One Aging Geek

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

Setor Hoteleiro overlooking Brasilia

Last night here. I'm in the Hotel Bonaparte in Brasilia, Brasil.

On my way here I passed thru Sao Paulo; landed there, taxi across the city to the domestic airport. Sao Paulo struck me as crowded and run-down. Virtually every surface that I saw passing thru Sao Paulo, road signs, walls, pillars, benches, all were covered in graffiti. Twenty or so million people jammed together.

By contrast Brasilia is full of open green spaces, monuments, and a mix of government plain with graceful 60s modern architecture. The main roads have enormously wide esplanades, probably 50 to 80 yards wide. All grass and trees. Very little grafitti. Brasilia is a beautiful city. And much less crime than the larger Brazilian cities.

It's early fall here and the weather reminds me of fall in Houston but without the mosquitoes and humidity. Cool evenings, warm days and a thundershower virtually every day.

The other thing that's striking here is how fat Americans are in comparison with Brazilians. We've had some really great meals here including last night at Porc√£o but there was a noticeable absence of fried food. Lots of fish, lots of vegetables, lots of fresh fruit.

I'm down here on business, teaching a group of Brazilians and Chileans about the software product I work on. For the class the local company rented a room in a facility that conducts classes for people who want to get into government service. During the day when we're there it's mostly young people, high school and college age. The locals tell me these are all middle class and upper middle class kids. The women range from striking to stunning.

All in all, a very nice place to have to spend a few days.

Words to live by, though. Never, ever have a medical emergency in the Setor Hoteleiro (Hotel Sector) during rush hour. One of the students from Chile had seizures at breakfast yesterday. Seems he is on medication and traveling had caused him to forget to take it. At any rate, it took a bit over 30 minutes for an ambulance to arrive from the Hospital Sector. Brasilia, you see, is a master planned city. Carved out of the jungle in the 60s to be the capital of the country. So all the hotels are in one area, hospitals in another area, etc. All so nice and neat and ... dangerous when there are 2 million people in the city. While the seizures scared the crap out of those of us with him, he recovered quickly and after a trip to the hospital and a day of rest he was back in class (and back on his meds!).

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Personal email from Sir Arthur C Clarke

Well, more like personalized spam. Sort of.

I've been reading Sir Arthur's stuff since about the time he moved to what was then called Ceylon. So, spam or not, it was cool to get something with his name at the bottom and mine at the top, even if it did come from a computer.

It seems that the dot-com bust, probably coupled with the voodoo science of the Bush administration, means that nobody is giving gobs of money to the SETI folks any more. So they've turned to emailing the people who have signed up for the SETI@Home project.

Being an aging science fiction reader, I absolutely believe that there is life out there. There just too much "out there" out there for it to all be a wasteland. Having recently read Manifold Space, I'm not at all sure I want to find them, though!

If I had anyone reading this I'd suggest that they send the SETI folks a few bucks.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

Top-notch sci-fi podcasts

There's a lot of really good stuff out there. Specifically for sci-fi, I've got three to recommend.

Escape Pod podcast
Steve Eley has the best of the bunch. Good production values, good stories, good readers. Lots of variety.
James Patrick Kelly's Free Reads podcast
Kelly's stories read by the author. Nothing fancy but recorded on good equipment so the sound is good. And the stories are excellent. Kelly also publishes some free, written reads at his website.
Cory Doctorow's podcast
Again, the author reading his own stuff. The audio quality isn't the best because Doctorow records catch-as-catch-can in cabs and hotel rooms and airports as he trots the globe. Sometimes the audio quality detracts a bit from the story but Doctorow is at the top of the field just now. Most of Doctorow's recent work has been released as freely readable/downloadable with links available at his website.

Thumbs down to Voice of Free Planet X podcast

I got a recommendation to The Voice of Free Planet X podcast from ... somewhere.

So I pulled down the first few episodes. I listened to the first two episodes. Well, the first and most of the second actually. Hit fast forward before the end of the second.

Sorry, Jared, it's a miss for me. The babe in the Axelhead t-shirt on the front page is very ... um ... eye-catching. But the podcast isn't doing it for me.

Three strikes:

  1. Audio quality: horrible, very badly clipped and/or a very poor quality mike
  2. Presentation: yelling isn't an effective way to convey all emotions. Especially with that crappy recording quality
  3. The stories in the first two episodes, which I've already forgotten and I just listened to them in the last couple of days, are either uninteresting or incomprehensible

I guess some may find the podcast edgy, I just find it uninteresting.