Wednesday, November 20, 2013

the fall of a typo

Thank the world of IT to come up with zingers like I had checked with [the IT department] for the slowness issue. They rebooted it and now the box is performing pretty descent. First things were slow. Presumably, the box was slow. Now you watch it go down beautifully. Fall is truly beautiful and it's not just about the leaves.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

yinless yang or yangless yin?

Employees of the corporate world are no doubt familiar with crapspeak and its unfortunate and inevitably growing influence on the English language. One of its many contributions is the innocuous (and banal) phrase senior management. I am sure those that drop it in all their correspondence (usually to their underlings far removed) nurse thematically rich notions of meaning and semantics for this phrase, but those of us at the receiving end fail to see the difference between this phrase and phrases like program management and senior leadership.

And suddenly today, I wondered, what about junior management and junior leadership? Are they already anathema? Can there only be senior versions of such life forms?

I could go on about how even management and leadership represent ideas that most underlings would disagree with. Even the suggestion that the two are synonymous is enough to make cubicle dwellers break into a cold sweat (or a hot psychotic rage). But all that is fodder for a longer rant that would be misplaced here)

Saturday, August 31, 2013

miscellaneous thoughts

despair is an anagram of diapers. I am sure we are supposed to learn something from that but I don't know what.

The Ninth Configuration and Legion convince me that William Peter Blatty has a way with dialogue, surrealism and plotting. All I need to do now is find a copy of the film adaptation of the former book. He did a good job directing The Exorcist III (adapted from Legion).

The blurb on the back cover of Ramsey Campbell's Obsession is terribly misleading. You would think this was going to be an extended take on The Monkey's Paw or a thinner elder cousin to Stephen King's It. Mercifully, it's neither. This is a rather simple psychological tale that works quite well even if you discount a supernatural presence completely.

Another pick from my pile of random acquisitions from library sales is Headhunter, a book credited to Michael Slade, a pseudonym for three trial lawyers in Vancouver (it is now used, evidently, by just one of them and his daughter). The novel chugs along with three narrative threads set in three different times. It employs additional devices (like switching the standard third-person narrative to a first-person narrative that misleads you with its purpose) to good effect to elevate the standard serial killer piece to something more rewarding.

Love Kills by Dan Greenburg is another example of a novel that makes the standard serial killer piece interesting with narrative devices. Right from the first chapter till the end, this novel goes back and forth in time with each successive chapter and switches focus (chapters told with the hunters as the protagonists mixed with chapters from the point of view of the killer). Also tossed in for good measure are the occasional police report and generous doses of humour.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

stephen king liked munson's book and that worked for me

I stood before my shelf of paperbacks wondering which one to read next and finally decided to try Ronald Munson's Fan Mail only because its dark cover had nothing else but the title and the author's name in red and a glowing blurb from Stephen King (A fantastically crafty nail-biter in the Ira Levin tradition. I loved it!) instead of a tantalising drawing or sketch.

And I found it hard to find good places in the narrative to put the book down while life and sleep took over.

This doesn't mean that I had discovered a rich trove of literary achievement. It just means that it was the proverbial page-turner for me. For good reasons (more about that below).

This also doesn't mean that an endorsement from Stephen King is a guarantee of any kind that you will like the book (although in this case, it did for me).

The story of a beautiful TV anchorwoman who is the object of the obsessive creepy attentions of a secret admirer on the deranged side of the fence called "The Watcher." It is told entirely using emails, faxes, messages left on answering machines and transcripts of recorded conversations. I've had mixed results with such a device (worked for me with The Anderson Tapes and didn't with Death of a Politician). This alone can make this book seem unfilmable (something that has happened with an Ira Levin work before). Although Sidney Lumet managed to do well with The Anderson Tapes, a similar exercise with Munson's book would require a significant departure in material and setting. A heaping bowl of To Die For and Confessions of a Dangerous Mind along with generous doses of John Waters might work, but it still feels too stale. Perhaps some David Lynch and David Fincher for good measure. Oh! And perhaps Oliver Stone in his Natural Born Killers mood.

But I digress.

Not entirely.

Just like in Condon's book, you find yourself laughing at and with some of the characters in the book. Unlike Condon's book, though, the turning of pages ends appropriately. There's almost no fat in the book.

And of course, no flights of expository fancy. What a relief.

Back to the bookshelf now to find the next rabbit. Thank you so much, Mr. King.

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

did crichton have a dan brown phase?

I just finished reading a copy of The Terminal Man, Michael Crichton's second novel after doing really well with The Andromeda Strain. There's woefully little to the plot and the bulk of the book is dedicated to exposition showing off all the research in the areas of mind control, psychomotor epilepsy, police reports (there's even a recreation of a report for a death in the book), advances in cutting-edge medical research (call it "bleeding edge" if you will) and the like.

And I thought of Dan Brown.

And then I remembered writing that I had preferred Crichton over Brown for doing a far better job at exposition than Mr. Brown ever could.

And yet, here I was looking at a novel that could well have been written by Dan Brown, except that the actual narrative was written crisply -- had Mr. Brown written this novel, it would have been thicker with some more exposition and with more pages devoted to the narrative recovering after an ambitious dive into the sea of exposition.

And now some questions float through my head.

Did Michael Crichton have a Dan Brown phase?

Does Dan Brown represent a stage in the evolution of a commercial writer of pulp thrillers?

Does Michael Crichton represent a later stage in this evolution?

Will Dan Brown evolve into Michael Crichton?

Will Dan Brown ever evolve?

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

open irony

In September 2012, the OpenJDK bug database moved to JIRA. Elsewhere, in the JIRA Knowledge Base, we have a page telling us that the OpenJDK is not supported for running JIRA. Those who are familiar with the phrase "eating your own dog food" (or if you are a company like IBM, the more exalted version, "drink your own champagne"), will now probably wonder about this. In other old news, The OpenJDK wiki uses Atlassian Confluence.
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