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August 17, 2012

Review of "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains"

I reread Ray Bradbury's short story "August 2026: There Will Come Soft Rains." The overarching theme of the story is a warning about humans wiping ourselves out with a nuclear war which was very relevant in 1950 when the story was published. However there is an other theme as well, and one I connect to more personally.

The story is centered around an automated house in the future after a nuclear war has wiped out the house's inhabitants and the near-by city. The house is unaware the occupants are dead and continues to preform its daily duties. While the house is oblivious and dense, it is also clearly not malevolent. Bradbury personifies the house with things like angered little cleaning mice picking up after the dog tracking mud around. There are other traits as well as the house is dutiful, protective, and even charitable. This is most evident at the end of the story where the house begins to burn down. The house yells for the occupants to run while it combats the fire before succumbing to the flames.

The reason I like this idea so much is because computers and robots are seldom portrayed as loyal and altruistic. So often they are shown as malignant Juggernauts bent on human genocide. Consider robot portrayal: Replicants in Blade Runner, HAL-9000 from 2001: A Space Odyssey, T-800 from first Terminator movie, agents in the Matrix, or Cylons in Battlestar Galactica. By contrast this house in this story is benign and you even feel bad for it at the end. One also can't help feel a little compunction because the house doesn't know—indeed can't even understand—the fate of its inhabitant. In this way the house has a naive innocence fairly unique among robot stories.

I don't know of Bradbury had intended this as part of the theme of the story, but it is one I embrace.

Queen Amber

Queen Amber

   Our groups annual trip to the Bristol Renaissance Faire. This year Amber and I met up with Xiphos, Xen, Liz, and Ben.  It was also the first time I was able to ware my scale pauldron.  I don't have many pictures from the day.  My camera lens has decided auto-focus is no longer necessary.  This is my fault as I tend not to be very gentle with my equipment.
Chicago

Chicago

   Amber and I tried a dinner cruse in Chicago this evening.  I had never done anything like this before so I wanted to try it.  We decided to do an evening cruse that included a fireworks display.  The first two hours went alright, but after that I spent the rest of the ride sitting down rather motion sick.  While I wasn't hanging off the edge, I wasn't able to walk around the remainder of the trip.  Amber had a good time though. 
   The Chicago skyline was beautiful from the lake, but it wasn't easy to capture.  I had no tripod and even if I had the boat (to my inner-ear's dismay) was bobbing about.  I got a few shots that turned out at the expense of a very high ISO, but I think it turned out well.
Xen's Electromagnet

Xen's Electromagnet

   This evening Xen learned how to make an electric magnet.  We used a nail, some magnet wire, and my DC power supply.  Our first magnet had a single row of wire and was so weak it couldn't even pick up a sewing pin.  For our second magnet we decided wrapping by hand took too long so I got out the drill.  We wound the magnet in seconds, and this magnet was better.  However the gauge wire we had selected got hot after a few seconds of operation.  So we wound a third magnet and this one did much better.  It was able to pick up objects heaver than itself.  Seen here is Xen using the magnet to lift a nail and a razor blade.