Cibola Burn

I recently finished the 4th book in The Expanse series, Cibola Burn.

For the first time in the books, humanity has begun exploring the distant solar systems using the alien portal system. And, true to human form, people are going to fight over who gets the spoils… with not much thought as to why all of the planets are uninhabited.

As the character, Bobbie, opines in the very first page of the book, “how quickly humanity could go from ‘what unimaginable intelligence fashioned these soul-wrenching wonders’ to ‘Well, since they’re not here, can I have their stuff?”

One of the charming things with this series is how connected and cohesive the books are. The same jokes, themes and character quirks are carried through the series.

While the previous books have had only a couple of point-of-view characters, Cibola Burn expands the viewpoints. I also like (and have probably mentioned it before) how a minor character in a previous book becomes a major character in another book. That parallel-living adds to the depth and richness of the world. Sure, someone might be tangential to the current story, but they have their own life going on. There’s no such thing as a “bit character” in the real world 🙂

Here are some of my favourite quotes from the book:

  • “Amos will look after you.”
    “Great, Holden said, “I’ll land in the middle of the tensest situation in two solar systems, and instead of the smartest person I know, I’ll bring the guy most likely to get in a bar fight.”
  • [After being told to ‘pack a bag’…] A few minutes later he was on the airlock deck with Amos. The mechanic had laid out two suits of their Martian-made light combat armor, a number of rifles and shotguns, and stacks of ammunition and explosives.
    “What,” Holden said, “I meant, like underwear and toothbrushes.”
    “Captain,” Amos said, almost hiding his impatience. “They’re killing each other down there. Half a dozen RCE security vanished into thin air, and a heavy lift shuttle got blown up.”
    “Yes, and our job is not to escalate that. Put all this sh*t away. Sidearms only. Bring clothes and sundries for us, any spare medical supplies for the colony. But that’s it.”
    “Later,” Amos said, “when you’re wishing we had this stuff, I am going to be merciless in my mockery. And then we’ll die.”
  • “I know who you are,” Amos said. The big man had been so quiet that both Murtry and Holden started with surprise.
    “Who am I?” Murtry asked, playing along.
    “A killer,” Amos said. His face was expressionless, his tone light. “You’ve got a nifty excuse and the shiny badge to make you seem right, but that’s not what this is about. You got off on smoking that guy in front of everyone. You can’t wait to do it again.”
    “Is that right?” Murtry asked.
    “Yeah. So, one killer to another, you don’t want to try that sh*t with us.”
    “Amos, easy.” Holden warned but the other two men ignored him.
    “That sounded like a threat,” Murtry said.
    “Oh, it really was,” Amos replied with a grin. Holden realized both men had their hands below the table.
    “Hey, now.”
    “I think maybe one of us is going to end bloody,” Murtry said.
    “How about now?” Amos replied with a shrug. “I’m free now. We can just skip all the middle part.”
  • Amos stepped in front of Basia and punched the RCE man in the face. It sounded like a hammer hitting a side of beef. The security man fell to the ground, a puppet whose strings had been cut.
  • “Choosing to stand by while people kill each other is also an action,” she said. “We don’t do that here.”
  • “Then tomorrow I’m going to figure out how to get my first officer back from the RCE maniac holding her hostage, so that I can go find the scary alien bullet fragment embedded in the planet. Amos nodded as if that all made sense.
    “Nothing in the afternoon, then.”
  • He tried the idea on like a new outfit. Seeing if he could find a way to make it fit.
  • There were a lot of holes in that logic that he carefully avoided thinking about.
  • “Right,” Holden said. “No coffee. This is a terrible, terrible planet.”
  • “Last man standing,” Amos replied with another grin. “It’s in my job description.
  • “Hey Miller,” Holden said, watching the robot peel up a two-meter section of the tunnel’s metal flooring and rapidly cut it into tiny pieces. “We’re still friends, right?”
    “What? Ah, I see. When I’m a ghost, you yell at me, tell me to get lost, say you’ll find a way to kill me. Now I’m wearing the shell of an invincible wrecking machine you want to be buddies again?”
    “Yeah, pretty much,” Holden replied.

Exotic words that you may want to google to increase your word power: magnetosphere, agraphobia, avuncular, analogs, byplay, proteomes, abode, encysted, carapace, nacreous, chitinous, assays, polymerized, neocortex, axioms, transuranics, dissemble, mitotic, tetrodotoxin, chiral, diurnal, arcology, sepulcher, amorality, patois

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MyWorkTracker v0.1.0 Released & What’s coming in v0.2.0

As per my last post, I’m just beginning my foray into the C# programming language.

I am writing a work-tracking application; building it one little piece at a time as an incremental development. Better to have a basic tool that works, than a whizz-bang-tool that is fragile… The first step in that development, v0.1.0, is now at a state where I’m okay with sharing it (under the caveats mentioned last time).

When the application first starts up, the bottom 2/3rds of the screen is inaccessible. Once a Work Item is selected the information relating to it is displayed in the lower portion of the screen. (At this stage a Work Item just has a Title, Due Date, Description, Progress and a Status).

A new Work Item can be created by selecting “New Work Item” from the taskbar. The cursor is automatically moved to the task Title area (indicated by the blue border on the left). The new work item is automatically set to be +1 day from the current date, with a preset time. Both date and time are based on a soon-to-be configurable setting. If the date is not what you want, you can change it by selecting the Due Date button and the Change Due Date dialog will appear.

A work item is automatically set to Active with a progress of 0. Once you select the “Create Work Item” button, the Work Item will appear in the top graphical area.

You may have noticed in the top two images the “Save” button is always disabled. That’s because other than creating a new work item all other changes are saved automatically.

One final word about Due Dates. The application keeps track of a history of due date changes, however it gives you a “grace period” when setting the Due Date. If you change a Due Date within x minutes (1 by default), then it doesn’t record it as a due date change.

If you would like to see/use this application you can download it from my Google Drive or also get the source code from my Github repository.

Issues I’m aware of:

  • The button displays the date in US format (mm/dd). (I haven’t worked out how to fix it. It seems to ignore my attempts to use StringFormat).
  • I’m not using MVVM, LINQ or Entity Framework (yet).
  • The Change Due Date dialog sometimes requires 2-clicks on the apply button. I think it’s a bit sticky due to strawberry jam.
  • The database design is simplistic (i.e. incremental)
  • I hard-coded new Work Items to be “Active”. Hard coding = bad.

So what’s coming in v0.2.0 ?

(Subject to change; aka my whim).

Tracking Work

I’ve mentioned earlier a plan to sharpen my development skills by learning the c# programming language. (That’s pronounced c-sharp, just in case you missed my pun).

In the past I’ve created a command-line tool to parse my stories, and a tool to generate some who-has-perspective graphics. I’m currently working on creating a tool I will use to keep track of my actual-day-job tasks. The project will aptly be called MyWorkTracker. Creative, I know.

Some important caveats:

  • It’s an incremental project. I’m going to add functionality in steps, and do my best not to forecast future work. This means that there’ll be times when it will look lacking; not so much half-baked as almost-raw. I want to avoid adding a lot of empty ‘hooks’ for later work. Instead of completing a single component to 100% polish, I might add two components at 50% polish.
  • I’m only just beginning to learn. I guarantee I will do things wrong and need to fix them in subsequent releases. Kind-hearted individuals may look over the implementation and provide feedback if they wish (after considering the first dot point).

The first portion of work, v0.1.0 will include the ability to create and edit Work Items. These have a title, a description, a due date, a status and a progress (0 to 100%).

At the top of the window is a graphical display of the Work Items, and below, details.

Excellent Quote

A sobering quote of a quote.

Haim G. Ginott (1922-73), clinical psychologist, educator, and best-selling author said:

I am a survivor of a concentration camp. My eyes saw what no person should witness. Gas chambers built by learned engineers. Children poisoned by educated physicians. Infants killed by trained nurses. Women and babies shot and burned by high school and college graduates.

So I am suspicious of education. My request is: help your students become more human. Your efforts must never produce learned monsters, skilled psychopaths, or educated Eichmanns. Reading, writing, and arithmetic are important only if they serve to make our children more human.

Vishal Mangalwadi, The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization

Sadly, applicable to so many things in society at the moment. And I even hesitate to post knowing some will consider, in their wrong-think, that it means going further down the same path.

Rights vs Responsibilities

I know it’s almost un-Australian of me but I don’t follow sport. Maybe if a grand final is occurring and my state happens to be involved I might watch it. Maybe during the Olympics I’ll watch an event or two. Don’t get me wrong, I want Australia to win… I just don’t care to watch it. So it’s fair to say I almost didn’t know who Israel Folau was a few months ago.

https://www.playersvoice.com.au/israel-folau-im-a-sinner-too/#RqO65yMzqjCVcYj9.97

Israel, until recently, played for the the state team and was considered one of the best Australian players. And then, like certain bakers and florists around the world, the expression of his Christian faith got him into serious trouble with a vocal minority, and given a life-ban from his career; costing him a $4 million dollar contract.

On his personal instagram he posted this:

(Only partial text is displayed. He also quoted Acts 2:38 and Acts 17:30, both from the King James Version).

This was not an official site. It was his personal site where people had to opt-in (and could just as easily, if offended, opt-out). As you peruse the comments, it’s quite clear that there have been some individuals who have long hated everything Folau stands for.

After the post, the governing body, Rugby Australia decided that Folau was guilty of a “high-level” breach of contract relating to conduct. They stated that their values were to be “inclusive”, though clearly inclusivity only extends to everyone who agrees with them.

It seems that because he was a professional player, he lost his right to express himself. Troubling for Rugby Australia, they never bothered to codify exactly what he could and could not say; which I think ought to be the onus. If they want to ensure a human being only says what they approve, they ought to provide the means by which his expression is to be filtered.

Not to mention consistency of punishment seems to be entirely absent; with some players continuing in the game despite assaults, domestic violence, drugs and drink driving.

A related issue for Rugby Australia is the perception that it has somewhat elastic standards when it comes to upholding “Wallabies values”. In recent years, two Wallabies players have been fined and stood down for drug use and possession. One of them is a two-time offender. Neither was sacked. Apparently sniffing cocaine is not a high-level breach of contract. Israel Folau doesn’t drink, doesn’t take drugs and is a model player on and off the field.

Patrick Southam, https://mumbrella.com.au/the-rugby-australia-brand-is-damned-after-the-israel-folau-ruling-578664

Folau quoted the Bible. A religious text which hasn’t changed (for Protestants) since the Reformation in 1517, and was largely responsible for the creation of Western civilization. Christians believe the Bible is God’s Word and man does not have the authority to change it, even if it contradicts modern behaviour and norms.

Folau’s intention was not to condemn, but to warn. As his own writings at Player’s Voice suggest:

I believed he was looking for guidance and I answered him honestly and from the heart. I know a lot of people will find that difficult to understand, but I believe the Bible is the truth and sometimes the truth can be difficult to hear.

I think of it this way: you see someone who is about to walk into a hole and have the chance to save him. He might be determined to maintain his course and doesn’t want to hear what you have to say. But if you don’t tell him the truth, as unpopular as it might be, he is going to fall into that hole. What do you do?

Read more at https://www.playersvoice.com.au/israel-folau-im-a-sinner-too/#YHbgbLCsYPdQ6o1A.99

I’d like to say that I live in a country with freedom of religion, free from persecution. Including persecution by an angry mob of keyboard warriors, an employer, the media, or the State.

I’d like to expect that everyone has freedom of speech, as long as you don’t threaten or incite violence.

I’d like to suggest that an employer’s rights over an employee have limits. When an employer tries to supersede someone’s individuality or religious freedoms, the contract should be unenforceable.

As Folau takes legal action, I guess we’ll see if I live in such a country.

In my view Folau did nothing wrong. He expressed his religious beliefs with integrity. Some people were offended by those views. And that’s exactly where it should have ended. In a sane world he should have lost a few Instagram followers, not his entire livelihood.

To end with Folau’s own words:

“I have love towards everyone that might be saying negative things … I choose to love them because God loves me.”

https://www.smh.com.au/sport/rugby-union/i-m-more-than-happy-to-do-what-he-wants-me-to-do-unrepentant-folau-20190414-p51dyw.html

The Book That Made Your World

Normally I prefer to leave my book reviews until I have finished the book. In the case of The Book That Made Your World: How the Bible Created the Soul of Western Civilization by Vishal Mangalwadi I am making an exception.

It is intellectually robust, and thus not a quick read. However in the many pages, Mangalwadi lays out how the Bible – and the Christian faith – was instrumental in creating Western civilization. What sets this book apart from others is that Mangalwadi, can compare and contrast with lived-experience the Christian influence against that of other Eastern religions including Islam, Hinduism and Buddhism.

It is a book of solid intellectualism, rationally and carefully constructed logic; but that doesn’t mean it is uninteresting. With personal anecdotes and reflections, it has a living, breathing heart behind the words. And from the first chapter, “The West Without its Soul: From Bach to Cobain“, it retains an essence of the here-and-now, even as it looks backward through history to explain why.

There are many, many worthy quotes – and several dozen are applicable in our current environment:

“the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited. You must find out why it went out of date. Was it ever refuted (and if so, by whom, where, and how conclusively) or did it merely die away as fashions do? If the latter, this tells us nothing about its truth or falsehood. . . . our own age is also “a period” and certainly has, like all periods, its own illusions.”

C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy.

Starting with music, and moving onto literature, Mangalwadi illustrates just how all-pervasive the Bible is in our culture. Mangalwadi shows that the Bible – not Greek and Roman culture – have influenced every aspect of the West.

Homer wouldn’t pick any of us as heroes. But all of us can be like Abraham and Isaac, Jacob and Joseph. If extraordinary things can happen to simple people, if through the obedience of faith we can become a blessing to our neighbors and to the nations of the earth, then all of us can be heroes. … Transformation and development of character is an important feature of the Bible that has had enormous impact on modern writing. Homer’s heroes don’t change. But Jacob does. He begins his career by deceiving his father, stealing his brother’s blessings, and cheating his father-in-law. His experiences with God transform him into a very different person. He then blesses his children and grandchildren with a prophetic faith in the future.

I recommend this book as an educational experience, that will grow your appreciation for the Word of God and the saints who went before us.

A Feast of Reading

I’ve had several weeks holiday recently and read a number of fiction books. In this post I’ll provide some of my thoughts on them – some touched on briefly, and others with more detail. This list includes Leviathan Wakes, Caliban’s War and Abaddon’s Gate by James S. A. Corey, The Wrong Side of Goodbye by Michael Connelly and Murder Mile by Linda La Plante.

I couldn’t help myself, there are some spoilers.

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