sab39

... indistinguishable from magic
effing the ineffable since 1977

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10/5/2004
Various stuff I've been reading lately:
  • The "No 1 Ladies Detective Agency" series by Alexander McCall Smith. Not the genre I usually read, but strangely compelling. It's a snapshot of a totally different life, and I like the way that the "whodunnit" detective aspects are balanced against the ongoing stories of the lives of the characters. It almost feels as if the author doesn't actually know what's coming next, but has constructed these characters and their environment and is just watching, along with the reader, to see what happens to them. Just like real life, there's no big master plan - or if there is, he hides it well.
  • Going Postal by Terry Pratchett (half-way through, currently). Easily up to Pterry's usual standard, which is high praise even though he accomplishes it so regularly. Still waiting for another "proper" witches story, though - they were always my favorite and the Granny cameos in the nascent Tiffany Aching series aren't enough to sate my appetite.
  • The Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs. After being disheartened to learn that this would be $80 to purchase, I just downloaded the entire text onto my laptop with wget and am making my way through it slowly. I'm impressed that even the first set of exercises contain a few tasks that are difficult enough to at least be interesting. I fully expect this book to blow my mind, and it's rare for programming-related material to be able to do that these days.

 

Next Stop Mars

10/4/2004
I have a goal for my lifetime - not for myself specifically, but for the human race. By the time I die I'd like to see Mars colonized. Naturally I'd love to be one of the colonists myself, but that seems quite unlikely and I can live with that, as long as there are colonists. If we're still stuck on this ball of rock at the end of my life, I'll find that profoundly depressing.

For that reason it's with great joy that I watch the reports of SpaceShipOne making its two successful X-Prize flights, the second being this morning. And read about Virgin Galactic and its plan to launch "affordable" (merely several hundred thousand dollar) commercial tourist space flights in the SS1-based VSS Enterprise. Incidentally, Branson really knows how to pick names, doesn't he? On one level, it's the height of arrogance to use the word "Galactic" and the name of a fictional starship in a venture that won't even be reaching orbit. On another level it shows very clearly that Branson isn't going to be satisfied with pathetic little suborbital hops, and that his dreams are MUCH bigger than that. Which is exactly what you want in someone pioneering commercial spaceflight.

On an unrelated note, this site is slow in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser. Sorry about this - I'm using Dean Edwards' excellent IE7 software to add support for modern HTML and image formats into Internet Explorer. Adding the support dynamically on every page load is rather slow. If you want to avoid this delay, use a modern browser, such as Firefox.

 
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