October 5th, 2013

_The Lost Stars: Perilous Shield_, Jack Campbell (kindle)

Mil SF series by an author also known as John G. Hemry. This is set in the "Black Jack" universe, and Geary makes an appearance here; much of the book overlaps with earlier books by Campbell, however, this is told from the perspectives of President Iceni and Artur Drakon of Midway, Rogero and Bradamont (and some ancillary characters as well).

The threats to Midway at the beginning of the book are internal and external: Syndic CEO Boyens' has a fleet hanging out at the hypernet gate. Iceni and Drakon are trying to figure out how to protect their star system, and also to avoid dying at the hands of unknown internal threats. The assumption through most of the book is that the various attempts on the lives and goals of Iceni and Drakon are sponsored by the Syndicate Worlds and/or their Internal Security Forces, the "Snakes". But the character of the attacks suggests otherwise, and eventually, the default assumption is finally questioned by the targets opening their eyes to alternative possibilities.

In choosing to describe a multi-generational war, Campbell took on a task in which it was almost inevitable that everyone would wind up Behaving Very Badly. The initial series, "The Lost Fleet" depicts a Man Out of Time from the beginning of the war, dropped in for a heroic last stand, and then having to deal with the aftermath of a recognizably democratic system that has been perverted in its century plus of warfare. "The Lost Stars" tells the story of the other side: a dictatorial system built upon layers of betrayal and corruption and backstabbing, violent from the top to the bottom. You would think this would be an ugly, horrifying story, but in a lot of ways, it is even more appealing than the first series. It is the story of people who, having identified the worst of the abusers, feel their way, step by step, to a better way of doing things, always at risk of sliding into chaos, and whose programming from birth is to assume the worst in every situation. Needless to say, everyone in the book has done awful things (sometimes to each other); believably describing how people in this situation can find a way to work together cannot have been easy.

I have a weakness for mil sf in which women and men equally hold positions in all areas and at all levels. There are some quirks in Campbell's writing that I don't find particularly believable (if everyone has already forgotten the horse in the "free rein" metaphor, no one is going to be making farm animal analogies in space. Seriously. Altho he does play it for laughs, on occasion: "Get out of Dod".). But I enjoy Campbell's willingness to write complex characters who struggle to negotiate and compromise, yet set limits effectively.

"Battle of the Books", Jeff John Roberts (kindle)

Short, non-fiction piece by a GigaOm blogger; it covers (parts of) the lawsuit(s) against Google Print/Books. It's an excellent summary with a few irritating errors. In examples of class action lawsuits, Roberts refers to "exploding SUVs": exploding tires, okay, rolling SUVs, okay, exploding SUVs? Not so much.

This error, however, is a lot more serious:

"In 2005, the publishing industry was already being buffeted by the hit-or-bust model. Worse, the possibility of digital doom loomed on the horizon. In this coming storm, publishers feared the market for their fat and profitable hardcovers would dry up and be replaced by invisible bits of computer dust that sold for next to nothing. While the advent of devices like the Kindle offered new platforms for reading, they threatened to inaugurate a new era of impossibly low ebook prices."

The kindle, obviously, debuted in 2007 (notably, after the Sony ereader, itself in the future in 2005; there's another confusing sentence about Sony trying to gain market share from the Kindle, when it was more about trying to avoid losing all of it) and the pricing scheme associated with it would not be anticipated, _at all_. So this is not as bad as that ludicrousness someone perpetrated a few years ago about designing the early PC on laptops, in a communitarian environment (really, nothing is that ludicrous), but it still is jarring.

If Roberts ultimately updates this piece (we should see a final decision sometime soon, ironically, based on the Fair Use argument which Google abandoned, pissing off EFF -- yeah, seriously, EFF is going to win one), perhaps he'll do an edit pass and catch things like this. But even if he doesn't, I'd still reread it if he produces an updated version (or read an addendum if sold separately) because it is, overall, a really excellent summary of a complex and important case.

There Are Reasons People Overgeneralize

I hate to sound like I'm justifying stereotyping. I really do. So I'll just pre-emptively say, if you have negative thoughts about people who overgeneralize about a whole group of people based on an otherwise innocent characteristic, please, please, please: Just Start Hating Me Now. It'll make the rest of this much easier on you.

There was an Incident recently in NYC. It involved a large number of people riding motorcycles, quads and similar vehicles in a non-permitted group ride. Many of the vehicles violated basic rules of the road with respect to riding on the shoulder, sidewalks, speeding, lane changes and so forth. At some point, this turned into an altercation with a Range Rover and it got a whole lot worse from there. I have some suspicion that some member or members of the group may have thought it would be pretty awesome to hassle an SUV driver, just on general principles, but I have no strong commitment to that proposition.

I'm here to offend two _other_ groups of people instead.

(1) The most injured person as a result of the event is from Lawrence, and has an extensive criminal history, according to current news reports.

[My more reasonable side compels me to add: There are _wonderful_ people who live in Lawrence. Really. It's a city of over 70K. They are, in fact, overwhelmingly wonderful, in all likelihood. But a Lawrence blog (which hasn't been updated for a while) called What's Good in the Hood has the subtitled: Aiming to generate city pride despite a tarnished reputation. And that really says something.]

(2) There may have been several police officers and/or corrections officials participating in the ride. _One_ of those is reported as being an undercover cop who took a while to report his presence and pre-emptively consulted a lawyer. The rest -- if there are more -- are perhaps [ETA: also] members of a New Rochelle motorcycle club.

[My more reasonable side compels me to add: New Rochelle _also_ is a city of over 70K, and is quite proud that for a city of its size, it is quite safe, compared to others. I'm not sure what to think of this; what I do know is that New Rochelle has been fighting a dodgy reputation for twenty years that I have had any awareness of cities of its size near NYC.]


New Rochelle. And Lawrence.

I will now stop, because I'm fairly certain that the rest of it writes itself, if you are the kind of person who Overgeneralizes.

OK, one more comment, in case I haven't annoyed enough people already. My husband and I were discussing this while watching the kiddies have their swim lessons/play at the pool. He rattled through the various theories about a cop being on the scene and then taking a really long time to report their presence. I observed (not knowing about the additional law enforcement/corrections presence) that it would likely turn out to be the case that they were there on their own time, and this was really going to be a painful scandal.

ETA: Gloria Allred is already On the Case! Defending the man from Lawrence.

Paper, It Is Going Away

You know how you can tell Paper is going away?


Specifically, paper and paperboard in total volume and as a percentage of Municipal Solid Waste peaked over 10 years ago and while it took another massive hit in the recession, it is continuing its trend downward, even after most other components have started a slow trend back up (I'm a little confused about what's going on with glass).

Paper is so Thoroughly Going Away that we don't even have to Throw It Away anymore, it is gone pre-emptively.

It is Source Reduced.