Summer Reading List 2023: Final

Coming in under the wire yet again this year. I have my reasons, though. The woman I love had a lot of…misfortune this summer. A man I’m beginning to despise has denied me a fortune of my own. And then we have all those other trifling things happening in the world, but I digress.

Fantasy

Title: Dawnshard
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Genre: Fantasy
Year: 2020

Before I start talking about the book itself, I need to tell the story of how I got it. This was not just something I picked up on Amazon, you see. In fact, I thought it was an ebook-only release, since I’d only ever seen it listed with electronic versions. That, to me, meant that I’d have to give it a miss.

I prefer physical copies for multiple reasons. One is simple texture: I love the feeling of a real book in my hands. That’s why I was so excited to be able to get real paperbacks of Nocturne, Before I Wake, and my other novels. The pleasure of reading real words on real paper is something no screen can match.

Beyond that, I avoid purchasing ebooks because I know that I wouldn’t really be purchasing them. Because of DRM and other nastiness, electronic media sidesteps the traditional first sale doctrine, which basically states that once you buy something, you own it. Publishers, greedy leeches on society that they are, hate this, so they long ago introduced artificial scarcity into online shopping. (It’s not only in books. Steam turned gamers into a culture of renters. TV and movies are now primarily streamed, where their very existence is ephemeral and fluid in a way no physical copy could ever be.)

So I thought I’d never have a chance to read Dawnshard by "legal" means. But then my partner and I went on vacation.

We went to Gatlinburg in April. If you don’t know Tennessee, Gatlinburg is the closest thing we have to a mountain resort. Definitely not an Aspen or Lake Tahoe, but maybe a very slimmed-down Vail or Snowshoe. It’s a beautiful place for a mountain-lover like me, and it’s only about a three-hour drive from where I live. Ahem. Where we live.

In this little hideaway, far from the ski lifts that were closed for the season, the nature park with its four-hour line (and 60 dollars I’ll never get back…), and the bustling town next door, there’s a back road that leads through the Gatlinburg Arts & Crafts Community. We went there searching for fudge on the one rainy day of our trip, but there was something even better across the street from the mediocre fudge shop.

Indie bookstores are a dying breed everywhere, but this one seemed almost perfectly placed in our journey. I’d seen it on the map, so I knew I wanted to check it out, but I thought it’d be a quick little peek and nothing more. Instead, my partner found no fewer than six books that interested her, plus the self-guided journal I talked her into getting.

As my tastes are more eccentric, I doubted I’d find anything worth buying. Indeed, the fiction section was mostly full of woke nonsense, as is common throughout the industry now. What was left after I ignored all that didn’t leave me enthused: multiple copies of A Song of Ice and Fire books, way too much Stephen King, and a handful of oddities. And Dawnshard, in a pocket hardback format. I was so surprised that I showed it to both my partner and the bookshop’s sole employee—he seemed almost as amazed by its presence. And now I had something to remember The Next Chapter besides the freebie bookmarks.


That’s the story behind my copy of this book. What about the story itself, though? Well, it’s a typical Sanderson tale, really, just in a much condensed format. This is the first time I’ve read one of his shorter works—Dawnshard is basically an oversized novella, about the same length as one of my mainline Otherworld stories—and I have to say that the pacing is dramatically different.

The plot is kind of a side quest for the Stormlight Archive series. It follows a couple of random B-team characters (Lopen, the one-armed guy whose dialogue has a lot of made-up words that make me imagine him as Hispanic; Rysn, who was so forgettable that I can’t even remember which book she’s from) as they search for…various things. It’s a Pirates of the Caribbean bit of swashbuckling, in a way. Almost the entire story takes place at sea, far enough from the main series’ action that it isn’t necessary to read it.

Of course, knowing Sanderson, he’ll find a way to tie it into everything else. And I don’t just mean the Stormlight Archive, either. This is a part of his own little cinematic universe, after all, and there are vague references to the Mistborn books and probably others that I missed because I haven’t read them. These don’t overpower the story, because there just isn’t room for much more than name-dropping.

What I like best about Sanderson’s works is the worldbuilding. Even in its meager 280 pint-sized pages, Dawnshard delivers on that. As always, the world of Roshar baffles with its sheer alien nature. Now that it’s canon that this world is being affected by beings from other worlds in his shared universe, though, that takes things up a notch. Now we get to see his take on the old "ancient guardians protecting something too mysterious for mere mortals" trope.

As you may expect, I utterly detest that trope, and that’s because I reject its very premise. There is nothing in this world (or any other) that is too dangerous to be known. Knowledge is power, but knowledge is also humanity’s birthright. So you’ll never catch me rooting for the guardians, even if their intentions are shown to be completely honorable. In this case, they aren’t—that would make for a boring story, to be honest—and they’re thus the bringers of conflict.

All told, Sanderson handles that conflict well. He doesn’t get bogged down in the minutiae of battle (as he did in Rhythm of War) or lose himself in intricate plots. The pacing is swift, and the action flows in a way that even Mistborn couldn’t manage. Either he’s grown as a writer over the last 20 years, or this format suits him better than thousand-page doorstops. Of course, the prose is still a little clunky, but even that is improving. (On a side note, can somebody out there teach him how to make a proper conlang? From the names and the few words he tosses in, I assume Rysn and her people are supposed to be some kind of Slavic analogue, but the sheer lack of vowels hurts my head.)

Dawnshard is a good read, and a good way to wrap up an eventful summer. It’s nothing special or spectacular, because it just isn’t big enough for that. Instead, it’s…cozy. And yes, that opinion is very much colored by the circumstances by which it came into my life. For a book where supposed fate is a major plot point, that makes sense.

Summer Reading List 2023: Second / Great Books 05

Here’s a nice little bit of synchronicity or kismet or whatever you call it. The second entry in my Summer Reading List challenge for this year also gets to cover one of the slots in my Great Books challenge!

Literature/Theater

Title: Tartuffe, or The Hypocrite
Author: Molière (Jean-Baptiste Porquelin)
Genre: Theatrical Comedy
Year: 1664

Yep. I read a play. First time I’ve done that since high school, and the first time ever that I’ve done it willingly. Since I neither understand nor like French, I used the modernized English translation available from Project Gutenberg. I’m sure there are a lot of translation errors and cases where the original meaning of the text is lost, but…whatever.

Anyway, Tartuffe is basically the French Enlightenment equivalent of a sitcom. It’s a five-act play about an aristocrat of the time who has been swayed by the words of a so-called holy man (the titular Tartuffe) to the point where he’s willing to give this charlatan his estate and even his daughter. The patriarch, Orgon, spends the first three acts defending Tartuffe as his family and servants call out the man’s hypocrisy. Only his mother has his back, seemingly for her own ends—her intentions are never made clear.

As the story progresses, Orgon’s son hides in a closet to overhear Tartuffe attempting to seduce the lady of the house, Elmire. The young man then confronts his father with evidence of the hypocrite’s ill will, only to be cast out of the house and, in effect, disinherited. Elmire (who is actually Orgon’s second wife, and thus the boy’s stepmother) then goes as far as possible in letting the impostor seduce her while her husband is watching from under a table. That finally gets Orgon to see reason, but by then it’s too late: Tartuffe already has the deed to the house.

The final act is all about this bit of trickery, and it ends with one of the most blatant uses of deus ex machina imaginable: a royal officer (this is pre-Revolution France, remember) stops the eviction of Orgon’s family, saying that the king himself saw through Tartuffe’s lies. Then follows a classic "no, you’re the one being arrested" scene and a bit of moralizing about moderation from Orgon’s son.

All in all, it’s a very modern tale for being 350 years old. The scenario of a hypocrite or just a stranger with ulterior motives enthralling someone beyond reason with his words is commonplace in modern books and movies. (The first example off the top of my head is the character of Gríma Wormtongue in Lord of the Rings, but others abound.) And the fact that Tartuffe is supposed to be a man of God only brings to mind the actual hypocrisy of so many evangelists.

But the comedic elements are what make the play shine even in written form. There’s this tension between wanting to be serious about the situation and wanting to tell it in a humorous way that just works and makes the whole thing a delightful read. It’s also pretty short—170 double-spaced screen pages on my ebook version—without a lot of digressions. Imagine it as a two-hour comedy movie, but one of those British-style comedies. While it goes for low blows on occasion, there’s a cerebral quality to it. Well worth checking out, if you ask me.

2023 Projects

I’m constantly dreaming up new ideas for side gigs and hobby projects. Anyone who read my posts before April 2021 knows that all too well. Lately, as my current job has begun to wind down and my relationship seems to be nearing a plateau, my brain has decided to kick back into high gear on this front. So here are some of the things I’m thinking about with my spare mental cycles. Some of them I’ll get to eventually. Some I’m already planning out. A few will likely never see the light of day.

Borealic

I haven’t done much with conlangs in the past couple of years. A few months back, I had another aborted start on an "engineered" language, this one based on a ternary number system. (The idea was to make something philosophical but also easily representable without words. I’m weird.)

Now, I’m doing serious work on what is my first real attempt at an auxiliary language. There are plenty of auxlangs already out there, of course: Esperanto, Lojban, and so on. Mine is slightly different, however. Instead of drawing on Latin as the primary source of vocabulary—or being some sort of amalgam of the world’s major languages—I’m developing a conlang intended as a pan-Germanic interlingua.

The core vocabulary is derived from actual Proto-Germanic roots, most of which are shared by at least two of the six major Germanic languages spoken today. Those are English, German, Dutch, Danish, Norwegian, and Swedish, for those of you keeping score at home. Icelandic, Frisian, and the other "minor" Germanic tongues also get their due, mostly as additional confirmation of a meaning that has drifted over the past 2500 years or so. (Gothic has been extinct basically forever, so I exclude it from consideration.)

In terms of grammar, "Borealic" (the external name; it calls itself "Altidisk") mostly follows the general pattern of West Germanic and North Germanic languages. Where these differ, I look for common ground, and I try going back to a common ancestor for inspiration. The basic word order, for example, is V2: verbs always try to fill the second slot in a sentence if possible. That’s a common theme throughout the Germanic world. So is a two-way tense distinction between past and non-past, with the future tense instead being indicated by an auxiliary verb.

My goal isn’t necessarily to create a conlang for everybody to use. No, this one is explicitly intended for purposes best described as nationalistic. Borealic is for the Germanic peoples of the world. It’s a way to connect with our shared culture, a culture that is increasingly under attack these days.

Borealic is what I’m working on as I write this post, so it’s the one I’ll probably be sharing soonest.

Word games

I still want to be a game developer, and I’m still working towards that goal. I have two concepts I’ve been fleshing out in my head, and I’m getting ready to start making something more concrete out of them.

First is "Fourwords". At its core, this is going to be a simple little fill-in word puzzle. Instead of a crossword, however, you get a chain of four different words. The last letter of one word is the first letter of the next, and all the words in a chain are connected by a theme which the player will see while working the puzzle. You get points based on the length of each word (they aren’t fixed, but are variable between 4-12 letters) and the perceived difficulty of the chain: more generic categories are considered harder, as are those for very specific niches.

I envision Fourwords as a mobile-first game. In other words (no pun intended), there will be sets of puzzles that unlock as the player progresses. I’ll have plenty of gamification elements thrown in there, and—as much as I hate it—probably some kind of builtin ad or IAP support. I’ll build it using the new 4.x version of the Godot Engine, which will be my first real foray into its new features. I imagine also needing a server to store player data and all that. Lucky for me, my "real" job requires me to learn AWS.

The second word game is much simpler, yet also much more complex. This one doesn’t have a name yet, and it’s little more than a Wordle clone at heart. It’s a Mastermind-like game using words of five or six letters; I haven’t decided which would work best. You have a secret word, and you have to try to guess what it is. If you’re right, you win! If you’re wrong, you get to see which letters are correct, and which ones are in the wrong places. Scoring is based on how many guesses you make and how long it takes you to get to the right word.

Since there are only so many words in the English language, this one necessarily has a well-defined endpoint. But I figure I can add in a timed mode with randomization to keep things a little fresh. Beyond that, the format doesn’t have much else going for it.

But here’s the kicker. This one isn’t going to come out on mobile. It’s not going to be on desktop, either. No, I want to make this game for a console. And not just any console, but a retro one. I must be getting crazy in my old age, because I am seriously considering making a game for the NES. That means 6502 assembly, low-res tile graphics, music that is more code than notes, and all those arcane incantations that game devs used to do. It’ll be a monumental undertaking, but what if I can pull it off?

Adventure

I’ve started writing again in recent weeks. Time is short, but I’ve been able to find an hour here and there to get back to On the Stellar Sea. Those poor kids have had to stay on that planet too long!

Writing on Orphans of the Stars has made me want to go back to the project I had originally imagined would accompany it. This one is almost another game dev project, but of a different sort. The Anitra Incident is technically a prequel to the novel series, but it’s one I plan to write as interactive fiction. In other words, you are the protagonist. The setting is about 200 years in the future, when humanity’s lunar and Mars colonies are up and running, and we now turn our eyes outward. A strange Main Belt asteroid catches our eye, and a manned mission is sent to explore it. What they—you—find will shock everyone.

That’s the gist of it. It’s kind of a CYOA game, kind of an exercise in descriptive writing, and hopefully a lot of fun. And the books have already referenced this particular era of the setting’s history, so part of me feels I have to write it. I’ll need to relearn Sugarcube, I suppose. Graphics should be a lot easier now, thanks to Stable Diffusion. I may even be able to do character portraits, something I never imagined I would be capable of. (That’s no joke. I’ve had great success generating portraits of some of the Innocence kids, and they make good writing references.)

Never enough

There are plenty of other things my brain has decided to focus on. Pixeme, my community-based language learning web platform idea, is starting to take shape. Concerto is another one I want to play around with some more; it’s a microkernel OS written in Nim, a language I’ve found that I really enjoy. Another one I just named yesterday is Stave: the goal with this one is to create a long-term stable virtual machine. As in really long term. I want to make a VM that will stand the test of time.

But I’ll get to that later. Right now, there’s so much to do, and nowhere near enough time to do it all.

Summer Reading List 2023: First

I’ve had a hard time reading lately. My relationship took a disastrous turn last week, which put me behind even further than I’d like. But I’ve managed to push through the adversity and finish one of the goals I’d set for myself. Here we go.

Technology/History

Title: Now the Chips Are Down
Author: Alison Gazzard
Genre: Tech History
Year: 2016

Now the Chips Are Down is another entry in the MIT Press "Platform Studies" series. The series started in 2009 with Racing the Beam, a deep dive into the Atari 2600 and how its very peculiar implementation shaped the American video game market. Since then, a variety of authors have written about a variety of creative platforms. Most are game consoles, such as the NES (I Am Error) and the Wii (Codename Revolution), while some are home computers like the Amiga (The Future Was Here). A few don’t seem to fit in, such as Macromedia Flash (Building the Interactive Web) and the Amazon Kindle tablet (Four Shades of Gray), but there’s a cohesion to the series despite that.

This book falls into the "home computer" category, but it’s a very specific one that I’ve never used and never even seen in real life: the BBC Micro. As its name suggests, this was a computer built—well, contracted—by the British government.

Back in the late 70s and early 80s, the BBC was well-respected as an impartial presenter of the news. Today, of course, it’s a leftist propaganda outlet little different from the New York Times or Washington Post, but the Thatcher era was a different time. This was back when governments cared about building up their constituents, making them more informed, not less. As the UK was a technological backwater, missing out on many of the advances taking place in the US at the time, they needed something special to create the kind of digital literacy we now take for granted.

Their answer was the BBC Micro, a fairly large and expensive 8-bit home computer. Built by Acorn—the creators of other also-ran computers like the Atom and Archimedes—using the same 6502 processor that almost everyone else used, the BBC Micro had a few additions that made it unique to its time and place. Open, accessible expansion ports encouraged tinkering. Manuals described programming, an absolute necessity for computer owners in the years before I was born, in better detail than most of the competitors’ offerings, and the included dialect of BASIC is still regarded as one of the most advanced. The thing even had an adapter for Britain’s early attempt at a nationwide on-demand streaming service: Ceefax.

All this was part of the UK government’s attempt at getting its citizens, especially children, both interested in and comfortable with computers as tools. And that’s admirable. Too often today, we see the opposite: computers are expected to be black boxes, mere appliances that do whatever their creators tell them. The hacker spirit is actively discouraged through social and even legal means. But again, Britain circa 1981 was a different place. This was a country afraid of losing what little remained of its status on the global stage.

Gazzard harps on this point repeatedly in the book, always trying to paint the BBC Micro as innovative because of its intentions. It was used in education, for gaming, and as a way to connect people together. Okay, that’s great. The thing is, all that was happening with American home computers, too. And minicomputers in academia, and…well, you get the picture. The fact of the matter is that Britain really was behind the times, and no amount of praise for a government program can change that.

The book itself is light on details, and completely devoid of screenshots. The text has a few obvious typos, formatting errors, and grammatical mistakes. This is not the level of quality I expect from a Platform Studies book. The veritable fawning over the platform is a little over the top, though it is a welcome change from Super Power, Spoony Bards, and Silverware, which was written by an author who let his apparent hatred of the Super Nintendo shine through in his introduction and the tone of the book as a whole.

It’s good to be a fan of something. There’s nothing wrong with a nostalgic love letter. In this case, however, the nostalgia is just too thick. Any developer or even gamer who knows even the first thing about Elite knows it started on the BBC Micro, yet Gazzard feels the need to remind us of this on multiple occasions in the chapter about the game. She also dedicates full chapters to a low-budget educational adventure game and a Boulder Dash clone, acting as if these were innovative. But the truth is different. Oregon Trail came out years before Granny’s Garden, and it’s still played today. In the Repton chapter, she even admits that games with level editors already existed.

Overall, that’s the glaring flaw of Now the Chips Are Down. It’s actually too nostalgic, and that nostalgia gets in the way of the history. There aren’t enough whys or hows in the narrative, and I feel that’s where it falls short. Racing the Beam set the gold standard for the series. I Am Error and The Future Was Now both met it, and even exceeded it in places.

Here, there’s just no substance. The final chapter, for instance, combines Acorn’s future after the BBC Micro—they went on to create the ARM architecture, a curse for developers everywhere—and the Raspberry Pi, which started as an attempt at recreating the educational aspects of the platform. But the text is just so rushed. It feels like Gazzard is bored and wants to get through it so she can work on something else instead. And while this book, written in 2016 as it was, is mostly free of wokeness, there’s way too much emphasis on the sole female engineer on the Acorn team.

I did learn from this book. For that, I’m glad I read it. It makes me curious about a platform I’ve never used. I wonder why it was special, and why it’s so loved 40 years after its release. But Now the Chips Are Down doesn’t give me any answers except the author’s 200-page statement that boils down to, "I love it, and so should you."

LIVing it up

I don’t often talk about sports here on PPC. (As an aside, my original not-a-blog had a dedicated sports section. My, how things change in a generation!) The problem with major American sports is, like so many other parts of America, due to wokeness. The three major sports leagues—MLB, NFL, and NBA—all openly support a domestic terrorist organization. The NFL wanted to blacklist its best player for not getting an experimental and deadly gene therapy treatment; the tennis US Open actually did. NASCAR peddled a hate crime hoax and banned its biggest demographic from displaying symbols of their heritage. And the NHL might have backed off its requirement for players to support anti-human practices such as grooming and castration, but it never apologized for pushing them in the first place.

One of the few sports where the woke haven’t fully taken over is golf, and that’s for a few reasons. One, it’s an individual sport with low popular appeal, so Blackrock and the other ESG pushers just don’t see a need to inject idiocy into it. Two, golf is, unlike most professional sports played in the US, truly a global game. Many of the players are Asian, and Asians in general just don’t have time for the alphabet soup crowd. (And they hate “racial equity” nonsense. That’s something that’s common to Japanese, Chinese, and Koreans, as far as I can tell.) Yes, one of the greatest golfers of all time is black, but almost nobody cares about that. To anyone watching golf to enjoy the spectacle, Tiger Woods is Tiger Woods. He’s easy to pick out of a crowd, sure, but we’d much rather remember, say, his performance in the 2008 US Open than his response to George Floyd’s death.

Of course, the PGA Tour is an American institution, and thus it is vulnerable to woke influences. Over recent years, they have crept in. They still aren’t very noticeable, compared to other sports, but they’re there. Pride Month celebrations and rainbow logos are the main illustration, but being woke isn’t just about supporting those who hate humanity. It’s also about supporting the global neoliberal order. Much like in tennis, where the Australian Open tried to censor supporters of Russian players, the PGA has it out for anyone who doesn’t swallow the US-EU-NATO narrative. And that’s where our story begins.

Rock the casbah

Saudi Arabia is one of the most barbarous regimes on the planet. That’s indisputable. Their treatment of women, for example, is heinous by any standard other than their own deranged one. They use their leverage as one of the world’s major oil producers as a bludgeon to prevent their crimes against humanity from being investigated or prosecuted. True, they aren’t the worst, but they’re definitely near the top of the list.

But they’re also filthy rich. Much like the United Arab Emirates, the Saudis have begun investing in sports. Part of this is image rehabilitation, but the rest is just simple good business sense. The oil won’t last forever. (Well, it will, because abiotic methane production is a thing, but that’s a different post.) Investing in other ventures is a hedge against the future, and sports are always popular. They also draw huge crowds; even Qatar managed that for its ill-advised World Cup last year.

Thus, it’s no surprise that the Saudi government’s slush fund decided to get into golf. The problem is, they’re Saudis, and the woke hate Saudis. Now, this isn’t for the normal reasons you and I should hate them. Oh, no. Progressives will instead point to the execution of the journalist Jamal Kashoggi a few years ago, as well as the Riyadh regime’s religion-based stance against homosexuality. To the left, these are crimes far worse than torturing political prisoners or imprisoning rape victims.

Even though woke mind virus hadn’t infected the PGA to the point of killing the host, the Tour’s leadership wanted nothing to do with Saudi “blood money”. So the princes decided on the Bender plan: they’d create their own golf tour with blackjack and hookers. They called it LIV Golf, and they hired one of the game’s greats, Greg Norman, to build it.

LIV promised a refreshing change from the staid formula of the PGA. They announced that their tournaments would be 54 holes instead of 72, with no cuts and a team-based format that encouraged every golfer to carry his weight. Oh, and the purses would be massive. In all, it would be something like a Champions League of golf…assuming anybody joined.

Of course, they offered huge contracts to the world’s biggest names. Tiger Woods reportedly got an offer of nearly a billion dollars just to sign. He refused, but others did not, and the LIV roster filled out with a host of top-tier players, quite a few blue-chip golfers, and some younger stars who likely wouldn’t be able to make a name for themselves in the crowded PGA field.

The PGA leadership, as well as those who didn’t take the offers, called this treason. They accused the LIV supporters of selling out, taking dirty money, and (worst of all for a progressive) supporting an enemy of America. Never mind that the Saudis are technically our allies. They’re enemies of the woke, and that’s all that counts here.

Alien vs. Predator

The PGA and the progressive monoculture did its best to fight LIV. Mainstream media closed ranks, issuing hundreds of press releases disguised as news articles, all talking about the heroic PGA golfers fighting against the “defectors” of LIV. They mocked the small schedule, as if a nascent tour could manage more than 10 events on such short notice. They most likely interfered in negotiations to keep LIV off American TV networks, and apparently banned any coverage of the tour on their websites.

In every case, the reasons were the same, and the columnists repeated the talking points almost verbatim. LIV was “sportswashing”, a made-up term that goes back to the woke distortion of the concept of original sin: to the left, some crimes can never be forgiven, only avenged. No matter how many years pass, we’re not allowed to forget that the Saudis killed a journalist! They don’t support gay marriage! These two facts, according to progressive logic, mean that Saudi Arabia is one of the world’s worst abusers of human rights.

It’s okay if the US imprisons political protestors without trial or charge. It’s fine that Israel operates the world’s largest open-air prison. Child trafficking is just part of the Ukraine’s culture, apparently. And locking people in their homes, closing their businesses, and seizing the assets of those who didn’t comply? Just par for the course, if you’ll pardon the pun. But anything other than total obeisance before the protected classes is truly unforgivable.

A few years ago, sports columns rarely delved into politics. Lately, of course, they’ve been getting worse and worse about not staying in their lane, but golf was one of the few exceptions until LIV came along. And it got especially bad when the Saudi tour announced its schedule, and the progressives saw that it included courses owned by Donald Trump. That, I can only assume, was the final straw, and the reason why so much vitriol was poured into reporting for a sport whose usual scandals are drunk driving and divorce disputes.

A whole new world

Earlier this week, all that ended with the surprising announcement of a merger between the PGA and LIV, as well as the European tour that is so unimportant that I don’t even care to look up its name for this post. In the agreement, all three tours get to keep some measure of autonomy, but they’ll be overseen by a board that is, for the most part, made up of Saudi picks. And the PGA gets a Saudi on its policy board. Oh, and whoever’s running the princes’ sports fund has right of first refusal for any future investors into the PGA Tour.

That’s not a merger. That’s a buyout. And it’s hilarious.

All the talk about blood money and sportswashing and human rights abuses went up in flames with this announcement. The reams of digital paper spent trying to convince golf fans that they should care about a random journalist who died years ago were wasted. Vilifying Phil Mickelson and Bryson DeChambeau backfired, and now we get to watch Rory McIlroy, probably the most outspoken supporter of the PGA status quo, cry about it.

Progressives on sports news sites are so shocked that they can’t even write a coherent article about it. All they can do is parrot the usual phrases as if trying to recite warding spells. They’ve even expanded this to include the mainstream falsehoods about the 2020 election (which was rigged) and the 2021 US Capitol protest (which was not an insurrection), thanks to the Trump connection.

But all their objections are hollow. They’ve been exposed as hypocrites and liars. They never really wanted what was best for the game of golf. I’m not saying that LIV did, but it’s certainly willing to try new and interesting things like, you know, not destroying a sport for political gain.

The woke mind virus is our enemy. In that, we take the allies we’re given. Whether that’s Russia fighting to prevent the globalist cabal from completing their villainous agenda or the leaders of random African countries giving their lives to expose the truth of the so-called pandemic, those of us on the side of right, on the side of humanity and Enlightenment, will accept any aid. For this instance, it is the Saudis with their near-infinite pool of money that has put the progressives in their place. I’d still hold a gun pointed at them—trust is earned, not bought—but I’ll at least shake their hand while I’m doing it.

Summer Reading List 2023

Here we go again. Sorry for being a little late on the post this year, but real life is increasingly becoming a factor. Once again, it’s time for my favorite annual tradition, the Summer Reading List challenge. I’m hoping to complete it for the 8th year in a row, and I’ll eventually get anyone else join in.

The rules haven’t changed from the beginning. They’re so unchanged, in fact, that I’m just going to copy them verbatim from last year’s post. The only added wrinkle for me is that I’m also doing my “Read 12 Great Books in 2023” challenge, so I’ll limit myself to only counting one of those for the Summer Reading List.

Really, they aren’t rules, but more like guidelines. This isn’t a competition. It’s a challenge. What’s important is that you’re honest with yourself.

  1. The goal is to read 3 new books between Memorial Day (May 29) and Labor Day (September 4) in the US, the traditional “unofficial” bounds of summer. (For those of you in the Southern Hemisphere reading this, it’s a winter reading list. If you’re in the tropics…I don’t know what to tell you.)
  2. A book is anything non-periodical, so no comics, graphic novels, or manga. Anything else works. If you’re not sure, just use common sense. Audiobooks are acceptable, but only if they’re books, not something like a podcast.
  3. One of the books should be of a genre you don’t normally read. For example, I’m big on fantasy and sci-fi, so I might read a romance, or a thriller, or something like that. Nonfiction, by the way, also works as a “new” genre, unless you do read it all the time.
  4. You can’t count books you wrote, because they obviously wouldn’t be new to you. (Yes, this rule exists solely to keep me from just rereading my books.)

As always, I’ll search for something new (at least to me!) and share it with you when I’ve finished reading it. I’ll post it over on the fediverse (mikey@freespeechextremist.com is my main account there for the time being) and in more depth here at PPC, but feel free to discuss your own reading adventures wherever you like.

Have fun, and keep reading!

Great Books: The Coleridge Double Feature

My beloved convinced me to watch Dead Poets Society last weekend. A great movie, for the most part. The story was a little jumpy in places, but far better than modern films in terms of narrative coherency. I finally understand a lot of references I’d seen a thousand times before, as well as what must be the founding idea of one of my favorite bands. And seeing the meme of Boomers—when they were still teens, in this case—only ever resisting authority when nothing is on the line so poignantly illustrated was enlightening.

Movie night also spurred me to get back to the Great Books task with gusto. The Romantic period provided many works that earned permanent places in the Western canon, even if the official list is missing many notables. (Seriously, just one Byron work? Nothing by Shelley—either one of them—or Tennyson? Whitman is overrated and a tyrant’s loyal pet besides, but even he didn’t make the cut!) Fortunately, I found a couple of good choices and gave them a shot. With that in mind, enjoy the Coleridge special.

Great Books 3: Kubla Khan

There’s no boat
There’s no river
No shore
Journey’s over
— Blind Guardian, “Sacred Mind”

First up is “Kubla Khan”, which doesn’t put the “book” into “Great Books” at all. The entire poem is 54 lines, and could easily fit on a single page. According to Coleridge himself, it was supposed to be at least 5 times longer, but he was interrupted during his furious recollection of a drug-induced hallucination, and the vision faded before he could write any further.

What we did get is inspiring. I mean that literally. Lines 4-5, “Through caverns measureless to man / Down to a sunless sea,” are the direct inspiration for not only the name, but the entire setting of one of my favorite games. The name and idea of Xanadu gave rise to numerous songs, from the execrable 80s hit to the fairly decent Blind Guardian track I quoted above. And history tells that none other than Teddy Roosevelt, when he was near death in the Amazon, lay in his tent reciting the opening stanza to keep himself conscious.

Over the course of only a few lines, Coleridge describes what is very much an otherworldly vision. Certainly nothing the Mongols could have—or would have—built even in their heyday. Authenticity isn’t the point, however; this is all about painting a picture with words. And what a beautiful picture it is.

My long hours playing Sunless Sea led me to see the games setting of the “Unterzee” everywhere I looked in the poem. The game overtly references this, too; one of the major “enemy” factions of the Hollow Earth sea is the Khanate, and it is very heavily implied that they inhabit the remnants of Xanadu.

Great Books 4: The Rime of the Ancient Mariner

The sea has never been friendly to man.
At most, it has been the accomplice of human restlessness.
— Joseph Conrad

Since “Kubla Khan” was so short, and I was still the only one awake, I knew I had time to read a little more. So why not go to the other Coleridge poem on the Great Books list? “The Rime of the Ancient Mariner” is much longer, totaling over 600 lines, and it tells a much deeper story. In seven parts, it runs the gamut from folktale to exploration to horror, perfectly capturing the Romantic spectrum in a single work.

The Mariner was the sole survivor of an expedition that got blown off course, ending up in what we now call the Southern Ocean. He’s telling his tale to a random guest at a random wedding, and his audience of one grows increasingly amazed and concerned by the story he hears. Of course, when that story involves a voyage through the icy maze of the far South, a vengeful spirit, and a crew being killed and then having their bodies inhabited by angels, well, how would you react?

In a few places, the rhyme and meter are a little suspect. The story itself, on the other hand, is downright fun in places. It’s very clear that this is one source of a lot of “ghost ship” stories in modern media, such as Pirates Of The Caribbean. Whalers in the early 19th century, who may have been the true discoverers of Antarctica, probably looked around for an albatross when they were lost in the ice and fog—and knew better than to kill it.

Yes, this is a poem that can best be described as cinematic.

Extra Credit

Oh, sweet Christabel, share with me your poem
— Nightwish, “Beauty of the Beast”

The woman of my dreams was still lost in hers when the Ancient Mariner finished his tale, so I continued perusing the Coleridge collection I downloaded from Project Guterberg. Not far from the two poems I’d already read, I saw “Christabel” in the table of contents. That name jogged my memory, reminding me of a line in a song, which I’ve quoted here. A minute or two of research, and I discovered that this poem was indeed the inspiration of the Nightwish song. Not surprising, since they often reference the Romantics, directly or indirectly.

Deciding that there was nothing to lose, I gave it a shot. Now, I have to admit some confusion. The tale of Christabel makes very little sense to me. It’s clear that she finds another woman, Geraldine, in the woods near her father’s manor. Geraldine was abducted and, for some reason, left behind by her captors. Christabel takes her in, they spend the night together, and they meet with the baron in the morning. He realizes who his uninvited guest is: the daughter of a fellow lord, an estranged friend from long ago.

That part was easy. It’s everything else that left my mind spinning. There are so many references to “a woman’s sin” that I have to assume Coleridge was implying either some serious envy or an actual sexual encounter between the two women. The way Christabel reacts when her father speaks his intent to send Geraldine back home could point to either possibility.

But that’s the mark of good poetry, isn’t it? It doesn’t come right out and tell you what’s happening. It leaves room for interpretation. Poets, like the bards of old, tell a tale in a different way than the historian. That is what Robin Williams’ character was trying to teach in Dead Poets Society. Poetry isn’t something that can be calculated or rationalized. It’s inherently irrational and subjective. Different people will find different meaning, and that’s okay.

Great Books: An Essay On Criticism

It took longer than I thought, but here’s the second in this series. Much of the delay came from looking for something that interested me and that I could fit in my increasingly busy schedule. In the end, I chickened out and picked a short work that I could finish in a couple of days: Alexander Pope’s An Essay On Criticism.

We’re back in the Enlightenment with this one, though a little farther into it than Areopagitica. The essay is really a poem, because Pope was, at heart, a poet. It’s written in a style typical of English verse at the time, rhyming couplets that wouldn’t be too outlandish to most school-aged readers. And this is already a hallmark of the era, because the Enlightenment was the last true poetic era. Since then, we’ve gone from poetry to prose as the mainstay of literature, and maybe we lost something along the way.

Pope’s verse, however, is not something that is lost. In fact, this essay, which totaled only about 30 virtual pages on my tablet, provides modern English with no fewer than three popular idioms that have stood the test of time. “A little learning is a dangerous thing,” the author states, and we still know that to be all too true. “To err is human” and “fools rush in” both originated here; the second half of the latter, “where angels fear to tread,” is also popular in…certain genres of music.

Beyond these catchphrases, there’s not much to this “book” that makes it great. It is, as its title states, an essay on criticism. Specifically, Pope takes exception to those who are too quick to offer destructive criticism. (If only game journalists would heed his words!) The critics who pan a work because it either doesn’t follow the established rules of a genre or follows them slavishly, both find themselves in his crosshairs. And that’s basically all there is to it.

Okay, there’s a little more substance. The author tries to call back to Antiquity, which is a common theme for the period. The Enlightenment, in a way, was a counter to the Renaissance: where the 15th and 16th centuries were all about building—or discovering—a new world, the 17th and 18th did a lot to tie that world back into the half-forgotten times of the Greeks and Romans. The reemergence of secular philosophy and the advancement of the sciences pushed humanity forward, yet still gave it a familiar anchor.

But Pope treats that anchor as something closer to a life raft, clinging to it against the tide of progress. His insistence that poetry is only above criticism when it is in the style of Homer or Virgil is conservative in the extreme. It’s dogma, but for authors. Which is what you would expect from a Catholic in 1700s England, so you can’t fault him too much. Still, it’s disheartening to see someone held up as a leading light of an enlightened age acting so…dim.

The verse itself is nothing special, either. The idioms that have persisted did so because they had a nice ring to them. They were the advertising jingles of their time, is the way I read it, and that’s why they have such staying power. Beyond them, you have a fairly repetitive procession of rhymes—something Pope even complains about from other authors!—and a deluge of Classical references that, I have to assume, went over the heads of many readers in his own day. Yes, they were more well-read than kids these days, but how many of them knew where Aristotle was born?

I’ve tried writing poetry. It’s hard, and it’s very much an art form. Despite my shortcomings and Pope’s admonitions, I’ll still criticize his inability to get to the point. Verse should tell a story. Using it as an attack ad diminishes it and its creator. While the contortions he had to use to make even a semi-coherent argument out of these stanzas prove that he knew what he was doing, they also obscure the point he was trying to make. It’s a very salient point three centuries later, so it’s a shame that it’s so impenetrable. A lot of critics could do with the wakeup call.

The war rages on

It’s been a year since Russia crossed over the border and began its “special military operation” to liberate ethnic Russians in the Ukraine. Since then, the war has grown in scope, evolving from a border skirmish into what might be the prelude to World War III.

But all that evolution, all that expansion, has been one-sided. NATO, and more specifically the US, has poured billions upon billions of dollars into the Zelensky regime. Meanwhile, Russia expanded its conscription call-ups, but has otherwise been patient. Too patient, really. They have ignored blatant threats from supposedly neutral powers, not to mention actual terrorist attacks carried out by the United States. Any one of the dozens of incidents would be a valid casus belli, yet Putin has ignored the very obvious provocations at every turn.

That’s good for all of us, of course, since it keeps us out of a war that could very well escalate into something that makes WWII look like a schoolyard slap-fight. One has to wonder, though, how much more it will take. How many more times can we poke the bear before he awakens to tear our face off?

Because this much is clear: the US cannot win a war against Russia. Why? The answer’s very simple, and it’s the reason why the first two world wars started at all. Any fight that reached that level wouldn’t be the US versus Russia. No, there are too many alliances and treaties and defense pacts for that to happen. Instead, Washington would call upon its allies in NATO, which effectively covers all of Western Europe, as well as Turkey. Meanwhile, calls would go out from Moscow, forcing China, Iran, and possibly India to make their own decisions.

Yes, the NATO bloc outnumbers Russia on paper, and even has a technological advantage, but the past few years have shown how hollow this really is. Growing unrest throughout the Americas and Europe would cause any mass conscription—the only way to get a manpower edge over China—to be met with outright revolt. Diversity hires in the military have hollowed out its core, pushing the best of the best out to make way for a new wave of globalist-friendly forces. The technology often requires specialized knowledge to even operate, and the latest versions have seen almost no use in the field yet.

In other words, all the supposed advantages have fatal flaws. On the other side, things aren’t as grim. True, China’s economy is teetering due to its aging population and low fertility—something the whole world shares, but the effect is most pronounced in East Asia. Other than that, where is the weakness? Russia’s military is top-notch; even their private paramilitary (i.e., mercenary) companies can run roughshod over Ukrainian regulars, as is currently being shown at Bakhmut. The Kiev regime has no counter for hypersonic missiles, or even a mass wave of cheap Iranian drones. Despite its glaring flaws, China still has an unparalleled manufacturing base that can be converted to a full wartime mode with devastating effect.

The best the West can hope for is a stalemate, a war of attrition that accomplishes nothing but millions of dead soldiers and, in certain parts of the world, civilians. Everything old is new again, history repeats itself, and we are on the cusp of learning first-hand why World War I was called “the war to end all wars”. Except that this one would end a lot more than that.

Worst of all, those in power know this, and yet they continue on their path. The only attempt at a peace talk was almost a year ago, not long after the war began, and it was sabotaged by the UK. Now that Zelensky sees he has effectively infinite money coming in from abroad, why even bother with the facade? No one other than Vladimir Putin can stop the Ukraine from sending every one of its able-bodied—and, in some cases, disable-bodied—citizens into the meat grinder, because the ones who otherwise have that ability no longer have the inclination.

That, more than anything, is why I continue to stand against Zelensky, against NATO, and against my own country’s so-called government on this matter. Putin is showing actual regard for his countrymen, his ethnic brethren. He has accurately called out the West’s hypocrisy and the rot of progressivism eating away at its foundations. He has taken a stand for humanity, rather than against it, and he’s one of the few world leaders brave enough to do so publicly. After seeing what happened to others who have tried (Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, and Shinzo Abe, among others), we could fault him for stepping down, or at least toning down his rhetoric, but he has done the opposite. We need more people like that in power, instead of the mental hospital that passes for the executive branch these days.

If you still support the Ukraine after all this time, after seeing the aims of Zelensky, NATO, and the globalist cabal, then I can only see you as anti-human, just as they are. You’re standing for Drag Queen Story Hour, for the mutilation of children, for mass imprisonment, for depopulation. You’re standing against the last defense of the Enlightenment, against the bonds of shared culture and nationality. “Slava Ukraini,” you say? How about “Slava miru” instead?

A month with Nim

A few weeks back, I posted about my adventures in writing a kernel using the Nim programming language. Well, I’m still working at it, and I thought it would be fun to give a progress report. Fair warning: this is going to be one of the most technical posts I’ve written in a long time. If you’re not familiar with a lot of programming and OS terminology, you’re going to have a hard time following along.

The language

Let’s start by looking at my language of choice. Nim is an odd duck in the world of programming languages. In purpose, it sits in that mid tier between low-level languages such as C and “application” languages like Python. This middle space used to be the sole domain of C++, but recent years have seen a growing crop of contenders: Rust, Go, D, Vala, Swift, Zig, and so on.

Nim is definitely one of those. Syntactically, it shares a lot in common with Python, most notably its indentation-based structure. But it’s much closer to the metal. Since it compiles to (a very cryptic subset of) C rather than some kind of VM bytecode, you get a lot of optimizations for free, thanks to the GCC and Clang teams. Thus, you’ve got this great mix of high-level sugar and low-level power, which is really what I was looking for all along. And the Nim community, unlike Rust, does it without sacrificing basic scientific facts such as sexual dimorphism!

Still, being a good programming language—even a lower-level one—doesn’t make something good for writing an operating system. That’s the downside of D, for example; there, the language itself is solid, but its standard library relies on garbage collection, making it a no-go.

I bring up that specific example for a very good reason: Nim’s standard library just works. It’s almost all “pure” code, where the devs eat their own dogfood. The system module is hard-coded to use what amounts to a set of compiler intrinsics, but everything else is built off them. In an OS kernel, where you can’t expect to have a bulky runtime available, this is a dream come true. I only had to implement a dozen simple C functions (strlen, memcpy, etc.), hook in an allocator (liballoc is a good default for “hobby” OSes), and that was it. I don’t even have all the hardware initialized yet, but I already have access to dynamic arrays, hash tables, string formatting, and all those other goodies.

Of course, nothing’s ever perfect. Nim gets very verbose when you’re working so close to bare metal. The developers’ insistence on defaulting literal values to signed integers is a pain, because anyone who has ever worked at the assembly level knows that you have to use unsigned numbers for things like bitfields. Also, converting between integers and pointers (another thing absolutely necessary in OS programming, and absolutely antithetical to the “safe code” movement) is overly verbose. Yeah, I could use a template or macro or something, but…ugh.

The system

I’m going to continue with this project until I get bored or run out of ideas. Since building the bare-bones kernel in the previous post, I’ve expanded its scope. Now, I’m planning out a microkernel OS centered around a message passing interface. The catch is that it’s intended to be a single-user system; there will be “profiles” for multiple users to store their own programs, files, and so on, but only one user will be running it at a time. Other users’ data will be hidden away, though I do envision a kind of shared space.

Another design concept I’ve been toying with is doing away with processes. They’ll just be threads that don’t have a parent instead. So running a program will start a “main” thread, and that thread can then create children or siblings. Child threads inherit some state, and the parent has some direct control of their lifecycle. Siblings, on the other hand, are independent. This also affects IPC: parents and their children can use shared memory far more easily, and the design will reflect this.

The microkernel structure means that very little will run in kernel-space. The physical and virtual memory allocators are already in place, though I may redesign them as time goes on. Some hardware abstraction exists; I’ll need lots more before I can even consider a 0.1 release. I’m currently working out how I want to write the scheduler and mapping out system calls. Almost everything else will live in user-space. There’s no reason not to.

I’m calling this project Concerto. As with most of my works, that’s a name with multiple meanings. A concerto is, of course, a kind of musical composition where many instruments support a single lead—this is, to my eyes, essentially the musical equivalent of a microkernel. It also connotes many working together (i.e., in concert) to create something grand. And I can’t deny a bit of a political jab: concertos are a distinctly Western form of music that came from the era of Enlightenment. As our enemies insist on dragging us into a new Dark Age and the destruction of our heritage, every reminder of what we have built is welcome.

So that’s what I’ve been doing in the free time that is no longer as copious as it used to be. I’ll let you know how it turns out.