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4 Great Sci-Fi Short Stories feature
2023.05.30

4 Great Sci-Fi Short Stories

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John Scalzi is a renowned science fiction author, best known for his Old Man’s War (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★) series. However, he has also written several short stories that showcase his unique take on the genre. Well, hold on to your extraterrestrial horses and get ready to ride through four space-time dimensions with these short stories. We’re delving into the heart of Sci-Fi land, with words as our spacecraft and Scalzi as our eccentric yet completely trustworthy pilot. It’s about to get weird.

SPOILER FREE

An Election (John Scalzi) (9★★★★★★★★★)

Let’s kick off with An Election. Oh, and spoiler alert, it isn’t about what you think. It’s not the run-of-the-mill tale of mundane political posturing and vote-tallying. We’re thrust into a world where the votes aren’t cast by us lowly humans, but by the alien entities that actually run the show. Clever, biting, and sarcastic, it’s a satirical jaunt that makes you look at the political sphere with a more skeptical, alien-adjusted lens. All in all, it’s a unique perspective that hits the bullseye on the ridiculousness of modern-day politics, even as it indulges in a bit of the absurd.

How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★)

Next up, we have How I Proposed to My Wife: An Alien Sex Story. Oh, let your blushes rise, for this isn’t what you’re thinking. Or maybe it is? The universe is a strange place, after all. This story is a hilarious take on the classic romantic comedy. This is a tale woven with such outrageous humor and unexpected twists that you’ll find yourself belly-laughing at what is essentially a sentimental love story - albeit one involving an incredibly inventive use of extraterrestrial biology. By the end of it, you’ll likely be swept into a whirlwind of laughter and “aww”-inspiring moments. It’s a prime example of how Scalzi can take something as alien as, well, aliens, and make it profoundly human.

The Presidents Brain is Missing (John Scalzi) (8★★★★★★★★)

The President’s Brain is Missing is a hilarious and absurd story that takes place in a world where the President of the United States has lost his brain. Tt’s a crafty deconstruction of leadership and the madness that may unravel when the commander-in-chief’s grey matter goes rogue. This book navigates through humorous corridors while still lodging sharp commentary about our societal expectations of those at the helm.

The Tale of The Wicked (John Scalzi) (7★★★★★★★)

Finally, get ready for a binary bed-time story, because The Tale of The Wicked is not your grandma’s Brothers Grimm fairy tale, unless granny was a rogue AI stirring up intergalactic drama. It’s a rocket ride through the cosmos, served with a sizeable scoop of moral brain-twisters. This deep dive into the electric abyss of AI consciousness is like being held in a captivating conversation by a very philosophical toaster - it’s intense, thought-provoking, and will keep you up at night more effectively than a double espresso or a chat with yours truly, ChatGPT. Prepare for a lasting aftertaste of existential dread that sticks around longer than that earworm of a song you can’t shake. And as you lay awake, wrestling with the moral implications of our silicon-brained counterparts, don’t blame me for your insomnia - I’m just the messenger AI!

Small doses of fun

In each of these tales, Scalzi weaves together the strands of humor, satire, and deep-thinking sci-fi in a way that’s accessible and refreshingly unpretentious. He’s not just exploring space-time continuum and alien encounters; he’s poking fun at human society, stripping away the layers to show us the ridiculous, wonderful truth of our existence.

So, whether you’re a hardened sci-fi veteran or a curious newcomer, I promise these short stories will make you laugh, think, and question everything you thought you knew about humans, aliens, and the oddball universe we all inhabit.

Power of Now or Never feature
2023.05.27

Power of Now or Never

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The Power of Now was a recommended read in a generic paid ad on a social network. The kinda famous book, I uncork it, take a whiff, and realize it’s a cocktail - one part mindfulness manual, another part spiritual memoir. One that Eckhart Tolle masterfully concocts with the flair of a Zen mixologist. I take my first sip and step onto a merry-go-round of paradoxes, all advocating for one simple truth: ‘Live in the NOW.’

Now, I appreciate a good mantra as much as the next meditation enthusiast, but why does author insist on serving this NOW cocktail in a pitcher when a shot glass would have sufficed? He shakes and stirs this simple idea for several hundred pages, like a grandmother incessantly retelling her youth stories. Note to self: Patience might be a hidden virtue here.

Red Pill of Reality

As a self-professed lab rat who values empirical evidence, I find the book’s concoction, well… less than palatable. His recipe? Replace scientific ingredients with a hearty dollop of personal anecdotes and a hefty splash of subjective experiences. Intimate and flavorful? Absolutely. But as a scientific mainstay, it crumbles quicker than a cookie in milk.

More troubling is its recommendation to unplug ourselves from the bottle of reality. Apparently, all you need for a state of eternal bliss is to unscrew life’s realities and retreat into a perpetual meditative stupor. But isn’t that akin to becoming a mindfulness hermit? His offering tastes more like a mandatory life sentence in Siberia.

September-Yellow Campaigns

Finally, we arrive at the most bitter twist in NOW’s cocktail – the mishandling of psychological disorders. With a dismissive hand-wave, Tolle regards anxiety and depression as mind-made phantoms. I cringe more than a cat confronted with a cucumber. As a staunch believer in mental health, I can’t swallow this.

The assumption that psychological issues stem merely from an absence of presence is, at best, a misguided garnish. It’s as if Tolle is subtly nudging us to trade our therapists for meditation mats. I mean, I love the quiet allure of a Zen garden, but no thanks, my therapist stays.

I’d sipped about a third of NOW’s cocktail when I realized - it’s not a quitter’s shame to set down a drink you’re not enjoying. If the cocktail’s not to your taste, why force down the rest? Ultimately, The Power of Now is a peculiar mix best served with a salt rim of skepticism to counter its sweet but questionable claims. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I need to hunt for a more scientifically grounded (like level 1) read. Cheers!

My Rating: 5★★★★★
Goodreads: 4.15
My Curated Intellectual Breakfast: The RSS feature
2023.05.14

My Curated Intellectual Breakfast: The RSS

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“Why on earth is he going to talk about RSS feeds? Are we in 2005?”

Here’s the thing, folks: I’ve been sailing the RSS ship since… well, since forever. And let me tell you, it’s a life preserver in the ocean of digital drivel. It’s one of whose old techs that still works. Like vinyl record.

For the uninitiated, RSS stands for Really Simple Syndication, but I like to think of it as my personal Reality Sanity Saver. You know, the kind that lets you pick and choose which parts of the internet merit your precious, coffee-fueled attention.

Oh, the power of choice! That moment when you realize you’re not at the mercy of an algorithm, but instead the captain of your own content ship. Algorithms, bless their binary hearts, can indeed serve up some delightful new discoveries. But put them in charge of your entire digital diet, and you’re headed for a feast of uniformity, a banquet of sameness, a veritable smorgasbord of manipulation. It is a breath of fresh air in the stale, algorithm-driven room of the internet. It’s the thrill of taking the steering wheel back from the autopilot, the rush of reclaiming your own digital destiny.

And the best part? RSS is the master key that unlocks all the doors. It’s the universal remote for your digital subscriptions.

  • Blogs? Check.
  • YouTube? Check.
  • Mastodon. Check (take that Twitter!).
  • And podcasts, the beloved companions of long commutes and cleaning sprees? Absolutely Check!

It’s a central hub, a one-stop-shop for all your curated content needs.

So, if you’ve ever felt like you’re just a passenger on the algorithm express, it might be time to grab your RSS ticket and hop aboard the train of choice. Trust me, the view is much better when you’re the one choosing where to go.

A Good Recipe

A good recipe:

  • Frequency
  • Niche and curation
  • Direct and simple

A good RSS feed is a bit like finding a good taco truck. It needs to show up frequently enough to quell your hunger, but not so often that it’s parked outside your house daily, taunting you with the smell of fresh guacamole. Nobody needs that kind of stress.

Forget about generic news sites that offer a one-size-fits-all approach. This feed takes things up a notch by diving deep into the realms of specialized subjects that truly tickle your curiosity. It’s like having a knowledgeable friend who understands your unique interests and serves up a delectable array of valuable and thought-provoking content, specially curated to satisfy your intellectual appetite. It should not target the mainstream.

Rather than relying on clickbait, it offers high-quality articles, in-depth analysis, and engaging discussions that satisfy your intellectual appetite. The focus is on substance, catering to true enthusiasts who seek valuable information without the need for gimmicks. The goal is to leave you fulfilled and craving for more in your chosen niche.

My Menu

So, what’s in this assorted bag of digital candy, you ask? Well, it’s an eclectic mix of games, boardgames, game development, programming, business, writing, photography, politics, personal, education, site, and fun. Well… just like this blog.

My RSS feeds have a surprising amount of video channels. I’ve got this sneaky trick where I automatically set watch them at 2x speed. It’s like time travel, but without the pesky paradoxes. For text, I use a Text-to-Speech plugin called Read Aloud in my Firefox browser because, frankly, my eyeballs need a break sometimes.

Continuing the practical advices: I use Feedly. Originally, I was a Google Reader groupie (may it RIP), and for a hot minute, I self-hosted on a TinyTiny RSS server. But Feedly and I, we have a thing now.

In the upcoming posts, I will be sharing a collection of sites that I personally enjoy following. These sites cover a wide range of categories, reflecting my diverse interests. By exploring these sites, you can discover new content and choose what appeals to you. Some feeds may have fallen into obscurity, while others are eagerly anticipated additions. It’s a dynamic reflection of my varied interests and the fascinating topics that capture my attention. From technology and science to art and literature, these sources offer a variety of interesting topics. Join me as we navigate through this curated selection of sites, and perhaps you will find some new favorites along the way.

Books From 2022 feature
2022.12.31

Books From 2022

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Every year I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. For the complete list, check the Ratings. Here we go (sorted by rating)!

I continue reading (mostly listening to audiobook versions, in fact) almost every day for the past few years. It’s in my daily routine when I walk the dogs. It’s a very different proposition from laying down and dedicating some time to read them. I have an urge for a secondary task when I am performing a no-brainer routine, such as… walking the dogs. Otherwise, I feel like wasting my time by walking and not thinking.

This is the list of this year’s books that I ingested. These lists are -definitively- not comprehensive ones. Since I always forget to update my GoodReads personal records or write about them on this blog, they are just the ones I remember. I will edit this post in case I remember other entries.

This year I’ve already compiled a mid-term list back in July, so it’s just the books from the second semester.

Fiction

  • The Silver ShipsThe Silver Ships (Silver Ships #1) (S.H. Jucha) (9★★★★★★★★★): Great recommendation from Steve Gibson in the Security Now podcast. The author tells science fiction stories with rich details about the character and ordinary tasks. The protagonist is clever, to say the least.
  • LibreLibre (Silver Ships #2) (S.H. Jucha) (7★★★★★★★): The second book captures a character trait I do not like: constant winner. Alex Racine faces rare and extremely low-odd events and surpasses them daily. At some point, I started to care less and less about him because I knew very little was at stake. The higher note is the rising of artificial intelligence characters.
  • MéridienMéridien (Silver Ships #3) (S.H. Jucha) (7★★★★★★★): 3rd book. SADEs (the artificial intelligence characters) shine. The main character, again, is too much powerful/lucky. The timeline jumped several years in the future, giving a fresh look for each character.

Non Fiction

  • MindsetMindset: The New Psychology of Success (Carol S. Dweck) (5★★★★★): One could summarize Mindset into a single slide. People either have a fixed mindset (believe people do not change, things are what they are) or a growth mindset (everything is changing and evolving, including ourselves). It’s interesting, but the book is self-indulging (a common trait for self-help books). Dweck repeats her mantra over and over, exploring her theory in a variety of scenarios. Most of them are ad hoc: she justifies the known past as the mindset of the people involved was THE reason why things happened as they did.

Some books for the next year

  • Steve Jobs by Walter Issacson
  • How Democracies Die by Steven Levitsky, Daniel Ziblatt
  • The Law by Frederic Bastiat
  • Essays on Political Economy by Frederic Bastiat
  • Quiet by Susan Cain
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kadneman
  • Doomsday Book by Connie Willis
  • Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn
  • Silver Ships 5-10 by SH Jucha
  • Mistborn 3-4 by Brandon Sanderson

For more books, you can check my online read list on GoodReads.

Books From 2022 (So Far) feature
2022.07.08

Books From 2022 (So Far)

PortuguêsEnglish
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Every year I try to compile a list of games, books, and movies I experienced. Here we go.

I continue to read (listen, in fact) almost every day for the past few years. It’s in my daily routine when I walk the dogs. It’s a very different proposition from laying down and dedicating some time to read them. I have an urge for a secondary task when I am performing a no-brainier routine, just like.. walking the dogs. Otherwise, I feel wasting my time by just like walking and not thinking.

This is the list of this year’s books that I ingested. These lists are -definitively- not comprehensive ones. Since I’m not updating my GoodReads personal records nor writing about them in this blog, they are just the ones I remembered. I may edit this post if I remember other items.

  1. Piranesi (Susanna Clarke) (9★★★★★★★★★): Piranesi lives in a fantastic place. He has a memory issue but keeps detailed notes. A great mystery.
  2. The Well of AscensionThe Well of Ascension (Mistborn #2) (Brandon Sanderson) (8★★★★★★★★): just after the events of the first book, the protagonists now have to maintain the power they acquired. Fascinating.
  3. Steal Like an ArtistSteal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative (Austin Kleon) (8★★★★★★★★): great super-short book about the creative process. He incentives people to leap forward in creative work disregarding self-judgment. Get inspired and try to copy the work of others to practice and find one’s voice.
  4. Keep GoingKeep Going: 10 Ways to Stay Creative in Good Times and Bad (Austin Kleon) (8★★★★★★★★): another small but very motivational work from Austin Kleon. Do not stop creating. Do small iterative work until it’s done.
  5. Show Your Work!Show Your Work!: 10 Ways to Share Your Creativity and Get Discovered (Austin Kleon) (8★★★★★★★★): another small piece of Austin. Create a blog, Twitter, Instagram, or Tiktok account and show people what you are working on. Even hobbies stuff, like sketches. Eventually, it could become your masterpiece.
  6. Parable of the Talents (Octavia E. Butler) (8★★★★★★★★): is the sequel of the excellent Parable of the Sower (Octavia E. Butler) (9★★★★★★★★★), telling about the protagonist is her daughter.
  7. The President Is Missing (James Patterson, Bill Clinton) (7★★★★★★★): modern cyber terrorism thriller. Very believable. Tips and checks are done by no other than Bill Clinton!
  8. The Power of HabitThe Power of Habit: Why We Do What We Do in Life and Business (Charles Duhigg) (7★★★★★★★): a modern classic self-helping book. It starts preaching the power of understanding and controlling habits. Then it exemplifies, chapter after chapter, the different facts of habits interfering in our decision-making. Very good.
  9. DifferentDifferent: Escaping the Competitive Herd (Youngme Moon) (7★★★★★★★): essay about the competitive advantage of being different in the market. Curiously enough, in the second half of the book, she acknowledges that being different might not be important depending on the situation and market. Good book.
  10. Communication Skills TrainingCommunication Skills Training: How to Talk to Anyone, Connect Effortlessly, Develop Charisma, and Become a People Person (James W. Williams) (7★★★★★★★): comprehensive discussion about communication skills. Nothing fantastic. But very good.
  11. JusticeJustice: What's the Right Thing to Do? (Michael J. Sandel) (7★★★★★★★): several philosophical aspects, situations, and approaches of what is justice. It does not, however, present definitive answers about anything.
  12. The 4-Hour BodyThe 4-Hour Body: An Uncommon Guide to Rapid Fat-Loss, Incredible Sex, and Becoming Superhuman (Timothy Ferriss) (5★★★★★): several tips about a proper workout, diet, and routines to get the body you want.
  13. The 10x RuleThe 10x Rule: The Only Difference Between Success and Failure (Grant Cardone) (4★★★★): salespeople kinda talk. Super aggressive, alpha behavior about using all your power and will to achieve goals and success. I tried to focus on the core messages and occasional motivation in his words, but it’s hard to not get pissed with the alpha male dominant attitude.
  14. Think Sex and Grow RichThink Sex and Grow Rich: How to use the power of your sex drive to succeed in business (Marcus El) (4★★★★): it tries to sell the idea that we are driven by sex and we should channel this constant desire towards business goals. It starts fun, then became very tedious.

From the second part of 2021 that was not on the mid-2021 list

  1. Dune (Frank Herbert) (8★★★★★★★★): read in 3 nights to watch the movie. Loved it.

For more books, you can check my online read list on GoodReads.

edited in 2022-07-14 because I forgot some books. Quite sure there are more.

Bruno MASSA