Archive for June, 2009

Charles Stross

Monday, June 15th, 2009

taa-aceI’ve been reading science fiction off-and-on for three and a half decades now. The 50’s and 60’s were full of great science fiction. For whatever reason, the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s had only a few titles or concepts that truly stirred the soul (Larry Niven’s Ringworld comes to mind as a positive example).

Since 2000, there has been a resurgence of good science fiction from a new set of authors. I’ve frequently sent friends and readers to Marc Andreesson’s second or third blog post (a blog he no longer updates, unfortunately), which had the best list of new science fiction works available. I’ve enjoyed several of them.

I point to three who seem to have taken over the world of science fiction: Cory Doctorow, John Scalzi and Charles Stross. All three have active blogs (which are the links I’ve set up).

Doctorow is the only one not on Andreesson’s list, and I can see why. His writing is very work-a-day, his fictional insights are not great and his characters (never an SF strong point) suck. However, primarily through his blog, he wields considerable clout with the internet generation, taking on issues of copyright, intellectual property and such. He’s virtually required reading on these topics.

Scalzi is a young author whose works are incredibly entertaining. They tend to follow a Robert Heinlein sensibility, which really appeals to me. Old Man’s War is one of the best science fiction reads in the last decade.

Charles Stross, however, is untouchable. His works bristle with new ideas and new concepts. Accelerando has more new ideas in it than most people will have in a lifetime. All of his novels twist the world in unique ways, which make his writing fun to read. His Family Trade series has been quoted and referenced by Paul Krugman, the Nobel Prize winning economist writing for the New York Times. I’m finishing the Atrocity Archives just now from the Laundry series, which is truly great. Highly recommended.


ADDENDUM: I just remembered that the reason I started this blog was due to a Charles Stross speech – made before I started pursuing his books. Prior to starting the blog, I avoided any personal reference on the internet – now I embrace it. Read my link and the speech to see why.

End of School 2009

Saturday, June 13th, 2009


Yes, the Temecula Montessori Academy does a kindergarten graduation ceremony. I am not a fan (I think this should be reserved for high school and higher education). Nonetheless, both Dan-dan and Camilla have gone far further with their first year in serious school than I ever expected. Both are reading and writing clearly (and better than I did after first grade). Dan-dan’s math and grammar knowledge are mind-blowing for his age. Truly, a worthy investment. Highly recommended.

Note in the photo below that Dan-dan has lost both of his front teeth.


The following day, there was a Summer Festival show put on by the teachers and students. The following three clips are very cute (but I’m biased). The girl dancing with Camilla (yellow hat) is her friend, Tanya Keshar (red hat).

Star Trek Review

Friday, June 12th, 2009

star_trek_2009I finally saw the new JJ Abram’s Star Trek movie. We missed opening night due to a sick baby-sitter. I know I would have enjoyed it much more watching with a theatre full of rabid fans. Watching it nearly alone at a Thursday matinee on the last day it was showing in Temecula, it’s a different thing entirely.

Yes, it’s a nice looking movie. The actors chosen for Kirk, Spock, McCoy and Uhura are excellent. Engineer Scott is wrong, Sulu is suitable but not excellent. And Chekov … Chekov. I suppose that they had to make a decision – do we give Chekov a real Russian accent or do we continue with Walter Koenig’s horrible faked accent (which misses “v” sound, of all things!)? They decided to keep the bad accent.

It was a suitable movie, and I loved seeing 78 year old Leonard Nimoy as Spock and hearing the late Majel Barrett-Roddenberry (Nurse Chapel) as the voice of the computer.

The movie got me to wondering how long the franchise might continue. I seriously doubt that younger audiences are going to be buy in to the mythology with this movie. The real effects of Star Trek were made on me and my generation during the 60’s and 70’s – when the original TV show was cutting edge. I think the movie was for rabid fans (like me) to show the universe they love with a modern retelling to their children, spouses and friends.

Expedia Sucks

Friday, June 12th, 2009

expediaOh, will I never learn? I booked a flight for three of us (Dan-dan, Camilla and me) from San Diego to Wisconsin this summer for a family reunion. Gabi and Aaron are staying home, since Gabi will be eight months pregnant then. When I booked the tickets in March through Expedia (wrong move!), I inadvertantly had us arriving late the night before and leaving very early the morning after the reunion, with no extra time to visit with family.

I spent a good half hour on the phone today with the airline and Expedia. Checking the airline’s website, I can see that prices on the tickets are now much less than when I bought them three months ago. Expedia insists that changing the tickets will cost $1000. Heck, buying all new tickets for the return and swallowing the old ones would only cost $500. The airline (Air Tran) refuses to do anything with tickets purchased through Expedia.

The rule to follow in the future goes like this. Use Expedia to find the cheapest flight, then go to the airline’s own website and buy your ticket there. You’ll almost certainly get the same price and, if you should need to change your flight, the airline will take relatively good care of you. Expedia seems to think it’s business is over once it has sold you the ticket.

Up! Review

Sunday, June 7th, 2009


Up! was a great movie! Dan-dan, Camilla and I saw it yesterday in the movie theatre – it was great fun. I came home and started looking for places to attach balloons so we could go traveling too. Camilla started crying, “I don’t want to go anywhere!” It was OK – we only had two balloons around the house – not even enough to lift the cat.

On the subject of Up!, the age ratings on movies appear to be falling into irrelevancy. Up! was rated PG. I have trouble imagining a more G movie than this (I implicitly trust Pixar, but no other movie studio – including Disney – to produce high quality movies aimed at younger kids). The Madagascar series was also PG-rated. It makes a parent pause for just a moment, but then realize that someone, somewhere is playing Cover-Your-Ass-from-Lawyers.

Coach Woodfin Predicts … (1946)

Sunday, June 7th, 2009


And, yes, this is Gene Woodfin (prior to her becoming Gene Woodfin Steussy). I was searching on the internet for something else, and found an XML programming sheet with references to her name associated with unlinked files. It took some noodling around, but I found the archives of the Richmond Collegian, which lists several articles with reference my mother. Click on this or any of the other images to get a full size look at the article of newspaper page. The full page is here.

Other pages include:

gene_woodfin_freshman_sec_1938Gene Woodfin elected class secretary in 1938 – the earliest mention that is referenced.

Also, two articles on one page from 1942! Located here, one is for receiving an athletic letter, the other is for archery.


gene_woodfin_leaves_1947_headlineHere is the article that mentions Gene leaving for Wisconsin in 1947. Full page is here.

The search engine for the college newspaper is here.


Saturday, June 6th, 2009


More photos after the break.


Disneyland—Thunder Mountain Rollercoaster Video

Saturday, June 6th, 2009

Our trip to Disneyland last week was a roaring success (how could it not be?). The highlight in many ways was riding the roller coasters. Camilla just barely qualified to ride (she had to stand on tippy-toes to be the right height). Igor shot a video of the entire last trip we did, just before we stopped for dinner. First, three photos so that you know where everyone is.

igor_camilla_juliaIn the back are Igor, Camilla and Julia.

happy_dan-danIn front are Dan-dan and Dad.

recording_thunder_mountainHere is Igor recording the whole thing, with two happy girls seated next to him.

And here is the video!

No one is trying to hold me up – you’re supposed to raise your hands when riding a roller coaster, right? Well, there are too many obstructions on this one to lift them all the way. Just saying – I prefer to keep my hands.

Barack Obama, Speeches

Friday, June 5th, 2009

President Obama is one of the most scintillating, intelligent people of our generation. He is, largely, a speaker of the truth, even when those truths are not convenient (to steal a phrase). Above is his speech in Cairo – a speech he was born to give, that no other president could possibly have given and it is etched in uncomfortable truths from one end to the other. The text of the speech (which can be read much more quickly than the 55 minutes it takes him to speak it) is here.

On a more curious note, I discovered over the weekend that Obama appeared on my favorite comedy radio show, Wait Wait Don’t Tell Me on NPR in 2005 when he had just been elected senator. It was fun listening to him discuss important national issues such as the non-wearing of underwear by baseball players’ mistresses and his duties washing dishes in the home. Find it here, under the section Not My Job.


Tuesday, June 2nd, 2009

Sorry for not posting. Very busy. Igor and Julia in town. Disneyland, LA, E3. Photos soon. Ciao.