madeleine L'Engle)

  • Spell for Chameleon/The Source of Magic/Castle Roogna (Piers Anthony)

  • War for the Oaks (Emma Bull)

  • The Weirdstone (Alan Garner)

  • Kane Series (Karl Edward Wagner)

Novels Also By...

  • The Silmarillion (J.R.R. Tolkien)

  • Discworld (several volumes) (Terry Pratchett)

One of the interesting results of putting together these lists last year was my discover that, quite contrary to my own personal belief, I was far more deeply read in the field of science fiction than I was in the field of fantasy. (Hence the shorter list.)

In fact, you'll notice that the Top 10 list only contains nine entries. That isn't a typo. That's because none of the Honorable Mentions I list seem to quite justify a position on that list. They aren't quite in the same league. (To be fair, the science fiction list only had nine entries on it until late last year when Egan's DIASPORA finally filled the last spot.)

You may also note that several incomplete fantasy series have been preliminarily placed on the Top 10 list. Their placement is, of course, based solely on the books released to date, and this placement could certainly change based on future releases. (For example, I tentatively placed Michael Kube-McDowell's Trigon Disunity trilogy on the Top 10 List of Science Fiction novels based on the outstanding quality of the first two volumes, only to drop him back down to the Honorable Mentions list after a relatively weak conclusion.)

It is also notable that there is an inconsistency on how volumes within a series are handled. Why are Pratchett's SMALL GODS and Erikson's DEADHOUSE GATES singled out on the list, while J.K. Rowling's Harry Potter novels and George R.R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire are grouped collectively? Why is Howard's THE HOUR OF THE DRAGON given particular note as part of the series of Conan stories?

Walt, would you like to field this one?

"Do I contradict myself? Very well, I contradict myself. I am large. I contain multitudes."


August 12th, 2005

I've finally finished polishing up the Outline for a Standard of Education. It's too large to post comfortably here on the home page, but you can follow the link. It's also accessible from the Politics page, of course.

I'm probably not going to finish the critique and analysis of the No Child Left Behind program I mentioned back on July 20th. I've got some thoughts on this subject, but I think they're probably going to end up part of another project.