Idea time! UhOh!

So I have a plan.

 Its probably not a very good idea. But, basically, I've bought a monthly bus ticket and starting on the 11th, I'm going to get up, get out of bed and go to the gym

Every Day.

Except days when I'm doing something else (tuesday, basically)

Oh dear!

Book 29 and 30 - The Kingkiller Chronicle by Patrick Rossfuss

An old innkeeper recants his youthful tales of daring do to a chronicler.

I'm not a fantasy guy. Except for all those pictures of half naked elves I collect for completely innocent purposes, I do not really enjoy the fantasy genre, I don't really know why either! But my friend, lets call him Simon (because that's his name) does. Friggin loves fantasy he does. All them books about magic elves saving the city of Bla'dork from dastards. Can't get enough of them. So a month or two ago I think, hey, maybe I just havn't read anything good. I'll ask him. Simon suggests this beast of a series to me, and trusty kindle in hand, I began reading.

I love and hate this series with every fiber of my being in equal amounts.On one hand, we have ultimate badass Kvothe doing all kinds of cool shit, the magic system is awesome, the world is super cool (kinda) and every now an then we have a cool wizards duel or some shit. Its killer stuff. However on the other hand I'd say at least 40% of the book is entirely dedicated to ATM recipts of Kvothe's increasingly bipolar purse. The second book has a million pages dedicated to Kvothe having a sexventure with a being of pure lust, during which the only impact so far has been "Kvothe met a scary tree" and "Kvothe got a new cloak". Maybe the third book will make that 100 pages of awkward sexual metaphors worth it. It fucking better Rossfuss, It fucking better.

The main problem with the book, is that it feels like, for all it's fantastically exciting set pieces, when you look at it, nothing happens. I don't mean that literally obviously. But take an example from a scene near the end of the first book, Kvothe visits a nearby town, uncovers a massive drug production facility and finds a Dragon. With these two items he could make a lot of money. Also he's in the town looking for hints as to the evil men that killed his father. After a massive, very exciting and griping adventure, Kvothe comes away from the town with nothing. He doesn't find out anything (other than the badmen who killed his father and mother also kill other people!) and he doesn't get any of the drugs or dragon skeleton or anything. And we get to hear about his empty wallet again and again and again.

I do love the series and I'll be buying the next book when its released sometime in Space Year 2121, and I'd hate for this to be entirely negative so I will say that this is the first book in a while that grabbed me so much I would read hundreds of pages in one sitting. I very thoroughly enjoyed it but I guess I just wish something MORE would happen. I've read 1500 pages of the story so far and Kvothe is still in magic school.

This turned into more of a rant than a review and to Patrick Rossfuss, I'm sorry, the books are really good man, I enjoyed them, but when you really like something, it makes those little problems stand out a lot more.

I still recommend it highly, pick up a copy of the first book and give it a whirl, it's really fun reading. On the back of it I'm actually picking up some other fantasy novels so, thanks for that Patrick.

Read it

I have a theory that the series takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where civilization has just recovered. C/D Patrick, C/D?

PPS finish the last book soon please please please

Book 28 - World War Z by Max Brooks

A Post-Post-Apocalyptic tale of humanities struggle against the zombie hordes, and the many tales of the people who survived.

Max Brooks wrote the Zombie Survival Guide, a book that 12 year olds and man-children alike worshiped, which helped push out a thousand other "nerd books" and other fake survival guides. However, its main problem that apart from it's gimmick, it wasn't very good at all. The best parts of the book were at the end, the series of stories that detailed zombie encounters. They were little microtales that showed Brooks had a talent for that sort of writing. And luckily for the world, he seems to have had the same idea here.

I once heard the Zombie Survival Guide described as a survival manual from another dimension, one like ours bit where zombies came about. Brooks here tells the story of that dimension through the means of interviews with various people who survived the zombie apocalypse and are now working toward recovering the human race. And against all odds, its actually a pretty fun read. Not high drama or anything obviously, but some of the stories are downright fantastic, the worst of them are still, at the least, entertaining. Theres a world of twists and the non-linier way the story is told actually really adds to the experance. Brooks proves himself extremely talented in what many will see as a gimmicky form of writing, but I tip my hat to him. He made me, a anti-nerd culture guy who hates WACKY and LOLZOMBIES more than most, really enjoy a book about killing the dead.

You'll probably like this book a lot, if you're reading my blog an all.

Do give it a read.

Book 27 - Nothing to Evny by Barbara Demick

A look at the people who live in North Korea, their stories and the stories of their families.

Like so many people, North Korea interests me beyond comprehension. Its such a strange place, with so much we don't know and so many odd and weird quirks. Run by an insane dictator and his children, it garners interest from pretty much everyone these days.

If you're looking for more information about North Korea's many many hilarious and bizzarre quirks, this isn't the book you want. Or it is, you just don't know it. What Barbara Demick does in this book is show NK from the point of view of the people who live in its borders. By actually interviewing and getting to know several NK defectors, she has allowed us to live through them. Her use of language and mastery over imagery holds the attention in a vice grip throughout and by the end, if you don't feel moved by the stories within, well, sorry about your soul I guess.

Something I wasn't expecting was a message on how powerful the human spirit is and our specie's natural ability to come together and pull ourselves from the brink. About half way through the book something happens that reaffirmed my belief in humanity in a way I never would have imagined a book like this could do, so thanks Barbara, you're a cool cat.

Read It

The curious saga of Newzbin

There's a place called usenet. an old place, ancient even. Before there was an internet, there was usenet, before there was forums and twitter and facebook, there was Usenet. and today, with the rest of the next running on Web 4/0 tactical Feedback and Social Webworking technologies, Usenet still stands. Dusty but faithful, forgotten, but present.

Usenet used to be the Forum's of yesteryear, the old image of the Internet Nerd being a guy who posts arguments regarding Star Trek uniforms on the net stems from actual shit that actually got posted on Usenet every day. This is back when maybe 2 people were online mind you. Sounds exciting I know.

These days, like all protocols online, it's used for Porn and Filesharing. There's also legitimate conversation for people too set in their ways to give up, more power to them I suppose.

This is where our story starts, on a website known as Newzbin, a prominent player in the Usenet filesharing world. One of the biggest indexing sites ever (Usenet works fundamentally differently than torrents, imagine Indexing sites as address books, pointing you toward the files you want) and inverters of the now universal NZB file time (a kind of set of directions through Usenet, if you will). Newzbin was chugging along quite happily until last year, when they caught the attention of the MPAA. The MPAA did as the MPAA is want to do and sued.

What followed was a year long court case, the MPAA tried to get Newzbin's users details, Newzbin made some hilarious arguments toward the validity of their business and in the end, Newzbin lost and went under. No more Newzbin.

In a way, it was like if Pirate's bay went down. But if Pirate's bay was populated by 50 year old internet veterans. It brought with it a wake up call to the Usenet world, obscurity is not enough to protect them. Although Usenet is a marginally unknown bit of tech, the big businesses certainly know about it by now.

So users migrated to various different services, sad at the loss of Newzbin. Most complained that the replacement sites had half of Newzbin's functions and many cost more to use. sad times for everyone who used the service.

Then, about a week after Newzbin's closure, Everyone previously signed up to Newzbin received a mysterious email from a Mr White. Mr White claimed to now be in control of Newzbin's databases and webcode, that him and an expert team had stolen it from the previous owners during a hack several months ago and were in the process of updating it, and bringing Newzbin back online. They'd even procured the domain name in some kind of backroom deal.

At this point, everyone flipped their shit. Accusations of identity stealing, credit card gathering and all manner of unhappy nastiness were thrown about with abandon. And who can blame people? A strange and mysterious reservoir dog's fan has control of a site you pay for the use off. Email addresses, names, addresses, possibly credit cards at his disposal. Anything could happen. And this promise of reviving the site? So soon after the MPAA had sued the previous owners? Why, for a start? Did this insane man not understand the risk he was taking?

One thing was for certain. The next few days and weeks would be, if nothing else, interesting.

So for several days, various news blogs dedicated to Usenet spoke about the subject, posting theories. Usenet user's made do with whatever site's and services they'd gotten elseworlds. Then, as promised, Newzbin2 clawed from the ashes, like a a magicians trick, the site was back again. It lacked one or two features, buggy but essentially, this was Newzbin, with the ever mysterious MrWhite at the helm.

Fear stayed high. This wasn't supposed to happen! The bad guy's had won. We know, from experiance, that the world does not work like the movies, promises like MrWhite's go unfulfilled and the big bad companies always win. Always. But not that day. That day, just for a moment, the world was like the movies and games and books that Newzbin's customer's had been downloading. The website had been taken over by a ragtag group of mysterious hackers, hellbent on their own morals and ideas of freedom. The team grew larger and larger, Database admin's, web programmers and moderators all joined the group as Newzbin2 recouped the lost faith and trust. MrWhite gave every user a large number of free Newzbin credit and, somehow, a glimer of the old Web shone on a moment longer.

To this day, the website is still run by the mysterious group who call themselves TeamRDogs. The group posts information on the current crackdown on filesharing, methods of getting around internet blacklists and have discussed plans to release the Newzbin code and databases to the wild. They have multiple servers established around the world and a system to rout people if their main site falls under. They are prepared.

As for the MPAA. TeamRDogs' have said they have been contacted, and suspect that the MPAA may strike again. However, they have also been compliment with any and all takedown notices, using the law to their advantage. They promise that the site will stay up this time, and they are prepared to fight the giants.

And so the tale comes to an end, at least for now. Newzbin2 is still up and running, and TeamRDogs is still posting. The site is being improved on every day and MrWhite and his team continue to represent an age long gone for the Web. A time when the power for changed still laid in the hands of the individual, when big businesses still scoffed at the power of the net and before they began to buy it up for themselves. Maybe TeamRDogs represent a vision of our future, perhaps there will be a time when we stand up against what we feel is injustice and make a stand, against all accusations and on-comers. Or perhaps they're simply out for the money, and will soon steal the Newzbin collection of credit cards. Who knows. Only time will truly tell. All I know is I'm happy to live in such interesting times.

Just as a heads up. The question of the legality of Newzbin is not in question. I do not condon the services they provide nor do I make use of them. If TeamRDogs had done the same to some out of work chinese paper airplane model site, I'd have made the same post.

Book 26 - Dexter is Delicious by Jeff Lindsay

Dexter Morgan, blood splatter analyst and part time serial killer, uncovers a world of vampires and cannibals in Miami.

I guess this was like the book equivalent of diet coke. Kinda bland and it isn't exactly going to change your life but it'll do if you can't have the real thing.

This was just a bit of DumbBook I started reading between better books and I decided to finish it against my best wishes. It was alright and I guess entertaining enough but I wouldn't exactly recommend it. Only if you really like the series. It dumbs the weird Owl Cult thing they had last book and generally tries to return to a simpler time in the series so that was nice.

I couldn't help but sit there and think about the morality of the situation, about how terrible Dexter is as a person and his forced "humanity" awakening that takes place in the book just feels forced, overwrought and poorly written. Psychopaths and sociopaths don't just "get better" and you'd think Jeff Lindsay would have known that. Maybe he did and just didn't care. I don't know.

Can't recommend

Book 25 - Cosmos by Carl Sagan

Carl Sagan essentially makes you love everything about the human race and makes that tingle in your spine go off every couple of seconds.

Now, I know Carl wrote Cosmos as a kind of, every man's version of science, and granted I didn't "Learn" much from the book. But I did grow as a direct result of this book. Maybe its a bit early to say that but right now, as I sit here, I have the most profound respect for my ancient ancestors, to the ones that came before and "prepared the way" as Sagan said. I actually did learn a lot from the book really, but it was all about past civilisations rather than Space.

Which isn't to say that Cosmos is not a masterpiece of science, space and cosmology, it really is. The information within is solid science, nothing is overly simplified into nothing, and yet its written in an elegance and beautiful way that it almost brought me to tears several times. Sagan's descriptions of our place in the universe are so moving, so fundamentally true. Its breath taking at times.

And the imagery. Planets close to the galaxy core being awash with star light, Supernova's in the night sky being so bright you can read by them and causing a global reaction from nomadic tribes in America and Africa to Muslim scholars in the middle east and Chinese astronomers in (funnily enough) china. Planets orbiting quasars. The list goes on.

This book took my breath away in a way that only happens very rarely. I hope that one day I can have a single iota of the man's talent with words, his amazing way of conveying such high level information in a poetic and simple way without dumbing it down. I hope one day I have a single atom's worth of Sagan's influence on our world.

In 1000 years, people will say Carl Sagan was one of our greatest people, and Cosmos will be seen as his greatest work. That isn't meant to marginalise the work he did for the world in his research and development, only to underpin exactly how important this work is. It brings science to everyone. Anyone could read this and understand the importance of the Cosmos entirely. If more people read Cosmos, no one would ever argue that science makes the world a more dull place.

Read this. I will literally buy it for you if you ask me to. Its worth it.
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