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Looking For Quacks In The Pavement

Author: Karel Kerezman (page 2 of 382)

And that’s enough of that.

I’ve gotten about all the entertainment value I’m likely to get out of the story-beats part of this year’s writing project. The prospect of churning out another 30-some-odd installments fills me with dread.

I’ll do the other eleven book reviews, so at least the site’s guaranteed to have one piece of content per month, eh?

3WA 2019 #6: Scene 05

This bit has been bouncing around in my head since I came up with the idea for the storyline I’m plucking bits out of for the project. Please enjoy!

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3WA 2019 #5: Scene 04

I hope you liked last week’s book review. Don’t worry: In three more weeks you’ll get another one. In the meantime, please enjoy another from a growing selection of tidbits from a story never to be completed or see print…

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Pi Are Somewhat Rectangular Actually

The power supply finally came in! I rushed home to finalize the physical part of the build. Easy peasy.

With everything assembled and plugged in, it was time to load the new operating system onto the MicroSD card (you can see it poking out just a bit from the front of the case in the above picture). I originally picked one of the purely music-player oriented projects but realized two things:

  1. This thing’s going to route through the TV via HDMI anyway.
  2. Of the library managers that aren’t MediaMonkey I’ve ever worked with, Kodi is the only one to let me make a smart randomized playlist using the Mood tag in my music files. (I use the Mood tag “BGM” to indicate appropriate background music tracks for light social gatherings, such as board game nights.)

So I switched to OSMC, which is a Raspberry-Pi-specific build for Kodi. Once I got that loaded onto the SD card, I hooked everything up and pressed the power button. Lo and behold!

Could it really be that easy?

Well, no. I mean yes, but no. My next tasks were to install Samba (it’s an option inside of OSMC itself so that’s handy), update the IP to a fixed location so we can reliably reach the share from our computers, format and mount the 120GB SSD, copy over the music library, convince Kodi to load the music library, and create the first test BGM playlist.

Results, though:

Would I recommend this to other tinkerers who want a living room music player that doubles as a shared network music library source? If you don’t mind dealing with tiny fiddly bits and are comfortable with some Linux command line shenanigans… yes. So far I’m quite pleased.

I wish the Pi version of Kodi had visualizations. I’m going to miss that.

Now to uninstall Kodi from the Amazon Fire TV box… maybe tomorrow.

3WA 2019 #4: Lois McMaster Bujold – Cordelia’s Honor

Here we are, last Friday of the month, and it’s time for our inaugural review-style weekly word working assignment of the year. I picked twelve books to re-read and pontificate upon for your entertainment and my writing practice.

Next week we’ll get back to tiny story snippets, but for now…

What did you read?

Cordelia’s Honor is a published volume containing two novels previously released in 1986 and 1991 respectively, Shards of Honor and Barrayar, by Lois McMaster Bujold. It comprises one complete story, that of how Miles Vorkosigan’s parents met. Among other things.

Why highlight this particular work?

For the most part, my selections are starting points. I didn’t want to pick the middle book of a trilogy, even if it’s my favorite, and imply that the earlier book(s) in the series can or should be skipped. (Spoiler alert: I actually will do this at one point. My own rules, I can break them.) In this case, many people who are into military Sci-Fi are aware of the tales of Miles Vorkosigan, the man whose mouth is often faster than his good sense but his intellect is not to be trifled with. They’re stories of high adventure, highlighting various ideas about human society, and featuring families bound by blood relation as well as of chosen association. Also, they’re frequently hilarious.

Basically, I chose Cordelia’s Honor as a sort of mission statement for this part of the 2019 project. If you read and enjoy this, you’ll probably be primed and ready to enjoy the stories which follow upon it. We’re still firmly on the path inspired by Mikey Neumann’s ideas about finding and focusing on the joy in things.

What are this story’s strong points?

Do you like characters? Boy howdy, do we have characters here. Front and center are Cordelia Naismith and Aral Vorkosigan. They’re not star-crossed teenagers, rather they’re experienced veterans in their respective planets’ service branches. Mind you, one’s primarily a scientist and the other’s a full-up soldier. Their backgrounds and home societies are radically different but they find a common connection, a mutual respect.

Around these two is arrayed a host of villains, comrades, and foils. It’s all very melodramatic, and that’s not a bad thing. For my money, this is some of the best space opera you’re going to find in print.

Bujold finds ways to tease out the humor in as many aspects of the unfolding events as possible. Sometimes it’s gallows humor, sometimes it’s two people sharing an inside joke, and usually it’s handled with a deft touch. I never feel like I’m being winked at. It’s always natural, woven into the situation. When an author can make me laugh out loud in the middle of a tense, grim, dramatic moment and it doesn’t pull me out of the story, that’s someone to watch and perhaps emulate.

How about a sampler?

Vorkosigan returned from the forward pilot’s compartment, and slid in beside her. “Are you doing all right?”

She gave him a nod. “Yes. Rather overwhelmed by all these herds of boys. I think you Barrayarans are the only ones who don’t carry mixed crews. Why is that, I wonder?”

“Partly tradition, partly to maintain an aggressive outlook. They haven’t been bothering you?”

“No, amusing me only. I wonder if they realize how they are used?”

“Not a bit. They think they are the emperors of creation.”

“Poor lambs.”

“That’s not how I’d describe them.”

“I was thinking of animal sacrifice.”

“Ah. That’s closer.”

Why might one want to avoid this book?

Well, there is that attempted rape in one of the early chapters, plus a few cases off-camera of both implied and outright-stated rape. That’s… kind of a big reason.

Yeeeeah.

Aside from that the book features a number of scenes of bloody violence. (I kind of skim over and through those bits as best I can.)

It’s space opera, in case you have an allergy to that sort of thing. There aren’t any giant robots though!

Where does the story go from here?

From here on out most of the novels, novellas, short stories and what-have-you in this setting center on (spoilers!) Aral and Cordelia’s son, Miles Vorkosigan. Which order you choose to tackle those stories and in what format is… not really a thing I can determine for you. Various people have tackled the subject, however, so guidance is available.

Also, please don’t be put off by some of the print edition covers. They’re terrible. We know. Everybody knows.

Any final thoughts?

I didn’t realize until reading a review of the book during preparation for this project that we’re only ever in Cordelia’s head the entire time. Even more: At no point in the entire series of stories for this fictional universe are we ever in Aral Vorkosigan’s head. One can’t attach much meaning to this fact but it’s amusing to me nonetheless.

 

The Pi Writ Moody

A couple weeks ago our household network storage device, QBAY, bit the dust. It shuffled off this mortal coil. It ceased to be (functional). Bereft of life, it rests in pieces. It joined the choir invisible. It… well, enough quoting Monty Python, you get the idea. To replace most of its functionality I signed up for Google One so I now have a two terabyte bundle of online storage for most of the miscellaneous data that I stored on the NAS previously.

To replace the rest of its functionality, that of a networked music library device, I decided to take the plunge into building a system centered on a Raspberry Pi kit. The plan is to utilize Pi MusicBox with a side order of Samba to allow sharing and updating the music library over the network. One big upside of this plan is that no individual piece of the puzzle costs more than $40. Considering I just wasted $100 replacing a hard drive only to have the entire storage device go kaput, cost-effective solutions are rather appealing right now.

After consulting with an expert known to the household I put in an order for a bunch of stuff. This week, the stuff arrived!

This evening I set about performing the physical assembly, with plans to load the operating system and see if it boots & runs afterward. One of our excellent Ikea-sourced tray tables served as a workspace with nice safe borders to prevent losing teeny tiny screws in the carpet.

For a few minutes I panicked because I thought I’d bought the wrong case for the specific model of Raspberry Pi board, but, no, I was just mistaken about how it all was going to fit together. Hooray for that! On the downside, the power adapter is absolutely perfect… for an arrangement other than the one I’m assembling. (Basically the Pi will get its power from the X820 SSD add-on board, which takes an entirely different plug. Sigh.)

I guess I have a spare power adapter if I ever get another Raspberry Pi or disassemble this kit later on. Silver linings, something something.

After mis-reading the instructions the first time, I finally got to the point where it vaguely resembled the correct configuration.

I should describe what you’re seeing: On top is the Raspberry Pi 3 B+ model, attached to the X820 board from Geekworm whose job is to connect and power the 120 gigabyte Crucial solid-state drive (hidden underneath).

It was right about here during the assembly that, going through the instructions to make sure I hadn’t missed anything, I learned about the power supply problem. The correct one is on order and next week I should be able to complete the build.

Soon this thing will be blasting tunes for the benefit of the household. (I hope.)

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