Monthly Archives: April 2018

Ringworld by Larry Niven – the Classic revisited

RingworldRingworld by Larry Niven

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I don’t remember when I read this originally. Long time ago. It broke another reader’s block spell, which is another plus to one of the best science fiction novels written. I don’t reveal plot in my fiction reviews, because I think that’s selling the authors short (even the ones long past), but I will note a few things…

The vegetation, as Louis had remarked, was eerily Earth-like. There were bushes where one wold expect bushes, bare spots where one would expect bare spots. According to instruments in the scooters, the plants were earthly even at the molecular level.

One of my complaints about modern science fiction, like the 2018 three-boot of Lost in Space, is this…but there’s a reason here that Niven craftily teases at. With respect to non-creative television series, I know it is to save money…thus “universal translators” and other silliness. (Maybe the LiS writers are leading to something like Earth started “out there first”?? Nah. They aren’t that imaginative.)

There is one part (no spoiler) that involves something distinctly human, distinctly earth, and distinctly pre-digital and though Niven dresses up his narrative with futuristic references, he had no idea that “test patterns” would become obsolete…

A forgotten interchange (it has been a very long time, will go into the mental toolbox:

Prill laughed. “You foolish child! You have told me yourself that your ships move very quickly next to ours.”

“They do,” said Louis. “They move faster than light.”

“I think you improve the tale,” she laughed. “Our theory says that this cannot be.”

“Maybe we use different theories.”

…”different theories”…!! Love it!

Anyway, …, superior science fiction. I’ve not read more than the next, I think. Maybe…

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The Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

The Brewmaster's Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real FoodThe Brewmaster’s Table: Discovering the Pleasures of Real Beer with Real Food by Garrett Oliver

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This was to add to the knowledge base, despite not being a fan of Oliver’s Brooklyn Brewery and I dislike most of the styles he crows about. Even though this was published in 2003, it still has value with respect to suggestions. He does a good job with descriptions, and food pairings (something that always makes me laugh, whether wine or beer related), and isn’t shy at all about recommending his own brewery’s beers as “notable producers” of the various styles he covers…most of which I’ve tried (the recommendations, that is…not the current menu) and not been impressed by, by the way, but that’s because my tastes are my tastes.

I am so not a lager or Belgian drinker, and he gushes the crap out of them. Most of the book is a lovefest with Euro beers, almost all of which I really cannot stand (Flemish oud bruins are an exception), but for those who do like them, the book will give you some good, albeit dated, tips. I wasn’t keen on his treatment of American beers, though he wasn’t unkind – just not as ebullient as he was for the lagers and …cringe…English beers. Oh My Flying Spaghetti Monster! We are so far apart on our evaluation of Irish stouts! Recognizing that so much has changed on the American craft canvas since 2003, I’m amused at most of his “notable” American breweries are second tier in my assessments – Anchor, Ommegang (third tier), Victory, Goose Island, … Brooklyn… Well, I know I am at odds with many fans, but as I said above…my tastes. I do think I need to explore some lambics. I’ve only had two – two individual beers – to date. I will be touring central Europe in the fall and though I will try Czech and Austrian beers just because, I’m steeling myself in advance.

Snobbery is in the eye of the beer holder. Your mileage may vary. Regardless of whether you agree with Oliver on his likes and recommendations, and though it is old in terms of modern craft, this is still a good addition to the toolbox.

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A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James B. Comey

A Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and LeadershipA Higher Loyalty: Truth, Lies, and Leadership by James B. Comey

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Confirmation biases have a few peculiarities (more than being biases, that is…) They work best when we don’t know we have them… “See! I saw on the News Channel something and I just knew I was right about that conspiracy!” But even if we know some of our biases, and consciously work to set them aside, we will still find ourselves attracted to data that support what I think we want to hear. And I wanted to hear…read…this book, which I was sure would confirm what I had been thinking for two years plus. I’d read Wolff’s creative nonfiction and dismissed it as drivel with kernels of truth. This, feels of more than kernels. And I knew that I would set aside my other readings when it came in. Which is what I did. Continue reading

The thing about walls…

George Carlin was a master of words, coaxing and massaging them like a poet. He liked to take them to extremes to show us how silly we can be. Being the edgy comedian, the words he usually mused were often those that couldn’t be said on television! And he did ponder how some words came to be verboten. In the (anti)social media, we’ve seen once descriptive words become labels and sadly devolve to pejoratives. When a mundane word takes on gargantuan proportions, I suspect George would have had a few words of his own on the matter, maybe asking: When did “Wall” become so divisive? (I couldn’t resist…)

It’s just a word. Such a friendly sounding word. Sometimes we want to be a fly on the wall. We’ll throw spaghetti against the wall and see what sticks. People can be on the fence, which is sort of a wall, about something. Humpty Dumpty sat on one – though that didn’t work out so well for him (curiously, nowhere was it ever mentioned that he was an egg…well, curiously to me.)  When we’ve overdone it, we might find ourselves hitting the wall. Frustrated? beat your head against the wall. Continue reading