From the archives: September 2008

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Wednesday Book Club: Ada, or Ardor

Wednesday, 10 September 2008 — 2:15pm | Book Club, Literature

This week’s selection: Ada, or Ardor: A Family Chronicle (1969) by Vladimir Nabokov.

In brief: There are many things I wish I’d known before I started reading this alternate-universe family saga of phenomenology and incest, and Russian is one of them.

(The Wednesday Book Club is an ongoing initiative of mine to write a book review every week. I invite you to peruse the index. For more on Ada, or Ardor, keep reading below.)

Continued »

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Hobbling against the clock

Sunday, 7 September 2008 — 4:52am | Scrabble, Tournament logs

4-2 (+475), second place; time management denied me a finish in first. I did this at the first Edmonton local tournament I’ve attended since the establishment of the Edmonton Scrabble Club. Outside our game room, there was a convention of 9/11 conspiracy theorists. Edmonton, you silly place.

The tournament scene here is fairly new, so the competition was light, and as the top seed I needed to win all six rounds to keep my rating. 4-2 is disappointing, but not catastrophic; I needed to stay above 1200 to play in Division 2 at the Western Canadian Scrabble Championship as I’ve been doing for the past few years, and I think I’ll be okay.

I lost my last game because my opponent drew tiles like a magician pulls rabbits from transdimensional hats. That happens, and I can live with it. I can’t live with Round 2, where I lost to the same opponent by 6 points with one second left on the clock, a defeat that epitomized everything that went wrong in Orlando.

The scenario: I’m holding CO with 0:03 on the clock. As far as I can see, I have a sure win as long as I play my tiles and announce my score before the clock runneth over. My opponent surprises me and plays YEG*—a word I instantly know to be a phony—but without thinking, or really looking at it, I dump my play on the board and finish with the clock reading 0:01. I lose by 6 points.

As it turns out, even if I’d taken the 10-point penalty for going overtime, and took the time to look at his play and challenge it off the board, I still would have won the game. This made all the difference between first and second place.

It’s time to admit it (and to be frank, I already have): there is something systematically rotten about my time management, and it’s killing my endgame. This has deteriorated from embarrassment to utter lunacy.

On the upside, my resumption of serious word study over the past few weeks is beginning to pay off. A month ago, I would never have seen HETAErAS. You would think that somebody as interested in ancient Greece as I am would know what the Greeks called their courtesans. Well, I do now, and I’m all the richer for it.


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Wednesday Book Club: Breakfast at Tiffany’s

Wednesday, 3 September 2008 — 12:16pm | Adaptations, Book Club, Film, Literature

This week’s selection: Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1958) by Truman Capote.

In brief: Short, simple, and sweet, Capote’s novella is one of those stories that packs every postwar anxiety about the American Dream into one very enigmatic character. There is something mature about fiction that reflects on the idealism of the individual spirit, and asks us to do the same, through immersing us in a deep sense of wistfulness rather than outright disillusionment.

(The Wednesday Book Club is an ongoing initiative of mine to write a book review every week. I invite you to peruse the index. For more on Breakfast at Tiffany’s, keep reading below.)

Continued »

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Understanding Google

Monday, 1 September 2008 — 5:02pm | Comics, Computing

Tomorrow, Google is launching Google Chrome, their WebKit-based open-source browser. Interesting, but not as interesting as how they announced it: a 38-page comic book by Scott McCloud, which explains what Chrome does and how it works. It’s a good read for anyone who wants an insight into web browser architecture, even if you only have a basic comprehension of software design.

For those of you who don’t know, Scott McCloud is the author of Understanding Comics: The Invisible Art, which is, alongside Will Eisner’s more instructionally oriented Comics and Sequential Art, the canonical primer to comic-book semiotics. So he brings his whole arsenal of frame-breaking layout tricks to the table, and the whole endeavour embodies a kind of documentarian character; you get the sense that Google is a magic workshop where the products are so omnipresent by design that that the elves have to tinker from the inside out.

More to the point, it’s educational. I learned a lot about browsers today.

My question: can McCloud do this for every major Google project? Pretty please?

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