Anders Monsen

Lost worlds and ports of call

Month: April 2013 (page 1 of 2)

From running to cycling

The past three months I have focused almost exclusively on cycling. For over two years I ran on average five times a week, until a foot injury forced me to slow and then eventually stop running. I keep hoping that not running will let it heal, but so far that hasn’t happened to the point where I can run again. So, since I’ve completed a few triathlons I figured I would work on cycling.

Whereas with running I just throw on some decent running shoes and some clothes that won’t hurt me while I sweat, with cycling there’s a lot more preparation. Living in the suburbs there are few open roads, so I have to drive at least 20 minutes, often more. More equipment goes into cycling. Then, once I’m in the country, cars still zoom past (some fairly close, but most move over), though there are some great roads with very little traffic. With cycling you get to see more, since it’s easier to ride great distances than run them. I don’t feel quite as alive as when running, since my heart rate never elevates to the same level.

I usually ride solo during the week, and then on Sunday join a local group ride. When I started riding with the group I ended up somewhere in the middle. I usually got dropped by the fast group – the hammerheads, as I call them – after four miles or so. I also found I was a little faster than the next group, and so I’d end up riding solo for 90% of the “group” ride. But the way to improve is to challenge yourself and have others challenge you, and lately I find I can hang with the fast group, except when climbing hills. At this point my speed drops, and I fall further and further back. When I conquer the hills I will have reached the next level. When on the flats and downhill I’m almost a hammerhead myself, but a junior hammerhead.

I have a great deal to learn about cycling, both solo and in groups, but I’m hoping that if I’m ever able to enter another triathlon all this effort will pay off on the bike. In the meantime, I’m learning just to enjoy riding more, and trying hard not to think that I’d rather be running.


Doomsday science fiction

According to Time, science fiction is “stuck in a rut of hopelessness” with “cynicism and surrender at its core.” And Time isn’t looking at dystopian sf, but doomsday sf, like Oblivion and After Earth. Then there’s World War Z, which seem even bleaker than the others, and even Elysium. These are all good points, and will the pendulum swing the other direction? After all, the real world is mired in a sense of hopelessness as well, with persistent economic problems and constant acts of war and terror nearly worldwide. Surely that impacts science fiction books and movies as well?

Latest example of science fiction negative label

Does being branded “science fiction” limit sales and exposure? Apparently so, from the perspective of someone who takes umbrage to a favorite new novel being called science fiction in a New York Times review. Only certain novels fall into sf:

If you’re a strict constructionist, a sci-fi story requires an extrapolation from real science. If you take a more generous point of view, sci-fi must at least provide a science-ish accounting for non-realistic elements of the story. At the bare minimum, there must be some pseudo-scientific babble and hand-waving (hello, warp drive).

One rung up from science fiction? Well, you can “call it fantasy” and that removes the sf taint. Worthy writers apparently don’t write science fiction.

Free speech crack-downs

Is “insulting religion” an objective standard, or simply a way for some people to crack down with the weight of government and the courts on something certain people find offensive? Here’s another test case from Turkey.

2013 Prometheus Award finalists

The Libertarian Futurist Society has announced the finalists for the 2013 Prometheus Award, first awarded in 1979 and annually since 1982.

The finalists in the Best Novel category of this year’s Prometheus Award, for the best pro-freedom novel of 2013 are (in alphabetical order by author):
  • Arctic Rising, by Tobias Buckell (TOR Books)
  • The Unincorporated Future, by Dani and Eytan Kollin (TOR Books)
  • Pirate Cinema, by Cory Doctorow (TOR Books)
  • Darkship Renegades, by Sarah Hoyt (Baen Books)
  • Kill Decision, by Daniel Suarez (Dutton – Penguin)
The finalists for the Prometheus Hall of Fame award for Best Classic Fiction are:
  • “Sam Hall”, by Poul Anderson (a short story, published 1953 in Astounding)
  • Falling Free, by Lois McMaster Bujold (a novel, published 1988)
  • “‘Repent, Harlequin!’ Said the Ticktockman”, by Harlan Ellison (a short story, published 1965 in Galaxy)
  • Courtship Rite, by Donald M. Kingsbury (a novel, published 1982)
  • “As Easy as A.B.C.”, by Rudyard Kipling (a short story, published in London Magazine in 1912)
  • Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson (a novel, published 1999)

The National debuts songs from new album

Watch The National perform some songs from their forthcoming album.

[Update 4/8/2013] And now a quality recording of a song from the new album, Demons.

The original one ring?

Fascinating story about the potential real gold ring source for J.R.R. Tolkien’s one ring from The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings. Sounds almost too good to be true, but what’s a neat story if true. Shows how something simple and physical can inspire a tale of fantasy. A cursed ring, indeed.

Papola v. Livingston debate continues

Over at NPR the economics debate between libertarian John Papola and Keynesian James Livingston continues, with a rebuttal from Papola. For a recap, watch the classic rap video econ-off between Hayek and Keynes that Papola created a few years ago, “Fear the Boom and Bust.”

Giving new life to old books

Book news round-up from NPR, including mention of a publishing company planning to bring back forgotten young adult novels from the 1930s onward.

Clarke Award shortlist

Positive run-down on the Arthur C. Clarke Award shortlist, which seems fairly well-represented by dystopian fiction this year. Glad to see Ken MacLeod’s Intrusion among the books, even a front-runner, possibly.

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