Saturday, January 31, 2009

Review: Mind and Body

Mind + Body, by Aaron Dunlap is a fast-paced scroller.

I'm currently reading a novel, some webfiction, and lots of nonfiction, but I tore through this novel. It's 400+ pages in PDF, but it sure didn't feel that long. It's a simple mystery/action plot - a high school senior tracking down all the weird shit that happens to him after his Marine Corps father dies.

At first it felt similar to Doctorow's Little Brother - the teenager thrust into a conspiracy too large for him to see its end, a fairly straight-forward love interest, etc. The more I read, however, the less alike they felt. Mind + Body is definitely has less to say, making it simultaneously shallower and less preachy. Mind + Body is not afraid of its simplicity - the work is less punctuated by action and fights than it is driven by them. And it works.

Unfortunately the final product reads like a draft. There are a solid handful of sentences that just aren't finished. They require 1-5 words to finish the thought, but they're just MIA. Our first person narrator definitely feels his age (though articulate), which is a plus (he says things like "the internet told me"). In the first third of the book phrases are often jarring. I'm not certain if I got used to the character or if Dunlap got used to him.

Regardless, I thoroughly enjoyed this gripping, surprisingly real novel. It should be picked up by a publisher and marketed as a YA novel - it's good enough.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009


Florida does not allow the use of red-light cameras to enforce traffic violations. In order to use them, cities have to pass a city ordinance (that we all pretend makes running a red light something other than a traffic violation). On top of that, the DOT does not allow red light cameras to be mounted on their equipment or structures (i.e. many traffic light posts), so the city also has to erect a separate pole for the cameras.

To add to that, they price the tickets at just below what it will cost you to hire a lawyer, and if you take it to court and lose they charge you extra money. Essentially they are saying "If you just give us the money, it will be easy and we'll leave you alone. Otherwise we are going to make your life very difficult, make you take off of work, and try to charge you extra money."

I knew the mafia did stuff like that, but I didn't know local governments did.

Sunday, January 25, 2009


I've been thinking about Obama again since the inaguration, and a couple of things occur to me. First off - he is way more of a badass than he is given credit for. Over at 3 Quarks Daily Evert Cilliers writes:
There was a much-revered Civil Rights matron and Illinois State Senator, Alice Palmer, who decided to run for Congress, so Obama figured he could run for her open State Senate seat. But she lost her Congressional race, and wanted to keep her safe seat. The community’s leaders asked Obama to step aside. The brash newcomer refused. He sent his aides to the courthouse to examine the signatures for her, to see if enough of them could be disallowed to knock her off the ballot. A few fake signatures for her were found, as well as for all his opponents, so they were all knocked off; he won his seat unopposed. The Chicago way – bringing a gun to a knife fight.
So he's not the perpetually positive, perpetually nice guy he is portrayed as. It's can be a little bit disappointing to discover you had the wrong impression of somebody, though I think this tidbit is actually a good thing. A little bit of ruthlessness can be awfully useful.

The other thing that occurred to me is that Barack Obama spent 12 years teaching constitutional law. Holy shit. When's the last time we had a president with that kind of time spent thinking about and studying the constitution? Not Dubya, certainly. Not Clinton, though he had a law degree. In fact, it looks like, before Clinton, the last president who had a law degree was Ford, and Nixon before him.

So from 1977 to the end of 2008, we had only one president with a law degree - Bill Clinton, though even he didn't have any sort of specialization in constitutional law.

How amazing will it be to have a president who can be considered an expert on the constitution. And how awful is it that this is something unusual?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Books: A Game of Thrones

Cross posted at Air Theremin.

A friend of mine has been trying to get me to read A Game of Thrones by George R. R. Martin for years.

I just went ahead and borrowed it from him, and I have to say -- this is some of the best high fantasy I've read. An unjustly long book at over 800 pages, it is also surprisingly gripping.

Each chapter is written from a 3rd person limited point of view, but each also follows a different character. The story isn't told so much as it just coalesces. There are characters to love, characters to hate, and many characters to be mildly confused by.

At first, I was mildly put off by the feeling of omniscience you gain from seeing so much that other characters have no clue about, but that feeling gave way to a certain level of awe at the grandeur of the whole thing.

If "grand" and "sweeping" and "epic" are what you are looking for, this book has them -- and promises more for later in the series. Ah, yes, like all fantasy books, it seems, this is but one novel in a series. I've just picked up the second, A Clash of Kings, and it is longer than the first. Regardless, I started today, and am about 160 pages in - around classes and work.

All-in-all, a great fantasy book. If you like the genre, you need to read this book - it avoids many of the clichés that riddle fantasy fiction. If you don't like the genre, well, unless your dislike is founded on the clichés... you might want to pass.

Punishing Victims:

This is what I was talking about.

This 13-year old Somali girl was stoned to death because she attempted to report her rape by 3 men. Because their strict religious worldview has no place for victims -- a just world under Allah (or the Judeo-Christian god) does not allow for people being genuinely victimized. If any such event does happen, God/Allah will sort it out on Judgement day.

And yes, this sort of thing does happen in predominantly Christian countries. Here in the US we have better law enforcement, and so men do not stone women on the street. Still, the attitude is essentially the same:
A Broward jury, saying a 22-year-old woman got what she deserved, acquitted Georgia drifter Steven Lord on Wednesday of kidnapping and raping the woman at knife-point. The woman, who lives in Coconut Creek, had been reluctant to testify and was jailed for six days in June because of that. "We all feel she asked for it for the way she was dressed," said jury foreman Roy Diamond of Fort Lauderdale. The others -- three women and a man -- nodded in agreement
This from the Miami Herald.

Obviously there is a certain level of misogyny involved as well, but this too is part of the Abrahamic tradition - one in which women are not permitted to speak in church.

If you have feelings on this issue - if you think I'm horribly wrong - tell me! I'd be happy to read your responses.