I'm certain the vast majority of posts I've written here have been composedMarsEdit, and now there is a new version!
I happily paid to upgrade... now if only MarsEdit could somehow get me to write more!
Here are some posts I have been thinking about writing, instead of writing:
- An update on my weight loss
- The backlog of book reviews
- Fibit Ionic review
- Kindle Oasis review (usually I chat about this on my friend Jason's podcast, but that didn't happen this year... so maybe I'll write about it?)
- Best books of the year read by me (I always feel like I shouldn't do this one until 2018, but then I think perhaps someone would want to buy the books I recommend. Then I remember that no one is reading this blog so it doesn't really matter what I do!)
And that's just off the top of my head! So why haven't I been writing? I dunno. Reading is so much easier, I guess!
Anyway, hurrah for MarsEdit 4.0. I dig the snazzy new icon
Seth, the man behind the Hugos There Podcast, emailed me awhile ago to invite me onto his podcast. While I appear on a number of podcasts (and have one of my own!) I am rarely asked to appear on other people’s podcast (I can only assume because most people don’t want to talk to me, which I understand). Seth said, pick a Hugo award winning novel and we’ll chat about it.
Sounds like fun to me! I’ve read a number of the Hugo winners but I didn’t want to re-read something, so I decided to pick “Cyteen” by C.J. Cherryh. A book I knew nothing about, but an author who I had been meaning to read but had, as of yet, not gotten around to.
After I shot an email to Seth with my choice I realized two things: this book is very long (680 pages) and it isn‘t available in ebook (plus it appears to be out of print).
I ordered a used copy and then found out that while 680 pages isn’t generally that many pages… these pages are very big.
I felt bad for making Seth read this giant tome, but really isn’t it his fault for inviting me onto his podcast? Also, I suddenly realize why people don’t invite me onto their podcasts.
The book itself was good, though I‘m not sure I’d recommend anyone read it. It is chock full of big ideas, and the writing is good. But the first 100 pages or so were a bit of a chore to get through.
It did trick me into thinking that the story would be one thing and then completly change tacts not once but twice, and I liked that.
Overall, I’m glad I read it and you can hear me chat with Seth about it if you like.
Who should read it: Someone who is trying to read all the Hugo winners, C.J.Cherryh completists, 80‘s scifi fans.
Would I read it again: Once was enough, though I am going to read more Cherryh.
Miss Kopp’s Midnight Confessions is the 3rd in the Kopp Sisters series which follows the exploits of the first woman to be a deputy sheriff (Constance Kopp).
The first book was great! This one was… less great though an interesting book to read right after “Lean In” since the plot involves young woman going to jail just for having the nerve to leave their parent’s home and pursue a career.
The Kopp sisters are fun characters, but this book didn’t do much for me. It is well written, but lacks a compelling plot.
Who should read it: Just read the first one.
Would I read it again: Nope!
We tried to buy a house in West Philadelphia this week. After nearly three years of looking and we finally found a dwelling that we both liked enough to offer vast sums of borrowed money for. But it didn’t work out. Another offer was accepted and the reason given was the terms.
Finding a house is a difficult process, even more so when one person involved doesn't really want a house.
I've lived in apartments my entire life with one exception: 2 years in an off campus house during college.
I'm familiar with apartment living. I like apartment living. I like not being responsible for the vast number of things that could go wrong with an apartment.
And, like many people, I fear the unknown. Homeownership is a big unknown for me, but over the course the last 3 years we've looked at many houses (in fact, the very first house we looked at was the only one we both liked.... until the house we saw last week) and I've come to accept that there are some upsides to homeownership.
Here's to us finding the right place!
TNG has impacted my life in many ways.
On my desk at work sits the mug above, waiting to be filled with the hot beverage of my choice. Usually that means hot chocolate, however, whenever I get it in my head to try to like tea I turn to... earl grey!
Thanks, Capt. Picard.
I should note, that the tea bag in this mug isn't earl grey, it is Pure Leaf Vanilla Black tea. I got it as part of a book box thing I'm a member of, and it is pretty tasty.
The above video documents something that you've probably never noticed, and yet when it is pointed out you can't unsee it.
This, my friends, is known amongst those in the know as the "Riker Maneuvuer."
Word on the Internet is that Jonathan Frakes hurt his back moving furniture so it was more comfortable for him to sit like that. I don't know if that's true, but I could watch that video for hours.
Mot the Barber! He's everyone favorite Bolian and the best barber in StarFleet (according to Riker).
I have no idea why the Enterprise has a barbershop which employs several barbers, but I'm glad it does.
Not only does Mot suggest that Work should use conditioner, Picard poses as him to thwart some terrorists who want to steal the Enterprise.
Plus he's bald and he makes a living cutting hair.
Though it is unclear to me if Mot gets paid. The Federation is a money free society, so no one has to work. I guess Mot just really likes cutting hair?
Quick, name all three TNG movies!
Trick question, there were four. Sadly, most of them weren't very good but First Contact is probably my second favorite Star Trek movie period (Wrath of Khan is number one, and may be my favorite movie in general).
I do have a strong memory of going to see Star Trek: Generations in the movie theater. I was in college, and excited to see the TNG crew on the big screen. The movie opens with, what soon becomes clear, a champagne bottle slowly rotating end over end as the credits roll. The bottle smashes into the Enterprise-B and that's when you see your first Star Trek character: Capt. Kirk.
WTF? This was supposed to be a TNG movie! Though I will grant them that it was fun to see Picard and Kirk together most of the stuff that happens in the Nexus is boring, and (spoilers) Kirk's second death is a bit anti-climatic.
First Contact's main titles aren't very impressive either:
However, the first scene is just a Borg punch to the eye (and the surprise in the mirror gets me every time):
This scene with Picard and Lily (Alfre Woodard) shows why this movie is so darned good:
Of course the big moments in that scene are great (Picard smashing the window, Lily telling him he wouldn't he the first man to enjoy killing, THE LINE MUST BE DRAWN HERE!) but my favorite part is Picard's reaction to being called Capt. Ahab. Perfect.
This movie really is really about Picard (and Data, though mostly Picard) but each of the characters get a moment in the spotlight. Plus good old Reg Barkley makes a cameo. I mean really, how can you not like that?
Now, calling First Contact the best TNG movie is damning it with faint praise I will admit. And if that were the extent to which I enjoyed the film I wouldn't recommend anyone watch it. However, this movie is legitimately good and makes one wonder what happened with the two that came after it (the less said about them the better I think).
"All Good Things..." is the series finale of Star Trek: The Next Generation and one of my favorite episodes of the series (and without a doubt my favorite season 7 episode).
The fear was real. The fear that the final episode of TNG ever would suck. Luckily, it was a pitch perfect way to end the series, and launch the movie franchise. And that final scene with Picard joining the rest of the bridge crew at the poker table? I couldn't think of a better way to end the show if you paid me.
I've been thinking a lot about what makes Star Trek feel like "Star Trek" to me. I keep being reminded of something Marisa said to me as we were deciding if we should watch something new or continue our watching of Deep Space Nine. She said, "Is it weird that I think of watching Star Trek as spending time with my friends?" The friends, of course, being the characters in the show.
And that's what "real" Star Trek is to me. Those interactions between characters on the show that make them human. Whether it is talking about archeology to one another, or gathering around a table to play friend game of poker.
I've included the original promos for both halves of "All Good Things..." but you should also watch this trailer for the Bluray which features the remastered version:
CBS did a great job with the HD remastering of TNG (in fact, if you're watching TNG on most streaming services you'll get the HD version).
To really get a sense of the improvement check out this (probably too long) video that compares the SD vs the HD version:
Ok, now a few of my other favorite episodes of Season 7:
There! Are! Four! Lights!
This is a bit of a cheat, but my favorite episode in season 6 has got to be Chain of Command (Part 1 and Part 2, though I think Part 2 might edge it out if I had to pick one. Good thing I am making the rules for this series!).
Picard and Dr. Crusher (for some reason) are sent off on a secret mission. Whilst Picard is away a new captain appears on the ship and shakes things up (and makes Troi put on a regular uniform to boot).
The mission goes poorly and bad things happen to Picard. Plus there are Cardassians (which might be the best new enemy race TNG created).
Other good episodes include:
Season 5 is another season chockfull of great TNG episodes. In fact, it has what many consider to the best episode of TNG ever: Darmok.
Man, what an episode and what a concept. An alien probe causes Picard to live an entire lifetime in the matter of hours just so he can understand their long dead civilization. That's some pretty heady stuff.
And it is one of the rare episodes that echoes throughout the rest of the series. Picard learns to play a flute in this "lifetime" he lives and that shows up in subsequent episodes as a sort of short hand for the impact of the experience on him as a character.
Another favorite episode is Cause and Effect which features a very Star Trek twist.
Remember Me has a lot going for it as a Star Trek episode. This is one of the rare Dr. Crusher centric episodes, and I enjoy that. It also involves a lot of technobabble (warp bubbles and what have you), a mysterious alien (The Traveler) and something that I really enjoy: uncanniness.
Over the course of the episode the Enterprise, a place familiar to everyone who is watching the show, is slowly transformed into an unfamiliar landscape. People are disappearing, and no one but Dr. Crusher seems to care.
And it is the episode with this quote, "If there's nothing wrong with me maybe there's something wrong with the Universe."
Season 3 is when TNG really gets cooking. Given the large number of good episodes this season you'd think I would have trouble picking my favorite, but the choice is clear: "The Best of Both Worlds, Part 1."
How could it not be? Picard is assimilated into the Borg? WHAT?! And even better, the writers didn't think they were coming back for the 4th season, so they set up this crazy cliffhanger and didn't have a clue how to resolve it. They figured, "let the suckers who replace us figure it out!"
Joke was on them, since they had to figure it out
Some of my other favs include:
Man, season 1 of TNG is not so good. Season 2 is an improvement. In fact, I actually had to pick my favorite from a handful of episodes.
But without a doubt The Measure of a Man has got to be my favorite season 2 episode, and I honestly think it is a good episode of Star Trek in general.
There's conflict between crewmembers, something that just didn't happen in season 1. Sure, it is a setup but Riker has to do his best to prove that his friend is just a piece of equipment. Not only that, but that Starfleet can just rip apart Data and study him in any way that they want.
I figured an easy 7 posts for this series would be to name my favorite episode from each season of TNG. Seems like a great idea, right?
Well, I forgot about season 1. It is not so good. I mean, it really isn't good. I have no idea how TNG managed to get another season, but I'm glad it did.
For my season 1 favorite I have to pick a pretty ridiculous episode: Justice.
Why Justice? This is the one where the TNG crew beam down to Planet Jazzercise. Everyone wears very, very little. And you can't just *walk* from place to place on Planet Jazzercise. No, one must jog!
Plus there's a deep voiced glittering orb. How can you not like a glittering orb?
Oh, and Wesley is sentenced to death for crashing into a garden plot. Stupid Wesley.
Now, to be clear this isn't a good episode of TNG. But I enjoy the fact that it is pretty crazy pants (despite the fact that no one on Planet Jazzercise wears pants).
You can watch the whole thing in 10 minutes, if you must.
On Random Trek I always ask my guests what their favorite Star Trek series is, which seems like a good way to kick off a conversation about Star Trek.
Often, the guest will answer and then ask me the same question. This is when I talk about the difference between by favorite series and the series I think is the best Trek series.
Without a doubt my favorite Star Trek series is The Next Generation. When I close my eyes and think about Star Trek, which is something I do more often than you would think, the first images that pop into my mind come from TNG. The Enterprise D is my Enterprise, and Picard will always be my captain.
To celebrate the 30th anniversay of a show that has had a large impact on my life I’m going to write a TNG related blog post every day this month. Why? Why not!
I don’t really have any particular topics in mind at the moment, so if you’d like to sugesst something sound off in the comments or on twitter (I’m @blankbaby).
I should mention that this whole idea was inspired by this great TNG 30th podcast over at The Incomparable. I was almost on this episode myself but I talk about Star Trek enough that I bowed out to let some other people talk Trek for a change.
Readers of this blog might assume that I earn a living being almost Internet famous, what with my podcast, my several tech books, and this website. Sorry to burst that bubble, but I do have a day job (which I like!).
For the longest time I avoided managing people because, well, I didn’t think I’d be any good at it. However, since I’m in technology I had to decide if I wanted to go down the route of being super technical or managing people. I opted for people management, and now I manage a group of 10 people. That’s not to say I’m GOOD at it, just that I do it. And get paid for it.
Interestingly, I"m the only man on my team, which leads me to why I read “Lean In.” I was in a one on one meeting with someone who reports to me and she suggested I read this book because it could give me some insights into what women have to deal with at work.
And so I read the book. And I must say I liked it! Though I suppose I don’t like that it had to be written, I’m glad Sheryl Sandberg wrote it.
I am glad that she points out at the very start of the book that she has tremendous resources that most women don’t. Even with that setup, though, from time to time I would remember that she is a billionaire (like when she told a story about jetting off to some meeting with other CEOs, or how she got parking for pregnant women at Google by marching into the co-founders’ office).
The take away could be, well she’s so wealthy she doesn’t really get it. But as a white man reading it I took something else away from it: one should always use their privilege to help others.
I know some people don’t think that white privilege is a thing, but it is. And I benefit from it. Plus I’m a white guy, so I benefit even more! I’m not saying that everything is easy for me but I certainly have an easier time in life than most women or people of other colors (for example, I never think twice about speaking in meetings, and if I saw a police officer approaching me I would assume he was either looking for someone else or trying to offer me assistance).
Reading this book underlined something things that I already knew, and made me hope that I’m not doing all the typical male at work things she mentions
Who should read it: If you are a man who manages women you should read this book, or a book like it. Women don’t need me telling them what to read!
Robin Sloan’s work (his previous book was Mr. Penumbra’s 24 Hour Bookstore) tends to teeter on the edge of twee. Though his is a very modern twee set, generally, in a version of San Francisco that is both recognizable and slightly off kilter from reality.
In fact, I found myself in San Franciso a few weeks ago so reading a book set in that city (though this book is “of” San Francisco the city itself doesn’t play a huge part in the narrative) was a nice reminder of my time there.
As you might expect, soudough bread plays a rather important role in this novel. Actually, the sourdough starter is far more important. The story revolves around a programmer working at a robotic arm company who ends up in possession of a mysterious sourdough starter which leads to her becoming part of a mysterious farmers’ market, and changes her life.
A story that you’ve heard a million times!
At first I was skeptical since Sloan’s first book followed a very simliar plot (though in that story a former programmer stumbles across a mysterious bookstore that changes his life), but in the end the charm and wit of the writing won me over. As did the inclusion of Silicon Valley types sucking down packets of a food subsitute called “Slurry.”
Who should read it: Foodies or techies (or techie foodies) will eat this book up. See what I did there? Eh?
Right after I finished Dead Woman Walking I wanted more from Sharon Bolton. Luckily she has written a bunch of books, though most of them are in a series. I didn’t want to jump into a series, so I bought myself a copy of “Daisy in Chains,” despite the fact that I have something like 1,000 ebooks on my Kindle and probably another 1,000 or so physical books just waiting for me to read them (in fact the next 3 books I plan on reading come from the library).
This book is more of a character study than anything else, and it does include a few shocking twists (though I did guess one of the twists).
There are murders, blue hair, gypsies, and a creepy amusement park visit during a winter’s night. What’s not to like?
Once again Bolton deploys short chapters that keep you guessing. I didn’t want to put this book down, and I gobbled it up from start to finish. I was even tempted to just jump right into Bolton’s series… but then my book debt guilt kicked in so I decided to read the books I had picked up from the library. I will be reading more Bolton soon!
Who should read it: If you like thrillers and serial killers this book is for you!
I suppose this is more of a thriller than a mystery, though there are some mysterious elements to it. You know who the bad guys are (for the most part), but it is unclear why each of the characters are mixed up in this story. And like any good thriller this book has some unexpected twists and turns (which I won’t ruin for anyone!).
The setup for this novel is brilliant: 13 people are in a hot air balloon and witness an act of violence. And then they all die in a crash… all expect for one person.
I read this book over the course of 24 hours because of Bolton’s effective use of very short chapters and an intricate weaving of a few stories spread over the course of a decade or so.
It is well written and compulsively readable. My only quibble is that it does seem remarkable that these particular characters would end up so well placed in relation to the story. However, I don’t think realism was the point of this book!
I will say that I’d never heard of Sharon Bolton before reading this book, but I plan on reading another one of her books soon!
Who should read it: If you don’t mind horrible people doing horrible things, this book is for you!
Recommending a book that is the 6th in a series isn’t something one should do, however, the Craft Sequence isn’t a normal series. If you read the series in publication order, as I have, you’re actually reading them out of chronological order. This might seem strange, but the upshot is you can pretty much start the series at any of the books. And you should.
I’m not a huge fan of urban fantasy, which is why I was so surprised when I read a review of “Ruin of Angels” describing it as such. Upon further reflection it does make sense: this is a world where lines of contracts power magic, ever living skeletons run corporations, and gods trade faith for power.
Ruin of Angels is a good jumping on point, and for $3 (ebook) it is a great deal. If you’ve read any of the other books in the series you’ll recognize some of the characters featured.
I suppose I should point out that all the main characters are women, which I guess is either a plus or minus depending on your point of view.
Who should read it: Anyone who has read any of the Craft Sequence, or if you’ve ever wondered what a space program powered by magic might look like.
I ran my second 5K race ever yesterday! You can read all about my first experience in 2008 (so young!) on this very blog. Mayor Nutter (who was the mayor of Philadelphia at the time) was there, and I met him so that was cool. And Marisa took what is my favorite picture of the day:
That's me pointing to the Mayor's back. How security didn't escort me away I'll never know.
Much like my first 5K experience, signing up for this one was something of an impulsive decision. I wanted to support the cause of getting rid of colon cancer in my mom's memory so it seemed like a good idea. Of course, I hadn't actually ran outside, or really at all, for months and months and months before I signed up.
I had been doing an hour on the elliptical for several months, so I didn't think it would be too bad to get back into the running habit. To train I went out and did exactly what you aren't supposed to do: I ran a 5K run to see how it would feel.
Reader, I ran my fastest 5K ever! At this point I considered becoming a professional runner, but the benefits aren't great.
A week later, I ran another 5K and BEAT my previous time again!
Then we went on vacation and I ran along the coast of Oregon… and didn't beat my record. However, I did get chased by a couple of dogs so that was fun.
I ran a few more times in Philadelphia and before I knew it race day was upon me. Marisa, sadly, was off being famous so she couldn't be there. My brother and his girlfriend came down to watch me race (though they weren't there at the start, since really it isn't that exciting. And due to a coffee mishap they missed me crossing the finish line, but it is the thought that counts!).
I showed up, pinned my number to my t-shirt and waited. I hate being late for things, so I was an hour early for the race. I could have helped myself to some snacks… but I don't eat before I run since I imagine myself vomiting along the route (this is also why I don't eat before public speaking).
I’m ready to run this 5k! pic.twitter.com/EznWtuMMvP— Scott McNulty (@blankbaby) September 9, 2017
Since I had so much time on my hands I checked out the giant colon:
Only the finest 5k races feature giant inflatable colons. pic.twitter.com/Ae61rCfU9f— Scott McNulty (@blankbaby) September 9, 2017
Soon it was time to start the race. I was surrounded by people in much better shape than me (some of whom were wearing nothing but their underwear. I was wearing the pair of boxers they gave to runners [it was an undy run] over my running shorts… doubly secured).
And off I went! My goal for this race was simple: pace myself. During my practice runs I was so excited to be running outside that my first mile would be super fast (well, for me) and then the second mile would be slower, and the third mile would be me jogging/walking and hating life.
I didn't want to walk at all during the 5K, and I didn't want to expend all my energy during the first mile. How did I do?
Check out my Runkeeper stats:
I am very proud of how darn consistent I was able to keep my pacing. How did I manage it? Well, I had set Runkeeper to tell me my pace at 1 mile intervals, which really meant that I couldn't adjust at all. Before the race I set it to alert me every .5 mile (which I didn't think would be too annoying) and it worked like a charm.
Now, when I registered for the race I had two fears:
- I would be the fattest person running.
- I would come in dead last.
I'm happy to report that only one of those fears was true, which made the fact that the second didn't come true all the sweeter.
Sure, I was the biggest guy running (lots of people did the fun walk) but I wasn't the slowest person. Hurrah for me!
Now, I was very far from being the fastest person but I did come in 9th in my age group (104th overall). That's something.
The run itself was pretty good. I made sure to run along the far edge of the road so people could easily pass me (since I wasn't running very fast). We ran 1.5 miles one way, turned around, and ran back.
The way out was great. I was chugging along. Passing some people, having some people pass me. No big deal. Then I turned the corner, passed the water station (no water for me, thanks. Don't want to vomit) and ended up behind 3 teenage girls walking side by side on the race route. It was clear that they were friends since they were chatting amongst themselves. No big deal, but they were blocking the entire half of the road. I sped up, swerved around them and passed them.
No big deal.
Well, having seen an old fat guy pass them they decided they needed to speed up themselves and so they passed me. And kept running. Until they started walking again. And, you guessed it, I had to pass them again since I was running at a consistent speed.
Once again, they saw this… and decided to run pass me again.
And then they started walking side by side again.
So I passed them, again.
And this was with about .7 miles left, so I was pretty sure they would run past me and beat me to the finish line… but I didn't see them again.
Therefore I assume I beat them. Take that, teenage girls who I am sure have no memory of me even being there!
According to the race chip I ran the 5K in 31:39 which gave me an average pace of a 10 minute 11 second mile (3 times in a row!).
And then I ate two bananas and drank all the water:
I am done! My fastest 5K yet. And thanks to everyone who donated! Plus there were free bananas! pic.twitter.com/SfKHjDfILn— Scott McNulty (@blankbaby) September 9, 2017
When I ran my last 5K (9 years ago) it took me 33:03, so I improved without really trying. Hurrah for me.
And a much bigger hurrah to everyone who donated to the cause. I was almost the top fundraiser for the race (I was bet by $75 but I'm ok with that).
Adam Roberts is one of those authors who writes whatever they want, and damn the marketability. Generally I enjoy his work, and he is a very talented writer. This book wasn't his best work, though I did think it was quite interesting and I almost enjoyed just as a physical object.
The cover is gorgeous, and the illustrations are generally very good but… the copy editing is just bad. I usually don't even notice the odd mistake here and there, but this book was littered with them. It was distracting (and not the author's fault, but it didn't do him any favors).
The story is heavily influenced/extends 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. A French experimental submarine goes off on a test run and dives. And dives. And dives deeper than the ocean should allow a submarine to dive.
And then things get crazy, and none of it is good for the crew.
I would say this book ends up being interesting rather than good.
Who should read it: Big fans of Jules Verne and French people, I guess?
Trilogies can be tough. The first book is exciting because you're discovering a whole new world populated with interesting characters (at least in good ones!), the second book generally moves the story along and not much more, and the third book… the pressure is on to stick the landing. If you have a bad conclusion it can have the power to sour people on the previous two books, plus who is going to recommend a trilogy with a bad final book?
I'm happy to report that The Stone Sky, the final volume in the fantastic The Broken Earth trilogy, does not disappoint. It is a well written and satisfying conclusion to a very good trilogy. Seriously, if you haven't read any of these books you should totally do it.
My one complaint is an odd one: I almost feel like the third book explained too much of how the world got to be the way it is in the trilogy. Now, I know that lots of people will be very happy to find out the details, but I think I would have preferred a little more ambiguity. That's just me, though, since I tend to enjoy books where I have little idea what is going on (which was pretty much the case in the first two books of this series).
I won't bother to try and recap what this book is about, but I will say it is a very interesting mix of fantasy and science fiction.
Who should read it: If you're read the first two books you'll need to read this one. And you should read the first two.
Would I read it again: I can imagine myself re-reading this trilogy again at some point (much like the Foundation trilogy, which is probably my favorite trilogy of all time).