Out with the New Nov11

Out with the New

Newer isn’t always better. Just ask all of the loyal Samsung customers who ran out and bought the new Samsung ‘splody phone. They thought they were getting was new-and-improved technology. What they actually got was the choice between keeping a pocket bomb or trading it back in for last year’s phone. They also got a stern warning not to carry their new phones on airplanes. If you’re not a Samsung customer, don’t feel too smug. If you’ve got Windows 10, Microsoft has been quietly force-feeding your computer the Anniversary Update, which might improve your device. Or it might turn your perfectly functional computer into a giant paperweight. Don’t even get me started on iOS 10. I miss the slide-to-unlock feature desperately and wish my iPad and I could just go back to the way we used to be. As a geek, I should know better than to expect good things from an upgrade. If fiction has taught me anything, it’s that upgrades are usually a very, very bad idea. Upgrades are bad, right? When Rose wanted to save the Doctor from the Daleks, she exposed the heart of the TARDIS and was infused with the Time Vortex. Like the Windows 10 Anniversary Update, it wasn’t exactly voluntary. It also didn’t go well. The power was too much for Rose and the Doctor sacrificed his incarnation to save her. Oh sure, we got David Tennant out of the deal, but… actually, that is a pretty good deal. But as for unnecessary upgrades… do you remember what happened to Lt. Barclay in Star Trek: The Next Generation? He and Geordi went on a little away mission to see why the Argus Array wasn’t working. He got knocked out by an alien probe and woke up greatly...

Beyond Middle-earth: No idle fancy Mar03

Beyond Middle-earth: No idle fancy...

“A dragon is no idle fancy. Whatever may be his origins… the dragon in legend is a potent creation of men’s imagination, richer in significance than his barrow of gold.” ‒ J.R.R. Tolkien, “The Monsters and the Critics” If there is one thing that makes a hero, it is slaying a dragon. One of the greatest dragon-slayers, and one of Tolkien’s greatest influences, was Beowulf, whose story is chronicled in the Old English poem of the same name. In his life, Beowulf faced three foes. He fought the first and second, the monster Grendel and Grendel’s mother, as a young man in defence the Danes, a group of people who were strangers to him. He defeated both enemies and left the Danes a hero. His third battle was against the dragon, which he faced as an old man. At this point in his life, Beowulf was king of his own people, the Geats, and the dragon was terrorizing his realm. He followed the dragon to its lair and killed it, but not before becoming mortally wounded. He died and was buried by the sea. A hero needs to be worthy of the dragon. Tolkien said of Beowulf, “Already there it had these two primary features: the dragon, and the slaying of him as the chief deed of the greatest of heroes.” Tolkien wrote about two dragon-slayers who demonstrated this: Bard the Bowman in The Hobbit, and Farmer Giles in the medieval fable Farmer Giles of Ham. Both men were made king as a reward for their actions. But there was a third dragon-slayer who was not rewarded, whose life and death were nothing short of tragic: Túrin Turambar, whose story can be found in The Silmarillion. Túrin’s family was cursed by Morgoth. He lived as...