“I Hate You” by The Stranglers (2006)

Suite XIV by Britain’s The Stranglers is a wonderful album with hardly a single bad song. It dropped in 2006, but good luck finding it on Spotify. I had to get my copy on iTunes way back when. The penultimate track, “I Hate You”, simply drips with schadenfreude, and it’s one of my favorites.

You should listen to it on invidio.us – especially if you’re butthurt about how things used to be better for you “back in the good old days”.

Secondhand ThinkPad T60 Resurrection

It’s alive. It’s alive!

No, I’m not building a toyboy for my wife out of spare parts. I’m just resurrecting a ThinkPad T60 by installing Linux in a tradition that started in Bell Labs when Ken Thompson, Dennis Ritchie, Brian Kernighan, etc developed the original Unix on secondhand DEC gear.

All it took was a new battery, but I had also bought 3GB of RAM (max capacity on this model) and a 512GB solid-state storage device because since I couldn’t replace the twelve-year-old Core Duo processor, the best way to boost the machine’s performance was with more RAM and modern storage.

Now I just have get used to the keyboard. It has a pleasantly firm response – almost as clickety-clackety as a decent mechanical keyboard for a desktop machine. The 1680×1050 display is a welcome upgrade too; I was stuck on 1366×768 for entirely too long.

Of course, nothing is ever easy. The T60 wouldn’t boot with the 512MB SSD that I had bought for it, so I yanked the 1TB HDD out of my T430s, slotted it into the T60, and put the SSD into the T430s.

Now, the T430s has an old and busted battery that maxes out at about 66% of its original capacity, and switching to a SSD changed the estimated lifetime from 3.5 hours to 5.5 hours. I can only imagine what a SSD might do for the T60 and its brand-new battery.

Oh well. Maybe I’ll get a 1GB SSD the next time I can spare $130. In the meantime, I’ve got a nice solid machine on which to run OpenBSD once 6.5 releases.

Here’s a screenshot of the T60 in action, running Emacs. The 1680×1050 display is nice and comfy for multiplexed Emacs sessions.

20190412-2358-thinkpad-t60-proof-of-life.png

Figure 1: Emacs 25.1 on MX Linux 18.1 with org-mode, ansi-term, and magit. 1680×1050 is a nice display for a working laptop.

Hello Again, World

Hello again, everybody. It’s possible that you’ve heard of me. If so, please bear with me while I introduce myself for everybody else.

Introduction

I’m Matthew Graybosch, a long-haired metalhead from New York who codes for a living and writes science fantasy inspired by heavy metal and progressive rock. I’m the author of the Starbreaker saga, and have published two novels called Without Bloodshed and Silent Clarion.

My stories are set in a post-apocalyptic alt-history earth in the middle of a second Renaissance. It might look utopian, but it’s got a soft black underbelly in which soul-searching androids and swashbuckling soprano catgirls struggle against government corruption, corporate abuses, and demons from outer space.

I work mainly with Microsoft tech at my day job, but I run a variety of Unix-like operating systems on my own equipment and I make a small hobby of buying secondhand computers and resurrecting them with free software for personal use.

About This Site

If you know me on the Fediverse you might be wondering why this site runs WordPress after I’ve extolled the virtues of static websites. Here’s the deal: it’s yet another experiment.

I’ve gone back to using WordPress because I can use Matthias Pfefferle’s ActivityPub plugin to make this website connect to federated social networking sites powered by Mastodon, Pleroma, Friendi.ca, etc. You can follow me from your favorite site and have my blog posts appear in your timeline. You can like them or share them just like any other post. If you reply to my posts, they’ll appear on my site as comments.

Unfortunately, headers don’t render properly on Mastodon. (Dammit, Eugen.)

To eliminate the risk of having my posts locked up in WordPress’s database and being at the mercy of its XML export, I’m composing this post using Emacs, Org Mode, and the org2blog package. Everything gets committed to a publically-accessible git repository that lives on Sourcehut. I will also be creating additional “gophermap” files so that I can mirror this website and its content on my gopher site at asgartech.com (gopher://asgartech.com:70).

Furthermore, with a WordPress setup conducive to syndication, I’ll also be able to start doing direct sales of my work once I’ve evaluated ecommerce plugins, found a suitable editor and cover artist, and finished a new version of the Starbreaker saga

What? A new version of Starbreaker?

That’s right. If you’ve been visiting asgartech.com you might have read some rough cuts already. It’s still early going, but I hope to build up some serious momentum now that my partner is done with her struggle against breast cancer.

What about your old content?

I’ll be resurrecting that as well, but don’t expect the URLs to be the same. Sorry about that.

Glen Cook: Port of Shadows

I wanted to like this. I really did, because I’ve always admired Cook as a writer. And, as Cook pointed out through Croaker in the first novel, it isn’t like the Black Company is a merry crew of innocent saints with hearts pure as the driven snow. I know Croaker’s sworn brothers are for the most part a bunch of murderous, rapacious assholes. But damn if he didn’t lay it on thick in this book.

I’m sure Cook had reasons for not wanting to follow Suvrin, Tobo, Arkana, and Shukrat beyond the Shadowgate after Soldiers Live, but I would rather have read about one of their misadventures than have my face rubbed in what a bunch of misogynistic assholes the Black Company were while in service to the Lady. Likewise, I suspect Cook had his reasons for writing the old crew the way he did, but his characterization of old hands like One-Eye and Goblin in this book is jarring after reading the original books of the north.

I could have put up with all of crap if the ending had been worthwhile, if there had been a revelation that would have cast the series from Shadows Linger onward in a whole new light, but instead we got a cop-out, and that was the worst part.

Jane Yolen: Finding Baba Yaga

Jane Yolen’s Finding Baba Yaga is one of the shorter books Catherine and I picked up at the 2018 World Fantasy Convention.

Here’s what the back of the book says…

You think you know this story. You do not.

A harsh, controlling father. A quiescent mother. A house that feels like anything but a home. Natasha gathers the strength to leave, and comes upon a little house in the wood: a house that walks about on chicken feet and is inhabited by a fairy-tale witch. In finding Baba Yaga, Natasha finds her voice, her power, and herself…

A contemporary retelling of an iconic myth by a beloved and prolific American storyteller.

To be honest, I never thought I knew this particular story. I only know bits and pieces of it. I first heard of Baba Yaga in Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition by way of the 1970 adaptation by Emerson, Lake, and Palmer.

Apparently Yolen drew inspiration from a collection of advice columns called “Ask Baba Yaga” by Taisia Kitaiskaia.

Finding Baba Yaga is billed as a short novel in verse. Reading the table of contents suggests that it is also a cycle of poems, each capable of standing on its own. The first poem, “You Think You Know This Story,” sets the tone.

I’m not used to reading poetry, and I’m not sure what to say about what I’ve been reading. I’m not sure how I feel about it. All I know is that it probably wasn’t written for me, even though I can appreciate the artistry Yolen weaves into her story.

Alexandre Dumas: The Count of Monte Cristo

I have the Robin Buss translation of The Count of Monte Cristo in paperback, but that copy was old and worn. I wanted a more durable hardcover edition to read and to display on my bookshelf in my new house. The hardcover I bought from Total Books arrived in near-perfect condition, exactly as advertised, and looks gorgeous on the shelf.

Why Robin Buss’ translation for Penguin Classics? That’s a reasonable question since Alexandre Dumas, père has been dead long enough for his works to enter the public domain. Several translations of his major novels are not only available in cheaper editions (such as Barnes & Noble Classics), but for free on Project Gutenberg.

These are inferior and, in the case of The Count of Monte Cristo, censored translations. Most of them date back to the Victorian period, and render the elder Dumas’ evergreen French into English prose that feels old-fashioned and stilted today. Furthermore, because these are translations from the Victorian period, the translators filtered Dumas through their own moral sensibilities to give us Bowdlerized versions of a novel that ran on sex, drugs, and rock ‘n roll a century before rock ‘n roll was something you could do without a machine gun.

Robin Buss’ unabridged translation comes directly from the original French and renders Dumas into fresh, readable modern English. Material previously omitted by Victorian-era translators such as Franz’ hashish-fueled sexual fantasies and the strongly implied lesbian relationship between Eugenie and Louise remain intact and uncensored. As another reviewer pointed out, Buss will provide footnotes to explain subtleties that aren’t easily translated from French to English, such as insults delivered by using the formal you (vous) rather than the informal/friendly/intimate you (tu).

A detailed appendix provides valuable historical and cultural context that aids the reader in understanding Dumas’ masterpiece, and includes a primer on the rise, fall, return, and final downfall of Napoleon Bonaparte that is crucial to making sense of the politics driving the novel’s plot.

If you cannot read Dumas in his native French, and you want a definitive English version, Robin Buss’s unabridged and uncensored modern English translation is essential reading. No other translation will suffice.

Richard Zane: Fantasmagoria

I’m tempted to call Richard Zane’s Fantasmagoria a spiritual cousin to my own work. They both came from the same love of weird pop culture and pastiche, but where I tried to tone down the gonzo and create a serious narrative, Zane cranked the gonzo up to 11, stuck it in the driver’s seat of a souped up muscle car with a stereo stuck repeating “Balls to the Wall” by Accept at max volume, and turned it loose.

Believe it or not, it works. Check it out. It’s even got kaiju, dammit. And fascist spider Amazons. What more do you want?

Incidentally, I used to know him from Google+, and there’s lots more good stuff on his website.