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4th August 2014

11:43pm: Pictures of people standing on their heads
My wife and I finally finished our network TV for the season, "Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D." and "Sleepy Hollow", both of which we'd left on the back burner while finishing off "Game of Thrones" Season 4.  We're willing to go on the next season for both of them; "Sleepy Hollow" is more on the bubble, being a little bit campier, but John Noble's role is supposed to be expanding, so we'll give it a go.  We're also rewatching "Buffy" with my son Simon--only a few episodes in, but he seems to be liking it so far.  For movies, I recently watched "Edge of Tomorrow" in the theatre with my dad, and it was good, and at home we watched "Iron Man" (me for the second time, everyone else for the first, though Jinian decided to go watch "The Pirate Fairy" instead).  We've been watching the recent Marvel Movie batch with the whole family, mostly, except for the Hulk ones, but often not in the right order; we still haven't caught "Winter Soldier" yet.  I foresee "Guardians of the Galaxy" in the future.

I personally have been cycling between three different TV series on my computer--"Doctor Who", "Twin Peaks", and "Babylon 5".  "Doctor Who" I'm starting to try catching up, since I originally stopped watching the new program after having missed two Ecclestons and after only one Tennant.  Now I'm finished Series Two ("The Girl In The Fireplace" being my definite favourite) except for the "Doctor Who Confidential" disc, and Series Three is waiting in the wings.  The other two are rewatches, long overdue; I just finished B5 Season One, and ready to start on Season Two; "Twin Peaks" I'm into the second season, after the Laura Palmer murder is solved, which supposedly is where it jumped the shark.  I haven't rewatched this part as much, for sure, so it'll be an experience.  I also rewatched "Stop Making Sense" on DVD, and then finally got around to watching Laurie Anderson's "Home of The Brave" movie on Youtube; I'd never watched it when it was out, mostly because of one bad review, back when I was more affected by such things.  (To complete my trilogy of music movies, I'm planning on rewatching "The Wall" sometime, too.)

Except that I seem to have an ear infection this week, which makes me less likely to do anything that requires wearing headphones, which I generally do use when watching things on my computer, alas.

4th April 2014

9:44pm: My Private Cul-de-sac
http://games.usvsth3m.com/the-theme-tune-of-your-life/ offers to tell me what the hit songs were on various of my birthdays.  Though I've long since stopped following the hits, I still confess a certain fascination for charts.  So let's see what we've got...

British charts, 0th birthday: "Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep" by Middle of The Road.  Interesting...I just rediscovered this song a year or two ago, courtesy of I'm Sorry I Haven't A Clue--it sounded instantly familiar, and I was compelled to buy it on iTunes out of sheer nostalgia.

American charts, 0th birthday: "It's Too Late" by Carole King.  I'm fond of the "Tapestry" album, but this song was never a standout for me.

British charts, 12th birthday: "Baby Jane" by Rod Stewart.  I don't think that I've even heard this one, but maybe I have.  At this point I was probably still avoiding Rod Stewart because I hated his voice.

American charts, 12th birthday: "Every Breath You Take" by The Police.  This one I definitely recall, which probably isn't that surprising.  My brother was a bit fan of The Police, so I heard a fair bit of them.

British charts, 14th birthday: "Frankie" by Sister Sledge.  Wow.  If possible, I think it's even less likely I heard this one than the Rod Stewart one.

American charts, 14th birthday: "A View To A Kill" by Duran Duran.  Ah, yes, definitely.  I first started getting into music in a big way in the summer of 1984, mostly via Duran Duran, so this was the first new track of theirs to come out after that time.  Just as the band was fragmenting, so this might even be their jump-the-shark moment.

British charts, 16th birthday: "It's A Sin" by Pet Shop Boys.  A big hit of my MuchMusic video-watching years, definitely quite familar, though never quite my favourite either.

American charts, 16th birthday: "Alone" by Heart.  This song is always tied, in my mind, to my high school crush...not to mention my crush on Nancy Wilson.  So, you know, memories, nostalgia...

British charts, 18th birthday: "Back To Life" by Soul II Soul.  I was without cable for a year or two when I was at university, so I have a bit of a gap in my musical awareness, but this was one of the songs I recall from that period.  My friend/roommate Jeremy wasn't that fond of it, though.

American charts, 18th birthday: "Good Thing" by Fine Young Cannibals.  Also not my favourite track of theirs, but I certainly remember it quite well.

British charts, 21st birthday: "Ain't No Doubt" by Jimmy Nail.  I definitely remember this song, though it was years before I got my own copy of it.  I mostly remember Jimmy Nail for singing "Love Don't Live Here Anymore" (I still think of it as principally a Madonna song, though).

American charts, 21st birthday: "Baby Got Back" by Sir Mix-A-Lot.  I never got that heavily into rap music, and certainly by this time I was actively avoiding it as much as possible.  I don't know if I've ever heard the original of this one, though the Jonathan Coulton cover version is perfectly fine.

Yeah, ages 14-17 were my main immersion in mainstream pop music, as you might be able to tell.  Now it's rare for me to hear a song the year it's released.  I try not to stay stuck in the past, but I don't shun the music of my childhood either...
Current Mood: nostalgic

6th January 2014

7:56pm: The Skies Are Full of Fish
I'm beginning to hate trade paperbacks.

I mean, I've been buying and reading books for a lot of years now, and the vast majority of those books have always been mass-market paperbacks.  The little ones, you know, the ones that can fit in your pocket, tend to be the cheapest, and can fit in two rows on most bookshelves.  Plus they all tend, with some variation, to be pretty much the same size.  A lot of books, particularly SF & fantasy books, only, or principally, came out in that format.  In the days when I bought most of my books second-hand, that was usually all I looked at, and even now is the principal format for genre books, though that may be changing.  For non-fiction, young adult, and mainstream, they're not quite as dominant, but that's not what I'm talking about here.

Hardcovers are the high-end books, the ones you can't wait for, extra-sturdy and extra-heavy.  For fiction, at least, there are very few authors that we'll shell out for here.  Otherwise, we'll wait a year, or however long it takes for the mass-market paperback release, or get it from the library.

Except that these days, for some books, the mass-market paperback release never comes.  Instead, the trade paperback comes out.  Not as sturdy as the hardcover, and not as compact as the mass-markets, they're like the worst of both worlds.  They're priced kind of in the middle, sometimes only a little more than a mass-market paperback, but sometimes twice as much, or even more.

Now, as I understand it, the advantage of trade paperbacks over mass-market paperbacks, from the publisher's perspective, is an economical one.  Mass-market paperbacks, to be profitable, have to be done in print runs of a certain size, where trade paperbacks can be profitable in smaller print runs.  I'm not clear on whether this is mostly because of the higher price, or something about the size or format or binding which makes them cheaper to print, but that's the information that I have in my brain.

I don't have any issues with small presses using them--I know too many people who have been published by them, or work for them.  Their margins are smaller, their print runs are smaller, so I don't blame them for it.  I'm willing to support them, by paying the extra money if the book I want is from a small press.  Not that, if there happened to be a small-press trade-paperback edition and a large-press mass-market paperback edition of the same book I will shell out for the trade in that case.  But how often does that happen?

No, my issue is with the authors whose books now, somehow, never seem to make it to mass-market.  In some cases I supposes it's the same sort of thing--the author isn't selling well enough for a mass-market printing of their books to profitable, so they elect to do a trade printing instead.  I remember seeing this some years ago for a few new authors, ones whose first book was coming out from a major publisher in hardcover, and then in trade paperback.  Those ones I remember being mostly standalones--Yves Meynard's The Book of Knights and Raphael Carter's The Fortunate Fall, for instance--so maybe this was just a last-ditch attempt to be able to publish standalone books from new authors, instead of always signing them up for a trilogy and hoping it sticks.

It's got to be worse for established authors--someone I've been used to buying in mass-market, often someone who's got a solid (but perhaps small) fanbase, or even a lot of critical acclaim, which is sort of the same thing if most of your fans are critics (or most critics are fans).  I've seen it happen to Steven Brust, and I eventually gave in and started buying him that way.  Stephen R. Donaldson's "Last Chronicles of Thomas Covenant" have been stuck in trade paperback for years, so I assume something like that happened to him; I still haven't shelled out for those ones.  (I tend to like Donaldson's work, but the Covenant series generally less so.)  For the more critically acclaimed, China Miéville, after a couple of mass-markets, has seemed to be trade-paperback only, and I'm still peeved that Connie Willis's award-winning Blackout/All Clear are still in trade paperback as well.  Often I will just read them from the library, and then never buy them at all.  (Unless I decide it was good enough to shell out for, like Scott Lynch's The Lies of Locke Lamora.)

Sometimes books that are in trade paperback have reasonably-priced ebooks (which is how I've started buying Jasper Fforde's Tuesday Next books), but with some of them, like the Donaldsons, they're still priced at more than a mass-market paperback, which still seems like an outrageous amount to pay for an ebook.  So that's not really a viable choice either.

I get that the publishing industry is going through a tough time.  They can't afford to pay authors very much, particularly if their first mass-market trilogy didn't do well.  But, as a reader and consumer, I still hate it when they choose the trade-paperback solution.
Current Mood: thirsty

4th January 2014

10:29pm: Cut Off At The Knees
We got a new widescreen TV for Christmas, but we didn't really have a place to put it.  We've already got a widescreen in the basement, so obviously it was for upstairs, where we had a bulky old CRT which just barely fit into our home entertainment unit.   My dad had said we should just go out and buy a stand, which I hadn't gotten around to because it was either a) "Boxing Week", b) back to work after Christmas holidays, or c) very very cold.

When I was talking to him this afternoon, I got to thinking about what we would do with the old entertainment centre, and I realized we didn't really have space for it anywhere.  It would be nice to have in the basement, because we need someplace to put the Wii and DVD player and PVR and other stuff which is currently just sitting on the floor, but it won't fit to either side of, or underneath, our existing widescreen, and most of the rest of the wallspace down there is taken up with bookshelves (natch).  So all we could really do with it was get rid of it.  Or was it?

The entertainment centre (unmemorialized in photography, so I guess I'll just to use 1000 words instead) was of course organized around the big central area where the TV went, with glass-doored cupboards to either side; a shelf overtop which was where we kept that TV's PVR and DVD player (and far too much other junk, over time); a slot underneath which may have been intended for a VCR or anything, but which didn't have any hole in the backing to put wires through so we just put other stuff there; and wooden-doored cupboards underneath.  I don't remember if it was originally an Ikea thing, but I definitely recall putting it together.  So...why couldn't we take it apart?

The base of it, with the cupboards and even the silly slot, was all we really needed.  The rest of it looked like it could be removed.  So, in an unusual fit of Saturday afternoon activity, I decided to actually do it.  Many of the pieces were assembled using the method where you screw a bunch of notched metal pegs into some piece(s), stick those pegs into holes in the other piece(s), then put in these "cam" things and tighten them to hold the pegs in place.  I figured I should be able to unscrew the cams and then pull the pegs back out, but I was having trouble getting it to work at first.  I removed the glass doors, then pulled off the little thin backing that had been nailed in place, and finally realized I was unscrewing the cams too far--when I loosened them a bit more, then suddenly things started pulling out easily.

The sides of the side cupboards were actually attached to the base the TV rested on (which I wanted to keep) with Allen-wrench screws; the inner sides had their screws easily accessible via the bottom cupboards, but unfortunately the outer sides were lined up with the bottom cupboard sides, so I actually had to loosen those cams and lift up the base before I could unscrew it.  I hadn't bothered to actually move the old TV (even though I knew I'd have to anyway), but I had to, of course, to lift up the base.

So my idea actually worked, and now I have a somewhat truncated entertainment centre turned into a stand, with a bunch of holes in the top that aren't being used for anything any more.  (No pictures of that, either.  What is this, Instagram?)  After that, it was almost anticlimax to actually unpack the new TV, attach it to the base, plug it in, hook it up to the PVR, and then pretty much have it "just work".  Okay, it took me a couple of minutes to figure out how to set it to use widescreen mode, and set the PVR to use that mode too, and then to get the PVR remote to connect to it, but now it's all set up and now we have an old TV to get rid of.  As an old CRT, it's probably one of those things that should go to the Eco Station, which means it'll probably wait until spring at the current rate, but that's okay.  We've still got a lot of space in the storage room being taken up by empty boxes, which we've been getting rid of slowly since the move (with a brief hiatus when one of our friends needed some for her own move).  Actually, I think the TV's original box is the big one that I've letting the kids play with/in, but I suppose there's no reason we have to deprive them of that, because, you know, box.

Oh, and the TV's a Toshiba, HD, 32 inch.  We're not actually using HD right now--we have no Blu-Ray player, nor do we have a HD PVR.  But it's pretty nice anyway.
Current Mood: accomplished

23rd April 2013

11:34pm: It Wasn't Syzygy
1993 was the year I went back to school. I had been working as a research assistant at the Canadian Network for Space Research, helpfully located in the sub-basement of the Biological Sciences building at the University of Alberta, since just after my graduation with a B.Sc. in Physics in 1991 up until the fall of 1992, when funding was cut for the "Network of Centres of Excellence" program that CNSR was part of, and my position disappeared. I spent pretty much the next year unemployed, deciding early in 1993 to go and get a Computing Science degree instead.Here"s what I was reading during the first half of that year...Collapse )

84 books in the first half of the year--I don't think I managed much more than that in the entire year of 2011.  I guess that's what being unemployed and childless will get you.  Plus books were shorter back then; maybe someday I'll compare page totals and see if that makes recent years look better.

Anyway, the summary stats: By genre, we have 31 science fiction, 28 fantasy, 9 literature, 7 magazines, 2 mystery, 1 horror, and 1 non-fiction and 1 humour that were atypically included in my tally.  5 anthologies of stories by multiple authors, 7 single-author collections, 5 rereads, 2 of my wife's manuscripts, and 7 library books.  Comparing to the just over 6 months of 1992 I posted earlier, that's much fewer literature and library books--a total of 61 books against my "unread books" total.  A whopping 39 of those books, from the beginning of the year, were my Aurora Awards reading, Canadian SF/Fantasy books that had been eligible for the Auroras that year (or were, perhaps, prequels to eligible books if not eligible themselves).  Also includes the beginning of the last gasp of my Piers Anthony reading, something that had dominated my teenage years, and a few of my online reviews.

Hopefully I'll find the time to get to the rest sometime.
Current Mood: bored

1st January 2012

9:56pm: What Do You Mean It's Not In The Computer?
In the spirit of New Year's resolutions and all that, I've got a couple which I'm going to try out.

1. After talking to papersky at Pure Speculation last year, and also after spending three freaking weeks slogging my way through Steven Erikson's Toll The Hounds in October, I decided I needed to spend more time reading, or at least get more reading done. In the last two months of 2011 I set myself quotas in an attempt to get every book read in 3-4 days, in keeping with my previously-observed rough average of two books a week. I managed to get up to 81 books by the end of the year (17 of those in November and December, which is about 1/6 of 100 but 21% of what I actually read). So this year I resolve to read at least 100 books.

Just to be clear, because my counting method is a little odd--what I track here is prose fiction books. I track per volume, and not by any other unit, so I would count a standalone novel, a volume in a series, an omnibus, and a separately-published novella each as "one book". Also, I do tend to read a number of graphic novels, comic strip collections, non-fiction books, and other miscellanea--these do not count towards my total. This may seem a little arbitrary, but mostly it's because I maintain two parallel reading streams, one for prose fiction and one for everything else, and the "everything else" tends to be harder to track. I'll pick up one book and read it for a while, and then I may grab another one at the library and read that one, and if I lose interest in a book, it may sit around for months with a bookmark in it, but I could pick it up and finish it again, or just give up on it entirely. Whereas my fiction reading is more linear--I start the book, and I finish it before I start another fiction book.

With my quota, what it amounts to is that I count the pages in the book, decide whether I'm planning to read it in 3, 3.5, or 4 days (or possibly more or less, but I'd generally pair a longer book with a short one), then set myself a number of pages as a goal for that day. If I make those pages early in the day, then I will try to use any remaining reading time on one of my alternate-stream books, or play iPod games, or whatever. This means that I try to avoid doing those other things until I have finished my quota, which is the trickier part. If I can't finish my quota, for whatever reason, without staying up to some ungodly hour, then I try to just adjust my quota for other days, and be more strict with myself. So far it's been working, but I haven't read any outrageously long books under this system...I've got The Way of Kings, The Other Lands by David Anthony Durham, and another few thick-looking books sitting on my to-read shelf, so we'll see how those work out.

Since I am trying to make every third book or so a reread these days, I'm still counting those as well, even if they don't count as "progress" in the sense of reducing the number of unread books I own. (On the other hand, I do sometimes decide not to keep them after rereading them, so it can help that way.) I have another reread of the Harry Potter series planned soon, so with any luck I can match of some of the thinner ones of those with thicker books to read. The other books I read, I try to alternate between newer books and older ones, so it tends to go "reread--newer book--older book--reread" etc. I wouldn't necessarily claim that I'm going to make absolute progress on the number of books I've bought but haven't read yet, but maybe I'll fall behind more slowly...

2. Two of my Livejournal friends have recently taken part in something that at least one of them called WEDAY, "Write Every Day All Year", hwrnmnbsol this past year and crisper the year before that. I find it inspiring, but considering how many things I am trying to juggle in my spare time already, I don't think I could make it work. Instead, I am planning something on a weekly rather than a daily basis, which I am probably not going to call WEWAY because it doesn't resonate as well for me. I like the way that the French word for "weekly" is "hebdomadaire", so maybe I'll try to incorporate that somehow. Or I could just wimp out and call it A Story A Week or something. Suggestions welcome.

Anyway, these stories will probably be fairly random, probably around 1000 words in length, and probably posted on Saturdays, which will both coincide with the end of the first week of the year, and also alternate fairly well with the Vorkosigan Reread project where I'm posting on Tuesdays. I'll post the stories right here on this Livejournal, in all likelihood. I think I've passed the point where I'm particularly concerned about wasting my first publication by posting stories on the Internet, since I never seem to send stories out to magazines anyway, so I'm just going to be throwing them out there. I'll probably find this resolution a little harder than the reading one--and they might end up at odds with each other--but it's just once a week, I can manage that, right?
Current Mood: cold

23rd November 2011

9:40pm: A Crow Short of The Murder
Sometime in 1992 (June 18th, to be precise), I decided that I wanted to keep track of what I read. Actually, I'd had the idea a few times in the past, but I'd bogged down in the format to store it in or something. But in 1992, I had this program called Framework II on my second-hand XT 8088 computer, which had a spreadsheet/database mode, and it seemed like the way to do it. I've kept it up since then, in different formats--after I couldn't run FW2 anymore, I just used a text file, until I put it into Microsoft Access, where it still resides. This list is almost completely dedicated to fiction; for some reason, though I've thought of it many times over the years, I have never gotten around to doing an equivalent list for nonfiction reads, even though I spend close to half my time reading non-fiction these days.

So here"s the list of what I read in 1992, for anyone who"s interested...Collapse )
So, despite starting my tally almost halfway through the year, I still got 71 books read in that time, which meant I probably read at least 120 books overall, ten books a month, or so. I don't think I was reading nearly as many nonfiction back then, but there might have been a few. Anyway, let's sum up:

71 books: of those, 22 were from the library, 4 were actually magazines, 3 were my wife's manuscripts, and 6 were rereads, so that's 64 "real" books, and 36 of those, just over half were books that I owned and had not read before--books that "counted" against my quantity of "unread books", which was the count of books that I owned and had not read yet.

Of the non-magazine books, they are surprisingly evenly divided between Fantasy (24), Science Fiction (23) and Mainstream (18). I guess the Mainstream number is the most surprising, because I think of myself as a genre reader. A lot of the calls are kind of hard to make, though--Witch World is set in a fantasy-that-later-turns-into-SF, the Marquez book is sort of "magic realism" but I counted it as Mainstream, and yet Not Wanted On The Voyage I counted as Fantasy. I'm inclined to say that it averages out.

Also, including the magazines, there were 13 anthologies or collections, leaving 58 novels. 24 of those novels were in series--or thereabouts, since it's not always clear when a novel is part of a series. (For instance, Journey To Aprilioth may be in the same world as Songs From The Drowned Lands, but they're not closely related...)

I don't think there was any other I read more than two books by (unless you count the three of my wife's manuscripts)--those authors are Lin Carter, Andre Norton, K.W. Jeter, M.J. Engh, and Robert A. Heinlein. I do usually like to space out reading an author's books, unless I'm doing a series reread, and even then...

That's probably enough dissection. At some point I may get around to doing 1993, or the first half of 1993. Who knows, someday I may even catch up...
Current Mood: groovy

22nd November 2011

11:44pm: The Vorkosigan Saga Reread
As I mentioned a few months ago, I had started doing a reread of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series, and six months later, it's still going...I'm into the third book, The Warrior's Apprentice (well, the third by some reckonings--chronological, but omitting one earlier book because it's too far back and I'm not as fond of it), and it's pretty exciting. All I need are, well, a few more readers...so if you're interested and not reading it, then become a reader of it! Even if you haven't read the books, all you need to do to fix that is to read the books, and you should do that anyway.
Current Mood: behind

10th June 2011

11:22pm: The Something And The Time
This one I remember--we were supposed to do a villain POV.

Nothing. No time. Only the one.Collapse )
Current Mood: blank

5th June 2011

11:18pm: A Friendly Glass of Wine
This exercise was based on a selection of pictures that one of our writers' group had downloaded from the Net and printed out. I can't remember the exact picture I chose, but there was a guy wearing goggles of some sort and toasting an empty chair across from him.

Evgeny Ohagan punched his request into the replicator and waited while it processed his order.Collapse )
Current Mood: tired

2nd June 2011

11:16pm: Wrong Number
This one is from so long ago that I don't remember if it was a writing exercise, or what prompted it. It may even be from before the age of cell phones, so keep that in mind.

Gilton looked up briefly as McKinney entered the apartment.Collapse )
Current Mood: tired

27th May 2011

11:12pm: Exit Light
This is probably another writing exercise, but apparently I've forgotten the exact challenge. Perhaps something to do with a dark and stormy night?

On that dark and stormy night, when the lights went out, Conrad was ready, even if nobody else was.Collapse )
Current Mood: blank

23rd May 2011

10:59pm: Raising The Stakes
This was a writers' group exercise in "raising the stakes". It amused me to try to incorporate as many possible ways of interpreting that phrase as I could.

Halvard opened the carved wooden door, closed it behind him, and sat down at the table across from Braxton.Collapse )
Current Mood: okay

18th May 2011

10:28pm: Bollocks and Knickers
I've fallen off my steady posting pace a little recently, for which I blame a busy weekend and my attempt to start a reread of Lois McMaster Bujold's Vorkosigan series over on WordPress. Anyway, this is my newest writing exercise for the Cult of Pain, and it was based on one of the prompts for the 2011 Whittaker Prize writing competition, supplied by one of the Cult's members.

"Bollocks!"Collapse )
Current Mood: lazy

14th May 2011

4:28pm: Franchise
I think this assignment was "write a story that has something to do with food".

Arlen Waller sat in the exclusive dining room of the Fine Blessing and sipped his tea.Collapse )
Current Mood: rushed

11th May 2011

9:24pm: The Hounds of Montmartre
Another one of those lost weekly prompt stories. Full disclosure--I have never been to Paris, nor even to Europe; all of the details in this story were gleaned from Google, Wikipedia and/or Mapquest. Also, this story does not really have a whaddayacall ending.

Luc Perrault gasped for breath, but he dared not slow down, not yet.Collapse )
Current Mood: apathetic

9th May 2011

9:27pm: Dark Memories
Another one from the series of weekly prompts, and again, I don't remember the prompt. So, here's a little story.

Desmond Thayer took a last glance over the month"s accounts.Collapse )
Current Mood: not sure what to do next

7th May 2011

8:15pm: Charming The Prince
One month our writer's group were trying to do a story a week. I think we managed to get through three of them. I can't remember what the prompt was for this one, but I'm quite pleased with it, except perhaps the ending...

The music came to an end, and all the couples on the floor gracefully came to a stop, the gentlemen bowing and the ladies curtsying.Collapse )
Current Mood: rushed

5th May 2011

11:37pm: Ninjas Vs. Pirates
The exercise this time was based on a page which served up random selections from the Evil Overlord Advice List and other related lists. And, because I do like me some random, I also used the Random Pirate Name Generator.

"It is just as you predicted it, Master," Hashi said to Master Kenyama.Collapse )
Current Mood: cold in the basement
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