Quote of the Day: Richard Stallman on Pragmatism

If you want to accomplish something in the world, idealism is not enough–you need to choose a method that works to achieve the goal. In other words, you need to be pragmatic. –Richard Stallman, Copyleft: Pragmatic Idealism

A tegeltjeswijsheid is an adage/aphorism/truism/what-d’ya-call-’ems printed on a ceramic tile. As I need to pull out this quote from the great open source philospher Richard Stallman over and over again, I might as well make a linkable version.

First Lines: Fish

Finally, I got round to read Fish, the third collection of short stories I received after backing a Kickstarter some three years ago. Given the theme of the collection, I’m not surprised I put it of for so long.

You see, from early on, I’ve had a kind of weird relation with fish. My father rents out row and fishing boats, which means that I spent quite some time amongst fishing folk as a kid. And those folk can be weird. Grown men, sitting in a boat, staring at a float and telling tall stories. I don’t get it. Plus: fish stinks. I don’t like the smell of fresh (live, even) fish. Also, it’s not that I’m strictly opposed to eating fish. It’s just weird with me. Sushi is alright with me, even.

Being not overly fond of fish, I wondered what a book with fish-related stories would do for me. As it turns out, it heavily depends on the story. Some were excellent, like the one about the magical fish that promised to fulfill wishes but wasn’t very good at it (Maria and the Fish by Andreea Zup), or The Talking Fish of Shangri-La by Bear Weiter, where profanity is the reason the locals don’t want you to find a certain lake, and certainly that one about magical spirit familiars, where someone fucked up enough to reincarnate as a goldfish (Quick Karma by April L’Orange). Quite a few got something going for them, actually.

Book read
Fish (Edited by Carrie Cuinn & K.V. Taylor)
First line
Broccoli was a normal boy, apart from having sprouts for eyes. –from Thwarting the Fiends by Polenth Blake

First Lines: Revival

Revival is another of Stephen King’s more character driven novels. You have your six-year old protagonist, who grows up to be a burned-out, heroin-addicted rhythm guitarist, who keeps running into this guy that keeps changing his life. And this guy–a priest who once lost everything, including his faith in God–is the agent of change, the “fifth business” as King calls it. The one who makes sure that “something happened.” Throw in some Frankenstein and H.P. Lovecraft, and there you go.

If you have read as much King as I did, Revival won’t surprise you much: all the themes have been explored before; the main characters are very fine; and the ending … Oh well, whatever. Never mind.

Book read
Stephen King – Revival
First line
In one way, at least, our lives really are like movies.

#65: Read All Harry Potter Novels Back To Back

One of the upsides I saw to spending some time in the hospital and then recuperating at home, was the all that time I’d have to read. Of course, no such thing happened.

The plan was to read the entire Harry Potter series in those few weeks. And while I dutifully started (and finished the first two) while in the hospital, it only really got serious when I started going back to work. Then, I finished the last three volumes in little more than a week.

I first found out about Harry Potter in 2000, just before the fourth volume came out. I remember reading the first three in quick succession, and then the fourth in a long session after I just moved to Amersfoort. In 2003, when part five came out, I reread the previous ones, planning to do so before every new book, but that never happened. Since then I’ve seen (parts of) the movies so often, that I felt no immediate desire to revisit them.

But I’m glad I did. The books are so much better than the films. Especially the first two.

Now then. Some thoughts about Harry Potter. ‘Cause I’ve got some.

First: Rowling’s portrayal of Potter as an insufferable teenaged git in Order of the Phoenix is magnificent.

Second: each book tries stand on its own. That means that in every book, it is explained that muggles is the wizarding term for non-magical people; that Potter and Snape hate each other’s guts; that catching the snitch will earn you 150 points and end the game; that Snape pale face hides behind a curtain of greasy hair. That kinda gets annoying when you read ‘em all in one go.

Third: the magic itself is another thing I cannot get past. For some weeks now, I’ve been trying to pin down what exactly I don’t like about it, but then it quickly gets too complicated. The gist of it seems to be that the rules are too vague to me. You see, I like magic best when it has a cost. “With great powers …” and all that. In the Potterverse, it’s unclear where magic comes from, and what its rules are–which is kinda funny, as Rowling said she spend five years laying down the rules before she wrote the first book. Happy-go-lucky handwaving wizards are as useless as superheroes to me.

And finally, four: time turners. Time travel as a way to get your heroes out of the corner you wrote them into is daft. Especially when they’ve already got magic.

Book read
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
First line
Mr. and Mrs. Dursley of number four, Privet Drive, were proud to say that they were perfectly normal, thank you very much.
Book read
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
First line
Not for the first time, an argument had broken out over breakfast at number four, Privet Drive.
Book read
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
First line
Harry Potter was a highly unusual boy in many ways.
Book read
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
First line
The villagers of Little Hangleton still called it “the Riddle House,” even though it had been many years since the Riddle family had lived there.
Book read
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
First line
The hottest day of the summer so far was drawing to a close and a drowsy silence lay over the large, square houses of Privet Drive.
Book read
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
First line
It was nearing midnight and the Prime Minister was sitting along in his office, reading a long memo that was slipping through his brain without leaving the slightest trace of meaning behind.
Book read
J.K. Rowling – Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
First line
The two men appeared out of nowhere, a few yards apart in the narrow, moonlit lane.

It’s Been Four Hours and 42 Days

It’s been six weeks today.

And I must say, it went down a lot easier than I expected. By now, the pain is gone, I’m sleeping almost perfectly fine, and my condition is slowly improving. Which is good, given the fact that we’re moving to our new house this Saturday. I’m excused from the heavy lifting, but still, seeing other people painting your house and putting the floors in, while all you can do is scurrying around, doing the odds and ends is quite frustrating.

After the move, I’ll have to see about riding a bike and getting around in busses and trains. And then, I’ll have to see about getting back to work. We’ll see.

For now, things are going great. And that’s good.