I almost died yesterday.

While I was driving through an intersection, another car took a left turn in front of me, a left turn that would have probably killed us both were it not for my quick-braking reaction. I ended up stopped in the middle of the intersection like an idiot, staring at the person who, in another world, had caused my death.

Novels would have me wrapped in epiphany now, celebrating my new lease on life. It turns out that today looks a lot like yesterday. I thank God for not separating my spirit and my body, but other than that, I’m the same person.

This, of course, is the latest in a long line of things Gregory House has said that I agree with.


Attribution and License for the above photo.

Rainbow’s End online for free…

Holy crap… Vernor Vinge has posted the entirety of his book, Rainbow’s End, online. So you can read it for free. And you should, because it will expand your mind. Despite its many, many flaws, Rainbow’s End is one of those books (along with Snow Crash, Accelerando, and another book I can’t remember right now) whose enormous breadth of vision can take your breath away. Thanks to Boing Boing for the link.


Attribution and License for the above photo.

Bullet points for a Wednesday afternoon.

  • I am unbelievably sick of people who always say things like, “Well, what are you doing about it?” It’s one of those cop-out phrases. Like how you can say “lighten up!” as a way of being a jerk. Or how you can say “deal with it!” as a way of avoiding having to deal with it. Either you agree or you don’t. If you say “put up or shut up!” then you follow your own advice.
  • How do you know when you’ve drunk too much coffee? Where’s that point where you say enough?
  • I’m having one of those days where everything is terribly busy and nothing seems to get done. Yeah, I’m blogging for a minute, but the rest of the day seems to be filled with doing things and more doing things, only when I look back I don’t see the results of having done any of those things.
  • Laura and I had tacos for dinner last night. A simple, cheap, and delicious meal. I think we might do that more often.
  • There’s a writer’s strike going on in TV land right now, in case you didn’t know. That means that all our favourite shows are over and done with, maybe or probably for the season. No more How I Met Your Mother, no more Big Bang Theory, no more House, no more Scrubs, no more Pushing Daisies. Sad times. But we can go back and watch things we missed, like 30 Rock, and… that’s about it. It’s one of my favourite new shows now.
  • I would like my desktop to be able to follow me anywhere I go. Why is that not possible? Why can’t I call my desktop up securely on a public terminal? I know, the staggering technical hurdles and the nightmare of implementing this idea. But… super cool, right?
  • I’m away from the Rumour Forum for a while, guys. Except for the boards I have access to, and they’re not much. But when I come roaring back to the fold, my pockets stuffed to overflowing with cash money dollars, it’ll be a day to celebrate.

  • Attribution / License

Secret Stash: Books

I’ve been visiting the Library lately, catching up on my reading before the holiday seasons hits as it inevitably will with titanic force (and by titanic, I refer to the original Titans, not the ill-fated ship). Even though it takes longer, sometimes a lot longer, to get the books I want, it’s free, and Mississauga has a nicely-implemented online catalogue; right now I have

  • Away: A Novel
  • Gomorrah
  • I Am America (And So Can You!)
  • The Kite Runner
  • Love in the Time of Cholera
  • A Thousand Splendid Suns
  • Water For Elephants
  • The World Without Us

on hold. Most of which I should have my hands on relatively soon. In the meantime, I’ve read a few books I’d like to tell you about.

The Book of Illusions, by Paul Auster, is an exploration of what happens when extreme grief strikes and an accidental obsession spills out. Like most Auster, it’s an odd combination of interesting observation and illusive characterisation. Which, I imagine, sounds a bit like I’m just making things up. If you read Paul Auster, though, I think you’ll know what I mean. And if you read Paul Auster, you’ll know this isn’t one of his strongest outings. It’s worth reading, yes; but it’s not a must-read.

The Historian, by Elizabeth Kostova, is a vampire story. When you think of vampire stories, stately is not the first thing that comes to mind. The Historian is just that, though: at one stately, reserved, and really, really interesting. You should read this one.

Primary Inversion, by Catheriner Asaro, is probably one of the worst sci-fi debacles I have ever stopped reading after 20 pages. It had a cool cover, and the jacket implied it had some cool ideas, but I’m going to go out on a limb and say both were dreadful lies. The writing is so pedestrian you can almost imagine how many editors blanched whilst reading the manuscript; on one page I noticed eleven (eleven!) references to people laughing, grinning, and smiling. All this in on extended dialogue. I imagine the people talking must have been grotesque in their never-ending jocularity, their lips forever stretching in a simulacrum of a smile, never able to achieve any other expression in the readers’ minds. Don’t read this book, whatever you do. Please. Think of the children.

Rule the Web, by Mark Frauenfelder, co-founder of Boing Boing, is a well-written introduction to the internet, or at least the most-visited subsection of the internet, the web. This book will be outdated in two years, so read it fast. If you consider yourself familiar with how the internet works, and what you can do with it, don’t bother. If you are reading this in 2009 and you’re pretty good at this interweb stuff, don’t bother. I’m sure O’Reilly has come out with a Web 4.0 Croudsynergy guide you’re like better.

Sound Designs: A Handbook of Musical Instrument Building, by Reinhold Banek, is just what it sounds like. Light on theory, heavy on implementation, this book isn’t really what I was looking for. But if you’re into building stuff, you might want to give this puppy a spin. If you’re into any other kind of sound design, this is not the book for you.

Travels in the Scriptorium, by Paul Auster, happens to come in at half the length of The Book of Illusions. It manages to be, in those few pages, much, much more rewarding. Paul Auster has always struck me as a sort of Lynchian literary figure, and Travels is where his weirdness shines, where the creepiness he can induce ebbs and flows. Beware, if you like books with resolution, this is not for you.

Vacuum Diagrams, by Stephen Baxter, proves relentlessly depressing. Baxter, while a good writer, pens a future history of the human race that becomes more bleak as the book goes one. The book, by the way, is essentially a bunch of short stories and vignettes tied together with baler twine Baxter calls “Eve”. I want to like this volume, but I really don’t. I read the whole thing cover to cover, and though I appreciate the scope of his vision (and appreciate that a lot of writers like Kevin J. Anderson, in the Saga of Seven Suns, have cribbed ideas from this book), I pretty much hate his vision and hate his implementation. That’s not to say you won’t find value in this book. I did and didn’t. You may or may not. That said, I’ve never read a future history of the human race that did a good job; I’m not sure it can be done. Either the separate stories become fragmented and your investment in the characters wanes, or the author’s vision overwhelms him and he ends the book with some contrived crap ex machina. For an example of the latter, read Charles Stross’s Accelerando, otherwise a wonderful book.

Giving, pt. 2

A short point, here. Churches are called to be a light and salt in this world. This is not an ambiguous suggestion; it’s a clear command. There’s no fancy theological hand-waving that can conceal the facts as they stand.

Bring to bear the parable of the minas (or talents, or cash deposits, or whatever you like to call it) on the issue and you have a pretty damning condemnation of inwardly-focused churches.

Like a selfish person, an inwardly-focused church is more concerned with itself than with the world at large, when the world at large is the very thing Jesus came to redeem.

Giving

On Sunday Kristin and Andrew came to church with us in his ridiculously loud Volkswagen, and Joel Main spoke about giving.

Can I go off an a tangent here? Okay.[1] First off, I hate sermons about giving. They generally come off as thinly-veiled muggings, the preacher suddenly morphing into a salesman who is desperately trying to flog the money out of your pockets. That said, Laura and I have just migrated to Freshwater Church in Mississauga after a short stint at The Bridge Church in Burlington. I say short stint because we moved too far away to be a part of the church, but also because the church folded, citing amongst several reasons a lack of money. This came as a shock to me and Laura, as no-one had really actually said anything about money; maybe we missed those weeks, but there was a lack of transparency about it that bothered me afterwards.

This is why, even though I don’t particularly like them, I think sermons about money and frank discussions about money are good for a church. Actually, good for most organisations. Just be clear that the money isn’t going to the pastor’s slush fund. Be honest. Show what you’ve done with the cash. And be sure that you remind people that God doesn’t just want your cash and coin, but he wants those things you just can’t give him: your time, for instance. Or your talents. Or your ridiculously oversized SUV.

[1] Yes, I’m taking the piss out of Joel. Hope he doesn’t mind.

Post about weather.

Ice pellets began pelting down last night; my bed is closest to the window, and they kept waking me up. So, weather, you have done your worst. And your worst is that I need an extra tankard of coffee today. Suck on that!

Driving to work, I found the roads icy, but not too bad. I survived, I didn’t fishtail, and I’m at work in the safety of my comfortable chair. (Watch it kill me for saying that!) This morning I really pity the people that have for whatever reason decided to live an hour away. I just don’t get that. All those house killed just driving and driving and driving, which happens to be the most dangerous thing you do on (probably) a daily basis. I’d rather cramp my lifestyle overall, live closer to work, and have that extra time to earn money (wonderful money) or spend at home (she’s a wonderful wife) with Laura.

Regarding Laura

I wish I could tell the world how much I love Laura… but I can’t. I wish there were words to spell it out… but there aren’t.

All I’ve got it approximations: She’s the best thing that’s ever happened to me: She the greatest gift I could have asked for.

Those are just tip-toeing around it. I can try to approach it in writing, in poems, obliquely; but in the end I’m stymied by how badly my tongue and my brain connect.

I’ll leave it there. I love her.

The end.