First thoughts on Google+

The good: Nice UI, good integration with other Google services, for example I can see how many messages I got directly for the Google Reader page, no need to open a separate tab like I need with Facebook.

The Bad: The mostly empty gray area at the top of the screen takes up too much space, it ruins the experience on small-screen Netbooks where you find yourself scrolling too much. Even though they had Buzz already, they created yet-another micro-blogging service within the Google+ posts, how many of those will we need to keep manually synchronizing?

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Starship Sofa – Spaceships, Quantum Physics and Jazz!

This week’s Starship Sofa story Lester Young and the Jupiter’s Moons by  Gord Sellar is absolutely mind-blowing, it has everything, spaceships, aliens, music and thick deep African-American accented voice. I wholeheartedly recommend it for anyone even if you’re not into Jazz music (Which I am certainly not) or Science-Fiction stories.

About the only point of criticism I have about the show, is that it seems to me that some kind of a jazz music track should have been played after the story concluded rather then Gord Sellar`s outro, then again the Starship Sofa never played music before and there are copyright issues, so its probably too much to ask.

Starship sofa had been going from strength to strength recently, with the serialization of  Kim Newman`sThe Serial Murders“, an amazingly entertaining story including a myriad of charmingly British characters played with extremely talented voice acting by Gareth Stack, concluded last week, and a new web site that provides much needed technical improvements over the old site such as the ability to link to an individual show.

Also worth mentioning is Tony C. Smith`s, Starship Sofa’s esteemed host, guest appearance on another favorite podcast of mine, Escape Pod. A few things can put a big smile on my face like this humorous cross-over. Now, if only Escape Pod’s Steve Eley would do a guest appearance of his own on the Starship…

Tatja Grimm’s World, not up my alley

Tatja Grimm's World paperback front coverI’ve finished reading Tatja Grimms World an acclaimed novel by Vernor Vinge, a much acclaimed writer a couple of days ago. I’m afraid to admit that, while entertaining, this book didn’t quite cut it for me.

Spoiler warning: I am going to discuss features of the story in depth.

As far as world building goes, the book is pretty good, wondering about how a technologically advanced world with little to no metal resources would look like is quite an interesting experience.

Where this book falls flat is in the department of character development, I just couldn’t overlook the heavy use of mary sue elements.

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Howl’s Moving Castle, a charming book

Being an avid Anime watcher, I obviously took note of Miyazaki’s Howl no Ugoku Shirow, and watched it as soon as I could get my hands on it. It is, as all Miyazaki’s movies are, a charming and entertaining movie, however I found it to be slightly inferior to other Miyazaki hits such as Kaze no Tani no Nausicaa and Tenkuu no Shiro Laputa.

I did have vague notion that the movie was based on a book, but I’ve never really paid much attention to it until I heard it being recommended by Gili Bar-Hillel, the Hebrew translator of young-adult fantasy hits such as Harry Potter at the Haifa University’s Fantasy and Reality convention. While I’m much less then a Harry Potter fan, she gave such an excited recommendation that I thought, “what the heck”, and ordered the book from Amazon.

Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones delivers a charming, compelling story, which is much more intricate then anything a two hour Anime could deliver, with interesting, complex characters and breathtaking scenery that even Miyazaki somewhat fails to convey.

This book is a gem, I recommend it wholeheartedly.

PodCastle, male protagonist please

I’ve just listened to the last installment of PodCastle, it was a nice story, as these things go, but as I was listening, a realization swept over me, the protagonist of this story was a woman as were the protagonists of all the other stories that were released so far.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t a bad thing, a female protagonist, commonly coupled with a feminist theme, add a certain spicy flavor to the story, one that is not very common to science fiction and fantasy stories.

However, too much of a good thing makes it stale, there are other flavors to fantasy, I wish the PodCastle staff would include them in future stories released, to create a richer stew.

Transmetropolitan

Transmetropolitan Issue #1 CoverI’ve been reading Transmetropolitan, the excellent comic series by Warren Ellis and Darick Robertson, and enjoying it tremendously.

The comic is very well written and well drawn, portraying our world 20 to 30 years from now, but like any good science fiction, it actually discusses the present rather then the future.

The setting may be of the 2050s but the ideas and plot, it seems to me, are from the 1960s.

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