The Passing of a Dragon – RIP Robert Jordan

It is with sadness that I post this. A gifted author and an all-round nice guy has succumbed to his illness. He faced his condition with aggressive optimism, maintained his goodwill and good humour despite the obvious physical punishment, determined to triumph against the odds.
I remember the first time I read about his affliction. I remember how I felt as he announced on his blog that he has been diagnosed with amyloidosis, and his declaration that he will fight it.
Let me go back a bit before I continue. During a period of idle pursuits many many years ago, I picked up Eye of the World despite the horrendous cover art, and I was struck by its brilliance. I didn’t have any expectations, and it blew me away. This, I thought with pleasure, is how the purest high fantasy should be.
I consumed the series. I literally devoured each subsequent book. I can’t remember how long it lasted. There was a point where I picked up a recently released Path of Daggers hardcover while I was training in the States! Hardcover! The bloody book was so heavy my luggage almost grounded the plane, and it was so expensive (the ringgit is weak against the dollar after all), I starved myself at night.
However, even the most fervent of fans would admit to the declining quality later in the series. And I, a fervent fan, called it quits halfway into Path of Daggers.
By the time I read his announcement on his blog, I had stopped reading the Wheel of Time for some time. Telling people in book forums that his best had come and gone. Woe that such a great piece of work degenerated into its current state, a symbol of crass commercialism (deservedly or not). While I never told anyone to *not* read Wheel of Time, I gave warning of the impending lull, just as you would tell someone if a particular restaurant was worth repeat visits. You know, that sort of thing.
But I remembered as I read his announcement and his resolve, that despite it all, Wheel of Time is only a story, is only a form of entertainment, and here is this man finding out that he has been struck by a disease that’s almost certainly terminal. I find myself thinking how life can really put things into perspective.
So what if the series isn’t finished? So what if the latter books suck? So what if people accuse him of selling out to publishers as he stretched the series as taut as he could to the point of breaking? So what?
I followed his progress with regular visits to his blog. Despite his condition, he updated his fans with news of his treatment, and always he never failed to come across as generous, cheerful, hopeful, encouraging to others who shared his predicament. He talked of completing Wheel of Time for his fans, and of starting another series set in the same world. He set goals for himself. The support he got were not only from fans, but from other human beings who connected and felt touched.
There was this time during his treatment where his progress marker, called the Lambda light chains were well within the normal range, and it was great news. I had thought he’d beat it for sure. His last update was just over a week ago.
But alas. My thoughts are with his family during this difficult time.
He has taught me indirectly to cherish life, and I thank him for that, and I thank him for the period of pure pleasure whilst I indulged in his imagined world.
Thank you, Robert Jordan, and may you rest in peace.

Visual Studio is such a hog

I’m feeling a little frustrated right now. Visual Studio 2005 requires such high specs that my old 1.8Ghz Pentium 4 is having problems just clicking along between the various panes. It’s click, wait for the focus, click, click, wait for focus, etc, etc.
I don’t know why I’m complaining now – I’ve done quite a bit of work on my personal project already, but it’s frustrating because the slowness is finally getting to me.
I’m used to fast fast fast. When I code I type fast, I think fast, and when I compile, I expect instantaneous feedback.
Not sure if it is due to the .NET framework (I installed 3.0 sometime back). I intentionally upgraded my memory sometime back to, are you ready for this, 1.25GB of memory, specifically to support my development work! Wow! 1.25GB! And still VS is unsatisfied!
Oh, alright, the memory isn’t as high as I would have liked, but hey, it was 512MB before.
Hark back to the old days when I made do with GCC.
Now with Visual Studio 2008 on the horizon, with full support for the .NET 3.0 technologies, I’m convinced my machine as it stands right now is more likely to make my morning coffee than to be able to even load VS2008.
I’m sorely tempted to just sink in 2K bucks and build myself a screamer of a PC, so I can code in relatively stress-free environment. But no. I will make my next project pay for itself, and pay for the new machine that I’m most definitely going to buy.
But that 19″ LG widescreen monitor is looking very appealing right now. The luscious screen is showing a disembodied finger making a come-hither motion, beckoning me forward, beckoning me to flash my wallet, and I have a feeling I may not be able to withstand the lure for very long…

Book Buying Binge!

I’ve written many posts in the past months, but alas, have not taken the step to actually post them. I won’t trouble the two of you reading this post about what happened offline, but suffice to say my online presence was much limited.
During my online hiatus, my book-buying has continued unabated, which is, of course, bad. Well, not *that* bad. My haul was pretty prolific, as it was over a period of a couple of weeks. Since I’m pretty fanatical (read:crazy obsessive) about continuity, I’ve decided to post everything I’ve bought, in as close to chronological order as possible.

  • Understanding Comics, Scott McCloud
    I’m more than an occasional graphic novel/comics reader. Years of comic book buying has made me more jaded than your average oyster, so I only seek out works that either I’ve heard good things about, or genuinely interest me because of the subject matter. This book has been on my comics wishlist for a long time, but it’s only recently that I’ve put my mind to actually finding it. A trip to Borders and after jostling in the aisle with fashionably dressed teenagers yapping on mobiles more expensive than my monthly mortgage, I found it. My impressions will be in another blog post, naturally.

Shortly after my McCloud, I accidentally made my way to the Big Bookshop Warehouse Bookstore in Atria, and as I have for the last few visits, took out a stack of books. This place is dangerous – I spend almost 100 bucks every time I walk in.

  • Chess, Stefan Zweig
    A book about chess. Thinner than some of the contractual documents I have to read at work. How can I resist? It’s about this chess champion who is aboard a luxury liner, and is challenged by a fellow traveller. While the challenger is having his butt handed to him, someone in the crowd whispers suggestions that is more than a match for the grandmaster. Who is this mysterious person, and what is this potent chess player’s story?. I finished this book, and it was an enjoyable romp, albeit a short one.
  • The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy
    It’s probably as close as I’m ever going to get to a Tolstoy, as I’ve decided I will not read Karenina or War and Peace.
  • Marry Me, John Updike
    Infidelity as told by a modern maestro of literature? The ‘maelstrom’ that is marriage – of 2 couples who are each cheating with the other’s spouse? Are you kidding me? This one went straight to my shopping basket.
  • Fast Food Nation, Eric Schlosser
    I hear this one is gonna make me stay away from McDonald’s and other fast food chains. Already the mere whisper of the suggestions contained in this book is making me wary of 5 minute burgers. Unless I’m incredibly hungry, of course.
  • Metamorphosis and Other Stories, Franz Kafka
    The thought processes of a man who turns into a cockroach. Who wouldn’t be intrigued?
  • The Master and Margarita, Mikhail Bulgakov
    Now it is in one of the forums I frequent that I first heard about this. I had no idea it was a fantasy classic before I then. I’m a jaded fantasy fan, so anything fresh is welcome, and I’m hoping this will whet my appetite. The devil in 1930s Moscow, and a satire of high-renown. There a chick in there somewhere too, and with a name like Margarita, I’m thinking it’s gonna be cool.
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude, Gabriel Garcia Marquez
    I’m a little worried about this one. Its reputation precedes it like lightning before the boom of thunder, and I’ve heard this literary thunder being alternately praised and booed. For this reason alone I intended to read it and decide for myself.

I had a voucher that I have to use, so I went and bought:

  • The Harmony Silk Factory, Tash Aw
    Up and coming Malaysian author. Won some prizes too. I get such a thrill seeing the word ‘Malaysia’ in published novels, so this one will probably have me doing cartwheels, seeing that it is set in Malaysia.

There another weekend saw me walking unexpectedly to a Borders sale in The Curve! Here, I got:

In another round of shopping, I found this at a great price:

Actually, before I bought the NLP book, I was shopping somewhere, and there was a used bookstore. Under a pretense or other, I sneaked in and came out with 3 books:

  • The Book of Merlyn, T.H. White
    Don’t you hate it when you buy a book and you find that the ‘real’ ending is really in another book. That’s what I found out when I bought The Once and Future King. So I hadn’t started on King Arthur’s adventures until I found this book. Good thing it’s cheap too.
  • Stranger in a Strange Land, Robert A. Heinlein
    A seminal piece of science fiction. So I heard. I’m dying to find out exactly how bad it really is.
  • Grass, Sheri S. Tepper
    Heard good things about this lady. Next to Le Guin and Bujold, probably one of the more acclaimed female sci-fi author out there.

The reason I listed it here instead of above is because I took a picture of them together with my latest stash, which was purchased earlier this week. They are:

  • The Weekend Novelist, Robert J Ray and Bret Norris
    I know I have at least a book in me. Apparently if I follow the directions in this book, I will have a full novel in my hands in 52 weeks. Well, start the clock! Uhm, wait. I didn’t say when.
  • An Introduction to English Poetry, James Fenton

    Continuing my self-education of the intricacies of literature, and this time it is an effort to more deeply understand the murky waters of poetry. Murky for me, that is. I love poems, but can hardly delve beyond the obvious in most works, which I suspect is like admiring the tip of the poetry iceberg. I’m hoping this book will shed some light on the remaining 90% that is hidden from my view.
  • Northern Lights, Philip Pullman
    Found this cheap. Found Book 3 (see below) too. Unfortunately, I couldn’t find Book 2, which is a bummer. I hate it when I can’t get the complete set, as I tend to wait until I get the full thing before embarking on the series. You know, in case the books are really good, then the waiting to get the missing book will be intolerable.
  • The Amber Spyglass, Philip Pullman
    I hate it when I can’t complete the full set. Oh, I’ve said it already?
  • Blooming Beautiful by Melanie Sykes
    This one was chosen by the wife. She’s apparently some celebrity in either UK (or US). Uhm, I’m not going to read this.

Hmm… didn’t this make up for all the missing blog posts before this?