Tuesday, January 3, 2017

Book Review: "Trekonomics" by Manu Saadia

Manu Saadia first encountered Star Trek as a child in Paris.  The utopia it presented caught his imagination then and helped shape his thinking about how the world can be good.  In college he studied economic history and as an adult he sought an accounting of how economics works in Star Trek.  When he didn't find such a book he decided to write one himself.

Manu Saadia divides Star Trek into two sections.  The first part includes the original series and the movies up to Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.  This first part assumes an economic model more like our current experience.  In Star Trek IV that changes when Kirk says the Federation doesn't have money.  The book mostly focuses on the second section because getting rid of money is a much more interesting economic situation.

The book then covers several different parts of the economy.  Chapter one explores getting rid of money.  Chapter two goes into how work works in Star Trek.  Chapter three discusses the replicator and through it how capital works.  Chapter four considers natural limits.  Chapter five gets into the problems of free riding and negative externalities.  Chapter six steps back from Star Trek and gets into the roots of Star Trek in earlier science fiction.  Chapter seven returns to thinking about work and extends that into the way people in the Federation think about everything.  Chapter eight uses the Ferengi to consider how the Federation's economy interacts with capitalism elsewhere in the galaxy.  Chapter nine asks whether we can move towards Star Trek's economic system in the real world.  The book then concludes with a reflection on the meaning of "Live Long and Prosper".

This is an interesting book.  It is one of the best books exploring the problems and concerns of post scarcity.  It also points out the ways we're already approaching post scarcity in several fields.

Monday, December 19, 2016

Book Review: "Every Heart a Doorway" by Seanan McGuire

Nancy is a teen that found a door in her cellar that lead to the Halls of the Dead.  She was there until the Lord of the Dead told her she had to return to the world of the living until she was sure.  Her parents were quite upset that she wasn't the girl they remembered so they sent her to Eleanor West's Home for Wayward Children in the hope they could get her back.  What they didn't know is that Eleanor West's Home is a boarding school for the children who wandered into portal worlds and want to go back to those worlds.

This is an interesting little story set in an intriguing world.  The plot is the weakest part of the story, basically a series of murders that drive the character interactions.  The characters, on the other hand, are interesting and complicated.  Each one reflects the world they travelled to.  The interactions between the characters are enjoyable.  The universe is also quite complicated with each portal world classified on several dimensions.  The main two are Nonsense/Logic and Virtue/Wicked.  As mentioned all of the students want to return to their world, which adds an interesting tension to the conversations since they all know how unlikely it is they can return.

Overall I do recommend reading it.  Just bear in mind that it isn't your usual fantasy novel.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

Book Review: "The Angel's Command" by Brian Jacques

This is a story about a boy, Ben, and his dog, Ned.  They were saved from the Flying Dutchman by the angel who cursed that ship to sail forever.  In the process Ben and Ned were enchanted so they don't age and can communicate telepathically.  They are required to travel the world helping the people they meet.

This novel is split into two books.  The first book, La Petite Marie, tells how Ben and Ned take ship with a pirate crew in Brazil following the angel's instructions.  They go through a number of trials as the pirate captain guides his ship to France where he intends to retire.  The second book, The Razan, picks up at the end of the first.  It takes Ben and Ned along the French Pyrenees joining a teenage thief girl and a young male portraitist with the magic power that his portraits always show people as they really are.  The trio is promptly recruited by an old comte to attempt the rescue of his nephew from a band of particularly evil brigands.

The novel shows most of the good features that can be found in the Redwall stories.  The characters and settings are vivid.  The bad guys are clearly evil and deserve their misfortune.  The good guys are clearly good, though they are sometimes playfully tricky.  The main things this story doesn't have that the Redwall series has are riddles and character driven plots.

Overall this novel isn't as good as any of the stories set in Redwall that I've read.  Still it is a decent, straightforward story and might be good to read with a kid.

Friday, December 9, 2016

News 12/9/2016

Well, I'm in the Honolulu airport again. I'll be visiting with Mom, Paupau, and Mary for the weekend.




I know it has been a while since I last posted. The weeks have a tendency to blend into each other. The weather is the usual. Occasionally it gets cold enough at night that I'll get out a heavy blanket. Sometimes it also gets silly hot for the islands. In the upper 80s usually with no trades so it is humid, too. Recently the temps have been great and I've seen rain every night and often during the day. I've even seen a couple of days that were completely overcast.


Over the summer I know folks saw reports of the time we had two hurricanes pass by the islands in one week. They caused trouble on the Big Island, but both were far enough away that they only made Honolulu hot and humid. We had a storm earlier in the year, Tropical Storm Darcy Darby, that caused the first thunderstorm I've noticed in the islands. Then it headed out to sea and turned into a tropical depression.


Work continues to go well. The projects are interesting though the requirements and design processes take longer than I'd like. We've just finished a larger project that had all five of the C# developers on it. It was mostly a SQL/SSIS project but it did include some interesting automated integration testing. Now we're working on housekeeping, bug fixes, and small enhancements.


I'm working on bug fixes for one of our earlier projects. One great thing is that I've been able to go through and refactor the code. Bringing it closer to current standards, applying some good practices highlighted by Microsoft's static code analysis, and making it easier to understand what the code is doing.


The plan for Christmas is that I'm flying back to Chicago. I'll get in the Friday before and spend Christmas weekend in Indy. Then I'll be back in Chicago until I fly out that Thursday.



Friday, April 29, 2016

News

I'm at the airport again. I'm on my way to Kona for the weekend. Mom has the timeshare and Aunt Judy is with her so I'm flying over to visit.


Work has been going well. We finally got the design signed off, which is good since we're only a week and a half from finishing the development work. It looks like we'll finish on schedule.


Outside of work things have mostly been quiet. Last weekend Mom, Paupau, and Mary flew in. I took Friday off and we went up to the Pali Lookout and Kaneohe. It's an area Mom hadn't explored, so we had a good time. We spent the rest of the weekend at the Hilton there in Waikiki.


I tried a standup paddleboard on Sunday. I fell into the lagoon a couple of times and never did get properly standing. Still I had fun and will try it again sometime. Perhaps when I'm able to get a lesson or at least some pointers. That hour also reminded me how much I enjoyed kayaking last time I had the chance.


I'm still getting out about every other weekend. On the downside I'm way behind my goal for the month, so I'm not going to make it to 10k words.

Saturday, April 9, 2016

News

It has been about three weeks since I wrote my last news post.  Life has mostly been fairly quiet for me.

At work the application we deployed is working well and the performance is acceptable to the users, though I would like it to be faster.  They like the app well enough that the next project adds a feature to it.  We've got six weeks to do all of the development and unit test the new feature.  Then it will go into system test for two weeks.

Camp NaNo is running this month.  I saw a set of prompts shortly before the first and decided I'd like to write a bunch of short pieces using them.  I'll call it a success if I can write 10k words, but I'd like to finish all 100 prompts.  Doing that will take a little more than 25k words.  The writer's group I connected with in November isn't running write in's this month, which I know will make it a more challenging month than last November.  I'm a couple hundred words behind for the 10k at the moment and I'll try to catch up tonight and tomorrow.

I've been getting out every other weekend.  The writer's group usually gets together at a cafe on second Saturdays.  This Saturday was a miss, but I went and did some writing.  When I left the cafe I passed a used book and games store.  The book section wasn't well organized, but I found several good books at a really good value.  After lunch I heard the sound of bagpipes coming from the park.

It turns out the 35th Annual Hawaiian Scottish Festival and Highland Games is today and tomorrow.  I saw a hammer throw and a caber toss.  The caber toss is the event where they toss a log end over end.  It turns out the log only needs to go end over end once and then the toss is scored based on how straight the log is after it lands compared to the direction it was tossed.

News - delayed post from ~3/14

I'm about to go do laundry and put together a news post.  Then I discovered that I hadn't posted this news when I put it together about three weeks ago.  I'm off to watch the laundry and I intend to publish whatever I write while waiting later this evening.

Robert.



Since I last wrote I’ve mostly been doing well.  There was a weekend when I caught a nasty cold.  I came down with it on a Friday.  The same Friday the project we were working on was scheduled to go live.  Between my going home sick at lunch and some unexpected security questions that afternoon it was a rough rollout.  Since then the app is getting positive reviews from the users and we haven’t had any bug reports.  We have seen a question about an enhancement and one action is just slow enough that we might be asked to look into optimizing it.  This would be a little tricky since we already know that a major contributor are 3rd party webservices.

The weather here in Honolulu is as pleasant as ever.  We have had two cold fronts come through.  The firsts was a month or two ago.  It pushed the temperature down into the mid 60s for most of a week.  Then last week the second pushed the temperature down into the low 70s.  It is slowly returning to the normal low to mid 80s.

A couple of weeks ago I commented on Facebook that the Eddie was on.  This is a surf contest that is only held when the waves in Waimea Bay come in clean and consistently 40ft tall or more.  I heard that the tallest wave was something like 55ft tall.  For those that have seen Ecolab’s Naperville building, imagine a wave about as tall as the building with lifeguards on jet skis coming in ahead of it telling everyone to move away from the beach and the stream.  It is a competition that hasn’t been held since 2009, so a bunch of people took the day off from work to go up to the North Shore to see it.  It is probably just as well.  The city had lane closures on the North Shore on account of the surf coming over the highway.

That reminds me, one thing I hadn’t noticed before moving to Hawaii is that Honolulu has a consolidated city/county government like Indianapolis.  The entire island of Oahu is Honolulu but, like Indy, the neighborhoods all have their own names.  I live in Makiki.  The office is in Ala Moana.  Manoa is just over the ridge from where I live.  Downtown and Chinatown are both west of me.  Ala Moana and at least the part of Makiki I live in are both part of the old Korea moku, think Korea town.  Each of the neighborhoods has its own personality.  The neighborhoods don’t necessarily have their own unique climates, but it varies considerably in a short distance.

In the year I’ve lived here it seems that Makiki doesn’t get much in the way of rain.  There have been a handful of times I’ve wanted an umbrella and only once have I wanted a car on account of the weather.  Manoa is only a mile or two from where I live and I’ve noticed that Manoa gets rain much more regularly.  When Makiki gets rain Ala Moana generally seems to get at least some of the rain, though it is often lighter.  The other nice thing about the weather is that unless the wind is from the south it is basically always sunny even when it rains and the rain seldom lasts long.  The sun and rain mix means I’ve seen dozens of rainbows.  Twice, I even saw rainbows that looked like they came down to the ground near me.  Once the end of the rainbow was just up the street at a corner.  The other time it came down in the local park where people often walk their dogs.


For the New Year’s resolutions, writing daily isn’t happening and writing weekly has been a struggle.  The key challenge is taking the computer where I will want to write rather than leave it on the desk where I play video games.  Getting out on the weekends has gone better.  Last weekend I joined a writer’s group that meets monthly to socialize.