- Wired ran a wonderful photo piece on one of the weirdest aircraft ever to fly: the Soviet Union’s ground-effect ship-killer seaplane Lun. (Thanks to Mike Bentley for the pointer.)
- Surezhell, a faint tickle of a memory led me back to even more Lun-y goodness at Dark Roasted Blend. Don’t forget Part 2.
- Which led directly to Awesome Armored Trains. (Steamfrack? Again, the Russians seem to be the masters of this game.)
- Yet another photo gatherum from Spiegel, highlighting zany transportation ideas that didn’t pan out. Or get anywhere near the pan.
- Ars has a nice article on a very new category of aircraft: the solar-powered “atmospheric satellite,” a robot plane that flies in the high atmosphere for indefinite periods without fuel.
- Sakurajima is acting up again. That was one of my favorite volcanoes when I was a kid, right after now-extinct (probably) Paracutin. One thing to note here is how good the comments are. I read Klemetti’s blog as much for his community as for his own (excellent) posts. No politics, no hate, no incessant tu quoque from tribal slaves. You don’t see that very often.
- As with all claims in this category, whether fission or fusion, I’ll believe it when I see it, but damn, I would like to see this.
- The Nook business is in trouble. We’ve seen that coming, but it makes me wonder if the Nook is alone, or if the rest of the color-screen ebook readers are falling into line behind it. (E-ink will remain as a niche for daylight reading.) I read ebooks on my Transformer Prime. Works. It’s a general-purpose tablet with a keyboard dock that makes it an only slightly crippled laptop. The number of specialized gadgets I’m willing to cart around is limited.
- That said, B&N’s print book business is in reasonably good shape, especially its very profitable textbook division. (Thanks to Janet Perlman for the link.)
- Ouch. “There’s no real ebook piracy problem because most people don’t think books are worth stealing.”
- Publishing is an ecosystem, and the parts don’t thrive without the whole. The ecosystem can change, of course, but the changes take time, and not all parts of the system will survive the changes. (Again, thanks to Janet Perlman for the link.)
- Forget underage women. Crossing state lines with rented textbooks can get you into trouble.
- Composers on acid? I’d be curious to hear from experienced musicians whether most of these, um, compositions are playable at all.
- Now this is the sort of drought I can celebrate: We’re looking at a record low tornado count this year.
- On the hurricane side, the accumulated cyclonic energy (ACE) value, which is an aggregate of how much power has been seen in cyclonic storms so far this year, is 48% of normal to August 21. Less than half. The Coriolis Gods are evidently taking a break. Let’s hope it’s a long one.
- The latest Duluth Trading catalog is pushing a product called Ballroom Jeans. Huh? For cowboy proms? Ballroom…wait. Ok. I get it.
- Always read food labels carefully.
For the most part, the ebook pirates have forgotten about me. Five or six years ago, I was all over the pirate sites. Now I’m not even on the Pirate Bay, and haven’t been for some time. Binsearch shows that the last time I was uploaded to Usenet was almost a year ago. It’s enough to give a guy a complex. (It’s certainly enough to make me feel like I need to write more books.)
So last week the backchannel sent me a link to an article about how several major textbook publishers have subpoenaed a couple of Usenet service providers demanding the identities of two prolific Usenet uploaders operating under the pseudonyms Rockhound57 and HockWards. Both upload technical books to a certain newsgroup devoted to technical nonfiction.
Boy, do they.
I fired up my newsreader and took a look. I’d been there before, and have gladly downloaded crufty scans of old Heathkit and classic tube gear manuals and the occasional supreme oddity, like the German-language service manual for the Nazi V-1 flying bomb. There are scans of military field manuals and much other odd junk, plus all the spam, trollery and asshattery we’ve been accustomed to seeing in newsgroups since, well, there were newsgroups. (I first got on Usenet in 1981.) Rockhound57′s posts are, for the most part, academic science books of almost vanishing narrowness. If you’re ever curious about Dipetidyl Aminopeptidases in Health and Disease, well, Rockhound57′s got it. Ditto Automorphisms and Derivations of Associative Rings. I actually thought that “cobordism” in Algebraic Corbordism was a typo. Then I looked it up. Man, if you can make head or tail of that one, you’re a better geek than I.
If you think about what those books (and they are indeed books, and not articles) have in common, you may understand some panic on the part of the big presses: Those books have very, very small audiences and very, very high cover prices. Algebraic Cobordism has a cover price of $99. Small potatoes. Hold on to your manifolds: Automorphisms and Derivations of Associative Rings will cost you $269. I’m not exaggerating when I suggest that there are maybe 500 people on Earth who might conceivably buy such books, most of them starving graduate students. (I suspect that the publishers make what money they make selling to university libraries.) Having perfect PDFs flitting around on Usenet is an academic publisher’s worst nightmare.
But that leads us to a very important and completely unanswered question: Where did all those perfect PDFs come from? Not a single one of the titles I spot-checked is available as an ebook on Amazon. These copies are not slap-it-on-the-glass pirate scans. They are as perfect as the print images we used to generate for our books at Coriolis and Paraglyph. If they’re not being sold, how did the pirates get them to begin with?
I can think of a couple of possibilities:
- They’re DRM-stripped versions of e-texts that aren’t sold on Amazon but rather through heavily protected textbook sales channels like Adobe’s.
- They’re the print book equivalent of “screeners,” sent out for review, proofing, indexing, etc.
- They’re downsampled print images lifted somewhere along the pipe leading from the publisher to the printing presses.
My gut is going with #2, though #3 is certainly possible. Publishing services have been thoroughly commoditized. Most publishers use freelancers for proofing and editing, and many outsource layout itself. Any time a print image goes outside a publisher’s doors, there’s the chance it will “get legs.”
That said, I boggle at how many perfect PDFs were uploaded by those two chaps. We’re talking literally tens of thousands. Are there that many leaks at the major presses? Or is something else going on here? I still can’t quite figure it. I do know that a number of backchannel sources have told me that ever more file sharing is being done locally and off-Net, often by passing around now-cheap 1TB SATA hard drives. There’s no stopping that. Publishers need to start taking a very close look at their own internal processes. Pulling production back in-house might help, but it wouldn’t be a total solution, at least as long as desktops have USB ports. Problems don’t always have solutions, and piracy is probably one of those increasingly common nuisances.
There were times when I miss being in publishing. Alas, there are other times when I’m glad I’m not.
- Well. Amazon (finally) pulled my name off Garth Williams’ book Baby Farm Animals. Years of polite complaints didn’t do it. Making fun of them in the comments did. Thanks to my friends Eric, Steve, and Dave for working the magic. Poor Garth can rest in peace now without having to learn x86 assembly language.
- Erik Klemetti has a good overview of the 1783-84 Laki eruption in Iceland, which caused a sulfuric haze that Benjamin Franklin said reduced the intensity of the sunlight so much that a magnifying glass could not concentrate it sufficiently to ignite paper.
- Here’s a good if technical discussion about what’s wrong with X and why Wayland almost can’t help but be better.
- Yet another force pushing print magazines into the torn-off-cover return racks of history: People are checking Facebook on their smartphones while waiting their turn in supermarket checkout lines. Good-bye to starting a story in People and then tossing the mag in the cart to finish at home.
- I don’t always agree with Stallman. But this time I sure as hell do. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- Bruce Eckel pokes holes in a couple of recent SF films. I hate to think of what he might have said about Independence Day. (Thanks to Jason Bucata for the link.)
- I’m not sure that Beowulfing boxfuls of Raspberry Pi boards makes sense, but it can be done.
- As can using a Raspberry Pi to take video through a telescope.
- There will be another perigee moon on June 23. It’s not especially close as such things go; for a really close perigee moon, consider January 14, 1930, when our lesser light was only 356,397 km away. It won’t be that close again until 2257. Nice page on the topic here.
- And the sunspot count of our greater light was down to 27 this morning. This sure doesn’t look like a sunspot maximum to me.
- Tor has been publishing DRM-free ebooks for a year now, and reports that piracy has not increased as a result. They’re mostly mum on how they measure piracy rates, but it’s encouraging that a major print player would even do the experiment.
- Nice reminder that nobody died at Fukushima, and according to the UN it’s unlikely that many will even get sick. Nuclear is not the demon that Certain Parties insist it is.
I’ve been selling my writing professionally since I was an undergrad, now literally forty years ago. I’ve had to do remarkably little selling. My first story and first article both sold to the first places I sent them. I’ve never had a publisher turn down a computer book proposal. (Granted that selling books to a publisher you co-own is rarely a challenge.) My fiction has been a mixed bag, but in general a story either sells quickly or not at all.
All changed. This is the toughest market for novel-length SFF since, well, forever. I’ve just spent two years writing Ten Gentle Opportunities, and now the selling begins. This is a new thing for me. I’ve historically considered tireless self-promoters to be tiresome self-promoters, and now I are one. I hate to go that way, and if there were another way I’d already be taking it.
It begins this weekend, when I have a chance to pitch to a major SF publisher at the Pikes Peak Writers Conference. The pitch happens in a time slot literally eight minutes long. I have eight minutes to make a bleary editor hungry to read my book. No pressure.
The primary challenge is to summarize the novel in synopses of various sizes, from 5,000 words down to…140 characters. Various markets and agents prefer synopses of various sizes, so they’d all better be right there on the shelf, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
This is harder than it looks; nay, it’s diabolical. The story itself is insanely complicated to begin with: One of my beta testers described it as “a Marx Brothers movie with twice as many Marx Brothers.” That’s just how I write, as anyone who’s read The Cunning Blood will understand. I have a mortal fear of not giving my readers their money’s worth, and a venial fear of being boring.
The way to write synopses of five different lengths is to start with the longest one, and write each one from scratch. In other words, don’t write the longest one and then try to cut it down to the next smaller size. This is like trying to turn hexacontane into propane by pulling carbon atoms randomly out of the middle; sooner or later the molecule has too many holes and falls apart.
It’s work, but it works. I finished the 300-word synopsis earlier this morning, and then set my hand to the gnarliest task of all: the “elevator pitch,” AKA logline. I get to summarize a manic 94,200 word story into 140 characters. I’ve actually been trying and failing to nail this for literally six months, since I finished the first draft. I first thought it would be easy, as I used to write cover copy for early Coriolis books. Heh.
The solution, as I said, is to start from the beginning. Each time I wrote a synopsis from scratch, I was forced to take two more steps up the ladder, and look down at the story from a little more height. You literally tell it again, each time with half the words you had last time. In the process, you get a clearer sense for what the story is about, and what the major themes are. Finally you end up with something you can say in an elevator between two adjacent floors:
A spellbender flees to our world with ten stolen nuggets of magic, and a crew of AIs helps him battle a repo spirit sent to retrieve him.
Will this work? Dunno. I guess I’ll find out this weekend.
I still use Office 2000. I still use Visio 2000. I still use InDesign 2.0. I still use VMWare Workstation 5. Hell, I still use Windows XP. Am I lazy? Am I cheap? Am I nuts? No, no, and hell no. Every piece of software I use is the result of a calculated decision and a certain amount of research. I am by no means averse to paying for software, and I do so regularly. But I don’t always upgrade, especially if the upgrades cost money and/or deliver 80% of their value to the vendor. By that I mean software designed to win what I call “pip wars” (feature-comparison charts on review sites) or place new restrictions on installation and use ostensibly to limit piracy. (Mostly what anti-piracy features do is massage titanic corporate egos.) There are loads of people who will stand there drooling in wait of the next major release, money in hand, never suspecting that the largest single reason for the upgrade is to keep the revenue stream flowing.
The longer I use my Old, Old, Software, the better I like it. Here are a few reasons why:
- It’s already paid for. The longer I use it, the more hours of use I get for my buck.
- By and large, old software (at least pre-2002 or so) doesn’t activate. The benefits of activation flow entirely to the vendor, at least in circumstances where the benefits are not entirely imaginary. Most of the time, they are. Activation delivers nothing but annoyance and occasionally downtime to the end user–and in doing so, trains many otherwise honest users to be pirates.
- Old software is smaller and faster on new machines. Bloat is real, even if it’s not the result of fighting pip wars somewhere. Office 2000 seems almost supersonic on my quadcore, doubly so on my quadcore from my new SSD.
- Old software respects the skills I’ve developed over the years. Most of the changes I’ve seen across major upgrades are gratuitous, and don’t add any value over the old versions. UI changes in particular had better deliver spectacular new value, because while I learn them they slow me way down.
- Tutorial books on old software can be had for almost nothing. I routinely buy books on early-mid 2000′s software for $5 or so…books that had original cover prices in the $40-$50 range. Many of these books are unused remainder copies that are essentially new.
- The argument I hear when I make this point mostly cook down to, Isn’t it eventually obsolete? That depends on what “obsolete” means. Backward compatibility is usually retained, because people rebel when it isn’t. (Windows 8? Are those peasants carrying registered torches and pitchforks?) The only significant thing that Word 2000 doesn’t do is handle docx files. I bought Atlantis to convert any docx files I might need to keep on hand. (Atlantis also creates extremely clean epubs.) Word 2000 is weak on PDF skills, so I bought PDF Xchange Pro to handle that, and as a bonus eliminate any need for the exploit farm we know as Adobe Reader.
I do upgrade software when I see a need. Windows XP eventually replaced Win2K here, even though it activates, because it had certain things I eventually judged useful. I’ve purchased InDesign three times, because I make money laying out books and the new features were useful, but I stopped when Adobe added their uniquely paranoid activation. (Interestingly, I haven’t felt any compelling need to upgrade since V2.0, and I’m interviewing Scribus.) I dumped Dreamweaver when I wanted to move my Web pages to CSS, because Komposer did CSS as well as I needed it to, for free and without activation. It pains me to say it, but with Delphi pricing now up in four figures (and encumbered by activation) I’ve moved all my Pascal programming to Lazarus 1.0.6.
This last issue is important. Open source has changed a great many things. I used to pay for email clients, including Eudora and Poco Mail. Since I discovered Thunderbird, I’ve stayed with Thunderbird. Why? Email is a mature technology. I’m not sure there’s much innovation left to be wrung from it. This is less true of Web browsers, and I now use Chrome most of the time. But man, what’s new in word processing? What? Lemme think for a second… Hang on, it’ll come to me…
This is a key point: The basic mechanisms of computing are mature. There has been time for the slower dev cycles of open source to catch up with commercial software. The action is out on the edges, in speech recognition, automated translation, vertical markets of many kinds, and niche-y mobile apps. We’re still seeing some useful evolution in Web browsers, but there’s damned little in releases of Office past 2000 that I find compelling. Most of the new features are UI tweaks and useless gimmicks.
Old software still has fizz: The best we could want already is!
- Which movie theater did you go to on your first date? Whether or not that theater still exists, this site may have a photo of it, along with other interesting historical data. The first theater I took Carol to is this one. It’s still there, and still awesome. (Thanks to Ernie Marek for the link.)
- Five years later, I proposed to Carol while we watched the sun set from a bluff overlooking the Mississippi River. There are other ways of doing it. I forgot to bring a flashlight up the side of that bluff, and we had to pick our way down in near-darkness. My nerdiness has gaps. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- The Softpro retail bookstore at the Denver Tech Center is closing its doors at the end of March. Even though it’s 70+ miles away, I’ve dropped a fair bit of change there. Bummer.
- Back in the 50s, the Russians were producing an extremely interesting line of low-voltage tubes. I’m still trying to get my head around how they work internally, but hey, “Gammatron” is a wonderful name for a line of tubes–or anything else. (Thanks to Jim Strickland for the link.)
- The war on “moist” (see yesterday’s entry) prompted Bruce Baker to remind us of Moist von Lipwig, a Discworld character whose distinguishing characteristic is having no distinguishing characteristics. See Going Postal and Making Money .
- People are still selling tumbleweeds on eBay. I can’t figure it. If the world has an abundance of anything, it’s tumbleweeds. Unless maybe you live in New York City and want some Western ambience without ever actually going there.
- When I was in college, a girl told me: “The trouble with you, Jeff, is that you’re too damned happy!” Guilty. And this research sounds like BS to me, in part because low expectations are not the same as pessimism. And also in part because most pessimists I’ve spent time with seem pretty unhappy. But what do I know? I’m a pessimism denier.
- The Atlantic reports research suggesting that the Neanderthals went extinct because they ran out of woolly mammoths and couldn’t get their substantial (and hard) heads around hunting bunnies. I’m still convinced that they wiped themselves out for lack of dogs. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Humanoid robots could make good firefighters, and the Navy is working on it. I’ll believe it when I see it, of course, but I keep thinking that a humanoid robot who can fight fires can do a lot of other interesting things. (Thanks to Bp. Sam’l Bassett for the link.)
- God sometimes teaches stupid people harsh lessons–and sometimes they’re so funny they hurt. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- My four-year-old niece Julie is working on a pair of roller skates…built from the Lego set we gave her for Christmas. Somewhere her engineer grandfather is smiling.
- Stay up too late and damage your genes. You cannot win by shorting sleep. Somebody, somewhere may be able to survive on five hours a night. It almost certainly isn’t you. (Thanks to Mike Bentley for the link.)
- We have just lost Jan Howard Finder. No details available yet. I only met him once, but he bought my story “Marlowe” for his anthology Alien Encounters in 1982. 74 is too young for a man of his energy and high spirits. (Thanks also to Mike Bentley for letting me know.)
- Here’s an interesting story about a major publisher (unnamed) who won’t sell an indie bookstore more than 200 copies of a book at a time, even if the store buys them on a nonreturnable basis and pays cash. Happy ending: The indie bookseller drove down to Target, bought 300 copies of the book at 45% discount, and pulled off the author signing, no thanks to the idiot publisher. (Thanks to Bruce Baker for the link.)
- Refining certain rare earth metals from their ores is about to become easier and cheaper. Alas, ytterbium is not on the list. Bummer.
- As much as we support Girl Scouts, I must warn that their Samoas coconut cookie contain sorbitol, to which some people (me included) are sensitive. I don’t think this was always the case. Be careful. (Their Savannah Smiles are just as good, and do not contain sorbitol.)
- If the PadFone 2 is too big for you (see yesterday’s Contra) ASUS announced the FonePad, a…7″…smartphone. The notion of holding a thing like that up to your face doesn’t bother me at all, but I’m just weird.
- Barnes & Noble founder Leonard Riggio may buy the bricks-n-mortar retail arm of the company, but does not want the Nook division. This could be trouble…I’m just not sure which side the trouble is on.
- Discovered an interesting new wine: Middle Sister Rebel Red. Dry but in-your-face fruit-forward, almost no oak (a big plus for me) and very spicy in a wonderfully peculiar way. Highly recommended.
- We could see a comet hit Mars in 2014. Just our luck that it might happen on the hemisphere of the planet that we can’t see.
- Oh what a feeling, to drive a…
- Here’s a nice summary of the current state of the Sun. Something truly odd is going on: We’re getting very close to the predicted solar maximum, and yet yesterday’s sunspot number was…25. It should be more like 250. I built a steerable 10M dipole for this?
- While perusing solar activity graphs such as the above, I discovered that IPCC climate science chairman Dr. Rajendra Pachauri has admitted that there’s been no global warming for seventeen years. I guess Dr. Pachauri has joined the Deniers Club. Then again, because he isn’t a climate scientist, I guess there’s really no reason to believe anything he says.
- From the Words-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: Rageaholic , someone who simply cannot resist expressing anger, either in person or online, especially in comments sections or discussion forums.
- Related to that: Larry Gellman of HuffPo describes anger addiction in terms of rage against the Other, which is basically my longstanding definition of tribalism: Tribalism is the reflexive demonization of the Other. There can be many overlapping tribes, each with its own Others.
- And, of course, anger’s nonobvious implication: Whatever or whomever makes you angry owns you.
Where have I been? Healing. No, I didn’t break anything. (I did floss one of my crowns right out of my mouth last Saturday night. Note to self: Popcorn hulls don’t hide very hard. Back off on the shear force a little.) What I did is watch a number of people I’ve known for some time, including a few that I nontrivially care about, soil themselves hurling hatred at entire groups of people they’ve never met and pretty clearly know nothing about. It almost made me quit Facebook for awhile, though it’s a little unclear how one actually goes about quitting Facebook. (The account of a woman I knew in college is still there even though she died two years ago.)
Reading that stuff hurts. Am I nuts? Maybe. I value friendship, for one thing, and for another, tribal hatred is the first step toward genocide. Giggle if you want. Years of research into tribalism, psychology, history, and our killer ape origins suggests that it’s true. I would write more about it except that knowingly hurling yourself into depression is pretty much as dumb as it gets.
Furthermore, it stopped Ten Gentle Opportunities dead in its tracks, at least for the time being. Am I annoyed? You have no idea.
So I’ve been spending a lot of time in my big chair, reading things that have nothing to do with elections as a way of putting a sort of giant band-aid on my soul. It’s been a mixed bag. Some quick notes:
- Train Wrecks by Robert C. Reed. (Superior Publishing Company, 1968.) If you need steampunk mayhem in a big way, find this on the used book sites. Virtually every way that locomotives and rolling stock can die are well-represented, including a few that you’ve probably never heard about. This might even be depressing if I didn’t like trains (and steam power) as much as I do. (It also made me damned glad I live in 2012 and travel in a Toyota.)
- Wicked River: The Mississippi When It Last Ran Wild by Lee Sandlin. (Pantheon Books, 2010.) Still working on it, but what we have here is a collection of colorful anecdotes about the Mississippi from 1800-1863, when it was dredged for reliable river commerce. Pirates, floods, storms, and the New Madrid earthquake. I paid a buck online. Worth ten times that. (Maybe not twenty.)
- Marry Him! by Lori Gottlieb. (Dutton, 2010.) Meh. Short, breezy read extending (a little) what I read in an article in The Atlantic some years back. Got it cheap in the B&N bargain bin, which suggests that it bombed. No surprise, given that the author is basically shouting “Attention princesses! We are currently experiencing a severe prince shortage. Please select an archduke or viscount while they are still available. Thank you.”
- Electric Radio Magazine. Jack Smith K8ZOA sent me twelve years of this stunning little monthly, from 2000-2012, and I’ve been savoring them in my loose moments for several weeks. The focus is vintage ham radio gear, especially AM phone, which I would be doing more of if there were people close by to do it with. I still have a working Sixer, Twoer, 99er, and a G28, plus a couple of other things on the shelf that need work.
Carol and I spent some time in Chicago. Our niece Katie turns six next week and we bought her what my sister described as “an RC helicopter in a hamster ball.” It’s an Air Hog Heli-Cage, which has a pair of thin plastic hoops around it, like an equator and a prime meridian, which keep crashes from becoming too serious. Needless to say, in the hands of a not-quite-six pilot, the bands earned their keep. It was amazing how quickly both girls learned to fly it, including Julie, who’s only four. My brother-in-law Bill is even better, and landed the gadget on one of the blades of his livingroom ceiling fan. Wow.
Now, RC helicopters are fairly easy to describe. Not everything is. One evening, my older nephew Brian and his fiance Alexis twisted my arm into watching a YouTube video called “Gangnam Style.” Words fail me. Most of the song is in Korean, except for a peculiar Greek-American interjection, “Opa Gangnam Style!” plus “Hey Sexy Lady!” here and there to prove that computer audio is working correctly. I was impressed by the young Korean chap at about 1:50 who was dancing energetically in an actinic yellow leisure suit. I didn’t know you could lase polyester. Most boggling of all was the fact that the video has been downloaded 693,000,000 times, plus or minus a significant fraction of humanity. I caught myself wondering what it would be like if seven hundred million people had read Drumlin Circus. I would probably have a new minivan–and little or no trouble selling Ten Gentle Opportunities.
Anyway. I’m better now. I’ll have nothing more to say about the election except for one very peculiar thing, which I will take up as soon as I understand it a little better myself. Hint: There may be a stoner stampede into Colorado next year.
In the meantime, I have a pop song to eject from the inside of my head. Listen at your own risk. About all I can say is that it’s better than listening to politics on Facebook.
- The only thing harder than selling a novel is finishing one.
- From Chris Gerrib comes a link to Smithsonian’s marvelous tale of The Great New England Vampire Panic.
- At least “vampire” isn’t a funny word. I can’t say “tatzelwurm” without giggling.
- From the Things-I-Didn’t-Know-Until-Yesterday Department: The “dead men” in that fine old drinking song “Down Among the Dead Men” are empty bottles, generally set on the floor under the tables.
- From ditto: Rice is an arsenic magnet. Eat with care.
- Here’s a gallery of applications and utilities written in Lazarus.
- The original 6-CD changer stereo in my 2001 Toyota 4Runner has failed, after working flawlessly since April 2001. Any suggestions as to a replacement? The car’s great. But I won’t drive very happily without music.
- As we gradually replace hundreds of millions of print books with ebooks, what will happen to our print books? Well, at least some of them may become color-coordinated accessories for people who don’t read. (Thanks to Esther Schindler for the link.)
- The price of bacon is about to skyrocket, while Americans enjoy the cheapest beer on Earth. Why do I always back the wrong horse?
- I guess compensating for a bacon shortage may be the striking tornado shortage going on right now.
- Be careful what you try to invent. You might succeed. More or less.
- My old friend and fellow early GTer Rod Smith has posted a great many excellent pictures he took at Chicon 7, including a book signing that I attended.
- My mother’s cat Fuzzbucket died yesterday, at 16 years and change. He outlived my poor mother by twelve years, and while skittish as a kitten eventually warmed to me. I’ve never had a cat (for obvious reasons, of which I have four right now) but of all the cats I’ve never had, Fuzzbucket was my favorite. He kept his own LiveJournal page, and the final entry brought a tear to my eye.
- For those who couldn’t attend Chicon and were cut off from viewing the Hugo Awards by an idiotic copyright protection bot, you’ve got another chance: The award ceremony will be re-streamed tomorrow night, September 9, at 7 PM central time.
- This morning’s Gazette had an ad for hearing aids, which bragged of their product having 16 million transistors. This is easier than it used to be, since all those transistors are in one container. Now, does anybody remember the days when ads bragged of radios containing six transistors?
- And while we grayhairs and nohairs are recalling transistor counts in the high single digits, does anybody remember the early Sixties scandal (reported in Popular Electronics, I think) in which Japanese manufacturers would solder additional transistors into simple superhet boards and short the leads together, just so they could advertise the box as a “ten-transistor” radio?
- Nice piece from Ars Technica on the deep history of the spaceplane.
- Bill Cherepy sent a link to a marvelous steampunk tennis ball launcher, used for getting pull-strings for antennas (and as often as not, the antennas themselves) into high or otherwise inaccessible places. Gadgets like this (albeit not in steampunk dress) have been around for a long time, and I posted a link to this one (courtesy Jim Strickland) back in March.
- Also from Bill (and several others in the past few days) comes word of a promising if slightly Quixotic attempt to preserve orphaned SF and fantasy. Here’s the main site. At least they’re offering money to authors and estates; most other preservation efforts (of pulp mags and old vinyl, particularly) are pirate projects most visible on Usenet.
- That said, there are projects that limit themselves to out-of-copyright pulps, like this one. One problem, of course, is knowing when a pulp (or anything else from the 1923-1963 era) is out of copyright. Copyright ambiguity only hurts the idea of copyright. We need to codify copyright and require registration, at least for printed works. I’m not as concerned about copyright’s time period, as long as the owners of a copyright are known. As I’ve said here before, I’m apprehensive about competing with hundreds of thousands of now-orphaned books and stories.
- I don’t eat much sugar anymore, but egad, there are now candy-corn flavored Oreos.