The end of an era?

Without long drives, the era of listening to podcasts could be coming to an end. The recent ones have been pretty good… so maybe I’ll see if I can keep them in the rotation, somehow.

Dice tower news 186 – 189; steady good updates.

Radio Free Burrito 034 — Another weird, solid episode, though I was hoping for more Poe.

Feat the Boot 320 & 321 — Conclusion of unique snowflakes; fine, though much less “concrete” than they seem to think.

Ken and Robin 67 — The gaming hut about character design options was a good exploration of point buy versus package improvement. Ask Ken and Robin was a good segment about buying into the premise of the game to enjoy the game.

This American Life 512 — House Rules. A great examination of zoning, home ownership, redlining’s historical roots (and after effects). Good detailed reporting.

TJ Hour 1051 and 1052 — an exception to the generally good nature of the podcasts this week. They teased the episode as a press conference, and said they had an hour and a half of material–but for some reason only included one non-staged question in 1051, then repeated the boilerplate discussion of Jefferson and architecture (the same questions but differently phrased answers; like we’d heard a rough and final draft in the two weeks). We got a few more “press conference” questions, but very few. A real missed opportunity.

Books

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time 8) — Continued strong and ended well.

Winter’s Heart (Wheel of Time 9) — The first part is good, but when we turn our attention to Mat we realize how much he’s been absent. It’s an interesting chunk of book; slow without being stagnant. The return to Rand at the end is slow, then frantic.

Book 10, Crossroads of Twilight is with Dad… I need to borrow it before I lose momentum.

I began R. A. MacAvoy’s “The Grey Horse”, which I almost set aside before the early reveal. It’s still not compelling, but I have higher hopes.

The end of an era?

Without long drives, the era of listening to podcasts could be coming to an end. The recent ones have been pretty good… so maybe I’ll see if I can keep them in the rotation, somehow.

Dice tower news 186 – 189; steady good updates.

Radio Free Burrito 034 — Another weird, solid episode, though I was hoping for more Poe.

Feat the Boot 320 & 321 — Conclusion of unique snowflakes; fine, though much less “concrete” than they seem to think.

Ken and Robin 67 — The gaming hut about character design options was a good exploration of point buy versus package improvement. Ask Ken and Robin was a good segment about buying into the premise of the game to enjoy the game.

This American Life 512 — House Rules. A great examination of zoning, home ownership, redlining’s historical roots (and after effects). Good detailed reporting.

TJ Hour 1051 and 1052 — an exception to the generally good nature of the podcasts this week. They teased the episode as a press conference, and said they had an hour and a half of material–but for some reason only included one non-staged question in 1051, then repeated the boilerplate discussion of Jefferson and architecture (the same questions but differently phrased answers; like we’d heard a rough and final draft in the two weeks). We got a few more “press conference” questions, but very few. A real missed opportunity.

Books

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time 8) — Continued strong and ended well.

Winter’s Heart (Wheel of Time 9) — The first part is good, but when we turn our attention to Mat we realize how much he’s been absent. It’s an interesting chunk of book; slow without being stagnant. The return to Rand at the end is slow, then frantic.

Book 10, Crossroads of Twilight is with Dad… I need to borrow it before I lose momentum.

I began R. A. MacAvoy’s “The Grey Horse”, which I almost set aside before the early reveal. It’s still not compelling, but I have higher hopes.

Books, Podcasts, and Such

Books

Lord of Chaos (Wheel of Time 6)– It had a few lulls, but the developing action was compelling and kept me interested throughout. Wow, the ending. The world is dramatically different as the book closes.

A Crown of Swords (Wheel of Time 7) — Much stronger than I remembered, thrown off by a weak confrontation at the end of the book. I think that must have soured the whole book in my memory, undeservedly. Mat’s story feels like filler too, until it finally isn’t near the book’s end. Oh, the Seanchan’s return is well telegraphed, and scary.

The Path of Daggers (Wheel of Time 8) — The series is still going pretty strong, though the Rand channeling sickness is a weird development I hadn’t remembered. The guerrilla war with the Seanchan continues strong; so far, all of the plots are holding up. [I’m currently about 2/3rd through.] In this book it becomes clear that there are enough major characters that just updating everyone’s story slows the advancement of the overall story substantially–even when it’s not diluted with “who was that again?” extraneous characters.

Overall, the books are holding up when read straight through. I do remember the next book [Winter’s Heart] being painful, but maybe with momentum it’ll also be good!

Podcasts

Fear the Boot 318, 319: About “PAUS” [precious and unique snowflakes]. Interesting discussion so far. I’m looking forward to the third (and final) part on my drive home tonight.

Independent Insurgency 31 — A little less focus; Robert had a goal, but didn’t get enough engagement.

This American Life 477 was a repeat that I enjoyed enough to listen to all through.

TAL 511 –The 7 things you’re not supposed to talk about. It’s a good guideline; the show may have revealed a corner case or two, but also reaffirmed the wisdom of the rules. Six boring stories; a good rule about polite conversation, and stories to contradict the rule.

Dice Tower 329 — Lots of discussion of good kids games. We should stock our store with these…

Dice Tower 330 — A more conventional episode; good, balanced, not terribly memorable.

Ken and Robin 64-66: Interesting as always.

TJ Hour 1048– An interesting examination of wealth concentration, and Jefferson’s musings inspired by the French Revolution… how do you keep accumulation of wealth from stealing the subsistance from the poorest? Delves in Lockian state of nature… interesting.

TJ Hour 1049– Jefferson’s interaction and life in Paris; how it affects him.

TJ Hour 1050– Founding Fathers; Jefferson’s opinions of the other founding fathers. Not a lot of surprises, but a good restatement of his opinions.

Movies and TV

Talking with Chris, it sounds like there are several more series that would be great to catch. In particular, Arrow sounds well done and actually interesting.

Cloud Atlas also sounds like a great movie for me; I’ll have to Netflix it with Jennifer one of these nights.

We also discussed Ender’s Game, which he recommends as a theater only experience, mostly for great special effects. So, if I’m going to see it, it sounds like the clock is ticking. (He expressly advised against it as a watch at home movie due to the truncation of the story.)

Onward with the Wheel of Time

(4) The Shadow Rising was a strong continuation of the series. I really liked the focus on Perrin and home; it made for an excellent counterpoint. Similarly, Rand’s story and interaction with the Aiel was handled well. The Thom, Julian, Elayne and Nynaeve story line was a little less interesting, in part because of the focus on conflict between the girls. It’s also more clearly a “B” plot… important, but not as important.

In the end, this book was a nice recovery from the non-Rand focus of The Dragon Reborn.

(5) The Fires of Heaven was also a solid book. Elayne and Nynaeve continued to be a misstep, and the “join the circus” seemed like a writer’s fancy instead of fitting the characters, but the interaction with Brigitte and Moghedien made this storyline feel more central.

Mat earned his role in this book; he’s interesting and has lots of issues to play with–as well as some solid development.

Perrin’s absence was felt more in retrospect than as reading. Rand’s continuing development was well handled–as was Morraine’s alteration. The “first ending” at the wagons was dramatic and very well done. The “second ending”, was rushed and blurred; the battle was handled pretty well, and balefire’s risks (and benefits) came clear.

The big misstep seems to be the tucking in of the final few pages. Really, that’s how Asmodean is going to end? Just a rough paragraph or two? The “chosen” disappeared awfully quickly this time.

(6) Lord of Chaos I’m a few chapters into the book. The initial 70 pages of prologue felt long, but the action advanced nicely with Bashere fitting in and Rand’s amnesty shaking things up.

Podcasts

TJ Hour 1044: Interventions — About America intervening abroad. No surprises, but a useful corrective to our meddling impulse.

TJ Hour 1045: Leith — About the intersection between free speech and accepting speech we hate. Specifically about Hate Speech and its boundaries, and Leith, ND, and white supremacists.

Dice Tower 327 & 328 continued strong.

Fear the Boot 317 was good; I didn’t realize that the short shows were due to resting a throat. That’s too bad… I enjoy the short run time.

TAL #509: It Says So Right Here — Interesting tales about identities, documentation and who we are. The first story, about identity theft, stuck with me.

Ask me Another 1310304: How Punk Is This? — Pretty cool; I hadn’t heard of the guest, but will look for some of his music now.

Recent Books (including WoT reread) and ‘casts

Books:

Republic, Lost by Lawrence Lessig. I think this would interest Bryan; it points out the fundamental corruption of our system. The capture of legislators by special interests is more interesting and more subtle than “here’s a sack of cash”– the dance of influence, the importance of indirectly signaling, and the prominence of lobbyists and connectors were all important notes that altered my thinking. The particular thought that legislator is one step on a career path: aide -> legislator -> lobbyist, was revealing… as was the note that our “underpaying” legislators (versus what else they can do with their degree and experience) probably plays into their desire to tap extra income. After all, it’s expensive to keep two households.

I agree that the solutions are somewhat far-fetched, but necessary. I hate the idea of trying to square that circle. Probably the best point made is the systemic slow deviation towards prioritizing what the people they talk to and interact with care about most–more “dividing the pie” taking their time and effort. The corruption of tax extenders was a great specific example of the overall thesis.

The Great Wheel of Time (re)Read:

After a few disappointing books dispirited me, I decided not to read the Wheel of Time until the series was complete. I’ve heard very good things about Sanderson’s wrap up of Jordan’s series, and I do want to see how it all ends. Reading a book in the middle, years after the previous book’s publication, left me cold–too much of my time was spent trying to remember who had done what and where they were when I left off. So this will be a full series reread and read.

The Eye of the World: This is a great book, introducing a vibrant world. For the first half of the book, the voice is Rand’s alone. It’s Rand who introduces us to the world, exposes the relations between the characters, and whose voice is charming.

In the middle of the book, we get a few new points of view when the characters are separated. These new POV chapters are true complements to Rand’s adventure– with interesting character development for the others. I think we top out at 4 points of view (Rand, Perrin, Nynaeve… and Egwene?), and the story moves. It feels like a breathless race at the very end–stumbling a bit as the final, built up “battle” was disposed of so quickly.

The Great Hunt: Another strong book, far more evenly distributed in viewpoint character chapters. The men and women spend the book doing entirely separate things. Visiting locations for the first time is rewarding; Tar Valon feels sculpted and beautiful–and very in contrast with its contents.

The number of view point characters increases substantially–even including Moraine for a chapter. I like the characters’ continued development; Rand’s struggle feels real and difficult, Perrin’s beating himself up feels authentic, Egwene’s development and voice becomes strong–even more so post leashing. Politics is tricky to write; both Cairhien and tower politics are (appropriately) difficult to understand from traveling teenagers’ points of view.

The book ends strongly, with everyone reunited and a victory… though lots of doubts about that victory, and consequences clearly telegraphed.

The Dragon Reborn: In memory this was one of the stronger books; now that I’ve reread it, it’s much less good. Rand gets almost no POV time and his actions are both distant and difficult to understand. Perrin is the star of this book, and Mat comes into his own–Mat really becomes interesting, doubling down on “rascally”, and showing tremendous competence with his quarterstaff out of nowhere.

The girls don’t get much time in the tower; it’s pretty jarring to see how quickly they cycle through and set off on another adventure. (There’s no real classroom time on screen, and few interactions with the other novices and accepted–it’s broad brush strokes, and well done, but feels way too slight given the tower’s centrality to their lives.)

The book structure feels overly deliberate by the end. The last quarter of the book draws everyone together–geographically–they only overlap and interact with each other in the final chapters. (Those chapters involve frequent POV changes, which really picks up the pace.) In this read through, this book first tickles my “wait, why are they doing that?” characterization problems button.

Podcasts

The Dice Tower 325: Returned to the show after a long break, and really enjoyed it. They talked about three games that I think our gamers would appreciate–at least one of which I wouldn’t mind trying.

TAL 506: Secret Identity — An interesting look at masks and roles. Diana sounds amazing but scary, as a vigilante should. It makes you think about what goes on when society, law, and order have broken down.a

Wait Wait and Ask Me Another were both good–as was getting to listen to it with Jennifer.

Roll for News: Enjoyable; I love the 5 minute interview podcast format. I’ve been going through old episodes, as it’s been a while since new ones were released.