Archive for December, 2002


Tuesday, December 31st, 2002

It’s that time of year and everybody knows the meme:

  1. Sleep (for the muse)
  2. Write 1,000 words a day
  3. Get published (for money)
  4. Finish revising Colony
  5. Make serious inroads into the Seven Saga
  6. Do all those little things I keep putting off, like the sewing and the cleaning
  7. Reclaim a hobby lost to writing (I’m thinking cross-stitch)
  8. Work 9 to 5 instead of 10 to 6 (or get laid off)
  9. Use my health insurance before I get laid off

That’s a lot of new leaves to turn over, but if you don’t make resolutions, you’ll never break any. The depressing ones at the end are in honor of the worst December stock market showings since 1931.


Tuesday, December 31st, 2002

Congratulations to Penny and Monkee for placing in Strange New Worlds VI. I thought they’d used up their amateur status last time, but three’s the limit. Ladies, you are now professional science fiction writers. You can even join the union if you’d like.


Monday, December 30th, 2002

Pretty site of the day: the Phoenix Help pages at Texturizer, though the particular page linked here uses a table rather than pure CSS

I played with Phoenix at work today. The last time I tried it, back in version 0.1, I wasn’t impressed. Now it’s up to version 0.5, and it’s very nice when you add the Preferences Toolbar and a theme. It almost makes Windows livable.

I also found the guy who did the old style-switching Mozilla page that partly inspired my own style-switching efforts.

The Two Towers

Sunday, December 29th, 2002

…or, The Ring Goes Astray

The rosy spectacles of memory have been working their magic on The Fellowship of the Ring for a year now, but as I look back at that blog entry, I realize that the second movie was just more of the same. Here’s what I said last time:

The scenery was wonderful, and the choices of what to cut from the book were not bad choices. However, the choices to rewrite the dialogue, plot and characters were all bad choices - too many to name, but all of them poor indeed. Let me clue the producer in: You’re not J.R.R. Tolkien. You’re not even Christopher Tolkien.

Here’s a comment I made in Lori’s blog before I’d seen the new movie:

If it were me spending millions of dollars and years of people’s lives filming LotR, I’d follow the book. It’s the best-loved work of literature of the twentieth-century - it takes a lot of gall to think you could improve on that. Needless to say, you’d be wrong - major changes to the plot and characterization just date the movie and the producer’s neuroses.

Now Lori informs me that the producer is making the series PC - which just dates the movies and the producer’s politics. Angering Faramir-lovers is only a sideline. Having been warned about the wretched things done in Ithilien, I was more incensed by the illogic of the Ent scenes. Why didn’t Treebeard know Saruman had been cutting down trees? What kind of Ent doesn’t know about that? And why was Merry so hot to get the Ents to help him, when he’d had no contact with the outside world beyond orc kidnappers? What could he possibly have had in mind for Treebeard to do? I understand that there’s an attempt here to make the main characters more significant in the events around them, but Merry and Pippin were supposed to be baggage. (Ten to one that scene gets cut.)

On the Arwen watch, the gratuitous ring shots were replaced by gratuitous mystery-flower-jewelry shots. Arwen did give Aragorn a piece of jewelry in the books, but it wasn’t a flower. It was the Elessar - a nice green rock, if I recall correctly. [I didn’t, but I fixed it.] I suppose Grunge!Aragorn is too macho to wear jewelry on his forehead. Little as I like Arwen overuse, especially her habit of resurrecting a dying Fellowshipper every movie, I have to admit that the confrontation between her and Elrond was well-done. I liked his Middle-Earth is going down in flames - get out while the getting is good speech and the flash-forward to the consequences of not getting out.

So there’s no time to make sense of the Fangorn scenes, but there is time to add a pointless float down a non-existent river for Aragorn. Frodo also takes a major detour to a river he’s not supposed to be anywhere near, but does the audience the service of not falling in. If Peter Jackson weren’t so involved in telling his story, he’d have had time to cover the important parts of Tolkien’s story.

I thought the movie dragged - there was plenty of action but little plot to back it up. The Fangorn scenes were a typical example of that, as was Gandalf’s instant cure of Theoden. Especially after the first hour or so, I felt as if I were watching a very long music video rather than a movie. If I had the DVDs (and, of course, a DVD player), I’d watch the movies with the sound turned off. They’re beautiful, even the battle scenes. I’ve always had trouble picturing Helm’s Deep, not to mention thousands of orcs streaming in and around it. Gollum was also a special effect, which may explain why he was so good, as well as relatively true to character.

The Lord of the Rings is not a particularly psychological novel; it would be possible to film the entire thing more or less as written, the way, say, Pride and Prejudice was (in the six-hour version). Someday it may be possible to run Peter Jackson’s version through a nice graphics program and come out with the movie Tolkien would have made, or to make it from scratch without the overhead of extras, studios and travel to New Zealand. That would be a fine use of technology.

Year in Review

Sunday, December 29th, 2002

The following is a list of what I’ve written in the past year, a la Alara Rogers. All stories are VOY unless otherwise indicated.

I’ve worked on bits and pieces of other unfinished fics, including three Buffy stories which I may never complete (”A Soul by Any Other Name,” “How Lame is That?” and “Secrets”), two other original novels, and five original short stories.

Now that I’ve typed it all up, it’s much more than I remembered writing. I’d forgotten the two filk musicals, in particular. It was a very good year for filk, if that’s not an oxymoron. This was an encouraging meme - I highly recommend it to everyone who thinks they’re burned out.

What Rough Beast

Friday, December 27th, 2002

My favorite UFO cult, the Raelians, have chosen this most appropriate of holiday seasons to announce the birth of the first human clone (CNN, Washington Post). To celebrate the auspicious nativity, I’ve cut-and-pasted the traditional poem:

The Second Coming (1922), William Butler Yeats

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.

Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: somewhere in sands of the desert
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Reel shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again; but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?


Thursday, December 26th, 2002

There’s a new build of Chimera out: 0.6 (2002122004). I’ve been using it all day and it hasn’t crashed yet. It does do this freaky thing where the preference icons go blurry at times, but that’s not enough to drive me back to Mozilla 1.3a.

One thing my new Chimera does better than its heftier parent, Mozilla, is display raw XML with CSS. It did better with this example from the Apple developers site. Maybe my Mozilla problem (that the titles were not turned into links) was just a bug in the most recent alpha release; Mozilla claims to have extensive XML support.

You’re probably in skim mode by now. If you’ve never understood the appeal of XML, take a look at A List Apart’s painless introduction to Using XML. If you know enough about XML to fear the acronym proliferation to which it inevitably leads, check out XSL Considered Harmful, an old article alleging that XSL would set XML back two or three years. I think the author’s dire predictions came true with a vengeance.

My sick fascination with XML stems from my dreams of an ideal content management system. Right now, my fiction is divided between plain text files with ASC headers, hand-converted HTML versions with handmade indices, and LaTeX source for my original fiction. I keep notes and related information in plain text files, in HTML pages (my own, or downloaded from useful Voyager sites), or in the TWiki I run locally on my Mac. TWiki is a nice solution, but it’s perl-based and annoyingly slow at times. I’d rather have something I could edit in Emacs, view in a browser, and convert to other formats easily. I know XML is the way to go, but getting there requires more free time than I’ve had to spare lately.

I’m not looking for fancy ways of combining XML and XHTML, though that sounds cool. I’d like to start with a simple DTD and a basic CSS stylesheet to go with it, so I can view my own stories on my own lovely mac using my own standards-compliant browsers. Conversion to web and printable forms are future goals, as is FicML for all. I’m hoping this teixlite tutorial will get me set up locally.

Two Weeks Notice

Wednesday, December 25th, 2002

The snow was a bit of a bust, in white Christmas terms. It stayed warm and rainy much longer than predicted by the frenzied weathermen, and we won’t reach that lower limit of 6 inches they started out predicting for the Massachusetts coast. I’ve been spending my day off writing that J/P fic I didn’t finish in time for TomKat 2002, with a short break to brave the rain and be disappointed by Two Weeks Notice.

As a comedy, it was hilarious. The script was great, Hugh Grant was his usual shallow yet lovable self, and Sandra Bullock was good, especially with her liberal parents. Veronica embarrassed me by laughing out loud more than once.

As a romance, however, it was a flop. The lead couple had no chemistry together - I’m not sure I could say what chemistry is, but when it’s not there it’s as plain as day. The script didn’t help on that account, either - the first hint of a romantic scene, a hug in the men’s bathroom, was undermined by a slapstick scene of one character getting her hair stuck on the other’s belt buckle. The most romantic thing the shallow millionaire lead did for his true love was carry her through traffic to a Winnebagos’s loo. Potty humor doesn’t do it for me.

Although the leads never clicked, the movie was interesting enough until when the plot finally came around to the standard themes of romantic comedy - the misunderstanding involving a half-naked woman rival, the catfight, the public confession of Twue Love, and the interminable final kiss - the plot was not enough to pull it off.

Maybe someone will remake it in a few years, with fewer bathroom scenes and more chemistry.

Happy Holiday

Tuesday, December 24th, 2002

Here’s a seasonal recipe from my lovely sister Veronica, former chocolatier:

Dark Chocolate Peppermints

2 7oz bars Hershey’s Legendary Dark
6 candy canes
9×9 square pan lined with foil
candy thermometer

Crush candy canes in heavy duty plastic bag with a rolling pin, or on pulse in a food processor until it resembles coffee grounds. Set aside.

Chop up both chocolate bars until they are chocolate chip size. Place 2/3 in a microwave proof bowl and melt on low 1 minute at a time until almost all melted (will probably take about 3 minutes - stir every minute).

Add remaining 1/3 and stir until dissolved. Keep stirring until melted chocolate reaches 88 degrees.

Add crushed candy canes and pour into 9×9 pan. Place in refrigerator for 4-5 minutes. Remove and score chocolate into squares. (The chocolate will break on score marks.)

Place back in refrigerator for another 10 minutes. Remove and let sit until room tempetature.

Break apart.

They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?

Monday, December 23rd, 2002

Pretty site of the day: Creative Commons

I’ve been meaning to blog about extreme veterinary medicine for a long time now. The ‘net is dead for the holidays, so here goes…

It all began with the iguana hysterectomy. I didn’t even know iguanas had hysters, or that you could pay someone to remove them. My only concept of iguana finance was put down your nickel, take home a five-inch iguana. Apparently, once it’s grown to four feet long, a mysterious bond forms between the iguana and the designated food provider - a bond capable of making the employed party shell out $600 to have part of the iguana removed, rather than another five cents for a fresh, fully-functional iguanalet.

I figured iguana owners were a breed apart, but extreme measures in veterinary medicine don’t stop at iguana hysterectomies anymore. Page back through Mustang Sally’s blog and you can get the full tale of her medical adventures with her diabetic cat. Dr. Deb, my consulting physicist, had her cat on feline chemotherapy before he was finally allowed to pass away in peace. And my own lovely sister Veronica, having gotten all the pet appreciation genes in the family, subjected her mad cat Kitty to a procedure I cannot even describe here because of the severe squick factor.

Yes, it’s the pet owner’s money to burn as she wishes, and it keeps the vets employed, but the whole thing disturbs me. I wouldn’t mind so much if the average patients at Angel Memorial Animal Hospital were endangered birds or prize cattle, but we’re not even eating the cats afterwards, and more are born every minute. What’s the point of torturing the ones we have?

There are people dying in Africa because they cannot afford hysterectomies, insulin, or chemotherapy. (They do seem to have a grasp of amputation, however, so Kitty is at no appreciable medical advantage here in Boston.) Sure, we have the resources here to do iguana hysterectomies and pump life-saving chemicals into our housepets, but is it right? I think it’s grotesque to save feline lives while humans are dying for lack of the same medical care. I’m not the sort of person who usually worries about people dying in Africa, but there’s something egregious about an iguana hysterectomy.

Nor do I consider it fair to the animals. Once upon a time, it was considered cruel to let an animal suffer. Human beings undergo painful and prolonged medical treatments because we want to live even at that price. Animals have no notion of future benefits - the only motive in making them suffer is our own. It’s one thing to hurt an animal in order to save lives or fend off starvation, but it’s another to do it because Fluffy is cute and you can’t bear to be parted from her.

So if you ever need someone to pull the plug on Fluffy, just give me a call.