Archive for September, 2003

Chestnut Hill

Tuesday, September 30th, 2003

Mac sighting: C.K.S. International Airport, Taiwan - it’s leaving on a jet plane, but where is it going?

Who would have known Chestnut Hill had a post office? Certainly not someone who’d just put “Chestnut Hill” into to the USPS post office locator, which claims the closest P.O. is in Jamaica Plain.

If you know anything about Chestnut Hill, you know the locals won’t be going to JP for their stamps, 0.4 miles or no 0.4 miles. I hiked out there to meet Dr. Deb’s favorite oral surgeon, who, of course, wanted to remove all my wisdom teeth even though only half of them are ailing at the moment. I was on my way back to the Chestnut Hill T stop, inbound for the stunning variety of Brookline postal options, when I spotted it. It was lovely and well-manicured and looked exactly like a sterotypical post office. Inside the clerks were amazingly friendly and helpful - it was like being in a whole new postal world.

Don’t get me wrong - the Brookline people are nice, too, but the Chestnut Hill post office had that special Stepford Wives touch about it. Having accomplished my postal mission (a last-minute submission to Writers of the Future [the link is especially amusing if you have popups turned off]), I decided to take the scenic route east and walked towards the Chestnut Hill reservoir. I took a turn up Chestnut Hill Road, a private way, and it was like I’d stepped into another century.

Picture those gorgeous old houses you see in Newton when you’re driving out of the city on Route 9, but instead of being all crowded together imagine them with lots of immaculately landscaped space around each one. Throw in a few topiary trees and lots of slate roofs, and you have the Hill. I felt that I was polluting the shades of Chestnut Hill just by walking up the road with my CVS bag.

I emerged at the wrong end of the reservoir, with the homey asphalt landscaping of Boston proper equally far away on both sides. I went left. There’s a fence around the reservoir, but if you really wanted to get in there and spit in my drinking water, it wouldn’t be hard. (I’m trying to express a disturbing thought without attracting the eff bee eye or nasty people looking for water to spit in.) Many joggers passed me by, but eventually I reached Boston and lived to blog the tale.


Monday, September 29th, 2003

Word count: 3739
Cool link of the day: The Church of Spock

Good news! The mac is on its way. It’s still on a loading dock somewhere in Taiwan at the moment, but the shipping prognosis is good for later this week.

S and S
The Sense and Sensibility type: These delightful
(:-P) people have their feet set firmly in the
Eighteenth Century. Devotees of satire and
irony, they are far more likely to be reading
Alexander Pope or Jonathan Swift than Lord
Byron or William Wordsworth (no offense to
these men; all four have merit). Generally
reserved and self-controlled, they quite often,
though not always, resemble Elinor more than

Jane Austen novel quiz
brought to you by Quizilla

Canon Is So Canon

Sunday, September 28th, 2003

Word count: 1300

I wasn’t going to blog because I’m busy writing, but Seema wrote about canon relationships and I couldn’t resist the topic.

My interest in canon pairings began with C/7 - just hearing the rumors undermined my will to JetC, and I went on to write C/7 stories. (I’m writing a new one at the moment.) Though I’m fond of J/P, I’ve never been able to write much of it.

I also love AU’s. What I can’t do is take an AU characterization or a counter-canon relationship and put it into a normal fic. While Voyager was in the Eternal Voyager Now, mixing and matching characters was no great stretch, but in seventh season the P/T became sadly irrevocable and the J/C undertone became a C/7 overtone. I’m not apologizing for anything I did in the Eternal Voyager Now; it wasn’t me who changed but the show.

In Stargate, I haven’t even scratched the potential of canon. The AU’s are canon, too, so if I ever feel like something out of the quantum mirror why should I bother to pretend it happened on this side?

Raft, Blind Lake

Friday, September 26th, 2003

I picked up Raft because I haven’t quite given up on Stephen Baxter yet. It’s an old juvenlie of his, which is to say it’s a boy’s coming-of-age story, so characterization, even of said Boy, is a bit sketchy. Raft makes up for it in spades, though, with a truly original milieu.

Boy is the descendent of the survivors of a unique shipwreck - somehow his forebears took a wrong turn into a high-gravity universe where trees fly and miners walk on the surface of dead suns. The plot turns on the consequences of high, and apparently increasing, gravity, as Boy explores the decaying human societies and meets the wildlife. It’s a wonderful example of the genre.

I also found Blind Lake in the library right before it was slashdotted. Robert Charles Wilson writes some odd stuff, and this one is no exception. An observatory spies on lobster-shaped aliens using a technology no one seems to understand. A group of science journalists come to the Blind Lake installation at the wrong time and are caught in a security lockdown. But how can an observatory threaten to contaminate Earth - with memes?

The characters are well-drawn and their problems unusually normal for science fiction - joint custody, annoying bosses, the trials of being a science writer - but my favorite was the young girl in the middle of the custody battle. Blind Lake manages to be both a a good novel and good sci-fi. I’m not sure it could have been better on either side without a loss on the other.

Big Mac

Thursday, September 25th, 2003

Wired has a nice article about Virginia Tech’s G5 supercomputer, which was also slashdotted earlier this week. The original images were mirrored after the slashdotting, but seem to be back up now.

Those 1,100 dual 2GHz G5 towers sure look cute together. I’m guessing that’s 1064 PowerMacs for computing and 36 spares for playing iTunes. (That’s the only explanation for ordering the macs from the iTunes store.)

I should have bought my PowerBook there - my estimated ship date has been postponed from today to 10/3/2003. Virginia Tech gets 1,100 G5’s, and I get Muhammed Saeed al-Sahaf:

To Our Valued Apple Customer:

Thank you for your recent purchase of a 12-inch PowerBook G4 from the Apple Store. Following is an update regarding your order.

We anticipate shipping your order by October 3, 2003. Please accept our apologies for any inconvenience caused by this delay.

If you prefer, you may change or cancel your order and receive a prompt refund. [Details follow.]

Apple Computer Consumer

I’m not sure what the refund is for, since they haven’t charged my credit card yet. And I thought I was the Apple Computer consumer. Alas, not yet.

Trashy Genre Writers Dissed

Thursday, September 25th, 2003

An op-ed by Harold Bloom came to yesterday’s Boston Globe by way of the L.A. Times. I heard about it through a comic reading by Mike Barnacle on the radio this morning. Bloom uses the National Book Awards’ decision to award their 2003 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Stephen King as an example of “another low in the shocking process of dumbing down our cultural life.” Bloom gives J.K. Rowling a sarcastic nomination for the Nobel Prize for literature.

As a fellow fiction writer [Boston joke], Barnacle was incensed. There’s plenty in the article to offend, most notably where Bloom says that “Rowling’s mind is so governed by cliches and dead metaphors that she has no other style of writing.” Bloom, in case you don’t know, is a prominent literary critic. [See his wikipedia entry.] The real trouble with his article isn’t the legitimate criticism of King and Rowling’s weaknesses, but that Bloom makes no effort to explain what Pynchon and Roth have that trashy genre writers lack. So he comes off looking like a snob rather than a critic.

Maybe that’s beneath him, or maybe he feels that if a reader can’t distinguish between J.K. Rowling and Lewis Carroll there’s no point trying to explain. That may be true, but it only adds to the backlash against mainstream fiction from us trashy genre readers. If it were my article, I compare King to Shakespeare, another author with commercial appeal, and see whether King measures up.

Speaking of dissing, webloggers don’t get much respect, either, but Joe Clark wants every serious blogger to get their own ISSN number (International Standard Serial Number). We are all semi-daily periodicals. I took a look at the US request form, but you have to give the Library of Congress your name, address and phone number to get an ISSN. That’s almost as bad as registering a domain - I prefer my privacy, thanks.

INTP as usual

Thursday, September 25th, 2003

I went into this MBTI an INTP and came out one:

INTP - “Architect”. Greatest precision in thought and language. Can readily discern contradictions and inconsistencies. The world exists primarily to be understood. 1% of the total population.

Take Free Myers-Briggs Personality Test

My actual numbers were:

Introverted (I) 75.76% Extroverted (E) 24.24%
Intuitive (N) 57.58% Sensing (S) 42.42%
Thinking (T) 75.76% Feeling (F) 24.24%
Perceiving (P) 50% Judging (J) 50%


Wednesday, September 24th, 2003

I got email today from the folks at NaNoWriMo, warning me I’d be eaten by the database gremlins if I didn’t confirm my address for Year 5. I did nanowrimo last year, and I’m planning to nano again, so I clicked the appropriate link and re-registered myself.

At the other end of that link was a plea for funds. That’s not an unusual sight by any means, but they also mentioned their annual expenses: $35,885. Hosting costs money, but not that much money. Fortunately, they provided a PDF expense report to itemize this huge sum. Mystery solved - $29,800 of the expenses are salary for various part-time and seasonal NaNoEmployees. An additional $1,100 is for graphic design.

Maybe I’m a little too used to free stuff free, but asking for donations to pay someone’s salary seems a bit much. At the very least, they could ask for donations of graphics from artists, rather than paying over a thousand bucks for graphics that, while nice, weren’t necessary. I’m not sure why a phpBB and regional parties require such expensive staffing.

I spend a lot of time doing free stuff that benefits other fanfic readers and writers, other sci-fi writers, and other geeks, and I don’t ask for donations to pay myself a salary even though I could use one at the moment. My payment is other people’s labor on other free things from which I benefit. I used to think nanowrimo was one of those things.

Print Imp

Tuesday, September 23rd, 2003

Three-day word count: 2,500

My printer arrived ahead of the as-yet-unshipped mac, so I’ve been printing away merrily. Printers are evil incarnate. The PDF looks perfect in Acrobat Reader, but by the time it comes out of the printer, the margins are too big.

The first munge was page margins. My initial searches turned up several suggestions to uncheck the “fit to page” checkbox. However, there was no “fit to page” checkbox for me to uncheck. Extensive google research led me to upgrade to a newer version of Acrobat Reader (5.1) which did have the checkbox.

Acrobat Reader is huge, by the way, and takes an hour to download over dialup. But I did, and I unchecked the checkbox and printed my PDF. The margins came out too .

I suspected my homegrown PDF files, so I followed the instructions on the otherwise useless Adobe troubleshooting page. I tried printing an entirely different PDF, namely, the $99 rebate form for my printer. The margins were too . I’m still going to use it to get my rebate, for that you should be paying me for using this plastic paperweight of a printer effect.

Somewhere in google groups I’d read that the native OSX Preview program did this same margin munging, so I hadn’t bothered trying it. Now I was desperate, though, with a backlog of PDFs and no way to print them. So I ran one through Preview and presto–perfect margins!

Preview did have its own peculiarities, however. The font came out darker (perhaps because Adobe wasn’t shrinking the text down to increase the margins), and it was also missing all superscript numbers above 3. In some cases a little smudge showed up where the number was supposed to be. I figured this was a font problem, so I changed the font of all my superscripts. At long last, my file printed properly.

My little HP inkjet doesn’t compare to the big HP laser printer at school that required the user to sacrifice a text file before it would print a PS file. It’s more of a print imp than a print daemon, but I foresee hours of amusement in my printing future.

Terminal Utilities

Monday, September 22nd, 2003

Dyslexic link of the day: ctue

Seema says I should be writing, so this is going to be a very short entry about some nice Terminal utilities I found at MacOSX Hints. The long story is at Improving Unix-Finder Interactions in OS X. I installed the fink version and then saved a new terminal .term file as directed, and now I can open the current Finder directory in the Terminal with just one click.

Some of the tricks at that site (like iTerm customization) won’t work for OS 10.1, but one commenter mentioned that anyone can type open . to open the local Terminal directory in the Finder. That alone, without any of the downloads, is a very useful hint.