Archive for October, 2013

The Neverending Story on MVM

Two things about this week’s selection.

First, a shout out. Do they still call them that? Fine. A dedication, then. This one goes out to all of my fellow Seton Hill Popular Fiction people.
(For those not in the program, we have four monthly deadlines per term. The clock for each is based on the last day of the preceding Residency. This term, the last deadline falls on the 30th. This last deadline is usually rife with frustration and rushed feelings, since the story doesn’t seem to always cooperate until the 11th hour. Maybe that’s just me.)

Second, MC and I were at a conference. Readercon in 2010, I think. As we wandered the Dealer’s room, we found a copy – in hardcover – of the book. Did you know that the movie really only covers the first half of the book?

As long as it’s been since I sat down to watch the whole thing (the original, not any of the  sequels), it’s still one that I still find myself referencing. Just the other day (as I write this), MC and I were in a position where we found ourselves peering through a window high in a door, I whispered, “Oh no. Math Test.”

Now, that it’s almost the 30th, I guess I can say, “Oh, no. Deadline.” 


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Gettin’ Freaky on MVM

A little early for all of the Halloween parties next week, here’s a tricky little number to get the parties started.


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A Thing About Maps…

In the Fantasy Readings class last semester, the discussion came up about maps. It seems that most fantasy novels have some kind of map. Sometimes, there’s a motivating story purpose (like the map of the Lonely Mountain in The Hobbit), other times, it’s to show the scale of the world – or at least, the area of the world where the section of the story is taking place.

As a (formerly active) gamer and as a writerly person, I’ve developed an affinity for maps. Somewhere scattered through several boxes I have early dungeon designs, or sketches of islands in varying stages of development. I think there’s even a couple of really rough world maps in the mix.

Which is one reason I like about the future: things going digital. Google Maps, in a general sense, is awesome for getting a really basic idea for an area (especially zooming for street view). But what’s really cool, is archives. There’s a certain degree of happiness I get when I find digital copies of map archives available. 

 The National Library of Scotland’s Map Department is seven shades of awesomeness.

I stumbled (virtually) into their collection by way of the Glasgow Uni’s gift shop website, and was impressed. Enough so that I got copies of a few maps as source material for a novel that I have in mind. Then I found this over a, which made me think of the NLS as even more awesomer than I did before. Yeah, I’m claiming that as a word, deal with it. Anyway…

That link, references this site, which is worth cribbing a description from:

The National Library of Scotland’s Map Department, supported by David Rumsey, have taken some very high-resolution scans of the Ordnance Survey 1893-6 1:1056 (that’s 60 inches to the mile!) set of 500+ maps of London and, crucially, reorientated and stitched them together, so that they can be presented seamlessly (using OpenLayers) on top of a “standard” Google web map or OpenStreetMap, with the base map acting as a modern context.

And here’s a sample (from that same site):

 Excuse me,  I’ve got some maps to surf.

 Oh, but before I go… if you need more evidence for just why exactly that you should bookmark the NLS Map Department, if you’re into maps, check out this map of Edinburgh Castle. (And, if you’re interested, you can even order copies of maps…)

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REALLY Expensive Toys

There’s an axiom with kids that goes “no matter how much you spend on toys, the kid’s more likely to play with the box.”

However, we’ve been witnessing an extreme opposite phenomenon, an attraction towards really expensive playthings. Like this:

(yes, that’s an iPad)

Or this, which is one of his more recent “favorite things”:

The Mini. Before, if we would take him outside, he would be content to wander around the yard. Now, however, well…








Yeah, he’s already turned the dials for the radio, knows how to turn on the hazard lights… and how the push-button ignition works. That last picture? Checking his blind spot…I hope.

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Trying to Swallow a Desert

I’m in the process of slogging through Frank Herbert’s Dune. Slogging’s not really the right word. With other things going on at the moment, I’m a little more distracted, and Dune (the early sections, so far) requires quite a bit of engagement to get into. Part of my frustration stems from the medium in which I’ve been attempting to read.

When I was shopping around for the books over the summer, I was frugal. I checked prices on several sites (for new copies… no I didn’t go the discount route) and the local library. The library’s offering was limited (1 copy, I think, in their entire system…). Unable to guarantee it would be available when I would need it, I opted to purchase. In my browsing, I found a better pricing on an ebook copy. All fine and good.

Then I started reading. I’ve encountered simple issues in other books: commas transposed into apostrophes, lack of separating spaces after some punctuation marks…annoyances, but they don’t affect the gist of the text. The copy of Dune, however… there were sections where what should be a phrase is displayed as a handful of unintelligible characters. Not quite like an OCR string, but not far from it, either. Other times, there wouldn’t even be the funky characters, the phrase would just be missing from the middle of a sentence, but without any hint (beyond the contextual “Hungh?”) that something should be there. I gave up on the ebook version when I hit a page where a sentence was cut after about five words, and the rest of the screen was whitespace. The next screen? The start of a new sequence, not just a hiccupped page break. I might have continued, if that had been the case.

In my frustration, I sought out the local B&N, because the timing wasn’t ideal for waiting for an Amazon delivery. Of the three options available (mass-market, publisher’s hardcover, or a “special” B&N edition), I went for the B&N one. The motivating thought? “If it’s something that’s going to be on the shelf, let’s make it something worth having on the shelf”…and it was the cheaper of the two hardbacks.

One thing I’ve noticed between the two versions (bound vs electronic) is the paginated structure. The core material of the novel is broken into three specific parts. Each part is composed of numerous segments. I would consider them chapters, but they are not labeled as such. Specific delineations become obvious based on the use of whitespace on the printed page, but because of how the electronic version is parsed, those demarkations are more muddled.

Highly disappointing.

The upside? Even with the issues, while I am still far from finishing the book, I think I have read enough to generate a few hundred words about the structural elements and POV.

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Small Things on MVM

So, I’m no huge Blink-182 person. I know of them, and I know several of their big radio singles, but lack the knowledge of the depth of their catalogue. But I like the singles, and this week’s selection is one of them. One of the reasons I like this video so much is that it’s cut from the hey-day cloth of the early 2000’s, and riffs and lampoons so many of the teen-pop/boy band acts and the videos that were so popular at the time. (To be fair, I have a feling that Bieber would be fodder for the lampooning, if the video were released in 2013).


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Sunglasses on MVM

This week’s selection is a bit of a time capsule piece. As a song, I’ve always enjoyed this one. As a video? Sorry, I can’t say it’s one I relly even remember when it was “brand new.” Discovering it now, I recognize it for its 80s-ness: the make-up, the hair and clothes.


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A Best Man’s Toast…

My friend Chris is getting married. By the time this is live, the ceremony will be over and the couple will have been officially joined as husband and wife. For some context, we go back. A while. He has been best man for both of my weddings, and was also pall bearer for a funeral. To see him married is a happy time, made more so because of that. I’m not sure how coherent I’m going to be later, but for the sake of posterity, here’s what the anticipated speech/toast is supposed to look like.


We are celebrating the joining of Chris and Johanna into a new family. It’s a special occasion for all of us, but being here is especially poignant for me. Chris and I have a history. There are yearbook pictures that show we were in first grade together, but it wasn’t until we were in the same homeroom in sixth that saw the start of the road that brings us to here, now, and my spilling these words to you.

That road saw us as freshmen in high school, at Universal Studios in Florida, doing the Star Trek screen test – Chris as the Vulcan science officer with me as the captain. Or as seniors, pouring our efforts into the JROTC program that was just getting started that year, or writing up stories for the school newspaper.

Which is part of the glue that’s bound us for the last twenty-five years, give or take: we wanted to be writers. In seventh grade, we spun out the idea for a story, the search for Atlantis (hey, it was big in the late 80’s). In true science fiction fashion, we spun the story out from a single book idea into a trilogy. Much of that expansion was Chris’s doing. Which is an aspect of our friendship that has been a constant: “You should try this,” he would tell me. “Have you read this [person/book], yet? You’ll probably like them.” So it’s gone from playing Civilization (the first edition of the computer game), to creating websites and blogging, to being introduced to the work of authors like Charles Stross and Cory Doctorow, among others.

For the better part of the past thirty years, I took a lot of clues from Chris. If you will indulge me a few more moments, I would like to try to return the favor, in whatever small portion I might.

Chris and Johanna, as you are starting out your lives together, consider the following suggestions:

Always say “I love you.” Before turning out the lights at night, first thing in the morning, before ending a phone call. Say it as often and as fervently as you can. They are three simple words, but you can never say them enough to each other.

Build memories, whatever way you can. Be there for each other and nurture each others dreams. Travel. Encourage each other’s hobbies, participate in them together when you can. Learn the art of compromise.

Where I am going, and likely the core of what anyone else might suggest, is this: regardless of what happens, from the mundane daily grind to whatever adventures you create, cherish and appreciate every day, every blessed moment you have together, blissful and rocky alike. As long as you do that, everything else will fall into place.

From my family to yours, congratulations on your special day, the first of your many cherished memories.


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Not Dead, just under deadlines…

To be more precise, I was vacillating between bouts of slinging inky fiction words, and days of nothing but thinking about words, and that I should be writing them (more on that later, since I still have things to do for the school thing.

In other news, I have managed to stumble my way through the first draft of the thesis novel. It is a very rough thing, with sever holes and in-line notes indicating “[go research this]” but it is a thing that can now be polished. The core story is on the page, and that’s what’s important.

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