Archive for February, 2016

Review: Distraction

Saturday, February 27th, 2016

I found a pointer to Distraction as a political thriller that was good to read in an election year.  I don’t think Distraction fits that bill particularly well – Interface does – but any excuse to read Distraction is a good one.

Distraction benefits from two related strengths of Sterling’s: he sees technical issues and societal trends with unique insight and he expresses his insight precisely and enjoyably. I found Distraction’s plot and characterization to be excuses to move the action from observation to observation and to render them for maximum effect.  That was great as I found the observations well worth the time.  A couple favorites:

You can’t trust abstract mathematics, sir; it always turns out to be practical.

The climate’s in flux now. You can’t shelter whole environments under airtight domes. Only two kinds of plants really thrive in today’s world: genetically altered crops, and really fast-moving weeds. So our world is all bamboo and kudzu now, it has nothing to do with the endangered foxglove lady’s slipper and its precious niche on some forgotten mountain. Politically, we hate admitting this to ourselves, because it means admitting the full extent of our horrible crimes against nature, but that’s ecological reality now. That’s the truth you asked me for. That is reality. Paying tons of money to preserve bits of Humpty Dumpty’s shell is strictly a pious gesture.

Country like France gets along great without science. They just munch some more fine cheese and read more Racine. But you take America without science, you got one giant Nebraska.

These are the kinds of ideas that kept bringing me back to Heinlein, and will keep me reading Sterling.  Distraction is chock full.


Introducing Slippy

Monday, February 15th, 2016

I’ve mentioned my new airplane a couple times on here, though not as often as I probably should have.  I’ve omitted a whole saga with getting a brake leak fixed and a particularly exciting go-around caused because I let some pilot-induced oscillations get the better of me on the ground.

Today’s post is where I come clean about another facet of the aircraft and my relation to it.  I seem to have given her a name.

I haven’t named any of my previous vehicles.  Not even my beloved Archer on which I cut my aviation teeth.  I laways referred to her by her callsign or as “The Archer.”  Fanciful names were not for me.

This plane is different.  It’s quirky nature and charmed life combined in my head to form a name.  This happened without my intention – or really permission.  I slowly started thinking of her as Sleipnir.  If you’re not a comics fan or familiar with Norse mythology, that’s the name of Odin‘s eight-legged flying horse.  Sleipnir is called the best of all horses, and that’s how I think of the Viking.  It stuck in my head and it’s become the name of the plane to me.

I finally sheepishly mentioned that I’d named it to Brenda – who names all her vehicles – and she somehow improved it.  “You mean we could call her Slippy for short?”

That’s perfect.  It’s got the right light-hearted ring to it, and alludes to the slick airframe that helps Slippy go so fast.  So, Sleipnir – Slippy for short – is our new girl.  (Yeah, planes are female. That seems true to me in the same way that GNU software is green.  I don’t understand it, mind you…)