Hey Genius!

You forgot to wear pants!
Ha ha! Made you look!

July 30, 2005

This weekend

7/30/2005 10:25:00 AM

It's a long weekend, and good thing too. I have a wedding to attend, a wedding to skip (sorry, Glen & Katie), and a family reunion to attend in a town 2½ hours from here, the town where my parents both grew up. So... don't expect to hear much from me for the next few days.

We bought a digital camera yesterday, too. So now we're firmly in the 21st century, almost.

July 29, 2005

The Arm

7/29/2005 07:37:00 AM

Now that the space shuttle is in the news again, I've noticed a dichotomy between the Canadian and the American reporting on one particular item. While the American media have referred to the shuttle's articulated robot arm as "the giant arm" or "the robot arm" or the like, every single Canadian newscaster has called it the "Canadarm". I'm trying to decide who's got the complex here. Is it that the Canadians have a superiority complex ("Nyah nyah nyah, we built a giant space arm and you Americans couldn't, nyah nyah nyah eh"), or are the Americans suffering from an embarrassing inferiority complex ("It's just a giant robotic arm, so what if Canada makes 'em and we don't")? Or am I just reading too much into this?



We watched Clone Wars last night. I still think it's better than Episode III. For evidence, I submit the fact that I've seen Clone Wars twice, and Ep. III once. I suspect that my preference is related to the fact that (a) Clone Wars is pretty much pure action*, start to finish, and (b) the "I love you" plot occupies about 10 seconds of screen time. Now I have to find Vol. II.



_________

* And Mace Windu's scene, in particular, must be seen to be believed. Holy carp.

July 27, 2005

Mmmm, chocolatey...

7/27/2005 07:04:00 PM

We went to Charlie and the Chocolate Factory last night. Being someone who (a) never read the book and (b) never cared much for the previous celluloid incarnation, I was pretty lukewarm about the whole idea. I enjoyed the movie, though. It was a more entertaining ride than the trailers had implied. Johnny Depp was quirky to the point of freaky, and Tim Burton's curlicued set design made my inner child happy.

Afterwards we wound up at Forbidden Flavours for coffee, and my wife almost bought some Harry Potter candy. Someday I'll do an inventory of all the weird candies to be had at FF; for now I'll just say that their coffee is expensive but worth it. And it was busy, which is always a good sign. Now that Starbucks is in town (down on the floodplain with Wal-Mart and the Home Depot and Futureshop and a group of other boxen), I wonder if FF will suffer, or if they've carved themselves a sufficient niche in this town.

We also went to URLs, which is a sort of geek store that sells anime, action figures, books, and rents DVDs. We rented Clone Wars Volume I, so that my wife can watch all of it, hopefully without falling asleep this time. And then we'll have to keep our eyes peeled for Volume II, if it's even out yet. (Anybody know?)

July 26, 2005

The Emptiness of Wal-Mart

7/26/2005 04:52:00 PM

My wife works at the local Wal-Mart, one of the anchors of the local mall. Wal-Mart is pulling up stakes and moving to a new location, a congeries of box stores on the flood plain named the Corral Centre.

So Wal-Mart is in a period of rare transition. The store at the mall is still open, but it's nearly empty. The shoe section has about 1½ aisles open, but all that's left are women's shoes on clearance. The toys have been relocated to where the seasonal candy usually goes; half the store is blocked off with pegboards lashed together with zip ties, and the merchandise remaining in the open side wouldn't quite fill a store half again as small. It's a little weird, wandering the aisles and having plenty of space because almost all the four-way displays have gone to the new store.

Mind you, there's still no shortage of people in there, all of them frantic to find something, anything, that's on sale. It's a zoo, but it's a kinder, gentler, more open zoo than it was before. Or so it seems.

I don't envy the employees. I'm sure they deal with all manner of questions from the hordes of customers. How come you're out of detergent? Where's the shoes? When does the new store open*? Why aren't there any [x]?

In fact, selected excerpts from my wife's LiveJournal (for more, click T'Other Half under 'Roll:
To All Wally World Customers:

No, we don't have than in stock right now, you will have to wait a week.

Yes, we are moving to a different location.

We will be open AUGUST THE FOURTH and if you look ANYWHERE in the store you can find that out.

No, I can't help you find ______ and maybe if you had come in more than 3 days before the wedding / party / whatever, I may have been able to help you find clothing / footwear / presents / cards / whatever. Since you didn't, I guess you're screwed and will have to wait until August the fourth.


Just so you know.



Today was The Big Move at work. I'll take pictures of our new space soon, and post 'em. Look for it in the next few days.


_____________

* August 4th, judging by the NEON PINK signs posted every six feet on every vertical surface. The customer may or may not be right, but they sure don't like to read signs.

July 25, 2005

Quickie

7/25/2005 11:02:00 PM

Just a short one tonight. I spent the evening working on PHP -- apparently my free PHP host has some non-standard permissions set, which means that my image upload script fails at the last moment. I'll have to find out what kind of permissions magic I can do with PHP, but that'll be tomorrow, I think.

I also posted the rest of what I've done on "The Ash of Memory" to my writing blog, so if you're interested, have a gander. The password is bardo.

Tomorrow (hopefully): the spookiness of a ghost-town Wal-Mart.

G'night!

July 24, 2005

Potter has pulled me in, and other ramblings

7/24/2005 05:58:00 PM

—I've been reading Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince for the last few days, and today I suddenly realized that I'm halfway done. I must admit, J. K. Rowling knows how to keep my interest. Things are moving along, and it's kind of fun to see if I can correctly guess what's coming.

—The B-man and I chainsawed the fallen tree into liftable chunks last night. I have a friend that has a woodstove and a truck, and she's agreed to take the logs off my hands. I'll email her Monday; she works at the University too, at least for the summer.

—I've started thinking again about doing a bonsai. I did some Googling today, and found CrashBonsai. Like I said before, I can never say "I've seen everything" and truly mean it.

—Today's been kind of a lazy day; I've had a headache on and off for most of the day. Nothing major, but it's kept me from wanting to do a whole lot. My wife's been kicking my hind end at a video game, and later on the B-man and his wife (whose first initial is also B) will be comin' over for BBQ chicken, and probably a round of canasta. Wish me luck!

July 23, 2005

Bike ride

7/23/2005 03:03:00 PM

I went for a bike ride today. Pedaled for about an hour, cruised through town. There are sections in one of the parks, down near the river (which is still mighty high), that are rather frighteningly muddy. At a couple points I was praying I wouldn't have to put my feet down, since I was wearing sandals and I didn't really want to feel river muck squelching between my toes. I should've brought my camera, I kept thinking.

Then I was coming down the north side of the pedestrian bridge and I saw a big animal in the grass alongside the trail. I thought, Wow, that's a big dog. Then I looked closer, and it was actually a deer and her fawn. I jammed on the brakes (which, though clogged with mud, worked just fine, if a little loudly) and stopped. The deer didn't run, which surprised me. She made a slow circuit of the grasses, every once in a while pausing to look back at me and make sure I hadn't moved. Her fawn's eyes never left her. Then I heard some rustling off to my left, and looked over to see another mother-fawn pair coming out of the riverside brush. Four deer. I watched them browse for a while, trying to decide if I should pass through or go back and leave them along the trail.

Then another cyclist came from the other side, and she didn't see the deer until they had almost made it back to the bushes. The spell was broken.

Still wish I'd brought my camera.



I did some outlining work on The Coldest War last night. (It's the expansion of my tale of the dead in the Kuiper belt, called "Outside, Looking In", which I'm currently trying to sell.) I also put up the first draft (very raw) of "Between Heaven and Earth" on my writing site. Feel free to have a gander at it, if you'd like.

See ya!

July 22, 2005

Notes from Friday

7/22/2005 06:53:00 PM

Reading
  • Accelerando: 11%.
  • Harry Potter: partway through Chapter 4 (I think).

Blogging—I've started another blog, too, one that I intend to use largely for my fiction at this point. If you want to see it, it's right over here. It's using a software package called WordPress, PHP/MySQL based, and so I'll probably be fiddling with it on and off.

Writing—I've done a bit of work on "The Ash of Memory", a little more on my SF Challenge story, and not a lot else. Done some cogitatin' on Earth Fleet, and some on The Coldest War, but nothing that's made it into any files yet. I'm hoping to do some tonight, but we'll see what else goes on.

Day Job—So this Tuesday I get to move. My office is being taken over by another department, and so I'm going to wind up, more-or-less temporarily, in a former film storage room in the University library. It's kind of cool, actually; when you hit the light switch, the fluorescents all come on with that clunk sound that I associate with old factories, and there's a water fountain, washroom, mop room, and dumbwaiter all in the room. (Not that I think we'll be riding the dumbwaiter up and down, but you gotta admit, that'd be cool.) I'll be losing my nice big desk—it's a little unwieldy to move, honestly—but I'll be gaining... I'm not sure what I'll be gaining. But at least I won't be moving back into the basement.

July 20, 2005

Technology

7/20/2005 04:40:00 PM

So I downloaded Accelerando, Charlie Stross' new novel, which is a collection of the Macx stories from the past few years. I grabbed it in Plucker format, and installed Plucker on my Palm M105 to read it. This is the first e-book I've ever read, and so far it's going well. The text size is just right, and in two days I've read 3% of the book, according to the little info-bar at the top of the "page".

It seems only appropriate, too, that I should choose this book as my introduction to e-books. The first chapter, which was once the short story "Lobsters" (which I read a year or so ago, on a plane), is jam-packed with references to the ever-accelerating rate of technological change. I'm enough of a geek to get some of the references, but I'm sure I'm missing others. (In fact, some enterprising geeks have apparently set up a wiki dedicated to Accelerando. I may have to go there later, and see what I missed. (For those that wonder, I think this is a great idea. I love books that are about ideas, and better still if the ideas are a continuous sleet that serves as background for interesting characters doing interesting things. Quite frankly, as long as I can semi-follow it, the weirder the better. One of these days I'll do a review of John Wright's Golden Age trilogy.)

Now: I think I have to mow the lawn. Then give my car insurance company their annual slice of my post-tax earnings. Then... maybe some writing, but more likely some more PHP.

Harry Potter; Irony

7/20/2005 07:45:00 AM

My wife finished reading the new Harry Potter book the other night, so I've started in on it. I'm two chapters in and already I'm intrigued. Without spoilers, suffice to say that certain characters' motives and, well, characters have been cast in a brand-new light.

I also just noticed, the other day, a delicious, secondary level of irony in my choice of library books: I mean, seriously, Going Postal...

("And what do you mean, slow of mind?" « ten points to whoever tells me the source of that quote)

Anyways, gotta get to work soon. Later!

July 18, 2005

Canada Post and Library Books

7/18/2005 07:11:00 PM

So I was listening to CBC Radio today, and heard a tidbit on the news that made my jaw drop. Apparently Canada Post wants to hike their Library Book Rate, which currently sits (if I'm reading this right) between about 81¢ and $1.74 (plus a weight charge), to—sitting down?—$14.00. That's roughly a 1000% increase. Madness, I tells ya.

Found a link to the story

This would be disastrous to the small libraries in the countryside, which are usually running on a shoestring budget at the best of times. I worked in one*, one summer, and I put through a lot of interlibrary loans (ILLs). Hell, I put through a lot for me. The collection just wasn't big enough, and the acquisitions budget was not nearly large enough either. I was a voracious reader (and still am), and ILL was a blessing for me. The nearest halfway-decent** bookstore was half an hour away, and the nearest good bookstore was two hours away at highway speeds. And this, mind you, was before the Web existed, never mind became a household item, a staple of daily life much like television or radio.

Now that I live in the province's second-largest city (with a burgeoning population somewhere between 40,000 and 50,000), I still have cause to take advantage of ILL. I don't do it as often, but I've ordered books that were only available in Winnipeg's collection, and I seem to recall one coming in from Thunder Bay once.

So I'll be sending an email to Canada Post, letting them know what I think of this proposed rate hike. But rather than go off half-cocked, based on what I heard on the radio (and can't yet find on CBC's website ^^^see above^^^), I'll do some more research, compose my thoughts, and write something coherent and thoughtful. If you're Canadian, and give a rat's ass about the accessibility of reading materials, I suggest you do the same. No, strike that; I urge you to do your research, and if I'm not totally off base here, write a missive of your own, and let Canada Post know that their idea sucks hard.

In a little protest of my own, I went to my local library today, and took out two books: Going Postal by Terry Pratchett, and Chateau d'If by Jack Vance. The former was a pleasant surprise to find on the shelves; as for the latter, well, my writing has been compared once or twice to Jack Vance (Scott, I seem to remember you saying that), so I might as well see if I'm close.

Wow, that was windy. I'm exhausted. Time to do some PHP coding...




* Wow, they've got a website now. When I worked there, the head librarian was such a technophobe that she wouldn't even consider bringing a computer into the library.
** To stretch a definition.

July 17, 2005

The Visit

7/17/2005 10:45:00 PM

So my sister, her husband, and their two boys (aged five-years-less-a-week and two) came to visit this weekend. We had fun. We read, we played video games, we went down to the mall, etc etc. I got to break out my Lego and build some cool stuff. (I'm known as the Lego uncle; I still get the occasional set for Christmas or birthday gifts, and it's only recently that we've stopped giving the nephews Lego for their gifts, as they have enough for now. (As if there's such a thing as enough Lego.))

So yeah. More posts to come. Things are going fairly well around here.

G'night!

July 15, 2005

Randoms

7/15/2005 05:45:00 PM

I've got family coming to town this weekend, so to all my Constant Readers, don't fret if I don't post much. (Not that it'll be easy to tell, but I'm trying to get in a minimum of one post every other day.)

Also, I have a friend with a wood stove and a truck who's willing to take my felled tree for firewood. Now I just have to cut it down small enough that I can lift it...

Later!

July 14, 2005

Sometimes a screwdriver just ain't enough.

7/14/2005 05:04:00 PM

Sometimes you really just want to disassemble the computer with a sledgehammer.

A machine died at work today, and because it's a web-facing one, I got called about it. Looks like the motherboard is broken, but subtly broken; everything spins up, the keyboard lights flash, but there's nothing else, not even a POST beep, and the reset button doesn't do anything. Great. So I've put the drive into a different physical machine, but of course it won't boot. Completely different hardware. So I know what I'm doing tomorrow morning.

Okay, enough geekiness. (Well, no, not really. Enough computer geekiness.)


Tonight I have judo, if anyone else shows up, and I'd like to write either some fiction or some PHP code. (Oops, there's some more computer geekiness.) Or both.


I've seen a lot more dragonflies this year than in the past. On the other hand, I've got a lot more mosquito bites this year than any other year in the city. (Growing up in a small town with a sluggish river and lots of standing water tends to make the little beggars proliferate somethin' fierce, but I haven't lived there in over a decade...)

How's the weather, folks?

July 12, 2005

My day

7/12/2005 09:49:00 PM

Went to the bank today to finalize the loan we're getting to re-side the house. Likely some of the money will end up in the basement, too; we've got some mold in some of the drywall, and so that'll have to be rectified.

Did some writing tonight while the laundry was running. There's a "Clichés in SF" special issue coming up of Subterranean Press, and I had an interesting idea today involving a Mad Scientist, so I got about 400 words down. Snippet:
The eyes, Schulz mused, drew you in. They were Rasputin eyes, dark holes into the man's dark soul. The face was rugged, handsome in a three-days'-growth kind of way, reminding her of a college roommate's boyfriend.

The black-and-white photo was a blowup off a government ID, expanded slightly more than it should have been. Jagged square pixellations distracted you, making it difficult to see the face in full. Forest for the trees.

The folder next to the photo was as thick as the Sunday Times. LEDBECKER, M. was printed on it in a font meant to suggest an outmoded impact typewriter. A succession of white stickers were below the name, labeled Part 1 of 2, Part 1 of 3, and Part 1 of 4. Someone—Schulz suspected it was Lipton—had scrawled Part 1 of a continuing saga in red felt-tip under the labels.


Then I did some work on a PHP project that is coming up due. <geek>I hadn't realized that it's not necessary to do a mysql_close() when working with a MySQL DB. Learn something new every day.</geek>

And now I'm off to pick up the wife from work, and find out how her day went.

How'd everybody else's day go?

Mood: Not Thrilled

7/12/2005 12:31:00 AM

Well, it rose up and bit me on the ass. I always hoped it wouldn't.

I got a rejection letter from an online magazine today. I'd sent one of my short stories there. The rejection isn't the reason I'm a little upset, though; the reason* for the rejection is.

Turns out that the editor reading my little tale, as what I assume is a matter of course, did a Google search on some relatively unique terms in my manuscript. He discovered that the third search hit sure looked like my story, so he had a closer look. The link itself was dead; I know, because I tried it this morning, right after I got the email. But o Discordia! The wunderkinden down at Google have got something called the Google cache, and lo, when he clicked on the Cached link—I know, because it happened when I clicked on the link—there was my story, whole and entire.

Now most online publications—most publications period, actually—won't publish material that has previously appeared on the Internet. (In fact, verbatim from the rejection letter, here's the policy of the 'zine in question: I'm afraid we can't consider stories that have ever appeared online in publicly accessible (non-password-protected) places.)

Where, you ask, was this page that was so deviously cached? Why, it existed on a writers' community website, wide open for everyone to see. I did some research, and it turns out that blocking Google (and all other search engines) from caching pages is a matter of adding a <meta> tag (a simple matter for any HTML-savvy person). I've contacted the board admin and laid out my problem and my suggestion; that conversational ball is in her court right now. (I want to say, too, that I'm not mad at her, or at the editor of the 'zine, or even at me. I'm not mad at anyone. I'm a little ticked about the situation, is all.) Hopefully we can arrive at some resolution, so that this kind of thing doesn't bite anyone else on the butt. The writers' community in question is an amazingly valuable resource, and I'd sure hate to have that niggling question in the back of my mind anytime I ask someone for assistance: am I hosing myself right now?

I think that's all I meant to say on the topic. Thanks for lettin' me vent my spleen**.



The tree is down. My friend the B-man used my father-in-law's chainsaw to chop it free of my fence. There's surprisingly little damage. So that's good, anyways.



* Well, the first stated reason in the rejection email. There were story problems, too, but the editor saw fit to mention the "previously published" thing first. Hope this doesn't represent a burnt bridge.

** Metaphorically. One Interesting Thing™ about me that you probably didn't know is that I have no spleen. But that's a story for another day. It's late and I'm tired.

July 09, 2005

Photos

7/09/2005 10:29:00 AM

As promised...


Click the photo to see the rest.

July 08, 2005

So here's the way it is

7/08/2005 10:17:00 PM

In the town where I live, we normally get about 70mm (almost 3") of rain in the month of June. This June, according to Environment Canada, we got 280mm (about 11"), no lie. So the ground's already freakin' saturated.

Last night, in a little more than two hours, we got (you sitting down?) another 71.2mm. So in, say, 150 minutes, we got thirty days' worth of precipitation. Flood city. Apparently there were cars in the Wal*Mart lot that were windows-deep in water at one point. People kayaking down 34th Street. Seriously.

So it's little surprise that I have water in my basement again.

At least my street has a fairly noticeable slope, so there wasn't any kind of accumulation trying to sweep my car away. But still.

Pictures tomorrow. Honest.

(Bored? Sorry. I'm a Canadian. That means I talk about the weather. Incessantly. Eh.)

Water downstairs, redux

7/08/2005 07:10:00 AM

I keep telling myself it could be worse, but when you see that sheen of water on the basement floor, you wonder how.

Then you turn on the news and you see London getting bombed* and hurricanes hitting far poorer countries, and you go, "Oh."

But we lost a tree last night. Pictures coming soon. (Like once they're developed. (Yes, I'm that primitive.))

*No, not again. Not that I know of, anyway.

July 07, 2005

Inspiration

7/07/2005 06:00:00 PM

London—If I have my time-zone calculations right, then as I lay ensconced and asleep in my comfortable bed, people were dying in London. By now this is news to no one, I'm sure.

I don't know what to say. I just don't know.




Here at home—I've been struck by the Inspiration Fairy (or maybe I should call her my muse, or maybe it's even Terry Pratchett's Inspiration Particles at work). Of all things, a Dilbert cartoon planted the seed of a story in my head. In it, Alice tells Asok that "Now I have to kill you." Asok, a Hindu (I think), says, "Please do. Reincarnation is my only hope."

And I was off and running. Here's the first bit, written at lunch hour:
The entrance to the bardo was a baroque arch, a single massive piece of sandalwood carved nearly filigree-thin with inset images: goat-footed satyrs, ravens in flight, sauvastikas and manjis, entwined serpents, fat cherubs of the Renaissance, capering monkeys, a single massive elephant with a broken tusk, and a seeming infinity of other signs and symbols, wrapping around and over each other in a gestalt that was definitely more than the sum of its parts. It burned, too, burned with a flame that did not consume, but merely hovered above the surface of the wood like the breath of some lost angel.

She passed through the arch, and from one instant to the next her memories fell away from her, burned by that white-hot flame. All she had known, all she had been, floated away as ash, carried up and up on the rising air, into the bright blue sky. All that was left was the knowledge that she was dead.

A line of people stretched long before her and (craning her head around) behind her too. Were they all dead? she wondered. But of course they were. If they weren't, how had they come here, and why?

She tried to remember dying, but it was gone, floating with the ash of all her memories, gone, gone, gone against the sun-bright sky.
So far it has two possible titles: "The Ash of Memory" or "The World Beyond The World".

It's not the first time I've done a story about reincarnation, I know, but hey. It's a different angle, and I hope to do something interesting with it.

On another note: I really have to get into this whole blogging idea. Force myself, even when I don't feel like it, to sit down and do an entry a night. Find something interesting to say, about anything.

I guess maybe my problem is, I'm self-conscious. And maybe blogging isn't exactly the activity of choice for an introvert...




Oh yeah... Asimov's SF rejected "Outside, Looking In". So on to the next one. F&SF, I think. (I know, Doug, I know.)

July 01, 2005

Happy Canada Day

7/01/2005 02:38:00 PM

And an early happy 4th to those of you stateside.