Hyperpat\’s HyperDay

SF, science, and daily living

Archive for June, 2008

A Much Too Long Short Vacation

Posted by hyperpat on June 23, 2008

I just spent last week in sunny Taiwan. Unfortunately, this is not my vacation spot of choice (happily, this wasn’t a vacation, so I can blame it on my evil bosses!).

Let’s start with the weather. The word for this is hot. And sticky. And miserable. Everyday. Not counting the typhoon approaching rapidly from the south.

Next let’s tackle the streets. I’ll admit that the big tollroads between major cities are nice and wide, well maintained, and serve their purpose well. However, once you get on the city streets, problems appear. Like so narrow one car can barely squeeze by the sides, and it’s a two-way street. Or the lack of complete sidewalks for even one complete block – you’ll walk about three storefronts worth, then find the sidewalk peters out (or is totally filled up with motorized scooters), and you’re forced into the street. Where you don’t want to be. Street priority is 1. Trucks and buses. 2. Cars 3. Motorized scooters (lots of). 4. Bicycles. 5. Pedestrians – who should otherwise be labeled targets. Add some very pronounced odors issuing from sewer grates, along with the lovely sunshine burning your neck, and it makes your morning constitutional something of nightmare.

Next are the drivers. Never heard of what a lane marker is. Or a red light. For whom proper following distance is two inches. Who use their horn in place of brakes. Who actively try to make pedestrians into road kill.

Now we come to the store fronts. Windows? Who needs windows? Just roll up your rust-stained tin door and viola! you’re open for business. Displays? Who needs displays? Just stack your junk up everywhere – your customers will be sure to dig through every mountain of it to find what they want. Or, if your business so happens to serve something that’s supposed to be edible, don’t bother with anything like sanitation or fly screens -totally superfluous.

Tourist attractions. Well, there are some pretty mountains. And oh yes, over here we have a Science Park, where we put 200 high tech businesses into one acre, and put up a pretty entryway. And tourists must bring their own water. Tap water is officially undrinkable. You might want to beware the political climate, also – tension between the two China’s is never zero, and it just might up and bite you.

Now perhaps I’m being a little unfair. Taiwan is, after all, one of those Asian tigers that have grown from almost nothing to an economic powerhouse in a very short time, and we in the US have become very much dependent on what they make. Most of the world’s electronic fabrication plants are located in Asia, and without them much of our vaunted high-tech life style would disappear. Their engineers are just as smart and well-educated (many of them in our universities) as our’s are. And they manage to do it cheaper than we do (perhaps it has something to do with concentrating on only what is absolutely necessary for the job – just like their storefronts).

But still. Not my choice of vacation spot.

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My Final Impressions of the 2008 Hugo Nominees

Posted by hyperpat on June 9, 2008

I sent in my votes for the 2008 Hugos this last Friday, as I finally managed to read all the entries in the fiction categories. In my prior post about the nominees, I indicated that Chabon’s Yiddish Policeman’s Union had my vote, and after reading the other two entries in the novel category, I find it still held the #1 position in my mind, though Robert Sawyer’s Rollback came very close. Rollback is a very quiet book; there are no explosions or great ahas! – instead it is very much a character driven book, showing just how much our mind-set is influenced by the condition of our bodies and our expectations of what actions are appropriate for a person of n years of age. Very well done.

The other novel nominee that I hadn’t read before my last post was Brasyl, Ian McDonald’s entry. Unfortunately, I found myself disappointed in this work, not so much because of the heavy use of Portuguese words and phrases throughout (though this didn’t help, even with the included appendix of definitions, as it constantly interrupted my reading flow to go look up the words), but because of the basic scientific idea behind it, dealing with an infinite set of quantum analogues of our world and how this should/could/does impact individual’s world view and actions, which I found to be all too fuzzy with too little rationale behind those trying to control the entire continuum. I found the best part of this his detailing of the historical period of the mid-1700’s exploration/exploitation of Brazil by the church and rapacious merchants, and his portrait of a Jesuit priest was quite engaging.

So my final list for novels looks like this:

1. Michael Chabon The Yiddish Policeman’s Union

2. Robert J. Sawyer Rollback

3. John Scalzi The Last Colony

4. Charles Stross Halting State

5. Ian McDonald Brasyl

In the short fiction categories, I found a few standouts: Connie Willis’ All Seated on the Ground, a novella with her patented brand of satire coupled with an interesting idea, in the Novelette category David Abrahm’s The Cambist and Lord Iron, another somewhat tongue-in-cheek story with a nice commentary on just what ‘value’ is, and in the Short Story category Elizabeth Bear’s Tideline, a very quiet, post-apocalyptic story about what is important to remember. The rest of the entries were usually average-to-good, but these three definitely met my expectations of works worthy of a Hugo.

Posted in Books, Hugo Awards, science fiction, Science fiction and fantasy, SF, Uncategorized | 1 Comment »