Playlist of the Month: June 2016

This month has been a bit interesting for my iTunes Library – I’ve been using it as the primary data source for a bunch of neural network research. That said, it hasn’t changed much, doing all that, other than the fact that I sat down for an hour and cleaned up the ‘genre’ tags of everything. Beyond that, it’s been a read-only operation.
Anyhow, here’s the list:
5AM – Amber Run
I Need My Girl – The National
Your Hand In Mine – Explosions in the Sky1
Team (Lorde Cover) – Matthew Mayfield
Midnight – Lane 8
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako2
Disintegration Anxiety – Explosions in the Sky
Sorry – Liss
SWORD – ΔUGUST
Heart Go Bang – Blue October
Home (Tim Palmer Mix) – Blue October
Jericho – Westerman
Hold Me Down – YOKE LORE
Daydream – Leo Kalyan
stard(us)t – johan
Insomnia – IAMX
Elodie – Ten Fé
Hands On You – Tony Pops
Thursday – LostBoyCrow
Atlantique Sud – M83
Used To Be – Beauvoir
Shouldn’t Have Done That – Two Another
LATE AT NIGHT – GENERIK
The Lucky One – Blue October
Lou Lou – Albin Lee Meldau
Fools and Their Gold – PLGRMS
Cold to the Touch – RALPH
Sight – Sleeping At Last3
Smell – Sleeping At Last
Memory Lane – KOLIDESCOPES
Hearing – Sleeping At Last
Let Me Go – Albin Lee Meldau
Touch – Sleeping At Last
SeeThroughDreams – Kellen
Lovers – Albin Lee Meldau
Darling – Albin Lee Meldau
Someone Like You – COBRYAMA feat. Gibbz4
All I Want – Kodaline
Half Light – BANNERS5
Riptide (String Quartet Tribute to Vance Joy) – Vitamin String Quartet
Be Somebody – Kings of Leon6
Wilder Mind – Mumford & Sons
Hopeless Wanderer – Mumford & Sons
Uprising – Muse
Elysium – Mendum7
Teardrop – Massive Attack8
Withdrawn – White Morning
They Shall Be Called (Part II) – White Morning
They Shall Be Called (Part I) – White Morning9
Big Jet Plane – Angus & Julia Stone
Safe & Sound (feat. The Civil Wars) – Taylor Swift
Thru – Vallis Alps
Atlas – Coldplay10
Ghosts – BANNERS
Shadow and a Dancer – The Fray11
White Square (Demo) – Rebecca McDade
Wona – Mumford & Sons
There Will Be Time – Mumford & Sons
Mood – Porches
Crimewave – Crystal Castles12
9 Crimes – Damien Rice
Burning In The Skies – Linkin Park
In the Dark – JUDY
Wake the Dead – Nassau
Remains (Bastille Vs. Rag N Bone Man Vs. Skunk Anansie) (Crossfaded Version) – Bastille


  1. The “Friday Night Lights” version. 
  2. It’d be interesting, at the end of the year, for me to go back and pick out the songs that were the most permanent. And hey, since I’ve been doing research using my iTunes Library, I know how to automate that process pretty well now, I guess. Hmm. 
  3. I’m gonna wind up buying everything by Sleeping At Last at some point, based on the little ‘senses’ series of songs alone. They’re all wonderful. 
  4. This song makes me want to listen to Kings of Leon. 
  5. The lowest star-ranking I’ve given a song by BANNERS is 4 stars. I have, I believe, every song he’s put out. 
  6. I blame “Someone Like You” for this song being back in here. Not that it’s a bad thing at all. 
  7. I’ve been digging back through some of my playlists from the past couple years. That’s my favorite part of doing these monthly playlists, actually – the fact that I can do that. 
  8. My sister and I watched a lot of House when we were kids; both the show and this song are, in a strange way, a bit of a ‘happy place’ for me because of that. 
  9. I’m glad I don’t have comments enabled at the moment, because I know some of you would complain about these being out of order. 
  10. Someone told me that I was losing ‘hipster cred’ by listening to Coldplay. I have never before said “I don’t care” with such vehemence. 
  11. Seriously, Helios is such a good album. 
  12. I spent a while listening through some of my older playlists this month. And by ‘some’ I mean ‘all, in order.’ I do a lot of listening to music at work. 

Myrtles Plantation

I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere that I’m doing a bit of traveling this summer, though I’m definitely too lazy to go back and find where, exactly, I mentioned that.

Still, it’s a thing. I’m spending the summer in Louisiana, doing research on neural networks at Louisiana State University. Which is a full-time job, 40 hours a week, 9-5 and all that, but my weekends are free and I do occasionally leave my room in my free time, so I’ve got some photos to show y’all.

This first set are from Myrtles Plantation, which markets itself as “the most haunted house in the American South.” Went with my family, when they made the trip down here to visit – my sister is a big fan of all things spooky.

I brought my camera with me, of course, because what’s a paranormal investigator without a camera? Photos are below the fold – I’m not a fan of making people load lots of images on the front page, even with the new CDN up and running. It’s rude to people on mobile, or with metered connections.

Continue reading Myrtles Plantation

Hold-Time Violations

This was written by one of the authors from the issue of Lightspeed that I read recently, and I saw that they’d written something for Tor.com, so of course I had to go find it and read it.1
That said, it was a short story so it’s getting a pretty short review. It’s an interesting concept – you’ve got a loop of universes, each of which contains the next one down, and is contained by the one above. Because it’s all in 11-dimensional space or whatever, the bottom-most universe contains the topmost one, and you get a nice self-contained loop. As it turns out, the way that the universes contain one another is the ‘skunkworks’ – a mass of pipes, ferrying data from place to place, generating the universe it contains. Physics within those skunkworks are rather different, allowing people to do interesting work to tweak the pipes and keep everything working right.
The main character, Ellie, was raised by her mother to be one of those repair workers, and though she’s still new at it she’s already being regarded as one of the best, it would seem.
From that context, it’s a story about family, in a way- you see a couple references to her sister, Chris, who never actually makes an appearance except for temporarily hijacking someone else’s body.2 Mostly it’s about Ellie’s relationship with her mother.
It’s kinda sad, I must say. But, based on the way everyone is described, I think it’s roughly the best-case scenario.
So, trying to avoid any further spoilers here, go have a read, it’s free.


  1. It wound up jumping in line in my reading list by dint of being in Pocket, rather than on my Kindle. 
  2. Texting would just be too easy, y’know? 

Lightspeed Magazine: Queers Destroy Science Fiction

Oh man, I am excited about this one. I’ve been wanting to get it since they first announced they were accepting submissions for it, but it wasn’t until the Humble LGBTQ Bundle that I had an excuse to do it.
Now, as this is a big ol’ anthology, I’m going to split it up into a series of mini-reviews, which, unlike how I’ve done anthology reviews in the past, I’ll be writing after reading each story. Without further ado:

Original Short Fiction

There’s rather a lot of short stories in this one, so I’m going to break the organization up the same way the magazine itself does.

勢孤取和 (Influence Isolated, Make Peace)

I’ll admit to Googling the author of this one and the four english words so that I could copy and paste in the other characters above.
I did enjoy that I share a name with one of the characters. That’s about all we’ve got in common, though:

Gray was too hard, too buff, and too tall al lat once to truly look human. However, no human ever noticed. Blond haired with intense blue eyes and an irrepressible smile, he and his lightly pink, freckled skin invoked the heartland, middle America, and the Things That Made Us Great. Granted, this would be some sort of middle America where everyone changed the tires on their pick-up trucks by lifting them to chest height with one hand while loosening lug nuts with the other. He’d always been the squad’s candidate for Cyborg Poster Boy.

Anyhow, it’s a short story, and a sweet one at that. Basically, exactly what I wanted from this anthology, so props to the editors for putting it first.
It’s set in the aftermath of some big war – I’d assume against China, but it’s hard to say – where the primary weapons the US used were, apparently, some seriously advanced cyborgs. Who, as a result of the peace treaty, are to be decommissioned – maybe. It’s a whole bit thing, and figuring that out is the core plot point of the story. Or rather, the setting against which it’s built – the core plot point, I’d say, is more of a short, sweet little love story. A good start.

Emergency Repair

Let’s be honest, we all know that the most likely apocalypse at this point is going to be a superintelligence coming out of the Bay Area.1

The work isn’t its own reward, not to me. I wanted the world to see what I could do. I wanted to be the next Einstein, the next Marie Curie. I never thought I’d end up being Oppenheimer instead.

This one is distinctly less happy than the last one, if the quote didn’t tip you off. Less happy sweet, but still sweet.2 And hopeful, in a way. You get the feeling that this could be a movie, if the author wanted it to be- it’d work well as a large-scale cinematic, though this would only be one scene of many.

Trickier With Each Translation

I’m going to leave this one short: time travel is weird, and the time traveller in this one is a creepy, slightly rapacious dude. Grade-A misuse of superpowers, there.

The Astrakhan, the Homburg, and the Red Red Coal

“When bad Americans die, they go to America.”

Personally, I don’t feel like steampunk fits precisely into the category of science fiction, but evidently Lightspeed‘s editors do, as that’s what this is. Sort of a cross between Jamestown and… well, I don’t know what, really.
All I’ve got left to say is that I found this one funnier than I should’ve, mostly because a key plot point boiled down to “the waiter has slept with all but two of the people in the room.”

The Tip of the Tongue

Okay, the love story in this one is cute but oh god is the setting a nightmare. There’s a couple references in there that made me check the date to make sure it wasn’t a riff on Trump’s presidential campaign, but the part that was really scary was the forced illiteracy. The government of this world apparently decided that being able to read was too much power for people.3 So, with some worryingly inaccurate nanotechnology, they erased the ability read from almost their entire population. And ugh, that’s just a nightmare to me. agh.

How to Remember to Forget to Remember the Old War

I’m unclear on where in the timeline this falls. It could easily be right now, and the characters just happen to be extraterrestrials who were shipped off to Northern California for some reason after a war, or it’s a thousand years in the future and the Bay Area is just resolutely remaining the Bay Area. Hard to say.

Plant Children

What Ah Meng loved most, even more than urban myths and fried garlic, was telling Qiyan to bear children. This was Ah Meng’s hobby. At least it kept her busy, Qiyan’s mother said whenever Qiyan got fed up – as if being busy were enough to keep this ancient relic alive to the point of vampirism.

File this one under “okay, maybe I read too much superhero stuff” because I was really expecting a small apocalypse to happen and everyone to be running around trying to fight a bunch of overly-devoted plants.
Instead it was just a sweet little family story. So happy.

Nothing is Pixels Here

The setting for this one is a bit strange – I’m unclear on how the economics of the VR in this world work. Apparently it’s cheaper to keep people’s bodies in medical sedation and let their minds run around separately, doing work on contract? Rather confusing.
But the characters are nice, and a bit sad, but it’s still sweet.

Madeleine

Oh, this was fun. Modern-day setting, with just a hint of science fiction in the results of an experimental Alzheimer’s drug. The main character has to deal with a rather unhelpful psychologist, and it kinda made me think of Sense8,4 what Nomi had to deal with early in the first season.5 Not quite the same, as the protagonist in this one is a cisgender female, but still. Similar disbelief in what she’s going through.

Two By Two

I’m just… not a fan of apocalyptic stories, folks. The universe is already a terrible place,6 so I don’t really see why people feel the need to add to that. And this one had an added bonus of “the friggin’ South turned back into the CSA,” although, to be fair, they did very lightly pretend it wasn’t about being the Confederacy, they’re the Christian States of America. Sigh.

Die, Sophie, Die

“Like what? This ate my life. And for what?” I looked up at her, trying and failing to keep the hopelessness out of my voice. “It was a snarky article about sexism in a video game. That’s it. I’m not an activist, I’m not like Anita or any of them, I just . . . I just wanted to poke fun at these dudes and get my damn check. That’s all. I don’t even know why this blew up so bad. And I hate that nobody cares anymore. It’s just become normal for this to happen.” I sighed. “I should have known better.”

Like I said. The universe is a terrible place, because this is completely realistic.

“You’re crazy,” the guy said.
“Maybe!” I said. “I mean, after being harassed and stalked and sent pictures of my own dead, mutilated body every day for weeks? Because I wrote an article about sexism in a game? Yeah! I’m probably crazy! I’m fine with that.”

Despite the amount of hatred present in this story, it was surprisingly sweet, and happy. Kindness amidst the hatred.

Original Flash Fiction

These are a good bit shorter, so they get shorter reviews.

Melioration

Another one of those “surprise brain surgery” type things, only in this one it’s removing specific words. Which is horribly creepy.

Rubbing is Racing

Advanced technology doesn’t mean advanced tactics; the alien superpowers of this story apparently think it’s worth it to write off an entire civilization to kill some sort of bacteria or something that grows deep in the oceans of the planet. Rather rude, if you ask me.

Helping Hand

Think Gravity but even more alone, and with a quicker ending.

The Lamb Chops

Is… is that one of the Lizard-People?

Mama

I’m still laughing at “Trojan Whores”

Bucket List Found in the Locker of Maddie Price, Age 13, Written Two Weeks Before the Great Uplifting of All Mankind

Man that is one smart 13-year-old.

Deep/Dark Space

I… kinda want this one to be made into an animated horror movie.

A Brief History of Whaling with Remarks Upon Ancient Practices

In names there is found whimsy and poetry enough to betray the human heart.

I really liked this one. My favorite, so far, of the flash fiction section, and anything after it is going to have to work hard to surpass it.

Nothing Goes to Waste

Impostor syndrome?

In the Dawns Between Hours

Folks, history is important.

Increasing Police Visibility

Get it? The joke is that the TSA doesn’t work.

Letter From an Artist to a Thousand Future Versions of Her Wife

Y’know, I feel like there were ways to test out the ansible technology before thousands of people got left without a lifeline because it failed. Just a thought.

Reprint Fiction

Some slightly longer stories, this time.

Black Holes

Across the Atlantic Ocean and underground, Jean-Michel Gregory was speaking to Dr. Benedicta Goeppert about the end of the universe. She felt very strongly about the nature of existence being cyclical, that all matter would eventually return to the state that stimulated the beginning of the universe as we know it – long after humans were extinct and our sun was dead, expanding space would shrink until it was conducive to a big bang and everything that ever was would be again in its earliest, most basic form.

This one was sad, but I’m glad it included that little blurb there, because that’s the sort of thing I think about a lot. It’s what I hope for- because otherwise, it means that the universe will come to an end and that will be it. I hate that idea.

Red Run

This one was pretty sad. Depression is a rough thing.7

CyberFruit Swamp

Y’know, this one probably should’ve been tagged as NSFW, editors.

The Sound of His Wings

I am so confused, folks. But… I think I liked it? Huh.

O Happy Day!

This was… absolutely not what I needed to pick myself up from the terrible mood the news out of Orlando has me in. Agh.

Excerpt: Skin Folk

In this guy’s defense, I also find humans weird and strange. Seriously, biology is weird.

Author Spotlights

Definitely some interesting stuff to read in here, but nothing that I’m going to break down like I have been the stories above.

Nonfiction

A nice little artist’s gallery to start off. I might have to go get the PDF, instead of just the AZW, so I can see some of it in color.
That said, I’m going to stop this review here: It’s more than 2,000 words long, and I never have as much fun writing about nonfiction as I do fiction.8
Even through the bad mood I’m in, though, I can recognize how much I enjoyed this one. You can pick it up on Amazon.


  1. Okay, no, technically I think first place goes to global warming and second place goes to “Cold War defense system triggers itself due to lack of maintenance and we all nuke ourselves to death,” but THIRD place goes to the AI. 
  2. And now I’ve got “Piano Man” stuck in my head. “It’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete…” 
  3. This after they’d already banned art in all its forms, so really just a matter of time once things get that bad. 
  4. Which I haven’t finished, actually, so no spoilers. 
  5. Is the second season out? I’m bad at following TV shows. 
  6. Citation 
  7. The whole “sad mood” was really compounded by the fact that, right before I started reading this one, I got an email from TIME’s Breaking News department saying that 50 people had died and 53 were injured in a mass shooting at a gay club in Orlando. So, yeah, the world remains an awful place. 
  8. Plus, I’ve spent too long reading the news today, so I’ve got a headache and a deep hatred for mankind, so I shouldn’t really be doing much writing anyways. 

Finding a simple algorithm for intelligence

Michael Nielsen:

I don’t believe we’ll ever find a simple algorithm for intelligence. To be more concrete, I don’t believe we’ll ever find a really short Python (or C or Lisp, or whatever) program – let’s say, anywhere up to a thousand lines of code – which implements artificial intelligence. Nor do I think we’ll ever find a really easily-described neural network that can implement artificial intelligence. But I do believe it’s worth acting as though we could find such a program or network. That’s the path to insight, and by pursuing that path we may one day understand enough to write a longer program or build a more sophisticated network which does exhibit intelligence. And so it’s worth acting as though an extremely simple algorithm for intelligence exists.

Making progress is all about dreaming big.

The Alchemist

A quick read, but one that I enjoyed.1 And found oddly familiar, to the point that, in spite of my Kindle’s insistence that I’ve never read it, I think I must have, at some point. Quite a while ago, though, because it was at the very end of the list, sorted by ‘recently read/added,’ and it feels less like deja vu than it does just a hint of familiarity.
That said, it’s a lovely little story. It’s a world of magic, but magic with a price:2 every casting of a spell feeds the bramble, a poisonous plant that grows at an unnatural rate. Things haven’t gone well for the world: the ancient kingdoms cast magic without thinking of the fallout3 and fell to the bramble. The protagonist is a man already broken: his wife died, his wealth faded, and his daughter is sick with an unsurvivable illness. Largely because of his choice to fight the bramble rather than continue making expensive trinkets for the rich.
But then, at the very lowest point, as his daughter is about to die, he discovers something: a way to kill the bramble.
And for that moment, you think things are going to go well for him, but he’s not a rich man, and he can’t afford to mass-produce his invention. So he goes to the Mayor. And politics happen.
I won’t say much more than that – a short story gets a short review. But I’ll say that I liked it a lot more than the last book I reviewed. So, without further ado, go give it a read, it’s pretty cheap on Amazon.


  1. I’m going to put in a note here to say that this isn’t the first result that comes up when you search for “The Alchemist,” it’s the one by Paolo Bacigalupi. Entertainingly, the first result is by a different Paolo. 
  2. Which actually might be why this seems familiar – Anatopsis is another great book about the price of magic. I read that book in middle school, forgot the title, and then spent years trawling through the local library trying to find it again. I knew exactly where it should’ve been – in the old building. But in the time between my first reading of it and when I wanted to read it again, the library moved into the nice new building.
    I think I eventually managed to find it with a very strange google search – something like “book talking dog red cover female main character’s name starts with a.” One of those “how in god’s name did Google figure out what I meant?” sort of searches. 
  3. cough-global-warming-cough 

The Secret Garden

“Of course there must be lots of Magic in the world,” he said wisely one day, “but people don’t know what it’s like or how to make it. Perhaps the beginning is just to say nice things are going to happen until you make them happen.”

I’ve had this book on my Kindle for a long time. I think it was one of the first ones on there, to be honest – I grabbed it off of Project Gutenberg, I believe, back when I first got my Kindle.1 I’ve just never gotten around to reading it.
This past Sunday, I’d just finished reading through the Queers Destroy Science Fiction issue of Lightspeed Magazine.2 Now, if you don’t know, Lightspeed is a periodical collection of science fiction stories, usually fairly short. The review, when it goes up, is pretty substantial – I wrote a short review of each of those short stories. Which meant that, every few minutes or so, I was putting down my Kindle and doing a bit of typing on my laptop.
It was during one of those times that I got a Breaking News email from Time. “50 people killed in Orlando nightclub shooting,” read the subject line. I opened the email, and it felt like a punch to the stomach. In the middle of Pride Month, while I was halfway through a collection of queer-focused science fiction in the larger process of reading through everything I’d picked up in the Pride Month Humble Bundle, I read this:

At least 50 people were killed and another 53 wounded after a gunman opened fire in an Orlando gay nightclub early Sunday morning, officials said. The death count makes the attack the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The rest of the day, I kept reading. I couldn’t think of anything else to do.3 Lightspeed was a mix of sad and happy stories; the happy ones felt like throwing teacups of water on a blazing inferno, the sad like being pulled further underwater. My “writing” breaks got longer and longer as I took time to check on the news, Twitter, Facebook – anywhere that I could find out more about what had happened. I kept hoping something would change for the better, but it wouldn’t.4 The tragedy had already happened; all that was left was cleaning up afterwards.
It was heartbreaking. It still is – I’m being thankful I took the time to learn to touch-type, because if I had to do the whole ‘hunt-and-peck’ thing, writing this would take me ages. It’s hard to hunt for a specific key when your eyes are full of tears.
At the end of the day, I started flipping through my Kindle, trying to find something new to read. The last couple of books from the Humble Bundle had lost their allure, as had the stack of science fiction. I wanted something different than what I’d spent the day doing. Clearly, the queer-focused science fiction hadn’t worked to take my mind off the tragedy.
Sitting at the very end of the list, just above the dictionary folder5 was The Secret Garden. It’s certainly different, I thought. And it is: a book written more than 100 years ago probably couldn’t be more diametrically opposite a bunch of queer science fiction if it tried.
And while I’m not normally one for believing in fate or god or any such higher power, this is the kind of thing that if someone had conspired to write it into the way things should be, that would be some beautiful predestination. This book was exactly what I needed right now.
Because, sure, the dated phrasing is a bit strange at times,6 and the painstakingly-written-out accents are rather hard to read at first. But beyond that, the story is something pure and innocent.
The first almost-half of the book isn’t that way; it’s the story of a terrible little girl, the result of the sort of horrible parenting where you can call it “terrible parenting” even after the tragic death of her parents.7 She’s always gotten what she wanted, and she’s used to getting it from servants who wouldn’t dare talk back to her. She is, basically, the worst-case scenario for a ten-year-old. After the death of her parents – something that barely affects her, as she rarely if ever saw them – she’s sent from India8 to Yorkshire, in the ‘care’ of her uncle.9
Once there, though, she begins to explore. She’s told of a ‘forbidden garden,’ hidden away from the world after her uncle’s beloved wife was injured there, eventually leading to her death. Being the little brat that she is, she goes to find it.
And there, the Magic starts to happen.
Throughout the book, you see her become a better person – so slowly that she’s not aware of it, and the reader only notices because the narrator makes the occasional effort to point it out.
And it’s not just her – a few other characters are introduced, and her growth as a person helps to kick-start the same process for several others.
Now, I’ll insert a warning here: spoilers ahead. Normally I refuse to write about anything past, oh, the halfway point of the book or so. If you want to go read this from a fresh standpoint, you can pick it up for free on Amazon or free at Project Gutenberg.
Again: spoilers ahead. If you don’t want to know how it ends, stop reading.
All clear?
Alright, I’ll go on.
As I got to the end of the book, I was starting to get suspicious – nothing can be this happy, this perfect and pure, can it? Everything is going too well. Good things just don’t happen.
But sometimes they do.
Sometimes you get the perfect happy ending, where everything goes just right. Nobody has to die, and everyone can be happy and healthy and alive.
And I think that’s the sort of thing we need to remember, in the wake of a tragedy like Orlando. Even if it sometimes seems like nothing good ever happens, that nothing gold can stay, that’s just not true. There are so many good people in the world. So many good things.
It’s important to keep that in mind. So if you, like me, need something good and pure and happy to remind you of that, then I absolutely recommend this book. Like I said above, you can pick it up for free on Amazon or Project Gutenberg.
Go do something joyful. Remember that there’s good in the world.


  1. When I got my first Kindle, in fact. It’s been sitting in my “list of things to read” for a long time. 
  2. The review of that one will be posted in a couple weeks; I’m bumping this one ahead of schedule for reasons I’ll get into in a bit. 
  3. It’s the first time this summer that I’ve felt truly homesick – I’m 2,000 miles from home, and while most of the time I’ve been fine, this is the sort of situation where you want to be surrounded by loved ones. 
  4. The worst of it, which I feel a morbid need to share, is a Facebook post that made the rounds (in screenshot form), originally posted by someone named Andy Carvin:
    > RE: the Orlando shooting, CNN just described something I’ve never thought of – as investigators are inside the nightclub, where many of the bodies are still where they fell, they have to tune out the nightmarish sound of all of the deceased phones’ ringing constantly as loved ones try to reach them. #shudder 
  5. It lives at the end of the list; hard-coded. 
  6. My original ‘social media post’ title for this was “The Secret Garden,” or, “you know there are objectives other than ‘queer,’ right?”, but once I’d gotten into the swing of writing it didn’t seem quite right. 
  7. Normally dying in a sad way can erase some of that blame, but “you, servant-woman, make sure I never see this child” is a whole new level of awful parenting. 
  8. As John Oliver called it, ‘the country formerly known as “Great Britain’s spice rack.”’ 
  9. He makes two appearances throughout the book; I’m forced to assume that part of being wealthy in Britain is having the portion of your brain that knows how to deal with children be forcibly removed. 

Word processors

Baldur Bjarnason:

I don’t write primarily in markdown because the format is nice but because markdown apps like Ulysses and Byword value the joy of writing as well as the need for structure. They recognise that writing is equal parts emotional and executive reasoning. Favour emotional logic too much and you get Apple’s glossy, wrapped-in-plastic writing experience. Favour executive reasoning too much and you get Microsoft Office’s kitchen-sink-included helicarrier.

I do all of my writing in Ulysses, and it’s a joy – full Markdown support, with one or two extra touches1 that make everything easy.
As to the Pages vs. Word debate, I tend to use Word – Pages is distinctly easier to use, but it lacks a couple features that I need whenever I’m using a ‘full’ word processor.2


  1. Like their footnote macro, which replaces markdown’s clunky [^footnoteID]/[^footnoteID]: content syntax with a quick, easy (fn) and typing into a popover. 
  2. And I have Office anyways, because the terabyte of OneDrive space and my need for Excel’s power features necessitate it. 

“What Remains of Heroes”

I wish I could’ve liked this book more. The world building was fascinating – it’s that sort of “big things happened a long time ago” feeling that I really enjoy, and there’s a lot of ‘lost ancient knowledge’ sort of stuff added in for flavor.
Basically, this is the Chosen Kingdom of the Gods, the site of the Final Battle of the Gods. Clearly, it’s been prosperous, and is widely regarded as the Place to Be. And yet, that Final Battle was something like 2,000 years ago; a lot can change over that amount of time. Mostly what changed was that people are terrible, and greed is a thing. The King banished the servants of the good God, something like a thousand years past, and it’s basically been a downhill slide since then.
My problem with this book, then, is how much of that downhill slide it is: there isn’t a full plotline to it. It’s an entire book of ‘rising action,’ with no actual arrival point or anything. About 3/4 of the way through, I looked at how much of the book was left, and how many different plotlines were going on, and realized that it was either going to have a really unsatisfying ending, or it was going to fob it all off on the next book. Which would then fob it off on the next one, and the next one from there.1
I dunno, folks. I’ve been watching a lot of TV lately,2 and this book feels less like a complete story than a single episode. But it wasn’t done right: with a TV show, you generally get a story arc complete within the episode, and then portions of the larger one that carries the show through the season or several seasons. The book just didn’t have that- there’s no sense of completion. The closest to closure you get is “oh, turns out the people who you thought were going to be the Final Boss are also working for someone else!” It’s just… irritating, overall.
So, I can’t really say I recommend this one. Which is weird – most of my book reviews tend to be very positive things, and I don’t like being this negative. But sometimes it’s the only way to be accurate. Blah.


  1. Based on the title of the series, “A Requiem for Heroes,” there’s probably going to wind up being something like nine books? That’s based on the number of movements of Duruflé’s requiem, which might not be entirely accurate. But still. 
  2. A research program is mentally exhausting in a way that even an above-maximum credit load isn’t. Netflix has suddenly become a much more valuable proposition to me than it was during the school year. 

Humble Book Bundle: LGBTQ

It’s pride month! How exciting. As a result, the latest Humble Bundle is the LGBTQ Book Bundle. If you don’t know about Humble Bundle, let me tell you, they’re wonderful- supporting indie creators, of both games and books, and a good chunk of the profits from their pay-what-you-want sales go to charities.1
A lot of the books are comics, so I’m trying to do a bit of a speed run through some of them so I can have this post up while the Book Bundle is still running. Part of this will result in the fact that I won’t actually be putting all the reviews in this post – three are full-length-novel type books, which will each get their own post. I’m also leaving out the more, ahem, adult-oriented books.2 And, as I usually do, the ones that I don’t finish reading for whatever reason.3
Before I go into the reviews, though, I’ll drop a couple of links. First, the It Gets Better project, which was one of the first Really Good Things to come out of YouTube, if you ask me. Secondly, one that I personally think is even more important, the Trevor Project, a national suicide hotline for queer and questioning youth.4 Being queer isn’t easy, even in 2016, and making sure that resources like these are available to queer and questioning youth is hugely important.
All that said, have some (short) comic reviews!

Kevin Keller: Welcome to Riverdale

Archie Comics! I haven’t read these since I was a kid. My sister and I used to pester our parents to buy the little comic booklets for us from the “impulse buy” section at the grocery store checkout.
I’d kinda forgotten what they’re like – short, sweet little high-school vignettes. The first couple were that sort of sweet innocent thing that I expect, but there was one closer to the end that kinda caught me off-guard. It’s summer vacation, and the Private School Jerks5 are taking over Riverdale’s beach. Yadda yadda, arguing back and forth, with the end result that they’re going to have a surfing competition to see who gets control of the beach.6 Which, fine, total Archie type of thing. Except one of the Private School Jerks, it turns out, is a homophobic asshole, to the point that he’s trying to sabotage Kevin in the competition in a way that can lead to serious injury. Which, yeah, I get that you’re a rich kid and can afford lawyers to make your problems go away, but a hate crime is hard to erase. Attempted murder, even more so.
And yeah, they sorta dealt with it, with the kid’s friends abandoning him7 and Kevin’s dad threatening him. But it felt like it was laughed off a bit too easily – like there’s no acknowledgment of the fact that not everyone is as irascible as Kevin.
So… I dunno how I feel about this one being the first one of these comics that I finished. I’ll take it, I guess, because the first couple of stories were nice, sweet little things. So, yeah, I suppose I’d recommend reading it.

Starve: Volume 1

Okay, this one was interesting. The main character’s a gay man, but one who didn’t come out until his daughter was about ten years old. His wife didn’t take it well, and did a very competent job of turning herself into the villain of the story.
The story starts off with Cruickshank living a very hardcore bohemian life somewhere in Asia. The world’s a bit different, it seems – global warming, much to the shock of the Republican Party, turned out to be real! Parts of New York City are underwater, the bluefin tuna is sitting on the edge of extinction, and the wealthy/poor divide has gotten so large it seems to be on the edge of war.
And then Cruickshank gets picked up by a man in a helicopter, sent by the Network. Despite their apparent implosion in a stock market crash, that Network survived, and they’ve decided to call in what’s left of his contract. Which all sounds very ominous, right up until you find out he was the Gordon Ramsay of his world, the world’s top celebrity chef.
In the time he was gone, though, the show has changed, become a good bit more vicious. One of his former enemies is at the top of the show, his wife8 has had him declared legally dead and taken all his assets, and the show itself has become a spectacle; instead of celebrating cooking, it’s an artifact of the class divide, highlighting the disparity between rich and poor in a way that Cruickshank finds disgusting.
And yes, the storyline of the show is interesting – it’s shown like a real cooking show, with little out-of-character type recipe cards that look exactly like something you’d see on the Food Network or something, phrased in such a way that you can hear the voiceover from the chef in your mind. But what’s of far more interest is the way this shattered family works: Cruickshank himself, vaguely trying to put things back together. His daughter, excited and hopeful about her dad’s return. And his wife, hating everything he did to her, to the point that she wants him destroyed. It’s sad, and sweet in places, and I’m definitely looking forward to Volume 2.

The Infinite Loop

Oh, boy. This one.
First, a warning: there’s a bit of nudity, and a middlingly-graphic sex scene.9
But beyond that, the worst this one is going to do to you is confuse you a bit. Because, y’know, time travel is rough like that.
But of the three reviews I’m going to do in this post,10 I’d say that this graphic novel is the one that you should read foremost out of the others. It’s the sort of Literary Thing that normally I’d hate, but it’s wrapped up in a heck of a lot of the sort of things I love11 so I’m kinda letting it get away with it.
Here’s the premise: Teddy, the main character, is a time traveler. She’s part of a group of them, actually – a government organization, of a sort, that uses their time travel to fix the anomalies created by irresponsible use of time travel. Or, as it turns out, anomalies created by people actively trying to mess with the time stream. And boy oh boy, is she good at it – the best, actually. Right up until one of the anomalies is a young woman – because, up until now, they’ve been either inanimate objects or, at worst, animals.12 Teddy, of course, refuses to “erase” her – a barely-euphemistic term that the cleanup crews use for wiping someone out of existence.
At which point things start to get weirder and weirder. Because, yes, there’s a bit of a reason that the anomalies get pulled out of time – but not nearly as much of one as they’ve made it out to be. More of the damage is caused by the cleanup folk insisting that all anomalies have to be erased than the anomalies themselves would’ve done.
It’s weird and complicated and I suspect the only people who can truly follow the plot are in no small part insane. It’s sad and sweet and happy and angry. It’s science fiction being an allegory in a way that’s a little bit too in-your-face at times, but it’s something that needs to be said.
And yes, the titular infinite loop is something that the characters talk about a lot. It’s also, arguably, the entire plot of the book. And it’s also something bigger: the infinite loop of hatred, played out over human history. Because it used to be that love was banned between Homo Erectus and Homo Sapiens.13 It used to be that love was banned between noblewomen and peasant men. It used to be that love was banned between white women and black men. I can’t quite yet say that “it used to be that love was banned between men and men and women and women.” But we’re working on it.

That’s all for the day, folks. And remember: it gets better. And there’s always someone out there to talk to.


  1. Fittingly, the LGBTQ book bundle is going to the It Gets Better project
  2. I’m not sure what I was expecting when I opened the PDF called “Smut Peddler.” I really should’ve been expecting it to be graphic, but I wasn’t. Whoops. 
  3. Sometimes things lose my interest out of sheer boredom, but what’s actually a lot more common is that stuff is too depressing for me to finish. By now, you might’ve noticed that I’ve got quite a trend of superhero and fantasy books – I like my escapism. The real world kinda sucks. 
  4. Their national hotline is pretty easy to remember: 866-4U-TREVOR. Which I can remember by going “what is the SADDEST POSSIBLE THING they could’ve made their phone number?” 
  5. I can’t remember their names, and I’m far too lazy to go look any of them up. 
  6. Never mind the fact that Kevin, distinctly siding with the Riverdale folk, is the lifeguard and thus totally has the power to kick the others out for being jerks. (I know my lifeguarding, okay?) 
  7. One of them coming out in the process, which is… maybe not the best way to come out to your social circle? 
  8. They never got a divorce, evidently. 
  9. I describe it as such because “Smut Peddler” is also in this Humble Bundle, and that’s a whole new level of graphic sex scene compared to what’s in The Infinite Loop
  10. And yes, I’ll be stopping after this one – I want to get this posted soon, and I haven’t the time to read all of the comics and still get it out before the Humble Bundle ends. 
  11. Including a villain who’s basically just Amanda Waller with beliefs that’re pushed from “straddling the line” to “over the line” in terms of how objectionable they are. Have I mentioned before how much I love Amanda Waller as a character? Because I love Amanda Waller as a character. 
  12. Tyrannosauri Rex are still technically considered “animals.”
    And yes, I do know the correct pluralization of ‘tyrannosaurus’ off the top of my head. 
  13. Admittedly not an example I’d think of, but this one is actually mentioned (almost verbatim) in the book, so I’ll include it here. 

WWDC Wishlists

Six Colors pretty well covered what I’d like to see in the next version of macOS:1

I’d like to see an entirely new and simplified version of iTunes for Mac, perhaps multiple apps. iTunes can become the hub for Apple’s media sales, as it is on iOS. A new Music app will need to support Apple Music as well as local music files. And as for syncing, updating and configuring iOS devices, let’s move all of that to a new iOS Sync app that’s completely separate. Break up the iTunes monopoly—it’s way past time.


  1. I’m still not sure if I like ‘macOS’ or ‘MacOS’ better, but ‘OS X’ just doesn’t feel right anymore. It’s been around as a brand for too long. Plus, now that Windows 10 is out, there’s room for verbal confusion- did they mean ‘OS X’ or ‘O.S. 10’? 

“The Computer for the 21st Century”

I was given this paper to read the other day, and I thought it was fascinating. I didn’t really check the date it was published until I was partially through the paper, and found the whole thing to be still applicable to the modern day.
A few select quotes:

Pads are intended to be “scrap computers” (analogous to scrap paper) that can be grabbed and used anywhere; they have no individualized identity or importance.
Pads, in contrast, use a real desk. Spread many electronic pads around on the desk, just as you spread out papers. Have many tasks in front of you and use the pads as reminders. Go beyond the desk to drawers, shelves, coffee tables. Spread the many parts of the many tasks of the day out in front of you to fit both the task and the reach of your arms and eyes, rather than to fit the limitations of CRT glass-blowing. Someday pads may even be as small and light as actual paper, but meanwhile they can fulfill many more of paper’s functions than can computer screens.

On the death of the user interface:

Prototype tabs, pads and boards are just the beginning of ubiquitous computing. The real power of the concept comes not from any one of these devices; it emerges from the interaction of all of them. The hundreds of processors and displays are not a “user interface” like a mouse and windows, just a pleasant and effective “place” to get things done.

On ubiquitous software:

Today’s operating systems, like DOS and Unix, assume a relatively fixed configuration of hardware and software at their core. This makes sense for both mainframes and personal computers, because hardware or operating system software cannot reasonably be added without shutting down the machine. But in an embodied virtuality, local devices come and go, and depend upon the room and the people in it. New software for new devices may be needed at any time, and you’ll never be able to shut off everything in the room at once.

There’s some really interesting ideas in there. We’ve done one or two – some computer settings are mobile, if you stay within one ecosystem, and we’ve definitely got little screens on the ‘tab’ scale. But still not in the ubiquitous way they discuss – we’re still tethered to specific devices, rather than genericized hardware with software that adapts to the person using it.
With the advent of cloud computing, though, that seems more possible. I spent a couple days this week running software that simply couldn’t run on my laptop. Artificial intelligence of the flavor I’m researching this summer requires a lot of processing power, and GPUs meet that need quite nicely. My laptop does not have a GPU; it definitely doesn’t have 8 Titans. And yet, there I sat, in a classroom, running 8 Titans along at peak capacity, all from the comfort of my laptop.
We’re getting closer to some of the ideals that Weiser wrote about 25 years ago. It’ll be interesting to see where we go from here.
(Oh, and you should absolutely read the rest of the paper– there’s more interesting ideas in there that I didn’t pull out, and a nice narrative-style exploration of some of them at the end.)

GSV Empiricist

The GSV Empiricist, or General Systems Vehicle Empiricist is a ship in Iain M. Banks’ Culture series of novels. In its first physical appearance, the Empiricist is described as having “no single outer hull surrounding [its] hundreds of individual components, just colossal bubbles of air held in place by field enclosures.” And it’s enormous:

Comfortably over two hundred kilometres long even by the most conservative of measurement regimes, fabulously, ellipsoidally rotund, dazzling with multiple sun-lines and tiny artificial stars providing illumination for motley steps and levels and layers of riotous vegetation – belonging, strictly speaking, on thousands of different worlds spread across the galaxy – boasting hundreds of contrasting landscapes from the most mathematically manicured to the most (seemingly) pristinely, savagely wild, all contained on slab-storeys of components generally kilometres high.

In short, it’s a mobile city with a population of ten billion, and I wanted to try to capture a little bit of that here. In truth, exploring a space this vast would take hours, even moving incredibly quickly, so I composed the work from the perspective of a drone, put in place simply to watch the passage of this massive construct. Its motion through the ship brings forward several novel acoustic spaces.
(Both quotations are from Iain M. Banks’ The Hydrogen Sonata.)

 

Continue reading GSV Empiricist

Playlist of the Month: May 2016

Since I’m working a desk job at the moment, you’d think I’d have more time to listen to music, but I have even less. There’s a lot of audio involved in that desk job. My headphones are in, but not hooked up to iTunes. Sad day.
5AM – Amber Run
I Need My Girl – The National
Your Hand In Mine – Explosions In The Sky
Team (Lorde Cover) – Matthew Mayfield1
Midnight – Lane 8
Smoke Filled Room (Acoustic) – Mako
Afterlife – XYLØ
SCRAM – Mogwai
Lou Lou – Albin Lee Meldau
Tangle Formations – Explosions In the Sky2
Disintegration Anxiety – Explosions In the Sky
Hallucinations – dvsn
Logic of a Dream – Explosions In the Sky
Sorry – LISS
Land of All – Woodkid
I’ve Fallen For You – Tom Redwood
SWORD – ΔUGUST3
Break Ground – Blue October
Driver – Blue October
Heart Go Bang – Blue October
Houston Heights – Blue October
Home (Tim Palmer Mix) – Blue October
Jericho – Westerman
Cara Mia Addio – Aperture Science Psychoacoustics Laboratory
Landing Cliffs – Explosions In the Sky
Hold Me Down – YOKE LORE
Pripyat – Mogwai
Daydream – Leo Kalyan
Coal Makes Diamonds – Blue October
Heart Go Bang (Night Mix Prod. by The Egg) – Blue October
stard(us)t – johan
Insomnia – IAMX4
Happiness – IAMX5
The Background Noise – IAMX
Bridges – Koresma
Say Hello Melancholia – IAMX
Elodie – Ten Fé6
Hands On You – Tony Pops
Thursday – LostBoyCrow
Atlantique Sud – M837
Used To Be – Beauvois
I Want It – Blue October
Shouldn’t Have Done That – Two Another
LATE AT NIGHT – GENERIK
The Lucky One – Blue October
Road Blaster – M83


  1. For some reason, this song isn’t on the Amazon version of the album, so I’m linking to it on iTunes instead. Weird. 
  2. I’ve just noticed that some of their songs are filed under “Explosions In The Sky” and some are under “Explosions In the Sky.” Dangit iTunes. 
  3. Still not done laughing at the fact that this group is named “?UGUST” in Amazon’s database. 
  4. Note that this whole album is distinctly NSFW, if you listen to the lyrics. 
  5. I’m linking this one, though, because I find the lyrics hilarious
  6. I’d be more annoyed about how often this one gets stuck in my head, but it helps to drown out the stupid clocktower here, so I’ll take it. 
  7. I wasn’t too much a fan of their new album, but this one was nice and calm compared to the rest. 

Voight-Kampff

I make music sometimes! This was one I put together for a class, my Intro to Music Technology class that I just wrapped up recently.

From the program notes I wrote:

This was composed for the Introduction to Music Technology class, as the first major project, with a focus on the style of synthesizers that were first popularized in the 1980s. It’s a collaboration between myself and my roommate Ehren – I set up the session with the synthesizers and harmonic structure I wanted, and then left the room. This gave it a bit of an improvisatory feel – though I did move one or two of the notes around afterwards, to keep it from going from ‘improvisatory’ to ‘unsure.’
The end result reminded me of the dark, gritty science fiction movies that were popular in the 1980s. I think of Blade Runner as the authoritative piece of dark, gritty 1980s science fiction, so I chose a name from the lore of the film: the Voight-Kampff Test is what’s administered to find out if the subject is a human or replicant.

“Cara Mia Addio”

This was a short paper I wrote about the titular song for a class on music technology, which I said at one point I might post. Here it is!
I’ve made two changes: the transitioning of my citations from a “available in my notes but not visible otherwise” to “accessible by all,” and the addition of this note.

I chose to partially ignore the “no YouTube videos” part of this assignment, because I felt that the video was an important part of the song. They were created together, after all, as part of an even larger multimedia project: Portal 2, one of the top-selling games made by one of the world’s most famous video game companies. The compositional arc of the game as a whole is fascinating: Valve’s in-house composer, Mike Morasky, wrote almost the entire soundtrack for the game1 while working closely with their programming teams. Though the soundtrack was eventually rendered down to a still form for the release of Songs to Test By, within the game they’re procedurally-generated MIDI, with pre-set starting points that are then algorithmically developed to match the gameplay in a way that’s almost guaranteed to be unique to the player. (Morasky once stated that one of the pieces only repeats itself every 76,911.3 years, roughly.)
“Cara Mia Addio” was not a procedurally generated song, though the exact method by which it was made did rely on MIDI audio. In the studio, Morasky gave McClain2 the music he’d written for the turrets to sing and a melodic line for her, and asked her to improvise the words. The resulting melody, based on what she referred to as “my terrible Italian” became the Turret Opera. Morasky edited that recording to ensure that it didn’t sound too human – the ‘singer’ within the game being a robotic gun-turret – and then fed the backing sounds into the game engine itself.
That’s what I found most interesting about this – though the scene was rendered as a video file, not running live on the game engine,3 it was built within the same game engine that ran Portal 2, Source. Valve’s in-house animating tool, now released to the public as Source Filmmaker,4 provides deep control of every aspect of the game engine. Morasky (and, presumably, some of Valve’s animators) used sounds that had already been implemented in the game engine to provide all the voices save the melodic line. If I had to guess, I’d say that the system running animation queues was based on MIDI, as that’d be the easiest way to sync the visuals with the triggered sounds.
And a final note on those triggered sounds: all of the ‘turret voice’ effects were based on McClain’s voice, meaning that she sang the full chorus and solo of the song. Quite an impressive range.


  1. A single song, “Want You Gone” was composed by Jonathan Coulton as a call-back to the piece he wrote for the first Portal, “Still Alive”.
    “Exile Vilify” was written and recorded by The National, though based on early materials given to the band by Valve, in order to match the scene in which the song would be played. 
  2. The game has very few voice actors involved – the main character, in a manner characteristic of Valve games, never speaks. Off the top of my head, there are only two other characters with repeat appearances, GLADoS and Wheatley. (A few other minor characters have lines, but nothing more than a couple of words at a time.)
    McClain, by contrast, voices GLADoS, a character who moves from ‘narrator’ to ‘ally’ to ‘antagonist’ and back fluidly, as well as providing the sounds that would be edited into the audio for all of the turrets throughout. 
  3. Citation 
  4. Citation 

Los Angeles Against the Mountains

So, as I mentioned in my previous post, I’m doing a bit of traveling this summer. The first trip was down to Los Angeles, because that’s the only place where you can go to get an Austrian Visa-D, if you live on the West Coast.1

Anyhow, while I was there I was able to meet up with a family friend and take some pictures out in Santa Monica. There’s a conference center there, the Serra Retreat Center, and it’s got some awesome views. Take a look, and feel free to click on any of these pictures to see them in a larger size:

One of the things I wanted to do while I was in LA was look at the mountains. It’s something I’ve been wanting to do since I read the essay after which I titled this post: Los Angeles Against the Mountains.

I read the essay for an English class I took, fully expecting to hate it – I have an inherent dislike of anything that’s intended to be ‘literature.’ I was wrong: the essay was a fascinating look at an aspect of Los Angeles that I’d never considered. Long story made incredibly short, the mountains over LA are unstable, and the city has to deal with flooding that gets turned into pseudo-pyroclastic flows by the amount of rubble put out by the mountains. It’s a wonderful read, and I highly recommend it.


  1. Because heaven forbid we be able to turn in a stack of paperwork and get our fingerprints taken anywhere less than a thousand miles from home. 

New Paint

You may have noticed that things look a bit different around here. Well-spotted, it’s a bit of a big change.
It’s because, once again, I’m changing up what I’m using this blog for.1 The ‘daily tech posts’ thing was fun for a while, and I’m still leaving that as a thing that I might do, but it’s not the core idea. I do still enjoy the book reviews, even though I haven’t had much time for reading lately,2 so those will likely continue.
But this year is going to be weird, folks. I’m writing this from Louisiana,3 and did a bunch of the coding for the new look in Los Angeles.4 The rest of my summer, I’m spending here in Louisiana, working on some interesting research at Louisiana State University.
I’ll be home for about two weeks, during which I’m going on two different vacations to two very photogenic locations.
And then I hop on board a plane and fly to Austria, where I’m studying abroad for the entire fall semester.
When that comes to an end, I’m spending a couple weeks doing the whole ‘European tourist’ thing, wandering around the Continent, finding pretty things to take pictures of.
Spotted the theme yet? Well done. It’s photos: I’m gonna be doing a lot of photography in the coming months, and I wanted a look for the site that could really bring that to the forefront. This new one does that pretty well, if I do say so myself.5
So, that’s that: a fresh coat of paint for the website, getting things looking pretty.6
(I was planning to have this post go a lot longer, but since I’m now tethering to my phone, I don’t want to spend the amount of time it would take to properly upload the photos I was going to post, so I’ll just make that another post later in the week when I have actual internet access.)


  1. It’s a good thing I don’t make too many promises about what it’ll be; the core idea is “I use it for whatever I feel like posting on the internet,” and I’ve stuck with that pretty well, I think. 
  2. More on that later. 
  3. In a hotel whose wifi is some of the worst I have ever used. It’s… spectacularly awful. 
  4. The hotel there had much better wifi, which I was supposed to pay for but didn’t. Somehow I wound up in a rewards program, I’m unclear on what all that consisted of, but I got fast internet for free, so I’m happy. 
  5. And, since I did a lot of the code myself, I’m able to do a lot more tweaking to it than the last one. Expect things to keep changing, because I can never leave things alone. 
  6. Normally I’d ask what people think, but I haven’t actually had time to get the comments box put back together, so… tweet me, I guess? There are so many social networks, there’s a myriad of ways to get in touch with me to express your opinions. 

The Indomitable Ten

Okay you all know by now that I am obsessed with superhero media. It’s, like, my Thing. So when I saw that there was an anthology of superhero1 novellas out? I jumped right on that.
So, as I usually do for anthologies and other collections, I’m going to break it up into a series of short reviews.

My Big, Fat, Accidental Superheroine Wedding

Autocorrect doesn’t approve of ‘superheroine’ but it does approve of ‘superhero.’ Sexist.
Anyhow, this one was a little weird – it was very much focused on a specific subculture, one that I know next to nothing about. In that, it was a bit hard to relate to, but I think that’s okay- like, oh no, however shall I deal with media that doesn’t revolve around me, a white male? So yeah, I’m fine with that part. The actual superhero content of it was a bit odd, though- the main character is basically a deity, after she and her fiancé both wound up in an accident in the Large Hadron Collider that left them able to control their bodies at what appears to be an atomic level. And they’re on the run from the government. Which makes for an interesting story, overall, but I dunno, something about this one just didn’t click for me. Oh well, it was still interesting, and the ending scene was a really good one.

The World, My Enemy

This was a delight to read. It had hints of some of the non-Discworld Terry Pratchett stuff, in the way it looked at the world, and oh man did I love it.2 The main character is an Austrian super-genius, trying to be a super-villain, and… kinda sucking at it. He’s a very millennial type of villain – tons of support from his parents, a lot of potential, and just… not using it at all. And the other characters that make up the setting, from the Nemesis figure to whatever-the-girl-is3 to the cowardly boss- they’re all wonderful, executed delightfully well. It’s a silly little story and I absolutely love it.

Summer of Lob

This is actually the reason I bought this book- I adore Richard Roberts’ Please Don’t Tell My Parents… series of books, and I saw through his twitter that this book featured a novella set in the same universe. And it was everything I wanted – a short, sweet story, following Bull in his younger days. As a bonus, it gave the background for one of the characters I wanted to know more about, and introduced a few more who I’d also like to see more of. Basically, this alone made the book worth buying to me, and the rest was a nice bonus.

Weeper of Blood

I’m assuming this was part of a series, because there’s way too much setting for it to be a standalone short story. To the point that I’m still unclear on some of the stuff – things about the various characters were hinted at well enough that I’ve got an idea, but the world itself is a mystery – is it an alternate timeline, or set in the future, or what? It was really hard to tell, and I’d like to read more to find out.
The story itself was pretty good- a little sad, definitely, but a nice ‘redemption’ arc present as well, so I did like that. I definitely want to see more of this world, get a bit more of the background, though, because I have so many questions.

Seven Seconds

File this one under “have to read more.” Like, I actually just took a break from writing this so I could go google the author and find out if he’s written more.4
There was absolutely everything I want in a superhero story: an interesting main character, and a look at what people with superpowers do if they’re not being superheroes. Plus a superhero team that went insane and became villains, some high tech gadgetry being used, and a wonderful concept of superpowers that give the story its title. Another one in the category of “I would recommend buying this book on the merits of this story alone.”

Friend or Foe

Oh my god I am so confused. I really can’t tell from reading it if this one is part of a series or not- like, the amount of questions I was left with afterwards makes me want it to be, but it was written in such a way that it could believably be a standalone that was supposed to leave the reader with questions. If that was the goal, boy did it ever work. The whole thing basically takes place in the aftermath of a Final Showdown sort of fight, with only allusions to what actually took place there. The way it switched back and forth between two characters was pretty interesting – clearly, one of them was the villain, but not in a very strong way. It was more of a… misunderstood genius, kind of thing, though with a touch of willing sociopathy, so I dunno. It was interesting but a bit aggravating at times.

Night Stalker: A Tale from the Tome of Bill

I wish I could say I liked this one, because the story was kinda interesting, but I didn’t. It felt like it was written by the kind of person who tries to defend the whole “Spider-Woman butt in the air” pose: that’s to say, delighting in that gamer-nerd stereotype, “I live in my parents basement playing WoW all day” sort of humor. The main character spends a while complaining about being “friendzoned.” Blah.

Goon #3

This made me think of Code 8, a cool little short film. They’re the same sort of setting, to the degree that I could pretty reasonably believe one inspired the other. Basically, a world where something like the Superhuman Registration Act of Marvel’s Civil War5 passed, and now the superhuman folks are living with the aftermath. Yeah, there’s some superheroes, and they’re distinctly following a legal process created around that idea: but there’s also regular people who got ground under the wheels of bureaucracy. The main character spent a couple years in prison after “robbery with a deadly weapon.” Which, yeah, a reasonably jail sentence- except for the fact that the robbery was him holding his hand in his pocket so it looked like he was holding a gun. The ‘deadly weapon’ was the fact that he’s got super-strength. The fact that he never mentioned that to the person he was robbing apparently never came up in the trial, or didn’t bother the people sentencing him at all.
Which is a wonderful touch, because there’s people like that in the real world, people who get ground down by the way the system works. And I love that sort of sad realism in superhero content.6

The Incident on Orion

This one was somewhat reminiscent of Invincible, a fun little comic that I read a while back. Basically, it’s the ‘superman’ type hero, except Krypton hasn’t exploded. Instead, Krypton has, as was bound to happen with a society of supermen, become the seat of a sprawling galactic empire.
In this one, as with Invincible, it’s a bit of a vicious one – survival of the fittest was heartily adopted by that empire, and you wind up with people fighting for their right to live in the empire. And once they’ve earned that, they set out to annihilate everyone that stands in the way of that empire, even if ‘standing in the way’ is defined as ‘within 10 light years of somewhere we might want to be one day.’ Basically, gleeful genocide.
There’s a lot of Roman Empire present in this, both in naming and in the way the mythology interacts with the characters. It was really interesting to read, a sort of sad and hopeful tale. I think I’d like to read more.

Sinergy: Immortal Sin

Strange and interesting. The superpowers are a lot lighter a touch here, they still distinctly present. What was more interesting was the backdrop: there’s an Order, it’s apparently been around for a couple thousand years, and it’s somehow affiliated with the catholic church, or christianity as a whole? I’m still a bit unclear. But it was a cool mythology, definitely, and I want to see more of it, because I do love that ‘ancient order’ kind of stuff.
The story itself was… really sad, actually. I think a single character had a ‘happy’ ending, and that was “woke up with no memory of any of this happening, twenty minutes outside of Prague, with nothing but their passport and a plane ticket,” so… not a super happy ending, at that. Still, interesting.

And there we go, that’s the book reviewed. I quite liked it, and would absolutely recommend it. Go read it.


  1. Well, superhero and supervillain. Super-being? 
  2. If you ever see “Lost Terry Pratchett novel found; it’s about superheroes” in the news, find a way to tell me gently because I might have an aneurism from how excited I’d be about that. 
  3. Certainly not a love interest- somewhere between ‘best friend’ and ‘motivational speaker,’ I suppose? 
  4. He has, and I’m going to read it sometime soon, I hope. 
  5. The comic book version, not the movie version, which I still haven’t seen, so if you try to tell me spoilers I will have you executed
  6. It’s so much better than the ‘realism’ of movies these days, where they think that making everything dark and gritty makes it more ‘realistic’ somehow. Y’all have entirely missed the point, Hollywood. 

Short Stories About Tiny Tasks

I have no idea how this wound up on my Kindle. I’m just gonna assume it’s because it was free?
Anyhow, it was a bit of a weird read. It’s from what I mentally refer to as the “deep archives” of my Kindle- stuff that I downloaded a long time ago in a burst of “oh my god I’ve got nothing to read” and then forgot about. The weird bit is how clearly dated it is – it felt more dated than books I’ve got from 200 years ago do.
Technology is hard to write about, because it gets obsolete so fast. And when you’re writing for a blog,1 you’re writing for now, not later, so a lot of the historical context of what you’re talking about can be ignored. But if you make a ‘book’ out of those posts, without editing anything to add that context back in… well, a lot is missing.
So, yeah- a short review for a short book. It was an interesting look at the brief ‘crowdsourcing’ thing, but I think we’re pretty well along into the downward trend of that one, now that AI is good enough. Yay, future.


  1. Context: the book is composed of a bunch of blog posts from the Microtasks blog. I think that’s the name of the blog, at least.