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The Great Feed List

A while back, biomusician asked me on Facebook about which RSS feeds I follow. So y’all get a big pile of recommendations!

  • 365 Tomorrows: A sci-fi short story, every day!

  • Ars Technica: My favorite technology-news site.

  • Brain Needed Space: Daniel Howell wrote Big Red Kitty, the world’s best blog for Hunters in World of Warcraft. Sadly, family issues forced him to drop his WoW subscription, so he started a new blog. Howell has an inimitable voice, and it’s a hoot watching him argue with his brain.

  • Collision Detection: This guy writes for Wired, and he’s always finding new and cool things in the world of technology.

  • The Daily WTF: Tales from the programming industry. I can’t follow most of the coding examples, but there’s plenty of good comedic material on the site regardless.

  • I Can Haz Cheezburger? Funny cats, every day!

  • LifeHacker: All sorts of cool modifications to everyday life.

  • Miss Manners: A lot of this stuff is relatively run-of-the-mill, but every so often Miss Manners will smack down a writer in the most excruciatingly polite way.

  • Need More Rage – Awesome in-character World of Warcraft blog. Don't miss the blog posts by Galertruby, the jawless zombie.

  • Patrick Rothfuss is the mad genius responsible for the Fantasy arch-novel The Name of the Wind. He devotes a generous helping of his writing brilliance to his blog; the archives are well worth reading.

  • There, I Fixed It: Epic kludges and ghetto homemade fixes, ripe for the mocking.

  • Tom in the Box: Religious humor and satire.

  • Websnark: Webcomics commentary (among other things) from Eric Burns-White.

  • Wil Wheaton’s blog: When the Secretary of Geek Affairs talks, you listen!

The rest of my RSS feeds are the webcomics I follow which don’t update on a weekly schedule (the ones that do are on a drop-down menu in Firefox). The best webcomics I’ve found can be found here on my LiveJournal, in the list on the left (best ones at the top).

New Icon: Space Paladin

So the other day, chisotahn referred to her Shepard from Mass Effect as a "space paladin". I thought that was completely perfect and deserved an icon, so here it is.

Unfortunately, I forgot how small 100x100 really is and put a lot more work into it than was probably necessary. >.> But there's a bigger copy archived on my dA. In any case, this was a lot of fun to make.
I have some reading for you today!

I keep a queue of books on my shelf, lined up for when I finish whatever I'm reading at the moment. Right around Christmas of last year this queue turned into something I had to actively manage instead of something that ran in the background. I got a bunch of new books for Christmas and smiled to myself because I knew that my queue was about to lengthen substantially, even though that meant I wouldn't be able to get to these new books for a while.

And then somehow--I still don't remember what the chain of causation was that linked me to the first one--I started reading Diane Duane's "Young Wizards" series. And very quickly reached the conclusion that my entire queue would have to be put on hold, because I absolutely had to own everything ever penned by this woman.

I've talked before about how I love coherent fictional universes, and Young Wizards is exactly that. It's a series about people who take care of the universe. Multiverse, actually. They graft realities onto each other to repair damage. They do maintenance on stars. They talk to trees and sidewalks to learn their histories and write spells to clean up pollution. They fight against and on behalf of the Powers that run the universe to try and keep the galaxy turning for one more day. And it's not just awesome ideas and adventures--Diane Duane writes with wisdom and power that's totally unexpected for what at first seems to be a kid's book.

Diane Duane--who I've talked with a couple times via Twitter; I love living in a world where we can do that!--has written in many different universes (her Star Trek books are especially worth checking out) but the Young Wizards universe is where she shines the most, IMO. The series started in 1983; book 9 comes out next month. YW has a spin-off series about the cats who run the worldgates (wizardly mass-transit system), several one-shots going in different directions, and a couple of short stories that have been published in various places. One such story--"Uptown Local"--is freely available in audio form, and I highly recommend it to anyone who wants something great to listen to. What I have for you here, though, is one of my favorite passages: the story of how Dairine Callahan found wizardry.

So You Want To Be A Wizard is the first book in the series; it introduces Nita Callahan and her best friend Kit, details their introduction to wizardry, and describes their first mission into an alternate New York alongside a sentient white hole named Fred. Book 2 is Deep Wizardry; it shows them starting to grow into their powers and helping whale-wizards to solve an age-old problem on the ocean floor. Book 3, High Wizardry, brings Dairine, Nita's younger sister, in as a major character and describes her wizardly Ordeal (including the obtaining of her personal Wizard's Manual, an Apple IIIc+ laptop). As it turns out, though, Dairine has her own unique reasons for wanting to be a wizard...


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STAR TREK freakin' ONLINE

Oh my gosh, you guys.



I've been waiting for this game for close to five years now. I've followed it through months of silence, the bankruptcy of its first developer, its rescue by Cryptic, ages of anticipation, closed beta, and now open beta. Ten days from now, it will launch. Calling me excited would be like describing a star as lukewarm.

Cryptic really gets it. They get Star Trek. And they've done a phenomenal job on the game. Space combat, ground combat, exploration, diplomacy, it's all there. Every patch the game gets better. Character customization is outstanding. This game is pulling me into roleplaying--I'm planning out who my bridge officers will be and starting a Twitter account for my character.

I could describe in detail how the game works, but Websnark has done a much better job than I would have, so I'm just going to link you over there. Anyone who's ever wanted to stand on the bridge of a starship and venture forth among the stars has got to try this game. So long, World of Warcraft! I'll be on the Bridge!

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snapshots of happiness

An important function of this journal is to record the ups and downs of my life over time, allowing me to analyze these data points and hopefully learn thereby. It's recorded plenty of the downs--gosh, I used to be such a whiner back in college--so when the ups happen it's important that they make it into the record.

This stage of my life has a timer on it. I can see the chapter transition on the horizon, moving closer at the rate of sixty minutes per hour, seven days to the week, and God only knows what's on the other side. And I wish to note for the record that this is a happy time in my life.

Not everything, of course. Work continues to suck in ever new and creative ways, but I've learned to deal. And life, as always, has its share of hassles and annoyances to deal with. But none of my current problems--and they're remarkably few--seem insurmountable, and I keep finding moments to treasure. Moments like:

  • Flying a kite with my grandparents at Reid Park. I bought that kite over a year ago with a friend at the Discovery Store in the Park Place Mall; the store has since closed and the friend moved away, but yesterday for the first time I opened the case, assembled the kite, and Grandpa helped me launch it and keep it airborne. It took some doing, but we got it up to its maximum altitude several times, got some really good flights out of it, and impressed a bunch of the kids playing around in the field. I haven't flown a kite in years--I need to watch for those windy weekends and do it more often.
  • Driving through Tucson with Katja with a hot pizza and a case full of anime. I think I'm learning how to hang out, and with the right person it's a heck of a lot of fun.
  • Chilling with Kairos, talking about the Bible. The thing I love about this group is that you can put forth pretty much any viewpoint that you can defend, and it's fair game for discussion. And if not enough people show up, we'll take off for pizza and beer or just throw a party for the evening. We have some great people there and they make talking over the Scriptures a delight.
  • Driving back from a D&D game in the dead of night, coming over that one hill that overlooks Tucson, and seeing the city lights spread out in a huge glittering grid before me.
  • Sitting in my front room with my cat on one arm and my girlfriend on the other, playing the closed beta of a game I'm not allowed to tell you about yet. My life is a geek's dream sometimes.

Oh that's right, I need to tell you about my girlfriend. We met on SoulGeek about a month before I returned from my deployment; she impressed me with her sensibility, high-level geek credentials, and her ability to write lengthy letters which would be waiting for me when I arrived at my desk in the mornings. I can't believe I once considered interest in geeky subjects to be "optional" on my dating profile--it makes a world of difference, folks. I actually ended up buying an XBox 360 so I could play video games with her; there are not many things that consoles do better than PCs, but split-screen co-op is one of them. (Rocking out with Jaimee in Guitar Hero is another one of the memories I want preserved.)

Life is good. Not always, and not completely. But enough. More than enough.

carpe diem

Moreover, when God gives any man wealth and possessions, and enables him to enjoy them, to accept his lot and be happy in his work—this is a gift of God.

Ecclesiastes 5:19


Kairos, my Bible study group, has been working its way through the book of Ecclesiastes. I think this verse summarizes a lot of what Solomon was frustrated about when he wrote this book. The verse seems to imply that the gift of enjoying what one has is not given to everyone. I think that's what drove Solomon nuts.

I am the wisest man the world has ever known. I have more wealth, more power, and more wives than any king of Israel before me. I am the second greatest king my country has ever known, and my life sucks. The one thing I lack, the one thing that the common peasants have that I do not, is the ability to enjoy any of it.

I'll bet I can do better than Solomon.

meet Strafe!

The military was kind enough to give me two weeks of post-deployment R&R time, which I am currently enjoying. This is the perfect time to do everything I ever put off, and the very first item on that list is "get a kitten." So everyone, I'd like you to meet Strafe. 4x 800x600 photos below the cut!Collapse )

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This is an outrage! I never approved this! Where's my royalty check?

What's next, permanent "Sherpie" markers?

An open letter

Dear terrorists,

Stop slacking off. With no rocket attacks in the last few months, the officers are focusing on base cleanliness (*snort*) and enforcing the 5 MPH speed limit in the LSA. The speedometer in some of these trucks does not even go that low. Send moar poorly-aimed rockets plz.

Sincerely,
computersherpa

P.S. We decided your country sucks. Give us a few months to pull out and you can have it back.

"Right, then. Let's be about it."

Over the past few months I've become completely bedazzled by David Weber's Honor Harrington series. Harrington is a starship captain in an age of naval-style space combat. She's a brilliant strategist with impeccable leadership skills, exemplary integrity, and a way of inspiring fanatical loyalty in her crew and stark terror in her enemies. She's quite an inspiration to me and she makes me wish we had officers like her in the Air Force.

Part of the reason the series is so compelling is the way Weber depicts so many different aspects of the world the characters live in. The admirals, the space lords, the bad guys, their bosses, the midshipmen--everyone gets screen time. Weber primarily focuses on the front-line captains, but he makes sure the reader is also aware of the moral and economic reasons behind the war between the Star Kingdom of Manticore and the People's Republic of Haven. And Weber is truly gifted at getting you inside the heads of these wildly different characters, and you can feel the way their preconceptions and values make them honorable or hateful or misguided people.

Here's another cool thing: Every action in this series has a real consequence. In Star Trek, if a captain saves a planet from some catastrophe, they will express their eternal gratitude, the captain will nod and smile, and ne'er again the two shall meet. In the Honorverse, if you save a planet, the planet's leaders just might make you a feudal landowner and assign you a set of personal bodyguards to follow you around for the rest of your life. In Star Wars, if you get your hand cut off, chances are it will be fixed by the end of the movie; in this series, you may have to live with that injury for another book or two.

And the writing is so cinematic! More than once I've found myself reading the book out loud in an empty room just because the words resound so well. Honor Harrington takes the "Crowning Moment Of Awesome" trope to an art form, and not just with her military victories. Theme-song moments aren't even limited to the main character--Honor's crew and allies and sometimes even enemies will pull off an amazing stunt now and again.

Put briefly, this is perhaps my new favorite sci-fi series ever. It's based on C.S. Forester's Horatio Hornblower series, with lots of direct parallels taken from the French Revolution and Reign of Terror, so history buffs will get a kick out of that. Anyone who likes sci-fi or military fiction or awesome female captains should at least read the first book, though.

The author has progressive views on the subject of copyright law, and much of the series is available for free through the Baen FreeCD program and the Baen Free Library. You owe yourself some good fiction--take a look.

Oh, and: Rulethehonorverse.com. It's vaporware, but darn if it's not pretty vapor!

Edit, June 24: It appears Rule the Honorverse may not be vaporware after all--I signed up for their newsletter, just in case, and they sent out some new ship art today.

Also, this is a really good story. It's the tale of how the humans and treecats of the Honorverse established First Contact, and in typical Weber style it is awesome and heartwarming (and free). Very much worth reading.

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Mage Power (Denki/RoI)
computersherpa
Horizons ever brighter

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