Archive for August, 2003

Alive and Kicking

Sunday, August 31st, 2003

Word count: 0

I’m just blogging for a moment to tell everyone I’m alive and well in NYC. We’re going to the Tugboat Festival today. I’ll be home and blogging again Tuesday at the latest.

The Repository

Thursday, August 28th, 2003

Word count: 100

The SG-1 tab has been expanded and now includes Repository: A Stargate Spelling Dictionary. Finally, we have hard evidence for naqahdah.

Submissions are welcome, but please provide a source.

Tile Demo

Wednesday, August 27th, 2003

Word count: 167

I added several new tiles to the Tile Gallery in the Life section, and made a tile demo. The demo is the coolest part - if you click on any tile within the Tile Gallery, you’ll get a sample page with the tile tiled in the background. If you just open the demo page alone, you get a form asking for the URL of any image you want tiled. There’s also an option to add sample text on the demo page, and you can view the source.

A new Stargate drabble is up, Alien, in the Third Snakehead POV. I also posted my first link in Heliopolis, for This Worm a God.


Tuesday, August 26th, 2003

Word count: 1100

Tonight around 1:45 a.m., Boston will be the closest it’s been to Mars in 60,000 years. A good rule of thumb: If you want to see Mars when it’s closest to your hometown, be outside around 1 o’clock Wednesday morning. Look south and up.Close Encounters with Mars, NASA

Technically, we won’t be in periareon (a neologism analogous to perihelion, the closest point to the sun) because Earth is not a satellite of Mars the way, say, Phobos is. But it makes a cool entry title. (It was that or Mars Attacks!)

If you’re having a Mars Party in Boston, leave a comment. Otherwise, I’ll be looking south from the roof at home.

Life Gallery

Monday, August 25th, 2003

Word count: 1000

I’ve put together part of a gallery of Life images. The tiles section is the most useful part.


Sunday, August 24th, 2003

Word Count: 305

My excuse for not writing is that Veronica and I spent the day wandering up and down the Green Line with Mom. Afterwards the cold weather put me in a strange mood. I made lots of rugs, and my characters argued too much. They would have been at each other’s throats if I’d kept going.

There are two new drabbles up on the Stargate page.

Persian Rugs

Saturday, August 23rd, 2003

Word count: 202

I’m still staring at the Persian Rugs in LifeLab. I tried to find more information about them online, but I came up with nothing but the LifeLab Gallery itself and a passing reference in a newsgroup. The rules to make rugs are B234/S, which means that new squares are born (B) to squares with 2, 3 or 4 neighbors, and that old squares never survive (S). The effect is an inversion of the pattern every round, plus constant progress outward at the edges.

Since the gallery images are very early on, they don’t show the true beauty of the pattern. You can see a nicer one on the Apple download page, but I think I’ll put up a few screenshots of my experiments as well. I’ve been playing around making rectangular and odd-shaped rugs. Here’s the standard rug at 1000 generations:

[click image for a larger version or here for a popup]

I was also thinking that one of the early generations might make a nice Arraiolos rug design. It would be mostly travelling stitches, not to mention too geeky for words, but I’m tempted…

American Front, Otherland II, Otherland III

Friday, August 22nd, 2003

Word count: 1040

I’ve had a run of non-novels in American Front and the middle two volumes of Otherland. Yes, they look like novels when you buy them remaindered, but when you get them home and start reading things aren’t that simple anymore.

American Front is part of the Great War series by Harry Turtledove, built on previous novels in which the South won the Civil War and proceeded to whomp the damnyankees in a subsequent skirmish. Now both Americas are dragged into World War I on the sides of their allies - the USA with the Kaiser and the CSA with England and France - and hold their own war to end all wars on their own soil, plus Canada’s.

So far, so good. Where American Front disappoints is in the machine-gun approach to plot. The would-be novel follows several characters through the first year or so of the war, and by several I mean a representative cross-section of both nations, plus a Canadian. The cast of POV characters alone was well beyond my ability to track, so I found the various soldiers on both sides blended into one another. Some characters stood out, such as the US pilot whose career tracked the evolution of the airplane’s role in the war from surveillance to machine-gunning to the interruptor that let him fire through the propellors without shooting them off. A fisherman from Boston grabbed my attention, of course, and the Canadian farmer dealing with US occupation was also a good read. Also of note were a New York socialist, a black butler on a plantation and his white mistress, a black laborer in occupied CSA territory who sides with the rebs as the devil he knows, and a Southern steelworker dealing with not Rosie the Riveter’s, but Pericles the Negro’s unexpected appearance in his mills.

They were all great stories, even the ones I haven’t mentioned about general’s aide, the calvary officer, the surprise US attack on the Sandwich Islands, an infantryman or two I couldn’t keep straight, the mother and daughter in reb-occupied D.C., and whichever other main characters I’m forgetting now. Any one of them would have made a great short story, but split up across 550 pages they were each frustrating. Maybe this episodic soap-opera style of writing is common in genres I don’t read; if so, I’m glad I’m missing it.

Otherland by Tad Wiliams suffers from the same cast-of-thousands episodic effect, though not quite as badly. I made it through the River of Blue Fire and Mountain of Black Glass always wanting to get back to my favorite characters, who were the Sydney police officers investigating a murder committed long before by one of the bad guys. Somewhere near the middle I began to enjoy Mountain much more than previously; I realized that was because most of the main characters were gathering at Priam’s Walls, and though they didn’t reunite into one group very successfully, at least they were mostly in the same universe for a while, which made the plot cohere much better.

I’ve heard two rumors about Otherland - one that it was planned as six novels but cut down to four, and the other that it was originally supposed to be a trilogy. Judging by the coherence of the end of Volume III, I now favor the trilogy theory. I have the last volume already, and finishing it will be nearly as much of a relief as KSR’s Mars trilogy; I like the Otherland characters, but that makes the epic style all the more frustrating.

Mac Life

Thursday, August 21st, 2003

Word count: 1050

Today’s Quest for Life was far more successful. The best Life out there by far is LifeLab for Mac OS 8.6 through X. It’s worth downloading for the Persian Rug pattern alone. (I stared at it for 1,000 generations.) You can use any RLE format file with LifeLab, but I found that it wouldn’t open foreign files unless I converted from DOS format to unix (where necessary), and changed the file type and creator to match the sample text patterns (not the PATT patterns). That was more work than I expected from a friendly mac app, but it comes with enough pattern samples that I didn’t need to do it. I was just obsessed. I even read up on the current status of Life research.

If you are sadly macless, you can play Life online or take the couch potato approach and watch animated Life gifs. Life32 is supposed to be a good Windows Life program, but I can’t vouch for serfware.

While browsing around, I found some other interesting toys, such as an The Brain Automata [sic] on-line, and a page of Mac Classic ALife programs. I spent yet more time in Classic mode fiddling with Tresvita, a 3D automata-generator. It’s a very cool program, considering its advanced age. I downloaded a few others from that page and wasn’t nearly as impressed. The Hexagonal CA wasn’t adjustable enough, for example.


Wednesday, August 20th, 2003

Word count: 100

Another day, another drabble… Since I’m on vacation from Colony, I’ve been doing research for an original story or two. In the process, I stumbled across some weird sites, like this Virtual Pet Rock for Mac OS X (10.2), and other cool Mac software that I can’t run, like Avida. The Fractal Trees work fine, though.