Archive for April, 2004

The 4096 Color Wheel, Version 2

Tuesday, April 20th, 2004

Now with HSV!

The 4096 color wheel has been updated to version 2.0. I changed the algorithm and the image, mainly for the purpose of adding greys. See the new SV (saturation and value) square to the right of the wheel. It’s easier to click around than to explain, but I am attempting to explain HSV on the about the color wheel page.

Also included at no extra cost is the French version and the php script for making the wheel and alpha-transparent SV square. It would be way too much work to create the SV square for each hue, so instead I simulated it using greyscale colors and alpha transparency. I thought it was a very cute trick myself.

Many thanks to Jerie for being my IE/Win tester. You Windows users would still be suffering under IE’s execrable PNG support if it weren’t for her valiant efforts. As it is, IE 5.0 is a wash - you won’t get the nice SV square if you’re living that far in the past. Mac/IE is weird yet basically functional, as usual, but take my advice: get a real browser.


Monday, April 19th, 2004

I’ve been working on the color wheel again. This time, I’m going for an HSL- style wheel, instead of the funky lobes in the current version. So I’ve been trying to figure out the difference between HSL and HSV, with a side of HSB. (Is HSB the same as HSL, or is a new beastie?)

For a taste of the intuitive HSL approach, check out The DHTML Color Calculator. It’s lots of fun to sweep around the wheel with the >> buttons.

Maybe You Can’t

Sunday, April 18th, 2004

I spotted this lovely link on rasfc: Maybe You Can’t: Overcoming Failure and the Myth of Success by Chuck Charleston. [It’s actually a parody, not a real book.] Here’s a quote:

Whatever it is you dreamed to be or to do, it wasn’t meant for you. The sooner you get that through your head, the sooner you will learn to embrace what life has left to give you.
On the other hand, you could waste your precious time on this sullied orb taking guitar lessons or writing novels no one will read. Do you really want to be that pathetic guy in the book store talking about his unpublishable manuscript or the local politician who keeps losing elections?

There are certainly aspiring writers out there who are wasting their time and that of their put-upon writing groups. It’s sad when someone has scads of determination and not a shred of talent to back it up. Usually, though, I think that a little failure puts people off - the average mediocrities won’t devote their lives to something that affords them no gratification. The crazy guy in the book store is exactly that - a crazy guy.

If you enjoy, say, writing fan fiction, then you don’t need determination. On the other hand, it’s rather difficult to throw your entire life away over a dream you’ll never achieve, if only because bills need paying, dinner needs cooking, and so forth and so on. Most dreams are both part-time affairs and reasonably entertaining - I don’t think they require a cure from a travelling pessimist charging $50 a ticket.

Dream Park, Paladin of Souls

Saturday, April 17th, 2004

Superior link of the day: Khaaaaan!

I knew I was asking for it when I picked up Dream Park by Larry Niven and Steven Barnes. Usually I run screaming the other way at Niven’s name, but I thought this one was new and thus possibly up to the higher standards of characterization and believability that the genre has acquired since the alleged Golden Age. Instead, Dream Park turned out to be a reprint. The only reason imaginable for this piece of fluff to still be in print is also the only thing that keeps the umpteen indistinguishable characters limping along in a plot better suited to a crime thriller than a sci-fi novel - the Park itself.

Dream Park is the Disneyland of role-playing games. I suffered through it because I’ve been toying with a similar story idea and I needed to know what had been done. Let me say, not much. The park covers a significant area which is remodeled for each game - this time, with imported Brazilian fauna. The characters go in armed, but their weapons have holographic blades so as not to hurt any papier-mache monsters or actors playing the orcs; the computer records the virtual hits. This is where my disbelief blew out its suspension - how do you swing a holographic sword? This isn’t Star Wars with its solid lightsabers; presumably there is no way for one weapon to hit another weapon or a person - no experience of the padded broadsword thunking into the padded shield the way the real SCA does it. The basic physics of momentum have been overlooked.

Fantasy it ain’t, but if you want a mildly interesting tale of industrial espionage without any baggage of believable characterization involved, then give it a shot. Dream Park has two sequels - not many, considering the potential for milking the concept dry. Judging from the Amazon reviews they’re even worse than the original, if that’s possible.

After all that, Paladin of Souls by Lois McMaster Bujold was a relief. LMB can be counted on for good characterization and a plot that rolls along, and I was drawn in to this novel. It took a while for the pseudo-Spanish titles (Royina, etc.) to stop annoying me, and I didn’t remember enough of The Curse of Chalion to know whether I should know anything about Ista or not. As always, LMB manages to fill in the series details smoothly.

I didn’t mind so much when I discovered that The Curse of Chalion was all about Miles, renamed Cazaril for the occasion. I was more disturbed to find that Ista was Ekaterin in disguise (right down to the oh’s), and not at all relieved when she morphed into Cordelia halfway through the novel. It rather undermines the fantasy background to have your characters acting so much like your space-opera characters would - and so I return to my old complaint that Chalion isn’t enough of a fantasy.

The world is stolen medieval Spain (others call it Renaissance, though there’s nothing being reborn here besides demons); the castles are nice, but I don’t really get the feeling of a medieval world, real or imagined. Chalion isn’t nearly as solid in its execution as Barrayar. The quintitarian theology is interesting, but religion supplants magic - cutting off yet another fantasy angle. Paladin does have some demon-wrought magic (a subplot that makes the novel for me) but then the gods get involved again with their dii ex machina and I’m left feeling that they are more real than the world of Chalion itself.

It occured to me that maybe this supernatural thriller/fantasy crossover counted as one of those genre-crossing works of which true literature is made (according to John Gardner). If so, I really need to get that suspension of disbelief repaired, because I’m dragging an axle here.

Resurrection, the Haiku

Friday, April 16th, 2004

You Know You’re Too Fannish When: you throw a Klingon wedding (link thanks to KC)

Seema’s been pestering people for episode-based haiku. The following is probably not what she meant. “Resurrection” is Stargate episode 719 (see the newly updated episode list), but this haiku fits far too many seventh-season eps.

“Where’s Colonel O’Neill?”
Sam makes another excuse -
We’re Jackless again.

Big, Big Things

Thursday, April 15th, 2004

Metaphor of the day: the Titanic, on its anniversary. (Thanks to Seema for the link.)

QuickSilver is up to Beta #22, though not much seems to have changed. You can read about it and other Launchers for Mac OS X at MacDevCenter.

But my big Mac discovery for the day is Celestia, a cross-platform 3D outer-space simulator. It’s not exactly user-friendly, but you Windows and Linux people should be used to that by now. I downloaded it for sci-fi writing purposes, though it has educational and entertainment value as well. It’s free and the documentation is linked on-site and also in the Celestia users’ forum.

As long as I’m mac-geeking, here are a few more mac links that have been piling up:

  • Mandelbrot on Cocoa is a fun fractal explorer I may have mentioned before.
  • Here’s a macosxhint about disabling command-Q for Safari, so you don’t accidentally lose all those open tabs. It didn’t work for me, but you can just add an extra key (like option) to the quit command using System Preferences | Keyboard and Mouse | Keyboard Shortcuts. Did I mention that one before?
  • Trapeze will extract text from a PDF, for a price.
  • OS X for geeks gives helpful mac advice from a geek switcher.
  • I know I’ve mentioned the VLC media player before, but I’m plugging it again because it played a corrupt educational video for me that Quicktime wouldn’t play.
  • MacOSXHints has yet more free backup advice.
  • MacDevCenter has an article on DarwinPorts, an alternative to fink.

I can’t believe I voted the whole thing…

Wednesday, April 14th, 2004

Well, the ASC Awards are over and I voted all over the place - pretty much everywhere except DS9, most of ENT, and some of MIS. I still haven’t done my taxes, but the big post offices are open until 9pm tomorrow, and the one near South Station until midnight. I suppose it’s no rush.

Once the madness was over (I cast the last vote at 11:01pm), I came here to blog and noticed tons of comment spam had piled up. Nothing new, and the blacklist plugin can delete it en masse, but the trouble was I hadn’t gotten any notification of the spam, either. It turns out I haven’t gotten any comment notification at all since the beginning of March. I try to keep an eye on the comment list in the MT interface as well, but it looks like I missed a bunch of comments. So I haven’t been ignoring you - I just didn’t know you cared.

I’m trying to catch up on the lost comments, and then I really have to do those taxes.

Blood Music, Oryx and Crake

Tuesday, April 13th, 2004

I’d heard good things about Blood Music by Greg Bear, and it didn’t disappoint, though I’m not sure it was quite the groundbreaking work I’d been led to believe. What begins as a typical tale of viral carnage cooked up in a lab by a young, overreaching Frankenstein takes a sharp turn into a Singularity scenario. I’m no fan of the Singularity because true transhumanity is as difficult to convey as true alienness, but this one is reasonably well done.

The sudden break in the middle drops several characters, picking up an almost entirely new cast - not a good sign for characterization. It took me too long to realize that one of the new characters was mentally retarded rather than poorly written. I thought there was a bit too much hand-waving over the “biologic” to make up for such sins of characterization. The Singularity tends to do that to writers - it’s as hard to write post-humans science as post-humans themselves. I’m impressed Blood Music worked out as well as it did.

Oryx and Crake by Margaret Atwood wasn’t quite what I’d hoped for, either. Normally, I’d enjoy a nice post-apocalyptic disaster novel, but this one broke a few too many rules. The suspense of the novel is generated by the reader wanting to know what the main character, the Snowman, already knows - that is, what the heck happened to the planet? Eh? Eh? Getting the truth out of the author/narrator/Snowman one flashback at a time is like pulling teeth, so that by the time I found out I didn’t care anymore - and it’s not like me not to care about wiping out the human race.

There are amusing moments of plot, especially Snowman’s encounter with a sounder of pigoons, and the buildup to a climax of the non-flashback action -
but all is lost in the typical mainstream novel non-ending, in which Our Hero is faced with a pivotal choice and…the end. If you want to know what happens at the end of the novel, I advise you to read a different novel.

Hugo Nominations 2003

Sunday, April 11th, 2004

The 2003 Hugo Award nominations are out! I haven’t read much on the list beyond Blind Lake and “Walk in Silence”, but it makes a good reading list and reminds me that I really ought to subscribe to Asimov’s.

I’m not eligible to vote, so don’t bother sending your minions…

The Big Time

Saturday, April 10th, 2004

Thanks to Liz for alerting me to the first Mac trojan horse ever. The OS has made the big time, even though the virus doesn’t actually do anything and isn’t contagious either.

It’s just nice to know somebody out there cares enough to write for OS X.