Monday, September 28, 2015

Flowing Water on Mars


NASA announced this news today, but the title is not quite right. It's evidence of flowing water on Mars. It's briny so it doesn't evaporate. Briny makes me think of the presence of microbes, so I think the next big Martian news may make us all reach for David Bowie:



That's Mike Garson on the keys. :-)

Presence of water below the surface and frozen at the caps has been known for quite some time.

This is the Google doodle for today.

Luna Park

In one of my stories, this old amusement park is visited:




Sept 27 2015 Lunar Eclipse


Photo by NASA

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Project Humor

An Imgur Exploit.

An opportunistic exploit of images by injecting java script during an upload stores malicious script on the Imgur server that is downloaded to the computers of unwitting users. If you love pokemon foot porn, clear your cache. Want to know more?

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

My review of The Martian

The MartianThe Martian by Andy Weir
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Yeah, this was a great romp. Good story, well told, and left me dreaming of space travel.

It's really rare to find a good science-fiction book that relies on good science, but it sure is a pleasure when it happens, and it's done right. The Martian is really special in this regard, but that alone wasn't what made it work so well for me. I also really enjoyed Watney and the others on the crew. Yeah, I agree that we didn't get to see everyone fleshed out as much as I'd like, but the concentration of the book is on the individual vs (lack of) nature conflict, not issues of individual vs government bureaucracy or individual vs individual (though those both came into play at some point).

It's always a bit tricky to talk about books without giving spoilers, and, of course, there is a movie with Matt Damon that is out October 1, so everyone will know the plot anyhow, but there is enough to say about style, humor, and the most compelling thing of all (Mark's resourcefulness) without giving things away. There are also some important lessons and I can talk about all this without giving away much at all.

First off, the story is mostly told (at least the main part of the tale) from log entries of my favorite Martian, Mark Watney, who was left behind and needs to survive. I have to admit this was pretty dry for me until and the writing felt barren because, well, they're log entries and Mark is alone. We don't really know much about him at first, but as the story progresses, the log becomes a window into his soul, and what we find there, through his childish humor [12:15] WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! (.Y.) and general geekiness (including comments about how hard it is for a botanist/mechanical engineer to get dates), is a plucky fellow who uses his optimism to find his way through impossible challenges.

It's never predictable and it's never that farfetched. (Ok, there are some things you shouldn't try at home though) In fact, one of the strengths of the novel, to me, who enjoys "reality-based" science-fiction, is the practical nature of the space mission. I get an optimistic feeling that something like this could actually be pulled off, maybe even in my lifetime (which I know is absurd, but still...)

I want to say two more things before I'm done here. One is the way the book left me feeling about humanity, in that, if something like the response and collaboration resulted from a disaster like this, it would probably be worth it. The conflicts of the world are deep and we are all very divided. Maybe a Watney event would even be beneficial no matter how it turned out.

The last thing, and what MOST impressed me, is the realization (I already knew this but it was sledgehammered into my head) that everything that we bring from Earth is a resource on the other world. Mark Watney uses his urine and feces to great effect and cannabilizes the equipment over and over again. All along my mouth hangs open and my hand in a steady clap. Even our shit is valuable.

You can't really help but cheer for him and in doing so, it feels like you're cheering for us all.

What a great tale!

View all my reviews

Monday, September 14, 2015

The Deed of Paksennarion - my review on Goodreads

Such a good book. One that I fought with, but came out loving it even more because of the challenge. Do you want to see how to do polytheistic cultures?

The Deed of Paksenarrion (The Deed of Paksenarrion, #1-3)The Deed of Paksenarrion by Elizabeth Moon
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

It’s pretty hard to talk about a book of over 1000 pages that sprawls across a continent and cataclysmic heroic events without spoilers, but that’s my goal here. Before I start, I want to say that I fought with this book for the longest time, but resistance was futile. I ended up in love with the characters and the world-building impressed me tremendously. Elizabeth Moon, your imagination is amazing. Your story will live in my mind, if I am lucky, until my last breath. Thank you for writing it.

I bought these 3 books on sale at Amazon. I read the first one in an 2 week period last year (that’s trudging for me) and bitched the entire time. My first impressions were that Paks is some perfect, order-following recruit that gains favor by brown-nosing relentlessly. Just call me Barra, ok? Grrr… Anyway, everything goes well for her for a long, long time. She follows orders without much dissent until she is confronted with the old problem of the good that chooses to wear the face of the evil, if only for a time. A moment where she stops the Duke from making a terrible mistake with Siniava becomes vital for the rest of the story, and we find that we have fallen into the velvet hand of a master storyteller. The last 700 pages of the story were swallowed like a glutton at a feast.

My first impression was that the characters were a bit too rote, but that changed over the story, and I (am the last one?) realized something (along with Paks) and now it’s clearly the intent of the author to demonstrate how people’s perceptions of others change over time. At one point in the story Paks realizes that people that have older have already lived a good part of their life before she meets them (or maybe she is hearing a story as such - I can't find the quote) and at that point you need to reevaluate all the different relationships.

A lot of people who say it is too easy for Paks (myself included early on) go dumb by the middle of he 2nd book. What this character endures from Liart and The Webmistress is truly unspeakable. If I had to make a criticism at all, I don't think that it's necessary for Paks to be so "pure" to make the point of her degradation. She seemed at times asexual to me which was off-putting, but this becomes a small complaint. The characters ascend to almost Pantheonic proportions by the end of the tale.

Before I go I have to talk about the world-building. I was thoroughly caught by surprise, because you are not immediately immersed. I don't know really when I started breathing air from Paks's world, but I did. By the end of the story the gods made sense, the different guilds and sects made sense, and the characters, their nations, their races... EVERYTHING became natural. I don't know how else to say this, but it's not often I am this pleasantly surprised. If there were six stars I would give them. I fought the Moon and the Moon won.


View all my reviews

Friday, September 4, 2015

Animal Collective Live At 9:30 Club Released


It sounds great. Here's the track listing:

Live at 9:30

1. Amanita 
2. Did You See the Words 
3. Honeycomb 
4. My Girls 
5. Moonjock 
6. New Town Burnout 
7. I Think I Can 
8. Pulleys 
9. What Would I Want? Sky 
10. Peacebone 
11. Monkey Riches 
12. Brothersport 
13. The Purple Bottle 


Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Don't Let Life Get You Down - You Aren't Very Important Anyhow



The Galaxy Song

I am a Goodreads Author now.

Here is a link to my Goodreads author page:

https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/14247287.Michael_Gouker


The best part is the photo I use so I'll reprint it here:





This was a gift from Roger Misteli and Sandra Just! :-) That's a real picture of me eating wasabi.


Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Pato Stays!


Alexandre Pato vai ficar no São Paulo FC pelo menos até Dezembro 31.

Pato stays in SP! :-)

GMT Project 500 Mentioned on 538.Com

This is about Kickstarter crowdfunding of board games:

http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/crowdfunding-is-driving-a-196-million-board-game-renaissance/

Project 500 is a GMT Games program that gets pledges for games and then publishes:

http://www.gmtgames.com/s-2-p500.aspx