h1

Guitar Legends I – Stevie Ray Vaughn

May 18, 2010

I heard Stevie for the first time a few years ago on an MTV Unplugged session with another guitar legend, Joe Satriani. Although we lost him almost 20 years ago, he still remains one of the best guitar players ever.

h1

He Tells Of The Perfect Beauty – W.B.Yeats

March 12, 2010

O cloud-pale eyelids, dream-dimmed eyes,
The poets labouring all their days
To build a perfect beauty in rhyme
Are overthrown by a woman’s gaze
And by the unlabouring brood of the skies:
And therefore my heart will bow, when dew
Is dropping sleep, until God burn time,
Before the unlabouring stars and you.

He Tells Of The Perfect Beauty – W.B.Yeats (in The Wind Among The Reeds)

h1

Gitanjali (poem LIX) – Rabindranath Tagore

March 11, 2010

Yes, I know, this is nothing but thy love, O beloved of my heart – this golden light that dances upon the leaves, these idle clouds sailing across the sky, this passing breeze leaving its coolness upon my forehead.

The morning light has flooded my eyes – this is thy message to my heart. Thy face is bent from above, thy eyes look down on my eyes, and my heart has touched thy feet.

Gitanjali (Song Offerings), poem LIX – Rabindranath Tagore

h1

The Mystic Trumpeter – Walt Whitman

March 10, 2010

Love, that is all the earth to lovers — love, that mocks time and space,
Love, that is day and night — love, that is sun and moon and stars,
Love, that is crimson, sumptuous, sick with perfume,
No other words but words of love, no other thought but love.

The Mystic Trumpeter – Walt Whitman (in Leaves of Grass)

h1

Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

December 24, 2009

I wish all readers a Merry Xmas and a Happy New Year.

With my wife in hospital, this will be for us the worst Xmas ever. We’ll be praying for better days.

h1

Book review – “Deadhouse Gates” by Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen vol. 2)

June 21, 2009

It is clear that Empress Laseen can’t hold the Malazan Empire together as well as her predecessor did. In an attempt to appease the people, nobles are being enslaved as workers in the Otaratal mines, but one of these victims is the sister of the current Adjunct. To make things worse, there is rebellion in Seven Cities and the 7th army is sent to quench it. The Fist and a bulk of this army are Wickans, a people “absorbed” into the Empire by the previous Emperor. Close by, there is a different struggle: Soletaken and D’ivers, shapeshifters with the power to veer into one or multiple animal forms respectively, are searching for a throne that is supposed to give them power above all others. However, inadvertently on their path, is Icarium, a kind and powerful but amnesiac half-Jaghut with a dark past that he does not remember – although his companion Mappo does…

In the 1st book, of the on the Malazan Book of the Fallen series, the action followed the Malazan army on the move to Darujhistan, but in this 2nd book there are three main story threads that eventually “tie up” together in a masterful way that is one of Erikson’s best skills.

As on other Malazan books, there is a clash between armies, in this case the Malazan 7th with the rebellious army of Seven Cities. Now although the ending of this story thread is very well thought out (and very unexpected!), I find it to be the least interesting of the book, as there are lots of unlikely close calls, and there isn’t much individual action for Erikson’s standards. I also didn’t find Duiker, the Imperial Historian with the army, to be a very interesting main character, as I never favor “perfect characters”.

In the other two main threads, following smaller groups, Erikson gives us the quality of character description that makes these series excel: in the Otaratal mines, Felisin Tavore’s suffering makes the thirst for revenge very palpable for the reader – the mysteries following her two companions augmenting the need to know what will happen next. On the other thread, the character of Icarium unravels slowly giving us an insight over is amnesia and the periods of rage… As mentioned above, both threads eventually merge together (even though Felisin’s will only become totally clear on the next book) in yet another very good ending – although surely not what I was expecting.

I have to say the setting for this book isn’t one of my favorites in the series but it’s still a very good book by any fantasy standards. The introduction to important characters in the series like Icarium, Heboric or Iskaral Pust make it a very important book to potentially re-read later in the series, even though only the story of Icarium is even linked to the past story/mythos of this fantasy world.

Final score: 7.5

Best character: In my opinion, it is Heboric Ghost-Hands, fallen priest of Fener, who is depicted more brilliantly in this book – even though my favorite character was Icarium and I assume Erikson’s intention was to make both Imperial Historian Duiker and Fist Coltaine of the 7th Army the “central” characters of the book.

(To whet the appetite for the next review, I’ll just mention that “Memories of Ice” is one of the best books of the series and that we get at last a deeper view over the history of the world and powers and Gods. Stay tuned!)

h1

Book review – “Gardens of the Moon” by Steven Erikson (Malazan Book of the Fallen vol. 1)

April 18, 2009

 

The Empress Laseen, who has recently taken the throne of the Malazan Empire, continues the expansion started by her predecessor, through the continent of Genabackis. The rich city of Darujhistan is the objective, but Pale and its mages are on the way of the Malazan 2nd Army. This army counts with the experience of their High Fist (army General) Dujek One-Arm, the “sapper” brigade of the Bridgeburners, and a cadre of High Mages, but the Tiste Andii lord Anomander Rake does not intend to let Pale get captured easily…

 

Thus starts “Gardens of the Moon”, first book of the “Malazan Book of the Fallen” series, pre-reviewed here

 

Despite the apparently standard premiss of the book, as the reader goes through its early stages, many questions arise. What really happened to the previous emperor? Who are Amannas and Cotillion, who seem to be ready to thwart Laseen’s plans? Why are the Gods so interested in Ganoes Paran, new leader of the Bridgeburners? What really happened to the mage cadre during the fight in Pale? What is the secret plan of the Adjunct of the Empress?

 

The book quickly takes a fast pace, and all these threads become caught in each other. It becomes hard to put the book down, as surely something interesting is bound to happen in the next pages!

 

Then there’s a fantastic finale, where several of the book’s protagonists meet and face each other. This ploy, often used by Erikson throughout the saga, is called a Convergence, which basically means that powerful characters get attracted to each other and to powerful events, like moths to a flame.

 

Overall, this book is excellent, and starts my favorite saga since “The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, the Unbeliever”. If I had to point any negative sides of it, I’d say some of the interesting threads are left loose until later books, and also that some parts of the story are better understood after reading the follow-ups. Mind, this isn’t necessary a negative, since a few of the happenings of the book are described by the “opposing parties” in later books, revealing very interest other-sides-of-the-coin. For example, one of the most “hateable” characters in this book, will become one of the readers’ favorites after at least other books in the series.

 

Final score: 8 (first read – 8.5 if re-read after other books of the series)

 

Best character: The book introduces us to many interesting characters that will have interesting roles throughout the saga, like the mysterious Bridgeburner mage Quick Ben, the consciencious Daru assassin Rallick Nom, or Onos T’oolan the First Sword of the T’lan Imass. But it’s the Lord of Darkness, Anomander Rake, and his highly original sword that becomes central to the magic (pun intended) of this book.

h1

Blackout Ireland – fighting Internet censorship

March 6, 2009

The RIAA. Many of you will know this acronym – they’re the Recording Industry Association of America, and it’s a group that represents the big 4 record labels – Sony, EMI, Universal and Warner. They are very well known in the US for their shameful lawsuits to people who they label as “pirates” or “copyright infringers”, some times sueing them for the inscredible amount of $750 per tune. Fortunately, it seems that the US Courts are not finding those lawsuits funny anymore, and due to the work of some excellent lawyers, the tide is turning and RIAA has even been sued for fraud, abuse, and “Sham Litigation” .

But even though things don’t seem to be working for them in the US, that didn’t stop them from trying similar actions in Europe. IRMA, the Irish equivalent of the RIAA, have sued Eircom so that the biggest Irish internet provider would filter IP addresses that “infringe copyright” and… Eircom fell for it and settled.

The details of the settlement are disgraceful, and it seems IRMA can now have websites blocked on request, which Eircom won’t challenge. Let’s see some implications on this:

1) Censorship. I don’t have to tell you how bad this is – I would personally prefer not to feel as a character of George Orwell’s “1984”, thank you.

2) Websites blocked on request. Potentially any site that IRMA decides is bad for their business, can get blocked. Could be any indie site that legally sells mp3, or wordpress.com, since I’m writing this, or google.com as users might search for mp3 there. The possibilities are endless.

3) Snooping into users’ privacy. As Telenor (Norwegian ISP who challenged an equivalent lawsuit) wrote, “Asking an ISP to control and assess what Internet users can and cannot download is just as wrong as asking the post office to open and read letters and decide what should and should not be delivered.”. See reference to “1984” above.

Allow me to pause for a moment to look at the bigger picture. Obviously piracy is wrong, but piracy is not quite the issue here. Many years ago, it was the radio being accused of potentially killing the discographic business. Now it’s the internet. Even though famous musicians like Trent Reznor/NiN have made some serious money out of allowing fans to freely download their music , still some entities have not understood that time moves on and so do business models.

It’s not like the big 4 have given good alternatives to people who actually want to get their music files legally. Let’s say Mr. Joe Bloggs wants an mp3 from one of the musicians that “belongs” to the big 4. What can he do? There’s iTunes, which requires a standalone client, is not compatible with all main OSs, and only has, as far as I know, a partial catalog of only one of the big 4’s discographies. There’s mp3 stores at amazon.co.uk or play.com, but they don’t sell to Ireland – I can understand online shop restictions when it comes to packages, but restricting downloads to countries is another of those brilliant ideas I’ll never understand. What is Mr. Joe Bloggs going to do? He’ll have to buy the cd from amazon (if he can find it there, but if an online shop doesn’t have the CD he’s looking for, odds are he won’t find it at his local CD shop), wait for it to arrive, and rip it to mp3 (if he knows how to do it). The only positive thing is… often a CD is still cheaper than the download of the full album from an online music store – funny isn’t it?

So Blackout Ireland was formed by a group of Internet users in Ireland who do not want to be subject to this new form of censorship. To support this effort, you can visit the website, perhaps follow a few of the suggestions mentioned there (contact your ISP, etc), and change your avatar in any public social networks (Twitter, Facebook, etc) to this:

Blackout Ireland

Blackout Ireland

Other links:

James Cooley – Guilt upon Accusation and Internet freedom in Ireland

Uldis Bojars – Post details: Irish Internet Blackout

Aubrey Robinson – Blackout Ireland – Some Questions

h1

Book pre-review: “Malazan Book of the Fallen”, a saga by Steven Erikson

March 4, 2009

I’ve been wanting to review Steven Erikson’s Malazan Book of the Fallen series for some time but I haven’t yet gotten along to it. You see, this series goes a bit out of normal fantasy parameters, so I feel an introduction, or pre-review, is necessary.

The mythos for this series was created over the years by Steven and Ian Cameron Esslemont (Steven’s friend and also a fantasy author) as a RPG setting. Now these two gentlemen seem to have an awesome imagination and have included little to no stock fantasy in this mythos.

First, this series doesn’t include the usual elves, dwarves, orcs or evil undead hordes. The races are original from physical details to social behaviours. For example, the antisocial Jaghut have too many joints on their arms, greenish skin and tusks. Imass, from which humans are descendant, underwent an undeath ritual to exterminate all Jaghut. Then there’s the K’Chain Che’malle, lizards with hive-mind organization who are adepts of technology and the Tiste, divided in Andii, Edur and Liosan, children of Dark, Shadow and Light respectively.  I could go on and on, but there’s already an entire 17 page wikipedia page on the races alone which is interesting enough.

There is, naturally, magic, in this series. Casters tap their magical energy from warrens. These warrens are not only sources of magic, but they are like parallel dimensions where the characters occasionally travel. These warrens are aspected: there’s the warren of fire, of shadow, of ice, etc etc.

Even the way deities work is unusual. There are Gods without power, Gods that were killed and replaced, Gods that have fallen and have no access to their warren. There’s also ascendants, who are powerful beings who, for some reason or other, have “ascended” to a demi-God status.

There are particularly special characters in these series, and now that I’ve put the mythos on the table, I’ll be able to focus more on them during the book reviews.

Another interesting aspect of the book is the lack of a clear “hero” or “good” or “evil” – even though a few characters are close to the definition. It often happens in the series that, for example, one character is portrayed in a very negative way, and then on the next one, from a different point of view, the character’s actions will seem justified. This is not as sharply noticeable as in George R. R. Martin’s “A Song of Ice and Fire” series, but it occasionally occurs.

I shall soon (yes soon, I promise!) write the review for the first book of the series, “Gardens of the Moon”.

h1

The Adventures of a Notes Developer In The World Of ColdFusion II – Configuration

February 6, 2009

Last week I started this small saga and after a busy week with little chance to blog, it’s time to proceed onwards.

Despite the poor IDE (more on that later) Notes Developers have it easy when they start: A Notes client installation includes the Designer client as they’re linked together. After doing any development, we can simply preview it on the client or even on a web browser, which all OSs include. This doesn’t seem to be as simple on the ColdFusion world: to develop, you need a client and a server, and get them to work together.

Now, I’m not certain if Adobe’s Dreamweaver makes this easier, as our company doesn’t use it (and it’s a bit pricey for me to have it at home), but the solution we’re currently using needs appropriate placing of a few puzzle pieces together.

One of the ways of developing in ColdFusion is by using Eclipse. Notes Developers who are already deep in the ND8 world are surely more familiar with it than I am and, if still living in the world of ND7 or ND6 (or God forbid R5), gives the chance of trying this pretty and highly flexible IDE.

Eclipse works with several programming languages with the usage of plugins. Yes, there is one for Lotusscript too, but that’s a bit beyond the point of this blog post. There is indeed one for ColdFusion (http://www.cfeclipse.org/) so after having this one added to Eclipse, you should be ready to go on the IDE side.

Now, when you finish your development, you’ll need a server to test your changes against. I was recommended ColdFusion Developer Edition which can be downloaded from Adobe and is free as long as, if I’m not mistaken, configured for single server only – asks you for a serial otherwise.

After properly configured (and I’m afraid I can only be of minimal help here as I was much handheld through this part of the process), you should be ready to go! Biggest point to note is that your ColdFusion local server should be running on port 8500 so make sure when testing via your browser or browser view within Eclipse, that you point to said port. Example: http://localhost:8500/index.cfm . Also note that your cfm files should be on the wwwroot folder of your ColdFusion installation, normally something like D:/ColdFusion/wwwroot/index.cfm

As a side note, we use Subversion as source control and it seems to integrate wonderfully with Eclipse – but I won’t go through it here, at least not yet.

So we have everything ready to start, but what about the ColdFusion code itself? That will be the topic of the next blog post in this series.