Monday, August 30, 2004

Another reason to hate Microsoft

In an article written by Al Fasoldt on his Technofile website, he reports that an unpatched XP computer will last less than 20 minutes "before it succumbs to infections over the Internet".

I can hear the Linux and Mac aficionados gloating from here.

Saturday, August 28, 2004

Light update

From Robert Runté's blog, I'm not boring you, am I?, a link he got from The Pod Bay Door, just for fun. First thing I did, of course, is send a note to DH.

Currently Reading...

Once in a while, you have to read something that makes you giggle, makes you feel good. This is the first Marian Keyes book I've read, so I don't know if it's typical of her writing, but the book's a lot of fun. It takes place in the world of fashion magazines--where the word 'cutthroat' was probably invented--and in Ireland, where fashion has a different meaning than in New York or London.

The story is not slapstick but rather sitcomesque, more Frasier than Friends. A great summer read, sitting on the boat and sipping a cool glass of white wine.

Friday, August 27, 2004

Blogging for Books

Came across this interesting idea on The Zero Boss. Every month, Jay Allen invites an author and picks a topic. People post an entry on their own blog related to that subject, with a link on Jay's blog. He then reads all the entries, selects seven of them and sends those to the author of the month, who decides on the winning entry. The winner gets a copy of the author's book as a prize. b4b.jpg

You can read the winning entry for August here.

Thursday, August 26, 2004

Philip K. Dick

Found this great website on the life and body of work of Philip K. Dick, from whose stories were derived such films as Blade Runner, Total Recall, and Screamers. In the 'Writings' section, there's a really cool, previously unpublished treatment of a novel he didn't get to write before his death in 1982.

There's this fantastic quote from him, that exemplifies and describes so well why I write SF:

"I want to write about people I love, and put them into a fictional world spun out of my own mind, not the world we actually have, because the world we actually have does not meet my standards. Okay, so I should revise my standards; I'm out of step. I should yield to reality. I have never yielded to reality. That's what SF is all about. If you wish to yield to reality, go read Philip Roth; read the New York literary establishment mainstream bestselling writers….This is why I love SF. I love to read it; I love to write it. The SF writer sees not just possibilities but wild possibilities. It's not just 'What if' - it's 'My God; what if' - in frenzy and hysteria. The Martians are always coming."

And the sky is not the limit.

Wednesday, August 25, 2004

Levity vs. paranoia

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security has dusted off and revised the old Cold War preparation instructions to tailor them to the new era of terrorism, using the 'Net to disseminate its warnings. Disaster is now no longer the exclusivity of Californians and people living in Tornado Alley, and preparedness everyone's responsibility.

Homeland Security is using icons to remind people what to do when. Here is a reinterpretation of them.

Tuesday, August 24, 2004

Cool music

I bought Norah Jones's latest CD yesterday, feels like home. It's very different from her first, Come Away with Me, but it still has great music (and musicians) and intelligent lyrics. The CD's mellower, more melancholy. Norah has a sample of her music on her website, so you can decide if you like her style of music before you buy the CD.

This is another interesting way artists use the 'Net, to extend their audience. Writers increasingly do this as well, with sample chapters of their books on their website, so you can decide if you like what you read. Cory Doctorow pushed this to the ult, by offering his novels as free downloads on the 'Net, even though they are published by Tor. They are released under a Creative Commons license, which reserves some rights to the author of the work.

According to him, his sales have not been affected by offering the books for free; in fact, he attributes his success to the readers' ability to download the books.

This makes perfect sense to me. Although ebooks are definitely a medium on the rise, the majority of readers prefer to read print books. People start reading the book on their PDA, like it, decide they'd rather hold the print version in their hands, go and buy it. Smart marketing.

Monday, August 23, 2004

Time to waste

Have you ever sat in front of your computer to do some work and instead tried to find a (semi-legitimate) way to waste time? Well, now you can just watch time go by.

Actually, the page is part of a really cool site that helps you understand numbers and simplify them.

These kind of pages are possible due to Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the Web, who recently got knighted by Queen Elizabeth.

Friday, August 20, 2004

Taking a break

Went sailing for three hours this afternoon. Fifteen knots, gusting to 25. Nearly put the rail in the water a couple of times. Exciting.

The leaves have already started to turn, here and there around the lake. Signs of autumn not far away. Thinking of our trip to the North Channel at the beginning of September. It's starting to feel real.

For those who don't measure their speed in knots, but like to tie them, the Knots on the Web page is a great resource.

Wednesday, August 18, 2004

The 2003 Stella Awards

This award, reminiscent of the Darwin Award, is named after Stella Liebeck who was awarded $2.9 million in damages (the appeal court reduced it to $640K--what a bummer) when she sued McDonald's after spilling hot coffee on herself. It has become the epitome of frivolous lawsuits, but many people, thinking, no doubt, that "what's good for the goose..." decided they would try their hand at getting money for their own mistakes. The Stella Awards is the result. There were also a series of spoofs on the real Stella Awards, which are almost as believable.

Out of curiosity, I did a search on "Liebeck and McDonald's" in Google. It came up with the McDonald's Coffee Case, which explains in more details the reason for the suit. The fact that Stella received 3rd degree burns and spent 8 days in hospital for skin grafts is usually overlooked.

On the other hand, people usually like their coffee hot (or cold), not lukewarm. The temperature McDonald's served its coffee was the right one (88C) according to the National Coffee Association. So, who's right, do you think? The case will feed lawyers for years to come, I imagine.

Tuesday, August 17, 2004

Unpolitically correct driver education

This made me giggle all the way through, then I watched it again. Okay, maybe some people have too much time on their hands, but we all need comic relief.

For the rushed reader

Found this hilarious site, Book-a-minute SF/F. No time to read? Just pick a title. Takes a minute, maybe less. Problem is, the story's so condensed it sounds more like a Haiku than a story-line. Still, it's a way to distill a book to its most basic of basics. I particularly like the condensed version of The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant, Unbeliever, by Stephen Donaldson, one of the first SF books (series) I read.

This series was a revelation for me, simply because the protagonist is an anti-hero, totally unlikeable, but the story was compelling enough that I wanted to read on. Although I must say that I reread it not long ago, and the story didn't grab me as much as 20 years earlier.

Does it have to do with reader sophistication, or maturity, or the books themselves?

Monday, August 16, 2004

Brain Ambrosia

It's always a delight to find an intelligent, sensitive, totally delightful new writer. In the curious incident of the dog in the night-time, Mark Haddon tells the story from the perspective of an autistic teenager.

Through this emotionally impaired, literal-minded child genius, Haddon succeeds not only in telling a riveting story, but also in imparting how difficult, wrenching, exhausting it is for the parents to care for such a near-adult child, and how the rest of the world perceives him.

the curious incident is not only a delight to read, but it leaves you rethinking your attitudes towards hurt kids.

Saturday, August 14, 2004

Spoofing ad logos

This is for those people who hate ads, especially from those companies who try to make you think you can't live without their product, or make you think that you're somewhat mentally defective if you decide not to believe everything they say. It's also for those who object wearing clothes that advertise a product (great advertising for free, guys, good going) making you think these companies are doing you a favor by letting you wear their logos.

False Advertising is irreverent, and makes you feel a bit illicit by looking at these parodies. Fun, but somehow, it succeeds in making you think about how we get brainwashed.

My favorite is the Chevron one.

Friday, August 13, 2004

The worst poet of the English language

Found this website on McGonnagall, deemed the worst poet ever in the English language. Here's a wee sample:

ANCIENT Castle of the Mains,
With your romantic scenery And surrounding plains,
Which seem most beautiful to the eye,
And the little rivulet running by,
Which the weary traveller can drink of when he feels dry.
And the heaven's breath smells sweetly there,
And scented perfumes fill the air,
Emanating from the green trees and beautiful wild flowers growing there.

This Dundee man followed his muse for 25 years. Sort of uplifting for a writer like me. Despite all his critics (and there were many), he wrote on, and on, and on...

Stem cell research is a US election issue

An interesting article in Tech Central Station (Will Bush lose over stem cells?), which states that most Americans favor the use of stem cells from unused embryos for research such as Alzheimer's.

Morbid Fun

From Carrington Vanston, I found this funny way of saving money on tombstone design: The Tombstone Generator. Okay, maybe it's a bit morbid, but fun, nevertheless. Thanks to Derryl Murphy (Cold Ground) for pointing me towards it.

How to insult your readers

Am I the only one who's clued in? I recently started The Codex by Douglas Preston and, by page 17, I couldn't believe that Tor/Forge had published such a badly written book. Where was the editor? Where was his head?

Fine, I tell myself, maybe it's just the beginning that's bad, so I start flipping through the book, and it's still so badly written it's almost impossible to read. The language is about grade 4 level, descriptions are barely competent, the dialogues are stale and inane, the characters are unidimensional and cliché. Sentences such as "...mounting the portal and striding up to the zaguan doors, giving the doorbell a firm series of depresses", or "...picked his way through the bushes with his Ferragamo wingtips, a look of annoyance screwed into his face" are at the same level as "It was a dark and stormy night".

Am I the only one thinking this is bad writing? According to the reviews, media- and reader-wise, this is a good book. How many saps believed the hype and forked $40 for drivel with a mediocre story?

This comes from publishers selling names rather than quality writing. Preston was a co-writer with Lincoln Child for Relic, which was made into a movie that had some success at the time. I suspect they've been banking on that "fame" ever since.

There are some positives through this, however. It takes a bad book to realize there are still some really good ones out there, genre writing or not, which means there are publishers and editors who do have a brain inside their heads. Second, I didn't buy the book, it was borrowed from the Library. This is one instance where spending our tax dollars works for me.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Metered Space release

I'm really excited. Metered Space, the first in the Jack Meter Case Files series, is out. This story has has an incredible life, so far, with it being published twice as an ebook, and now in electronic format and paper by Zumaya.

Anyone who wants a bit of a teaser can go here. I have a soft spot for this story, since it started while I was participating in a writing lab on the net, and it developed from there. I couldn't let go of Jack --my protagonist-- who kept bugging me. I had so much fun writing it, because I played with words, placed inside all sorts of hidden clues and messages, and it's fun to see who gets them and who doesn't. I never took myself seriously when I wrote it, but it's really the only one of all the novels I've written that has taken off. So far.

I'm busily working on the second in the series, working the final edits. It should appear in 2005, so I can actually call myself an "author"!

I'm in!

Finally decided I'd get with the program and start my own blog. I'm sitting here, in front of my computer, for hours on end, writing, not talking to anyone, and sometimes the walls close off on me. It's not enough to just go out and say hi to people, sometimes you need to say a few intelligent things in a row.

Thank God for email, with which I can reach a lot of my friends, but why not try to make new ones, and at the same time start discussions on topics that interest us all?

On top of that, I've been looking for a way for people to contact me directly about my writing and what they like and don't like. I'm also looking forward to sharing great books I've read, music I like, and some of my sailing adventures. Should be fun!