The Sadness of Ray Bradbury

I’m a take-it-or-leave-it Science Fiction fan. Ray Bradbury was never a favorite author, but I did tolerate Fahrenheit 451 when it was shoved down my throat on some summer reading list. He passed away this week, and this morning’s New York Times delivers an outstanding send-off to a writer who deserves a lot of credit for bridging the gulf between the lurid pulp covers of tentacled aliens and calliphygian space nymphs to the world of serious letters. Asimov, Heinlein, Dick, Herbert …. there’s quite a few “serious” sci-fi writers, but none really hit a chord with me.

The current New Yorker carried a brief but oh-very-sad reminiscence by Bradbury, possibly his last published piece. In it he talks about launching paper hot air balloons into the evening skies with his grandfather and watching their flickering light and beauty fade into the darkness with tears streaming down his five-year old cheeks.

“But I could not let it go. It was so beautiful, with the light and shadows dancing inside. Only when Grandpa gave me a look, and a gentle nod of his head, did I at last let the balloon drift free, up past the porch, illuminating the faces of my family. It floated up above the apple trees, over the beginning-to-sleep town, and across the night among the stars.

We stood watching it for at least ten minutes, until we could no longer see it. By then, tears were streaming down my face, and Grandpa, not looking at me, would at last clear his throat and shuffle his feet. The relatives would begin to go into the house or around the lawn to their houses, leaving me to brush the tears away with fingers sulfured by the firecrackers. Late that night, I dreamed the fire balloon came back and drifted by my window.”

So sad and so beautiful and now I want to go read more of the same.

Placing a pre-order bet: Samsung Galaxy S III on Sprint

Two years ago, when freed from the corporate tyranny of a mandatory Blackberry, I rushed to Best Buy and put my money down on the then-sexy HTC 4G EVO, Sprint’s flagship phone and the first Android smartphone to build any sort of geek-cred.

Last fall, sick and tired of the Sprint and HTC combined crapware, I jailbroke the phone and remade it in my own image with CyanogenMod. After a week or so of fiddling to restore the GPS and hotspot functions, I’ve been more than happy with the hardware as my primary mobile device, pushing its limits with many gigabytes of Amazon music stored locally on the 32 gb microSD, and loving its multi-functions on the dashboard of my car.

But two years are up and it’s time to upgrade to a new phone. iPhones are not an option. The screens are too small for my aging eyes (So go buy a Cricket you may say), and I continue to harbor a genetic allergy to Apple products, or rather, Apple operating systems and Apple prices and Apple attitudes towards DRM.

Android has been very good to me, so off I went looking for the hot new phone that would be most faithful to Google’s reference platform while at the same time giving me access to Ice Cream Sandwich, the ability to tether other devices to its WiFi hub, and unlimited data.

That of course meant continuing on with Sprint, even if they boned me to the tune of a $500 surcharge in March 2011 for daring to use it in Canada.  Sprint’s old claims of “4G” speeds was a quaint fiction predicated on finding a WiMax signal depending on whether or not ClearWire had rigged one up. As for 4G on Cape Cod — I’ll get it about as soon as I get fiber to the old house — but I do spend enough time in midtown Manhattan to expect a fast signal should I need one.

The phone I pre-ordered this week was the Samsung Galaxy S III — a well-reviewed phone that looks fresh enough to carry me another two years without any regrets. It should arrive before July (if Apple’s attempt at an injunction fails) and will doubtlessly take a little while to set up just the way I want it.