Sunday, October 29, 2006

Welcome to Ravenweb

Ravenweb is a blog devoted to texts, movies, television, PC games, people, popular culture, and writing. Here you will find postings, short reviews, and related links about these subjects.

Ravenweb is derived from my current home website, http://www.ravenweb.net/, and will pull in and reflect much of the content currently available there.

I decided to mirror my website postings in Blogger so as to take advantage of the system's easy-to-use administrative, archiving, and publishing features. Blogger templates and information display are also pretty pervasive on the web now, so I wanted to give interested users the option to access my content through a familiar Blogger site template and feed if that is their preference.

Saturday, October 28, 2006

American Theocracy by Kevin Phillips

American Theocracy is a sobering examination of the real possibility that the U.S. may be a fading power.

Citing the downfall of great societies in history, author Kevin Phillips argues that, due to our reliance on dwindling oil, unsustainable credit, and the imperious influence of radical religious politics, the U.S. is facing the possibility of its own collapse.

A thick book — both in terms of size and prose style — I don't know that everyone will have the stamina to get through American Theocracy. Still, even for those readers, the points in the text are urgent enough to take notice, even if it's only to read part of the book, tell others about it, or support it in some other way.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

IE7

IE7 does a decent job of adding browser features introduced and popularized by Firefox, but the new IE adds nothing innovative to web browsing and is at core a product geared at catching up on web interface standards and emerging technologies.

I recently installed IE7 on my work laptop. This addition was not from any driving inclination but because I need to have a working instance of all major production browsers for work to test and evaluate public website code.

Anyway, it's okay and does a decent job of adding browser features introduced and popularized by Firefox — such as tabbed browsing — but my major reaction is the question: this is it, this is the best the wealthiest software company in the world can come up in the four plus years since IE6 was released?

I think I would have looked more favorably upon the effort if Microsoft just took the time to make IE7 an easy to add and remove stand-alone program, like Firefox. As it is, it's still integrated far too much into the OS, and the required Windows Validation will likely annoy a lot of people who have copied a version of XP onto a second computer and can't install the program.

For those who are interested, additions in IE7 included tabbed browsing, new security, built-in anti-phishing site recognition, RSS support, and better adherence to W3C standards.

Bottom line: To date, I've seen nothing in IE7 that's not already available natively in Firefox or through a Firefox extension, so, unless you're a web developer who needs to test pages in all modern browsers or you just enjoy trying out and using multiple web browsers, I don't know that I would recommend it.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Which Superhero Do You Most Resemble?

Are you more like Superman or Spiderman? Wolverine or Batman? Take the Ravenweb Superhero Survey to find out which superhero you most resemble.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Player of Games by Iain M. Banks

The Player of Games is an SF novel set in Iain M. Banks' Culture series that tells of Jernau Gurgeh, the Culture's greatest game player, who travels to the Empire of Azad to participate in a complex competition that is ultimately a contest between two galactic civilizations.

The text flows well and is very engaging as a straightforward SF adventure story. Beyond the surface plot, The Player of Games is thought-provoking and rewarding as an examination of the contrasting values and shortcomings of the Culture and the anti-utopian Empire of Azad.

Initially, Banks appears to set the Empire of Azad as an exotic and vibrant anti-utopian alternative to the Culture, with its belief in its own moral perfectibility and willingness to lie and manipulate to shape the galaxy. Further exploration, though, reveals the empire to be depraved and terrifically unjust, recasting the Culture in a better moral light.

I definitely recommend The Player of Games.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Ravenweb Column Airs on Radio

My column "Rob" aired the morning of October 3rd on WBFO 88.7, the NPR radio affiliate in Buffalo, as part of its "Listener Commentary" series.

I've included links below to the WBFO page with audio clips of the recording and the Ravenweb page that originally featured the column.