Spent the day in Chelmsford taking the first day of a SQL class. It was originally scheduled for Providence, but they didn't get enough registrations, so they moved it here. They offered me free hotel accomodations when they notified me of the switch, and I'm going to try to take them up on it tomorrow. The ride is already getting old. The course has been interesting so far. Lots of team activities. We spent today designing a card catalog/transaction system for the Chelmsford Public Library. My teammate is a guy who lives two towns over from where I grew up in Jersey, and he spent his summers in Newport, so we've actually had stuff to talk about.
And now some book stuff.
Last week was a busy week, capped by Friday night's shenanigans, so I haven't had a chance to mention that I finished The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress last weekend. It's interesting coming back to it after so many (20? 25?) years. It's still my favorite of Heinlein's novels. Even though it's about computers, it hasn't aged all that badly. The idea of an all encompassing network was new then, reality now. Heinlein just didn't figure on Moore's law, and the rise of personal computers. And there will always be central computing server farms for mission critical functions, so one can overlook that that given the current direction of computer technology, Mike would never be built. (Neither would HAL, for that matter, but that's another book.) The results of Heinlein's extrapolation yield very similar results to what is possible under the system that actually developed. All Luna is connected by network, and a top notch computer engineer can hack other systems. The trick here is that the hacking part gets even easier when the computer is intelligent and self-aware, and has decided that you're its best friend. Good thing, too, because the engineer, Manny, is a blue collar guy, and like all fictional pre-PC computer techs, is an electrical engineer. He fixes computers by changing the hardware. He doesn't do a lot of programming. He just tells Mike what to do, and Mike works it all out.
The book is about the revolution of the Luna colony, and there's quite a bit of politics and economics that I don't buy. Even Heinlein doesn't buy the rational anarchy advocated by Prof, because at the end there's a throw away line about how the Lunar government went in a conventional direction after all. The economics are even more peculiar. The Prof exploits what a bad idea the economic system is to foment his revolution, but it takes massive suspension of disbelief to accept that it would ever be put into place in the first place. The lunar colonies' chief export to Earth is grain. Not rare metals and minerals, not specialty items manufactured in a vacuum environment, but grain. And nobody on Earth or the Moon seems to realize that the moon can't sustain grain deliveries for very long, especially when Earth isn't replacing the water and carbon being removed from the artificial lunar ecology. Except for the professor, that is. Shrug.
Sociologically, there are a bunch of assumptions to take issue with. The first is that the population of Luna is generally mannered and polite, because troublemakers wind up on the surface without a suit. The colony was founded as a penal colony, and the backstory is that bullies didn't last long in an environment where they could get spaced easily. My own feeling is that bullies would thrive in that environment. The second is that since it's a penal colony, women will be scarcer than men, and thus treasured. Guys who look crosseyed at a woman without her permission are just asking to get spaced. This is also the rationale stated to explain the assortment of different marriage types in evidence. The thing is, though this would explain polyandry, it doesn't really explain the line marriage that Manny belongs to, since the ratio of males to females in the marriage seems about equal. Even Manny admits that the primary advantage of a line marriage is that it's an estate tax dodge.
I had more, but I've run out of gas for the night. Despite it's flaws and some moderate aging, I still like this book a lot. The end of the book, when Manny is whispering Mike's name in the computer room, is one of the few times I can recall getting a damned allergy attack from a book. It's still a good story, and ya gotta like Mike.
I finished The Big Sleep over the weekend. More on that another time, maybe from a hotel room in Chelmsford.