Archive for March, 2004

Barnacle Clings Again!

Monday, March 8th, 2004

Trailer of the day: M. Night Shyamalan’s The Village

According to Boston Online, the local crustacean has reattached himself to the local press. The Herald’s press release doesn’t say a word about how Barnacle came to be unemployed (and we’d fondly hoped, unemployable) in the Boston papers.

The moral of the story: Plagiarism is now fair game at the Herald. Make it up and phone it in, boys! If the readers don’t like how we do things in this state, they can always secede.

[P.S.] Did I mention it’s snowing? Where are the sunny, 60° days of yesterweek?

Schild’s Ladder, Days of Atonement

Sunday, March 7th, 2004

Educational movie of the day: the famous Italian Electron Interference Movie

Today’s reviews are of two of my least favorite books by two of my favorite sci-fi authors, Walter Jon Williams and Greg Egan. It’s always sad when good authors go bad. Fortunately, they haven’t jumped the shark, just overtaxed the genre.

Days of Atonement by Walter Jon Williams is a gritty cop novel with more religion in it than sci-fi. It’s a great “police procedural,” if that term means gritty cop novel and isn’t just more false advertising from the cover blurbs. The science fiction comes into the Gritty Cop’s depressed mining town by way of a high tech company and a suspicious disappearance. Physics is involved, but it’s way beyond Gritty Cop’s understanding. This is sci-fi the way a mundane might see it - maybe I’ll pass my copy on to my mother.

If Days of Atonement is short on the sci, Schild’s Ladder lacks something of the fi. Greg Egan’s characters are immortal and immutable - the extraordinary events seem to leave the leads untouched. Though that hardly distinguishes them from, say, Larry Niven’s characters, it’s a step backwards from my personal favorite of his, Distress. The scence was out of control from the get-go - I know more than most readers about loop quantum gravity and graph theory, so if I had trouble following it I pity the average reader picking Schild’s Ladder up for fun.

If you can get past the heavy going at the start, though, the middle of the novel is the best part. There’s research and conflict and a flashback to the lead’s childhood that would make a nice short story. The final third gets into ththe wild handwaving that seems unavoidable at this level of physics. It was pretty, but more like fantasy than WJW’s alleged fantasy, Metropolitan. Sometimes I enjoy that sort of thing, but after the extra-hard science at the start I was still in trying-to-understand mode so it just annoyed me.

Maybe that’s just me.

The Subplot Thickens

Saturday, March 6th, 2004

Haiku of the day: T haiku

I can’t believe I re-read the whole thing. There’s something gratifying about having written something that takes hours to read, even if a third of it is raw, undisguised info-dump and nothing of note happens for the first 20,000 words or so.

On a dark day of NaNoWriMo an extra year got inserted into the narrative, and now I think that year must go. I have no subplot to fill it, and my pivotal event needs to happen earlier on. That means that two years must now become one, and not end-to-end but simultaneously. I think index cards are in order.

On the geek side, I downloaded a 4mb IPA symbols package for LaTeX (tipa) for the sake of one schwa (ə) buried deep in an infodump. I’m not counting that towards my 50 hours of editing, though.

Death by Dvorak

Friday, March 5th, 2004

/. of the day: The Disposable Computer - the comments are in rare form.

My typing is only getting worse, despite the best advice no money can buy. To reassure myself that it’s all worthwhile, I’ve been reading random Dvorak pages. I even found one with up-to-date switching info.

You know what they say: those who can’t write, edit. So despite the late start, I’ve decided to do NaNoEdMo. I do like my NaNoNovel and the theme (a society fracturing over irreconcilable differences) seems even more timely than it did in November. Paper and pencil sounds good right now.

Just as an aside, never try to use Earthlink’s chat support option. The people at the other end (India?) are useless, and it spontaneously disconnects in Safari (FireFox is fine).

Still Typing Very Slowly

Thursday, March 4th, 2004

Quote of the day: It does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. –Thomas Jefferson

I’m still typing slowly on the Dvorak keyboard, but I did have one breakthrough. My text editor emacs uses lots of control characters which moved around with the rest of my scrambled keys and are now harder to reach. I could just use the standard mac keys instead, but the command key isn’t all that well-placed, either.

Oh for the days when I had my own (abandoned) sun sparc with the control key where the caps lock usually is! There’s a useless key taking up far too much real estate on non-Suns. SHOUTING IS NEVER NECESSARY.

But then I remembed that all things are possible to those who use macs. The answer to misplaced control keys is uControl. My keyboard is now optimally configured; it’s just the typist who’s behind the times.

[P.S.] I ended up doing the mac keys as well, and they’re very convenient. Finally, command-C and command-V in emacs, not to mention command-W and command-Z! The full instructions are at webweavertech.

Fractal Paradise

Wednesday, March 3rd, 2004

Shell of the day: bash

I’ve been playing with mac fractal freeware for years, and Mandelbrot on Cocoa is far and away the coolest program I’ve seen yet. Don’t even try to read the instructions - they’re pretty much still in the original Japanese. Just select an area with the mouse, then hit “run.” OS 10.2 is required.

Typing Very Slowly

Tuesday, March 2nd, 2004

Secession of the day: Killington, Vermont

Here it is, my first Dvorak entry, for which I’m typing very slowly. I tested myself on QWERTY before the big switch and my speed was 80-90 wpm. According to gtypist, I’m already roaring along at 20 wpm on the Dvorak keyboard. Somehow it doesn’t feel anywhere near as fast as 1/4 my normal speed.

So typing like the tortoise gives me plenty of time to contemplate why I’m torturing myself this way. Though the fastest typist ever reached a top speed of 212 wpm (with a 150-170 cruising speed, all on the Dvorak keyboard, of course), I think 80 wpm is reasonable for us mere mortals. I’m more concerned with reducing my typo rate and saving my endangered carpal tunnel than with increasing speed. And it just seems wrong and unmac-like to use a keyboard designed for inefficiency when a better one is just a click away.

Telling Lies

Monday, March 1st, 2004

Contest of the month: the ASC Awards

On Mike’s advice I read Telling Lies for Fun and Profit: A Manual for Fiction Writers by Lawrence Block. I think I’ve read them all now, because none of his advice sounded new or intriguing. Since the book is a collection of Writer’s Digest columns, it didn’t exactly flow or cohere like other writing books I’ve read (not that there have been that many). It’s definitely a genre-writing sort of a book - not that there’s anything wrong with that - by an author who openly confesses to cranking out pulp erotica for the money. I think it covered all the bases, but the overall tone of the book, IMHO, was one of Orson Scott Card as played by Polonius.

I’ve gotten to the point where I’ve heard all the advice before, so it’s hard for me to imagine how other writers can be surprised by, for example, the usual and customary advice against overuse of adjectives and adverbs.