bookmark_borderTurtledove’s Prime Directive

I just finished reading Turledove’s Noninterference last night.

It’s one of his earlier books – the first copyright is 1985. However, the setting of the book (a Human-led Federation sends out star ships to explore other planets, but the explorers have to be careful not to interfere in the natural developments there) is so close to Star Trek: The Next Generation (1987-94) that somebody must have inspired somebody else. The main difference seems to be whether the rule is called the “Prime Directive” or “Noninterference”.

Anyway, the plot of the book is more like a crime novel and not very Star Trek-y at all. The dialogues are dreadful in typical Turtledove fashion (every time a person says something, it’s explained afterwards what it means, as if he expects the reader to be completely stupid), but it’s actually quite readable.

However, one fundamental conflict in the book is between the Survey Service (also known as Starfleet in Star Trek), who think that it’s OK to observe all planets, and the Purists, who think that planets without space travel should be left well alone.

To me, that conflict sounds too academic to be realistic. There’s no economic incentive to choose between the two groups, and money normally tends to be a factor in human power struggles.

I would have thought a more realistic conflict would have been between Colonialists (mimicking 19th-century Europeans) and Observers, but that would of course have been an entirely different book.

bookmark_borderInternational Trivial Pursuit

17/365: Trivial Pursuit
Originally uploaded by sparetomato

If you’re wanting to spend some enjoyable hours with a group of compatriots, Trivial Pursuit can be a good option.

However, if you are not from the same culture, many questions – especially in the pink and orange categories – can become almost impossible to answer for some of the players.

It would therefore be nice to have a box of international questions (either truly global, or perhaps European) to enable people with multinational families and friends to play the game.

I was searching a bit, and there seems to be a so-called “Globetrotter edition“, in which the six categories are replaced with six regions: North America,
Latin America, Oceania, Africa, Europe and Asia.

That sounds like it would be playable by people from different backgrounds, but it changes the nature of the game a lot, and I’d still rather have an international version of “proper” Trivial Pursuit.

bookmark_borderI need to blog about Kevin

My Scottish family have for ages been nagging me to read Lionel Shriver’s We need to talk about Kevin. If they hadn’t been so insistent, I would probably have put it away after a couple of chapters – it was slow-moving and not exactly a page-turner.

That’s not to say that it isn’t in many ways a good book. There are lots of wonderful passages throughout the book, but it didn’t really come together for me.

As far as I know, Lionel Shriver is childless, and she wrote Kevin at a time when she seriously had to decide whether she wanted to be a mother (she decided against it).

The book basically strikes me as being a childless person’s collection of parental horror stories – I imagine she might have been asking everybody she knew about the worst thing they had ever experienced a child do, and then strung it all together as a book.

The result is to my mind not very believable. Every simple episode strikes me as being authentic, but I don’t believe they could all have been done by the same child.

In particular, I don’t think any teenager as clever and articulate as Kevin would find it necessary to commit a school massacre – he would have so many other ways to spread havoc without having to go to gaol for anything.

However, many people have clearly found it plausible enough to enjoy it, so do read it and judge for yourself.

bookmark_borderAnimerede robotter reciterer dansk poesi

For et års tid siden legede jeg lidt med et website, Xtranormal, der lader en lave små animerede videoer med syntetisk tale.

Jeg lavede to små film, hvor robotter reciterer to danske klassikere, Smeden og Bageren og Guldhornene.

Desværre var dansk talesyntese ikke tilgængelig, så jeg brugte tysk til den første og italiensk til den sidste.

Her er først Wessels Smeden og Bageren:

Og her er Oehlenschlägers Guldhornene:

bookmark_borderIglobygning i Skotland

Big igloo
Originally uploaded by PhylB

Da der for en gangs skyld faldt ordentlige mængder sne i den forgange uge, besluttede jeg mig for at bygge en iglo til børnene i haven.

Alle danskere har vel i skolen og på TV hørt så meget om Grønland, at principperne for iglobygning er velkendte.

Phyllis virkede dog ret chokeret, som om det var noget meget eksotisk og mystisk at bygge sig en simpel iglo.

Måske glemmer danskere nogle gange, hvor meget Grønland egentlig fylder i dansk kultur. Jeg burde nok prøve at skaffe Nissebanden på Grønland på DVD, så Léon, Anna og Amaia kan lære lidt mere om det store kolde land.

bookmark_borderCeterum censeo FIFAm esse delendam

Sunset, Qatar
Originally uploaded by Shenghung Lin

I’m not really interested in football, but FIFA’s decision to place their World Cup 2022 in Qatar is outrageous. (I’m sure there were good reasons why Russia should not have got the World Cup in 2018 ahead of the competition, but at least the country is big and rich enough – and mad enough about football – to make it a feasible host.)

Qatar, on the other hand, is a ludicrous choice. The country is tiny, it needs to build 75% of the stadiums needed, it has no strong football culture, it’s far too hot during summer, and alcohol consumption is illegal in most places (details here).

To make it even more absurd, the results for the first round of voting were as follows: Australia 1 vote, Japan 3 votes, Korea 4 votes, Qatar 11 votes, USA 3 votes.

There’s no way those votes were based on facts and logic. Perhaps it was bribery, perhaps it had something to do with FIFA itself: “Unless you consider something very basic about how FIFA operates – it values independence and privacy over everything else, and no other bidding nations would provide them with a carte blanche as Russia and Qatar – the two countries with the most to gain in political capital (and therefore the most to give out to FIFA as well) from hosting the World Cup.”

It’s a scandal, and I suggest that the best solution is for as many national football associations as possible to leave FIFA and form a new international organisation.