Thursday, February 24, 2005
Meanwhile, the logo is probably going to look a lot like one of these:
As for the GUI, a number of striking mockups have been rendered and even animated. Two prime examples are Cosmo's and alittlemelty's designs, which are presented in this post below. To view the entire GUI Gallery go here.
(Gorgeous quicktime animations here and here!)
Wednesday, February 23, 2005
"How Crony-Capitalism Is Supposed To Work"
People often mistake the system of Capitalism for that which is a system derivative of Feudalism or Mercantalism. Capitalism has become synonymous with those things, because people don't understand how insidious government intervention nutures the political favored and government-sanctioned or protected businesses.
Eminent Domain (henceforth to be shortened to E.D., despite its other puerile connotations) is a prime example of this principle of how the definition of Capitalism became con-fused. The premise on which the law of E.D. is based is that the government has the right to force landowners to sell their lawful property, in order to build critical infrastructure, such as roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, etc.
Most people, libertarians and anarchists withstanding, would assent to this violation of basic property rights, because they can't fathom how society could survive without it (nevermind ask them why the survival of "society" is such an important and lofty goal.) It's only when E.D. moved from being a reluctant, last-resort tool of the government, to that which has been used tens of thousands of documented instances, for not-so-critical infrastructure, did people realize the inherent evil and destructiveness.
One prominent group fighting E.D. abuse, but not in principle, is the Castle Coalition. It's a cause that rallies the individuals across the political spectrum to demonstrate against the municipalities and state governments which have been collaborating with big businesses such as Wal*Mart and Pfizer, and prominent developers such as Bruce Ratner and Douglas Durst in helping them secure private property in order to build their stores, malls, and office or residential buildings and properties through the use of E.D.s' powers.
The motive for the government officials to wield this tool is to grow the tax base which in turn fills the treasury coffers, so that they can continue their reckless, criminal spending, by which they can pin their re-election hopes.
Organizations and individuals who oppose E.D., usually do so on the pretense that it's immoral for the state to turn over private property to another individual or corporation. They are certainly correct in this aspect that the law of E.D. is being abused, but they fail to realize that all use of E.D. is an abuse. As long as they don't acknowledge that principle, the public hearing will just be an occasion for government and corporate pencilnecks to recite the expected increase of jobs, traffic, tax money, etc. and how it's a better result than the status quo. To fight that fight, you will lose. You have to fight it on ideological grounds; that E.D. is inconsistent with individual property rights.
To think that one can compromise the principle of individual property rights for certain, and narrow scenarios, is doing nought but inviting further intrusion upon what land developers or government officials decide what is a better, higher use for your former property. Once you give sanction, it is expected that government will abuse it as far as their power-grubby hands can reach.
The problem with all this is that people lay the blame for E.D. abuse at the feet of the system of Capitalism. However they are greatly mistaken. The blame for E.D. abuse lies squarely with the people who consciously saction its use. Once that door is open, there is no good reason why businesses wouldn't use it to generate capital in an expedient and falsly justified fashion.
Here are some related links for those who are interested:
Eminent Domain or Legalized Robbery?
Public use, property rights and the courts
How Eminent Is A City's Domain?
High Court to Hear Property Seizure Case
Tuesday, February 22, 2005
This past year, the city of New York paid $570 million for personal injuries cases, of which nearly one-third were for medical malpractice cases. In addition, it cost the city $12 million to oversee and administer both the settlements and court cases.
Why this is upsetting is two-fold. Firstly, the demand for jurists to participate in these clown-shows is insatiable, and carries penalties for those who ignore the involuntary "conscription" mostly because they are disgusted with the system and have better things to do with their lives. I won't even bother getting into how they loudly play these denigrating infomercial videos trying to sell you the whole cock and bull story, saying how in medieval times, the justice system was cruel and unfair, and now because they picked 12 idiots off the street, your life is in better hands. Of course, it followed with videos of carefully groomed and vetted selection of minorities and blue-collar workers, [just like you and I], who say they never wanted to serve jury duty, but now they will never forgo the opportunity again [presumingly they never felt so in control and powerful before in their lives!]
Secondly, and perhaps more importantly because ultimately it is you and I, the enslaved taxpayers who will foot the bill, for Bill who fallaciously claims he injured his foot.
Anecdotally, I made a recent trip to 125th Street in the Harlem neighborhood of Manhattan to view a certain building. Coming from the east side, I walked six avenues over until I reached my destination. Along the way, I noticed about eight or ten younger people in wheelchairs scooting along, going about their merry business. Literally countless others that I encountered were walking with canes, or wearing neck-braces. Hell, I'm not trying to judge these seemingly able-bodied and mostly young and middle-aged people; perhaps there is a nearby hospital they were merely traversing to-and-from. But the cynical side of me questions this is the new lifestyle, to wear your injured, victim status like a badge of honor, while openly defrauding the city which in turn robs you and me to pay them. Which gangster wouldn't put down his gun, and let the city and state do the dirty work for him?
Read more here: Gothamist (I even posted a related comment there)
and here: WNBC
and NY Times (NYC passes bill making property owner responsible for adjacent city sidewalks)
On second thoughts, perhaps it's statistically possible that more urban-dwelling minorities made a stint in the military and have injuries to go along with that service, moreso than the other typical folk you see bustling down 34th Street, Wall Street or in SoHo. I only find it interesting that you usually see such characters traipsing around the poorer neighborhoods. Also, please don't confuse me for a [closet-]racist, I find it an irrational position to be of such mindset.
Thursday, February 17, 2005
So far, he has called a meeting at Gracie Mansion for both the hotel worker's union rep and the developers, and it's unclear of how far he is willing to intervene on the union's behalf (yay protectionism! yay Wagner laws! and yay Bloomberg's upcoming re-election!).
What I found most interesting in this article, is that the union filed papers with the Landmark Preservation Committee pleading them to designate the inside of the hotel to be landmarked, and therefore legally untouchable. Presently, only the building's facade is protected by a landmark easement.
Since I am somewhat involved in real estate and the facade preservation easement business, it's shocking for me to see an entity other than the property's owner having the interior's non-protected status changed in a restrictive easement, something that usually requires the owners to proceed with.
Wednesday, February 16, 2005
Frankly, I won't be suprised if NYC and NY State pool "their" monies together with the owners of the NY Jets in order to purchase the development rights for the site.
Tuesday, February 15, 2005
"How To Milk A Franchise For Every Redeeming Quality"
I hardly know where to begin. After having read all but the last "Shadow Puppet", I feel mentally exhausted. Firstly from 2,708 pages of sheer boredom, and secondly from a feeling of being duped. This book/series came heavily hyped by a friend, and I was fairly certain that it must be good, since I've heard of the name, even if I never read it. And like the fool that I was, I made an impulse Amazon.com purchase to buy the first six books in two boxed sets.
Ender's Game, the first book was a good book. Notice that I didn't say "great". I suppose if this book preceded WarGames, I might have been inclined to say great. But since it hasn't, my mind instantly recognized the similarity, even though the exact situations were reversed*. Neverless, this book was enjoyable, even though OSC likes to paint his characters with Mensa-prequalified, earth-shattering intelligence (and believe me that this meme is severly abused.) And thusly is embued the main character Andrew (Ender) Wiggin, a genius, along with his parents, and two older siblings. Rating: 4 Stars
Ender's Shadow is book two of this series, and focuses on one of the characters who was mostly ignored in the first book. His name is simply "Bean" and he is an orphan. However, this time around, OSC has a new trick up his sleeve: Bean is so super-super-super intelligent, he makes Ender look like a drooling neanderthal-era idiot. This book is mostly written from the a revisionist point of view, showing how Bean truly manipulated the scenes in the first book, so that events only turned out the way they did, because of his behind-the-scenes actions. Rating: 3.5 Stars
For these last four book, I urge you to avoid them like the clichéd plague. I do admit though, that I very much enjoyed the introduction to "Speaker for the Dead" (Amazon's Search Inside this book.) After that you can safely put down the book.
In WarGames, the plot revolves an adolescent who plays a game with a computer, in which it simulates a nuclear war strategy game, only that this computer belongs to the government and controls the real-life nuclear arsenal. In Ender's Game, a 6-year-old boy plays computer games that simulate war, only to find out that he was remotely fighting and directing a real galactic war.
Ok, get your mind out of the gutter. The owner of both Madison Square Garden and Cablevision is set to ruin the plans of Mayor Bloomberg, Governor Pataki, the NY Jets, and all the other proponents of NYC 2012. Call him selfish, jealous and cruel, and I still admire him for what he's doing, while agreeing to your every word about his character.
You know why? Not because I care either way about job creation, NYC chances for the 2012 Olympics, having the Jets nearby, etc. I'm actually ambivalent on the those, because job creation isn't the business of the government and will happen regardless of who develops the site. I don't care much about spectator sports, so I have no motive for supporting the stadium plans. What irks me though, is that there never was an open bidding process for the land, and that the bureaucracy have been trying to ramrod this thru, without considering the costs to the taxpayers.
The Jets "appraised" the value of the land to be about $30 million dollars. They offered $100 million to the MTA for it. The MTA first valued it to be about $300 million. In comes James Dolan, and offers $600 million for the development rights, and he's even willing to spend the $250-$315 million more just to build the platform over the railyards! Kalikow had no choice but to save face and admit that the land is worth almost a billion dollars. This hasn't exactly been an open-bid, but a perfect example of bureaucrats doing what they do best; deciding how to best squander taxpayer funds on the "common good".
The "common good" has been used for everything between eminent domain and the nazi's rounding up of jews and gypsies for the gas chambers. It's time to teach people that there is no such thing as the "common good", or at least in how they envision it's coming about. "Common good" means nothing to me, other than a soundbite used by those who use force to bring about their goals, noble or not.
If this was a real bidding war between the Jets and everyone else, I wouldn't mind so much. In that case, Mayor Bloomberg might have to put up his own money to fund such a "noble pursuit". I would even commend his actions. After all, he would be an entrepreneur wishing to make a handsome profit on what he believes is an incredible opportunity to provide for the "common good". So why does he need to use taxpayer money? Only because it is expedient, to force taxpayers to "buy" the stadium for him thru the power afforded by his office.
The worst part about this is that Mayor Bloomberg and Governor Pataki don't even have a clear understanding with the Jets as to whom will pick up what costs. Afterall, a billion here, a billion there, who gives a damn when you rob the taxpayers for your pet projects.
Friday, February 11, 2005
The camera I chose for them is a brand-new model from Sony, called the DSC-T33, an updated and slimmer version of the DSC-T3 which I happen to own. This time around, the camera comes in 4 colors, blue, white, silver and gold. After confirming with my parents, I set ahead to purchase them the blue colored model, and to have it shipped to my dad's office in NJ in order to avoid paying sales tax.
So out I set to all the web's price comparison engines, and I came back with a quote of $379 from a company called A&M Photo World. I go ahead and place the order without any accessories or expedited shipping. I get all the confirmation emails which placate me about recieving my order, and giving me my order number, etc. Everything is OK so far, and I print a copy of the order to leave by my parents house.
The next day everything changes (to be a bit melodramatic). I look up my order online and discover that its been put on hold pending further conversation with one of the company's sales representitives. A voicemail left by my sister sounds somewhat anxious, telling me that some guy called for me from "some camera store". I pick up the phone and dial the company's tollfree number knowing what to expect- the "YoYo store" pitch as perfected by not-so-savvy electronic store operators in the NYC metro area.
His name is "Jeff" and I pretend to be unaware to the order of the proceedings. He begins by telling me that my shipping address is different than my billing address, and that unless I have it on file with the credit card company, it's not going to go through. So I reassure him that all is in order, and before he can get a word in edgewise, I tell him "Alright, I appreciate your inquiring, and have a nice day". This is where he pounced - "Wait!". I pause and cautiously ask "What now?"
Jeff: I noticed that the camera you ordered comes with a battery that only lasts about 5 to 10 minutes. Would you like to purchase a battery at a 50% discount- its only $55 and it will last 2 hours on a charge.
Me: No thank you, I purchased a battery for the camera last week.
Jeff: Oh really? What does it look like?
Me: A rectangular piece of black plastic.
Jeff: Ok, you sure you don't want another one that last 4 hours? We also have another that last 6 hours, but I'm afraid those are on backorder.
Me: (rolling my eyes) No thank you, I think that should suffice.
Jeff:Do you need a memory chip for the camera?
Me: You know it's funny, I already have a 512mb memory stick pro duo for the camera. Is that all?
Jeff: Not nearly. The camera you ordered has an internal lenses, so we can skip the lenses attachments...Did you want to order a camera case for it?
Me: How much is the neoprene slipcase?
Jeff: We have them on sale for $29.99. Would you like to purchase one?
Me: But last week when I was in your store you told me it's only $10! [a blatant lie]
Jeff: Oh, I did? Oh, I apologize, I was looking at the wrong item.
Me: (uh huh, suuuure!) You know what, I don't want one.
Jeff: Ok, now let me tell you something, the camera that you ordered is the Japanese version, and we do have the American version too. Would you like that model instead?
Me: (quickly browsing their website for price and model information) Well, I don't see any two versions on your website. Whats the price difference and whats the difference between the packages?
Jeff: Well not much other than that the American model is packaged here, and you should have an easier time using its warranty if it breaks. And it costs 20 dollars more.
Me: You know what, I just noticed that the camera's price on your website dropped $10 since I ordered it, to $369. Can you give me the new pricing instead?
Jeff: But thats the Japanese(-packaged) model only!
Me: I don't care if its packaged on Mars.
Jeff: Ok, but I can't give you the $10 off since my system doesn't allow that.
Me: So I'll just cancel this order and reorder it, that should do the trick, no?
Jeff: Ok, you can do that...
Me: Nevermind than, give me the neoprene case for free so that we're even.
Jeff: OK, I guess I can do that for you....Now, just so you know, the camera only has a 90-day limited warranty, and if it would break before that you would have to send it to us since its a Japanese model, and we send it Sony's Japanese division, so it could be months before you get your camera back. And once the 90 days are up, the servicing of your camera will probaly cost between $400 to $500 to fix, which doesn't make a lot of sense when the camera costs less than that. Now, our extended warranty only costs $90 and....
Me: (I cut him off) No thank you, I already have protection for that through my credit card company. Is that all?
Jeff: Well unless you need anything else...
Me: No I don't- just make sure I get my slipcase for free.
Jeff: Alright, your total is $414 with shipping.
Me: $414!!? My order total came out to $394 including the $15 ground shipping charges when I placed the order!
Jeff: I'm sorry, I selected the wrong shipping option.
Me: Well make sure you change it back.
Jeff: Ok, your total is now $398.50
Me: (Ok, whatever!) Fine. Are you certain that you have it in stock?
Jeff: The blue model is the "most popular", but we have 5 pieces left, I'll "put it aside" for you.
Me: Thank you, have a nice day.
What exactly is going on? Why am I playing along with these antics? Why have I highlighted and quoted certain keywords? Well starting with the first instance, "Jeff" in this case. Yes, its possible that it's his name, but in the YoYo business, Jeff can also go by the name of Jack, Morris, Joe and Mike depending if he's answering for the sales, shipping, invoicing, packaging, or customer service department when you call. He won't even bothering hiding his voice. Call him "Jeff" when he introduces himself as Francis and hear him stutter on the line, because he gets confused to which role he is playing.
The standard battery that Sony includes last about 90 minutes. If you fall for his ruse and order the 2, 4 or 6 hour battery, he doesn't even touch your package other than to add $55 or $100 to your order amount.
The American and Japanese model is another scam. They only carry the import, grey-market items (it happens to be that the American version of the DSC-T33 is yet to be released.) The import version is always cheaper, and comes with everything in English. If you order the American version, you get the same import box for $20 more.
The bit where I tell him I was in his store was a lie. But 99% of these internet stores are retail stores doing internet business on the side. I don't even know he has a storefront, I simply assumed so, and as you see he fell for it.
The shipping costs is another scam. To send the camera with UPS ground, it costs him about $4-$6. If you select that through their website, it's a minimum of $15. If you do your order over the phone, it's a minimum quote of $19.99. He tried to take on another $19 when he quoted me $414, and probably would still have sent it via UPS ground.
The most popular model/color is whatever your'e buying. The "I'll put it aside" is a reassurance for something they never intend to do.
If you haven't guessed by now, the warranty bit is also a fraud, trust me. These business close one day and reopen as another business the next day.
Now you want to know why I go through all this, after all I could have told him right away that I'm not interested in any accessory or warranty. He would have then been very courteous and assured me it would go out right away, and said goodbye. What would happen though, is that your account and order are blacklisted. You can never place another order with them again. What occurs then is that the item you ordered is "on backorder", and indefinitely. You can call them back for the next 3 months, and they will never have got it "back in stock". At that point, most of those people give up and cancel their order.
This is all because they sell the camera at the cost price. If they don't make a little "PR" or profit, they drop you like a hot potato. This is why I had to go through the entire shpiel. I winced, but allowed the guy to bring the price up from a total of $394 to $398, if only because those $4 were getting me the camera at this very low cost price.
Wednesday, February 09, 2005
So what makes this product superior to the offerings of the godfather (yeah, Tolkien) of the fantasy genre? And why moreso than any other writer between then and now? This is because GRRM hasn't encountered a genre stereotype or feature element which he hasn't deconstructed and/or obliterated. Now I'm going to try to explain this without giving away plot elements- so cut me some slack. For example, the righteous, selfless heroes are slaughtered left-and-right, without mercy to the reader who has instilled so much hope on the heroes ultimate (but not) forthcoming triumph against the insurmountable odds. The evil characters nearly always suceed in their schemings and mechanations. Magic is rare, and questionable how effective it is. And by the time you finish the third book, you're not even sure who the evil characters are!
And how is that? This is mainly because books' chapters are written from the point of view of varying characters and to great effect. What appears to be a plotting, murderous woman can be re-examined as a mother's desperate attempt to secure her children's welfare - or vice versa. A child with seemingly good intentions is re-examined as a insolent brat. And this goes back and forth, with most of the characters. This great hobnob of "gray areas" is in stark contrast (pun intended) to the plain ole' good-versus-evil, black and white, fantasy epic.
So how is this better than JRRT? When you finish reading those first three books you will realize why. If GRRM wrote the Lord of the Rings trilogy, I'm pretty sure the entire fellowship except for Boromir would have died before the end of book two, Gandalf would die and stay dead, Boromir the token-tragic-hero-who-reforms-his-ways would have lived to take over Gondor, although one which is just a smoking mountaintop. Eowyn would have been beaten mercilessly until she withered into a husk of rotten skin and bones. Wormtongue would be sitting on a chair made of Aragon & Legolas's skin. Saruman would be helping old women cross the road, while Sauron would be a misunderstood and unhappy demigod with the intelligence of a young child. Last but not least, Gollum would be the recipient of a MTV award (oh wait he was!)
If I were to recommend one fantasy series ever, this would be it.
Monday, February 07, 2005
I for one, am not excited by the hundreds of rounds fired off by the hero, while hanging by his toenails from an upside-down hang-glider, while the arch-nemesis is hacking away at his arm with an axe, and despite all the thousands of henchmen, the hero somehow survives and defeats the "bad guy" in single hand to hand combat, with the aid of one special toothpick or any other device.
Action movies ARE BORING! That, plus hackeneyed, banal, and trite (I'm running out of synonyms here!) My idea of what constitutes a good movie is one you will watch again, and again without losing appreciation, and perhaps gaining more and more from it every time you watch. Here is my test to see if you really enjoy an action film- watch an older one, preferably from the 80's or early 90's. The audacity of the stunt crew and the explosions don't seem so exhilarating anymore, do they? The explosions lack some bang and those special-effects aren't so special, sí compadre?
People make the mistake of equating awesome firepower, deadening explosions, and car/motorcycle/boat/plane/helicopter/segway chases with a good movie. All you have to do is watch the same movie a few years down the line when you have already seen all of the above compressed into the first 30 seconds of a current action movie, and you will probably yawn in disgust.
This attitude of mine carries on into other media such as books. I will never read another Hardy Boys, Clive Cussler, or Robert Jordan book again. Yeah, The Hardy Boys were my friends during my childhood. I have read more than 200 of them, between the 59 in the original series, the 67 or so which I read from the Mystery series, and 106 or so from the Casefiles series. All that before I realized I was suckered into reading trash. Repetitive trash. By the time I was 13, I even wrote a couple of short story mysteries revolving around the characters Frank & Joe Hardy. Of course those weren't the only books I read. The "Three Investigators" (both the classic series and the Crimebusters) were incredible. Tom Swift (both classic and new series) was also mind-blowing to my impressionable mind.
When I was about 17, I accidently picked up my first and last Clive Cussler book. By the time I finished reading it, I cursed myself for giving it the time of day, and vowed to never look at another one again. Robert Jordan came heavily recommended, and by the look of the Robert Jordan newsgroups and IRC channels, he is practically deified by his readers. Ok, so I read his first 3 books in his Wheel of Time Series. Nothing impressive, only the same boring story of a naive youth of a troubled and humble background, unaware of his awesome latent magical powers, full of doubt and filled with ethical dilemmas, who always manages to defeat the all-powerful evil mage/god/demon, (and perhaps by accident too) by the end of the book. ZZZzzzzzz.....
Harry Potter? Don't make me laugh. I won't go as far as dissing the books, but if it brings non-readers closer to the goal of becoming full-fledged readers, it is a worthy goal. Same thing goes for Dan Brown's "Da Vinci Code", although I did enjoy both that book and the previous "Angel's & Demons". Also, take my advice and avoid his two earlier books, "Digital Fortress" and "Deception Point". Yes, his later books are practically mirror images, but they have many interesting tidbits, however accurate they truely are or not.
I suppose one day I will take a moment to discuss my likes and dislikes of certain authors in their respective genres. But not now, this rant is already too lengthly.
Friday, February 04, 2005
Thursday, February 03, 2005
It often feels like my conversations are running around in circles, without the listener making those critical connections to carry on to the logical conclusions I wish to make known, which are often the meat of the discussion. Now you can begin to understand why this is a frustrating experience.
You want a perfect example? Attempt to explain why natural, non-government-sponsored monopolies are signs of a healthy economy to a friend or coworker, and why the FTC's actions are criminal,immoral and reprehensible.
Do any others have this same problem, or do you perhaps employ simple, and logical shortcuts during serious discussion? Do you at some time feel your conversation isn't working out so you throw in the towel, regardless of your still unexplained actions and behaviour? Or are you simply reticent, and allow people to think and believe what they want about your ethics and behaviours?
If I seem apprehensive, I'm not. In fact most of the time I couldn't care less whether the person I spoke to is even somewhat convinced. It is frustrating because I think it has to do with my shortcomings of not being a persuasive speaker. If you have any tips on how to become a better one, please comment.
As an aside, and perhaps worthy of an additional blog entry was a socialist's POV. Even if they are intelligent enough to realize that their philosophy and praxeology are of incoherent fashion and intellectually dishonest, at least they have the company and the comfort of being in the camp of other Che Guevara t-shirt wearers who understand their base motives and can commiserate amongst.
To be fair however, I understand that Randians/Randroids have their designer collection of John Galt and Taggart Transcontinental merchandise to wear or decorate their surroundings with, so that they feel that they socially fit-in and still make a statement about society. Which I find highly amusing considering that Objectivist philosophy revolves around the ego, and here they seek the comfort of not being a social misfit.
As I mentioned previously via an update entry, the project name went into a second-stage poll, where as of 12:00 PM, Febuary 3rd 2005, "Centerstage" has garnered 65 votes in its favor, more than triple the votes of the second place suggestion.
In fact, there is yet another poll to decide whether they will favor the American or British/Worldwide spelling of Center/Centre in the projects name. The vast majority favor the American variant, as do I for asthetic purposes.
If you do visit the website, have a look at the many proposals for the GUI and architecture, and if you have any UI, graphic, or programming experience why don't you contribute to the project.
Wednesday, February 02, 2005
Mac Media Center is holding a poll to find the most suitable name for the project. The goal of the project it to create an encompassing media center which will allow one to hook up their new Mac Mini to their television, and navigate their music, play games, watch videos, view photos, [video-]chat, et al. all in a stunning eye-candy enviroment.
The two leading contenders in the poll are the bourgeois, eponymous "Mac Media Center", and the excellent "Centerstage", a creation of yours truly. (scroll down a bit)
Please take a moment to register, and help me boost my ego, by selecting "Centerstage".
The poll has entered into round 2, please go here to vote!
Which basically means that I never put to much thought into what I wanted to write here in the first place, as that task would sidetrack me from my primary goal of writing a comment elsewhere!
But I appreciate the suggestion, and the more I think of it, the more I like it. But I won't limit myself to scifi, even though its always been my most favorite genre. I'm thinking of just ruminating the different concepts I've encountered and comtemplated, and perhaps solicit your humble opinion on said subjects.
The abovementioned/pictured trilogy took me all of 5 days to consume, and yes it was tasty. The tale's protagonist is a character named Phaeton, a daring playboy (similar to, however a more serious version of H2G2's Zaphod Beeblebrox) whose character is a metaphor to the Phaeton of greek mythology, whose father was Helios the Sun God.
Without giving away the plot, I just wanted to discuss one of the most [literally] mind-bending devices the author uses with relish in this series; complete control of both the conscious and subconcious mind. Before you click away in disgust, this isn't another "Matrix" story. This is a tale about a future where men can take a step back from their conciousness and make rational choices (yeah, a redundancy) from within their subconcious mind, before the "reasoning" is tainted with outside influence. I know I'm not really explaining this concept well, and thats why you should read this series, but to help you visualize this concept, think of it as a self-imposed, and reversible autistic mind behaviour, where the reasoner is closed off from the world and its irrational prejudices, and can then identify where his concious mind is trying to steer him and for what motive.
It's also a world where men can have their memories redacted, or edited and filled with an alternate version of a story for consistency, for instance to remove all traces of a close friends' death. Of course there are tradeoffs, and the author makes use of this device, both literally and figuratively speaking. A prime example of this technology in use would be to avoid an unpleasant friend; you simply have it actively rewriting the events in your memory, so that even if he's shaking your hand at the moment, you "think" you're drinking a margarita and having dinner with your wife for example. Think of it as a pop-up-blocker, and obnoxious ad-replacer for the human realm of experience.
Well, thats all for now. I'll try to add some more another time.