I am so tired of “critiques” that boil down to one of the following:

  1. I have no use for or interest in this, therefore no-one does or should.
  2. Pop culture was so much better during my formative years than the crap they put out today.

These are, to put it mildly, a load of bull.

1. So you don’t have a use for it. Other people have different interests than you do. They also have different needs than you do. You might not need a roto-rooter, but a plumber is going to find it very useful.

This one really infuriates me when it comes from supposed techies. So you don’t have a use for a touchscreen with your giant desktop setup with a wall of six monitors. That doesn’t mean touchscreens can’t be useful on, say, handheld devices, or a small wall unit in the kitchen. There’s a reason this xkcd strip rings true.

2. There was plenty of crap back in the day, too. You’ve just had time to forget the mediocre, while the good stuff has stood the test of time. Not everyone who wrote plays during Shakespeare’s time was a great playwright, and not every movie produced before Star Wars was a great work of art.

Plus, y’know, they were your formative years. Of course you’re going to like stuff from that era better, because that’s what shaped your tastes.

Well, it took 2½ months during which I took breaks to read at least three other books, but this weekend I finally finished the first book of George R.R. Martin’s fantasy epic, A Song of Ice and Fire: A Game of Thrones.

A Game of ThronesBy all rights I should have liked this book. I frequently like big epic fantasy: J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings, Greg Keyes’ Kingdoms of Thorn and Bone, Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time. Actually, Wheel of Time is probably the best comparison, given the sweeping scope of the series, the number of viewpoint characters, the emphasis on political intrigue, and the length of the books.

On the other hand, no Robert Jordan book has taken me longer than a month to read.

About a year ago, a friend recommended the books to Katie, and gave her the series so far (4 books) for Christmas. It took a while before she got to them, but when she did, she tore through them in about a week. (It helped that she had the free time.) She recommended them to me, but I didn’t pick up the first book until sometime last November.

And I just couldn’t get into it. The characters I found most interesting seemed to get the least attention. Of those, one character’s chapters were difficult to read because she’s in the wrong genre: a girl of 10(?) who wants to grow up to be a warrior princess in a world that would casually kill her before she had the chance. And while I’m sure it’s a matter of morally gray=interesting, it’s basically “Kingdom of A—holes” (maybe not as poetic as “The Knights Who Say F—” but more accurate, at least for the first book). The only adult character who isn’t morally gray or worse is so stuck on honor that he can’t handle the compromises necessary in politics. So it’s not so much a question of who’s the best choice to be in charge, as who’s the least bad.

The first book is about 95% straight medieval-setting political/military drama, with hints at supernatural elements here and there. The prologue sets up an otherworldly menace that is subsequently ignored for most of the book, there’s the occasional sword described as magic, it gradually becomes clear that the dragons are a historical fact, rather than legends (the previous king had dragon skulls mounted along the walls of the throne room) and that seasons frequently last years. “Winter is coming” is a key phrase, and the motto of the family that provides all but two of the viewpoint characters.

After 400 pages of tedious setup establishing just how brutish, brattish, or manipulative everyone is, things start going off the rails. And boy, do they go off the rails. You know how, when reading a book, you get to a point where you figure it can’t get worse? It does. Repeatedly.

About 200 pages from the end I decided I was going to make an effort to finish the book and get it out of the way. So I had a marathon reading session one Sunday, then made an effort to read during lunch over the next week, and then finally finished it over this past weekend. (For contrast, with each of the first two or three Wheel of Time books, when I got within 150 or 200 pages of the end I had to finish, even if it meant staying up until 2am on a work night.)

Actually I guess it’s kind of like some of the later Wheel of Time books in terms of sheer detail and trudgery. Except those have the advantage that you’ve probably read the earlier ones, which were quite good. (I’ve often described the WoT series as 5 novels of one book each followed by one novel that spans 7 books.)

The last 50 pages or so, particularly the final chapter, are considerably more interesting. If it had stopped at 750 pages, I’d probably be inclined to just leave it there, but I might actually pick up the second book at this point.

Just not now. For now, I’m picking up Julie Czerneda’s stand-alone In the Company of Others.

So, volume 3 of Heroes, “Villains,” is done. I liked the start of the season, but by the end it had gotten to the point where I was alternately ready to jump for joy and throw things at the screen in the space of the same episode.

I love the parts with Hiro, Ando, Daphne and Matt (except when Matt’s overdoing the “I saw you in the future and we’re in love!” bit). If they could make that into a show, I’d have no complaints. But the rest has slowly gotten bogged down in a mix of technobabble, melodrama, and an endless face-heel revolving door. “I’m evil!” “No, you’re good, I’m the one who’s evil!” “Wait, I thought it was my turn!”

Some specific comments, with spoilers, after the cut: Continue reading

Went to a lot of effort to get the TV on for the Lost season premiere at 8pm…only to discover that it’s actually a &*^@$# clip show.

If we’d known we had until 9, this would’ve been a much less stressful evening.

Edit: The rest of the evening went much better, and the actual episode was good. Most interesting bit: switching from flashbacks to flash-forwards really does change the dynamic of the show. (But I was seriously annoyed with the network for promoting the heck out of the “2-hour Lost Event!” and have it turn out that there was really only 1 hour of show.)

I appreciate that Apple offers a single software updater for all its free Windows software. But one thing annoys me about it.

It opens a window, then opens a message box showing a progress meter as it checks for updates. Only one problem: It fills out the “New software is available” caption before it actually checks.

New software is available from Apple.... Your software is up to date.  No updates are available.
New software is available… oh, wait, no it isn’t.

This isn’t an issue on Mac OS X, because the progress meter is shown as a sheet, which drops down from the top of the main window and obscures the caption. But on Windows, that caption is visible from the moment the window appears, saying that you really do have something new available, raising your hopes that maybe, just maybe, Apple has finally gotten around to releasing that new version of Safari, or that security fix for the flaw you heard about a week ago, then dashing them to the ground.

Or, less dramatically, it’s jumping to conclusions, providing potentially false information.

And then, even if it turns out there isn’t anything new, the caption stays in place…leaving you with two contradictory statements as to whether any updates are really available.