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Month: March 2011

The A.I. War

There’s a time when I would have been overwhelmed with the news that The A.I. War was out.. In 1994, it was almost done. I barely remember who I was back then. 1994? I was still working at Netcom. Wow. In those days, The A.I. War was the next stage in a 33 book masterpiece of future history. That was exciting.

We read the first three chapters in 1998. Still excited. Well, I’m still excited now. Just differently so.

Stuff happened between 1994 and now. I don’t blame DKM for taking fifteen years to get this sucker out. My impatience pales in comparison to the pain that some of that stuff caused those involved. I still had to dull the edge of my excitement somewhere along that timeline. Plus Terminal Freedom, oof. Charitably, I don’t like Jodi Moran’s writing as much as I like Daniel Keys Moran’s writing. Uncharitably, they needed an editor. There’s way too much self-insertion and there are way too many authorial darlings in there. All in all, I wasn’t sitting around waiting for The A.I. War. Blame it on false starts and trepidation.

Now? I’m not overwhelmed. But I find I’m pleased, and yeah, excited. I think I’m excited for potential. A couple of days from now, when I’ve read it, maybe I’ll believe in the Continuing Time again. I’m glad that there’s a chance I might.

That’s The Rush of Geek Feet

Hey, it’s time for a new Neal Stephenson novel. This one is going to be called Reamde, which is probably a gloss on README, which is funny. Particularly to me. This was announced like a year ago but I wasn’t paying attention. It’s about gold farmers in MMORPGs, and it will be nearly 1,000 pages long, and it will come out in September. That’s also funny to me, although I imagine it isn’t a reference to the Eternal September. I happily anticipate being grumpy about MMO inaccuracies.

Aztec Chocolate

So this is your basic chocolate ice cream recipe, Philadelphia-style (no eggs), but you also add a bit of brandy and some cinnamon and a bunch of chile powder. The recipe calls for either ancho or chipotle chile powder; we went for ancho. My initial reaction on tasting the mix was that it was a bit wussy, but I’m more hardcore about heat than is reasonable. It is super-rich and chocolatey, so all’s well! And when I have a chance to make this with Chris T., we’ll fiddle around with a hotter batch. You could do this with a small amount of naga jolokia and get something really interesting.


The Adjustment Bureau is carried a long way by Matt Damon and Emily Blunt, with an assist from Terence Stamp, but the directing was indifferent and the script wussed out in the end. And at a crucial point in the middle; watch for the library scene, where we find out that much of the central philosophical dilemma is completely irrelevant.

It’s a Philip K. Dick movie, so you kind of have to know the odds aren’t that good going in; you expect to get an interesting mindtwist of a premise executed without total commitment on the part of the director/screenwriter. Check on all counts. I put this one a bit higher than most, just because Damon and Blunt were so good. Awesome chemistry, great acting. But this is George Nolfi’s first movie, and man, even the experienced directors tend to hit the reefs on Dick adapatations. He also wrote the screenplay, so I can confidently blame him for everything I disliked.

Which is to say that the ending fails to take risks. It’s comforting rather than dangerous. You can read the original story, which is quite short. In the end of that one, our protagonist willingly compromises to save his own skin. In the movie, it’s not surprising that Matt Damon gets a happy ending, but it is disappointing. There’s a reading in which he sacrifices a great deal to get that happy ending, which is in fact the surface reading, but I’d point out that certain parties spend the whole movie lying to Damon and he knows it. I’m not sure he’s made any real sacrifice at all.

Also, someone better could have turned the hat chase scene into something really special. So lost opportunity all around. It’s still totally worth a matinee, because of the acting, but not more than that.

Object of Dreams

Should you ever happen to be in Singapore and desirous of spending a thousand bucks or so on me, this is what I want. It’s the nearly complete Shaw Brothers collection, 668 films, on one set-top box. Presumably there’s a hard drive in there. HDMI output, 720p picture quality, from the Celestial Pictures remastered rereleases. Man, that would be awesome. At a thousand bucks, it’s reasonably priced on a per movie basis, too. Alas, they won’t ship outside Singapore.

Big Apple Bite

Gruber has been more accepting of the new iOS App Store rules than I am, but I like his latest post on the subject. New information to me: there’s a limit of 3,500 items in the in-app purchase catalog for any iOS app. As he notes, this has obvious implications for Amazon. It also occurred to me last week that the 30% Apple cut wouldn’t work terribly well for the oft-rumored NFC implementation. If Apple wants us to use iPhones as payment devices everywhere, they’re not going to be taking 30% of all transactions made via the iPhone. So I keep on thinking there’s more to the picture than we’ve seen so far. I’ll say this: Apple continues to be annoyingly opaque.