Sunday, August 2nd, 2009
12:30 pm - Spring Reading...  
Catching up on a the first three of a long list...

Passage at Arms — Glen Cook

The vastness of space can neither be described nor overstated.

I've always been fascinated with submarine warfare, and in my early days of computer gaming I played a lot of sub sims on my C-64 and Amiga: Gato, Silent Service (I & II), Red Storm Rising, and a number of others. I drifted away when I moved over to the PC because the ones I tried didn't seem to be as much fun as the earlier ones. Recently I tried Silent Hunter 4, a sim about US fleet boats during WWII, and I like it a lot. Briefly, it became a major time suck. But I stopped after awhile because although it was really interesting whilst stalking Japanese convoys and task forces, it was boring as all get out getting to that point. The surface cruising speed of a fleet boat is only about 12 knots. This means that it takes a couple of weeks of game time to get from the sub's base at Pearl Harbor to the hunting zones of the western Pacific, and another couple of weeks to get back once you run out of torpedoes. Now you do this in accelerated time, but the game knocks you back to normal time every time there's a contact, even if it's friendly. There are a lot of friendly contacts the nearer you get to Pearl, so it gets annoying after awhile. I just want the scenario to end, damnit.

The sim does a good job with weather effects. Fleet boats are long and slim, so they roll a lot in heavy seas. It must've been miserable to be stuck in a windowless tube for days at a time in heavy weather. Modern boats just stay under all the time, but diesel boats didn't have that luxury. All that punctuated by mere moments of actions while on the attack, followed by fear as destroyers hunt for the boat once its presence is discovered.

I mention all this because I've often thought that a submarine is a good metaphor for a spacecraft. Both subs and spaceships are vehicles that must maintain a habitable bubble in a non-habitable environment. Glen Cook apparently agrees with me. Passage at Arms is basically Das Boot in space. The plots (including some of the side stories) are almost identical. A war correspondent ships out with a crew to write a story about them. He finds that life on board amounts to weeks of claustrophobic tedium punctuated by minutes of exhilaration and terror. There are no heroes, just people trying to do a job under trying conditions.

"Fear is a function of hope. The bigger the hope, the greater the fear. There's no fear where hope doesn't exist."

The book was okay. Das Boot was better, I think.

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Moving Pictures — Terry Pratchett

In a world without a horizon, where an alchemist can discover a way to make pictures that move, where a street vendor can produce an epic, where an orangutan can be carried to the top of a building by a giant woman, and where a dog can talk, the populace will go mad. Literally.

Sir Terry Pratchett presents:

Moving Pictures

See the Alchemists!


...many of them had that vague, unworldly expression that you get from spending too much time in the presence of boiling mercury...

Catch the Homages!

"It’s fifteen hundred miles to Ankh-Morpork," he said. "We’ve got three hundred and sixty-three elephants, fifty carts of forage, the monsoon’s about to break and we’re wearing . . . dark glass things on our eyes . . ."

And Watch the March of a Thousand Elephants!

An hour later the veldt in front of the low hill was deserted except for a billion flies and one dung beetle who couldn’t believe his luck.

. . .
When five hundred crude two-elephant bobsleighs crested the ridge ten feet away at sixty miles an hour, their strapped-on occupants trumpeting in panic, they never saw the yetis until they were right on top of them.

You'll Even Believe That Animals That Can Talk!

"Yeah, but at least you eats grass," Gaspode pointed out. "At least grass don’t talk back at you. The last thing you needs when you’re hungry is a bloody ethical conundrum on your plate."

Fun for the Whole Family!

. . .
Oh, this one was fun, but it also had the saddest ending ever. If I was a crying man, I would've wept. Highly recommended.

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100 Things Dodgers Fans Should Know & Do Before They Die — Jon Weisman

From beginning to end we root for greatness...
...The pinnacle of what we can root for is Jackie Robinson.


I guess I can die now. Jon Weisman of Dodger Thoughts elaborates on the titular hundred items in a like number of essays ordered roughly by importance, starting with Jackie, Vin, and Sandy, ending with a discussion of the team's twenty year absence from the World Series, with lots of shorter factoid pieces mixed in along the way, like the one on Alex Cora's signature at bat. Although I already knew most of what's in here, it's fun to read Jon's take on it. Plus there are things, mostly about the politics involved in the move to LA and the building of Dodger Stadium, that I didn't know. Good stuff, but once you get past the first 25 items or so, really only for fans of the team. Sadly for me, a lot of the things to do involve Dodger Stadium, which is 3000 miles away. Now, if only I could get that teleporter working...

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Summer reading to follow.

Eventually...