George V. Reilly

Review: Mars Crossing

Title: Mars Crossing
Author: Geoffrey A. Landis
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: 2000
Pages: 433
Keywords: hard sf
Reading period: 22–27 May, 2016

Five astronauts are stranded on Mars. Their only hope is to find the vehicle of an earlier crew who died—but that ship is at the north pole and they’re south of the equator. And so they trek north across Mars. They know that the other ship can’t hold them all, and some of them start dying along the way.

Landis is a NASA scientist who writes “hard science fiction”; i.e., SF that’s solidly based in science, some of which is known for plodding writing and dull characters. Landis’s characters have continue.

Shrinking PDF File Size

Our poster designer sent me a PDF of this year’s Bloomsday poster. I thought the file was too large at 7.2MB and I wanted to reduce the file size without sig­nif­i­cant loss of image quality. I was unable to achieve this in Preview or Acrobat Reader, but Ghost­script did the trick, thanks to an answer on AskUbuntu:

gs -sDEVICE=pdfwrite -dCompatibilityLevel=1.4 \
    -sOutputFile=output.pdf input.pdf

The results speak for themselves.

Crop of the Original PDF, size 7.2MB.

Crop of -dPDF­SET­TINGS=/screen. PDF size: 78KB

Crop of -dPDF­SET­TINGS=/ebook. PDF size: 234KB

Crop of -dPDF­SET­TINGS=/prepress. PDF size: 1.75MB

Seattle Power Outage

The power suddenly went out at work today about 11:30am. There was a technician who was running wires, standing on a ladder next to us, who disclaimed all re­spon­si­bil­i­ty. Since the wires were Ethernet cables, we believed him. It quickly became apparent that it was not just our office or even our building, but many blocks of downtown Seattle that had lost power. One person was trapped in the elevator in our old Pioneer Square building. Within half an hour, everyone had left the office. Although most of us have laptops, no elec­tric­i­ty meant no Internet. I drifted up to Capitol Hill and spent the afternoon working with two colleagues in a continue.

Deploying a Docker Container on AWS

I spent a couple of frus­trat­ing hours this evening trying to figure out an easy way to deploy a Docker container on AWS. I tried out the EC2 Container Service and got lost in a sea of Clusters, Tasks, and Services. I couldn’t connect to the EC2 instance where my container supposedly lived.

I tried Elastic Beanstalk and gave up in ex­as­per­a­tion. When you create a new Docker en­vi­ron­ment, there’s no way to pull an existing image from an external repo that I could see. We have some tools for deploying a Docker image to Elastic Beanstalk, but they were so cryptic that I didn’t want to pursue that.

Eventually I went old continue.

Toastmasters' Evaluations

Toast­mas­ters teaches three skillsets. By far the best known is public speaking, but evaluation and leadership are also valuable. Learning to evaluate a speech teaches you to listen carefully and to give useful feedback. The Toast­mas­ters’ Sandwich is the best-known approach: point out several things the speaker did well, suggest some areas of im­prove­ment, and conclude with more praise.

The evaluator benefits too from the evaluation, as they hone their listening and critical skills and as they learn to give helpful feedback. The audience also benefits, as they hear both the speech and a measured response to the speech.

Outside of Toast­mas­ters, feedback is often negative and critical ("Here’s how you’re fucking up"), which leads to de­mo­ti­va­tion ("I’m just continue.

Review: Wildtrack

Title: Wildtrack
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Claremont Publishers
Copyright: 1988
Pages: 330
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 21 May, 2016

Nick Sandman earned a Victoria Cross in the Falklands and spent a year relearning how to walk. Now all he wants to do is to restore Sycorax, his beloved old boat. But to afford that, he has to work for TV star Tony Bannister. Bannister wants to win the St Pier­re–Hal­i­fax race with Sandman’s help and he wants to make a doc­u­men­tary about Sandman, neither of which Sandman wants. Bannister’s wife died sailing the previous year and her wealthy father holds Bannister re­spon­si­ble.

Another of Cornwell’s con­tem­po­rary sailing thrillers, which also holds up well continue.

Review: Scoundrel

Title: Scoundrel
Author: Bernard Cornwell
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Penguin
Copyright: 1992
Pages: 311
Keywords: thriller
Reading period: 19–21 May, 2016

It’s late 1990 and Saddam Hussein has just invaded Kuwait. Paul Shanahan is an exiled Irish-American yacht delivery skipper. He used to be a gunrunner for the IRA, but rumors that he was a CIA agent have kept them at arms’ length. Now the IRA have engaged him to sail $5,000,000 in Libyan-supplied gold coins across the Atlantic to buy 53 Stinger missiles. It stinks but he can’t say no. And maybe he is the CIA agent that he’s rumored to be.

Cornwell is best known as a writer of historical action novels, but continue.

Review: Avengers: Age of Ultron

Title: Avengers: Age of Ultron
Writer–Di­rec­tor: Joss Whedon
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ½
Released: 2015
Keywords: Marvel, superhero
Watched: 20 May, 2016

In Avengers: Age of Ultron, Tony Stark’s hubris leads to the creation of a lethal robot with daddy issues. Ultron, who is supposed to be the ultimate planetary line of defense, im­me­di­ate­ly goes rogue upon achieving sentience. He vows to destroy humanity to save the planet, and in particular to destroy his maker and the other Avengers. His ally Wanda Maximoff (the Scarlet Witch) uses her powers to sow dissension in their ranks, which nearly tears them apart. They defeat Ultron only after enormous de­struc­tion of life and property, with con­se­quences that are continue.

Review: Ship Breaker

Title: Ship Breaker
Author: Paolo Bacigalupi
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Little Brown
Copyright: 2010
Pages: 352
Keywords: young adult, dystopian
Reading period: 16–18 May, 2016

The Age of Affluence ended when the coastal cities drowned as the icecaps melted. Many now eke out a living digging through the detritus of the past. Nailer is a scrawny teenaged scavenger who finds a broken clipper ship after a storm. There’s only one survivor, Nita, a swank girl who fled in­ternecine feuding in her trading clan. To protect her from his psychotic father and others who would sell her to her enemies, they go on the run to Orleans, with the aid of a “half-man”.

Bacigalupi’s drowned continue.

Review: The Point of Death

Title: The Point of Death
Author: Peter Tonkin
Rating: ★ ★ ★ ★
Publisher: Endeavour Press
Copyright: 2001
Pages: 416
Keywords: historical mystery
Reading period: 8–18 May, 2016

Tom Mus­grave—­Mas­ter of Defence and Master of Logic, friend to Will Shake­speare—is present at the very first per­for­mance of Romeo and Juliet when the actor playing Mercutio is somehow fatally stabbed with an envenomed rapier during an on-stage duel. He uncovers perfidy and poisonings which stretches back for years and rises into the highest halls of the land.

Tonkin has not only created a brilliant and dangerous pro­tag­o­nist, he has metic­u­lous­ly recreated Eliz­a­bethan London, a city that is a stew of ambition, peril, and intrigue.

First Musgrave book; precedes A Midwinter continue.

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