On transhumanity, books and beaches

So a couple of times lately I've been walking home from work along Francisco which is pretty quiet, and realized that I'm plugged into my MP3 player and reading RSS feeds on my Pocket PC Phone.  I think it was about the time that I paused to look up "Barbary Coast" on Wikipedia that I had managed to tune out most of the world and should really pay attention to things like traffic and driveways.

Right now I'm typing this on my phone as I head out to Ocean Beach on the N Judah. With the phone's always-on net connection I don't need to carry maps or really have a destination. If I know there is likely to be some service I need in the direction I'm headed I don't have my usual nervousness about the unknown. Of course, I'm still treading on familiar ground.

I finished reading Robert Reed's Sister Alice this morning (over waffles, yum!). Reed has a very interesting style. Unlike many other authors who tackle the challenge of narrating the lives of transhumans by making everything gadgety cool, gnarly, or full of technobabble, Reed makes his characters intensely human. The more fantastic the events, the more viscerally primitive they seem.

The only authors who approach this are Banks and Wright. Banks (who I feel is a superior storyteller) is brutal to his characters, but they remain so very despicably human even in a transcended universe. Wright, on the other hand, makes his characters flamboyantly meta, so much so that you can't quite sympathize with them They are too supreme or too flawed or both.

I found Piper's Space Vikings in a bookstore on Haight - I have the ebook but I can't resist dead tree. This is one of the influences on Traveller so I've been meaning to read it for a while now.

Flash forward. It’s Sunday evening now. I finished up Space Vikings yesterday and spent today consuming Vinge’s Rainbows End. I'm glad it's finally out - I read one of the short stories that make up one its chapters and was delighted. It's deliciously near future, and so far paints a very plausible and realistic future. Which, in many ways, brings this post full circle. The characters live in (near) future rife with connectivity and able to partake in a broad variety of concensual overlays to the physical world they inhabit... combined with widespread robotics and community efforts.

I think if I'd read it more than six months ago I would have been skeptical. Now I think it's perhaps a little cautious in the future it presents.


I started Sunday off on a mission - I'm getting a bit of a tan doing so much walking, and I figured I might as well try and even it out with some time on the beach. So I started the morning looking for a beach towel (amazingly hard to find in the many tacky tourist shops of Fisherman's Wharf - I ended up getting a seagrass mat at Walgreens!), then hopped the cable car for downtown and took the 31 out to Arguello to buy lunch at the Arguello Super. I was hoping to get coffee at the Velo Rouge but it was packed to overflowing with a World Cup audience so I moved on. I took the bus out to Ocean Beach... but unlike yesterday by the time I got to 19th or so the clouds had rolled in. So it was windy and cloudy at the beach. Darn. Laying down did save me from most of the wind but an even tan will have to wait. I did get a nice burn on my face and arms, though. And of course, a few hours later heading back into the city was heading back into the sunshine. Next weekend I'm just going to Fort Mason. :P