Readiness procedures require periodic test-fit of touring gear.
I worked out a new way to carry a foam bedroll perched on the back of my trunk bag. I like this arrangement because most of the bag’s compartments remain accessible without removing the bedroll. Perhaps this sort of packing minutiae hardly seems worthy of report, but I think it’s fun to figure out clever ways to carry things.
Posted on Sunday, October 14th, 2012.
I’m a fan of editor John Joseph Adam’s Lightspeed Magazine, which publishes fantasy and science fiction, so I was intrigued by the announcement of Nightmare Magazine, a sibling venue for scarier stories. (Full disclosure: I made a token contribution to the Kickstarter project.)
The first issue was released this month, just in time for the Halloween season. I read it last week… and I survived! Here are one-line synopses and rhyming pseudo-haiku reviews of the four stories in Nightmare Magazine issue one.
splinter young friends’ directions;
weakness, seen, may sprout.
On a dare, four kids confront the contents of an ominous house.
Good dogs, guns, and frost;
huntsmen whisper, howl, and stalk.
Quarry, cornered, caught?
A reunion of outdoorsmen renews the hunting season.
Peering down the street –
vandals; burned out cars; debris.
“No one cares but me.”
Evidence of urban decay agitates a troubled man.
“Limbo kids, be free –
move on, grow, and haunt not me.”
Teacher, hark to thee.
A woman struggles to soothe her pupils while coping with crises of her own.
Posted on Saturday, October 13th, 2012.
I recently picked up a used copy of Earthmen and Strangers, a 1966 anthology of short stories edited by Robert Silverberg. As the cover attests, the book contains “humans and aliens on a collision course – star-studded science fiction.”
In 2010, I posted some haiku reviews of stories I’d recently read. I did some limericks as well. They were all very cheesy, but fun to write. Now I am reviving the gimmick with a new series of haiku reviews. In this post, there is an additional conceit – each bit is phrased as a vague sort of warning to some character or group in the story.
As before, it would be better to call these “synopses” or “selected impressions” instead of reviews. My intent is not to decree whether they have any literary merit, and certainly not to tell you what you should or should not read. In some cases, of course, I can’t help but comment on aspects that would seem out of place if these were written today. The haikus are just a fun record of what I’ve read. Hopefully they give you a taste of what I got from each tale.
Title and author links go to bibliographies at The Internet Speculative Fiction Database.
Leave us your poets,
wise passers-by, for who else
might notice hope here.
A Martian artist lingers on ruined Earth, clumsily raising the remnants of humanity.
Listen, my liars –
if cornered by creatures,
the truth will set you free.
Tactful answers to an alien polygraph avert invasion.
Wade among many,
emissary, but risk wanes
Rugged individualists from earth make poor company for a little collectivist.
Stand up for yourselves,
women of hot shade and shell;
your men are not gods.
Stranded spacemen help the ignorant natives dispel an abusive cult and seek gender equity. Don’t worry, it’s not a white savior scenario: one of the men is Basque and the other Mohawk!
Don’t be so hasty,
postwar planet beachcombers,
to assume our doom.
Opportunistic invaders are frustrated by our failure to destroy ourselves.
Question the motive
of the gift of elixir –
be tamed and changed by the ichor.
The new human occupant of a lonely trading post prepares for the periodic return of the other party.
I thought this was the most compelling story in the collection. Perhaps it is because the stranger is a truly alien presence: there are no little green men or translator hats here.2
The protagonist suffers from a desperate sense of anxiety and belated revelation as the alien approaches. His urgent effort to understand the purpose of the rendezvous – complicated by the calculated recalcitrance of his computer companion – convincingly depicts what it is like to confront the unknown.
lest your raw materials
make too much of you.
A small town sheriff is seduced by a victim’s widow.
Wait, wrong synopsis. This isn’t the NYT best seller list! Here we go:
A scout strives not to deceive the people he meets, but first impressions prove hard to shake.
In case of capture,
give courage to your captor.
Release; death; rapture.
A disgraced scientist finds redemption by aiding his aggressor.
Behold, a last gasp
is glanced, like rippled glass,
as solar souls elapse.
Astronomers on Mercury see traces of something more than plain old radiation in the radar scans of a short-lived coronal mass ejection.
Some general criticisms:
Many of these stories rely on an automatic communicator or translator device to facilitate dialogue between the titular earthmen and strangers. I think this makes the alien seem more like the merely foreign, with an attendant risk of portraying the aliens as little more than funny-colored people with weird cultures to figure out – or vice versa.
But, more generously, I recognize that the universal translator is a rhetorical device that helps a story advance beyond the mechanics of first contact to a “dialectical” phase where the story’s main ideas can be discussed directly by the characters themselves.
Last but not least, here are physical descriptions of some of the authors, as editor Robert Silverberg saw fit to include in his introductions to their stories:
- Eric Frank Russel is “a towering Englishman”
- Randall Garrett is “a bearded, booming-voiced man”
- Poul Anderson is “a lanky chap of Viking descent”
- Isaac Asimov is “jovial and even boisterous in the flesh”
- Damon Knight is “a slender, soft-spoken man with a deceptively mild smile”
- Algis Budrys “has the general dimensions of an outstanding fullback”
Posted on Wednesday, October 10th, 2012.
Last night I noticed my truck’s taillights weren’t working. (Brakes and turn signals were fine.) I replaced the fuse, but it immediately blew again. So this morning, in search of the evident short circuit, I took apart the taillights. The bulbs were fine. The circuit still shorted out with the light assemblies unplugged, ruling out corroded sockets.
Turned out, the short was under the dash. An unused wire in the radio head unit wiring harness was making contact with the metal of the dash framework. It was the only wire missing any insulation – just a nick – and, of course, it also happened to be a hot wire that was making contact with ground at that spot. Taped it up and the gremlin is dead.
(It’s weird that the radio is on the same circuit as the taillights – but I got the idea to check from a few clues the web turned up for similar symptoms, so apparently it’s not too unusual.)
In higher-mileage vehicle news, yesterday I recentered the bottom bracket on my main bike. Basically, I moved it starboard a millimeter or so. This evened out the clearance between the cranks and the chainstays; previously, the drive-side crank was pretty close to the chainstay. (The cranks are the arms the pedals are attached to; the chainstays are the parts of the frame parallel to the ground that flank the rear wheel.) The asymmetry was due to my inattentiveness when reassembling things after a previous teardown.
I make problems so I can fix them! But, that’s how you learn to get all you can out of a system.
Like the Millennium Falcon.
Posted on Saturday, September 29th, 2012.
I use Calibre primarily to organize ebook files and send them to my Kindle, but it also includes a serviceable ebook viewer for reading books on the computer. Like most ebook renderers, the viewer is based on a web browser. The user can even specify their own stylesheet to customize exactly how the text is displayed.
I created a stylesheet which displays the text in multiple columns, like McReadability. I dub it McCalibre. I posted the code and a more thorough description on the Calibre forums. As noted in the forum post, it only works with the viewer’s “flow” mode, not the “paged” mode. Here’s what it looks like:
I’ve also posted the code at GitHub, where I will upload any worthwhile revisions.
Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012.
McReadability is a bookmarklet which reflows the text of a web page into a multi-column format. I created it based on an earlier bookmarklet by the folks at Readability, which has since transformed into a more ambitious service. Along the way I updated McReadability to continue working without relying on Readability; in other words, the requisite stylesheets and scripts were all hosted here at anoved.net.
I forgot to transfer some of those files when I changed hosts, so the bookmarklet recently stopped working.
I restored the files this morning, so McReadability should be working again. Give it a try.
Incidentally, the bookmarklet is overdue for an update. Eventually I plan to remove more of the residual Readability features and present a simpler setup page.
Posted on Wednesday, September 26th, 2012.
Earlier this month I mentioned that my Kindle’s display had malfunctioned and that I’d decided to repair the device with a replacement screen.
Well, the new screen arrived today. I took apart my Kindle and replaced the screen. It works!
I relied on PowerbookMedic’s excellent Kindle 3 disassembly video to guide my efforts. One note for others undertaking similar repairs: it is not necessary to separate the speaker assembly from the “midboard” in order to replace the screen. Since they are adhered together, the speaker assembly will come out anyway when you remove the midboard.
It is necessary to disassemble most of the Kindle to access the screen. The screen is sandwiched between the front cover and the other components, which are accessed through the back cover. Once I exposed the back of the screen, I found confirmation that it was physically damaged: cracks in one corner, as seen above. From the front, the cracks appeared only as artifacts in the display.
It was neat to observe that e-ink panels truly do not require electricity to maintain an image. The new screen arrived with a default Kindle home page displayed, despite have spent a few weeks in a shipping box disconnected from any power source.
In the time that my Kindle has been out of commission, Amazon has released a rare software update for the Kindle 3. Added is support for a few new file formats and, evidently, a sharper version of the reading font. Without comparing it to text on an older device, I can’t claim to notice any specific difference, but I suppose it does look nice. Legibility, at any rate, is greatly improved – due to the non-broken new screen, of course.
Incidentally, the new screen came with a protective plastic film, which I’ve left in place for now. It gives the matte display a slightly glossy sheen, which is not necessarily preferable to e-ink’s normally paper-like appearance, but it does give the reader a bit of showroom appeal. Not bad for a retread!
Posted on Monday, September 24th, 2012.
The less meticulous I try to be, the better I like the results.
Doesn’t mean these are particularly accurate likenesses or meaningful objets d’art.
But I like them, because I think they give you a good chance to see the way I do.
Drawn with a sweet chunky graphite pencil stick thingy.
Posted on Friday, September 21st, 2012.
Thanks to the generosity of a friend, I have acquired a set of clipless shoes and pedals. After a few stationary experiments, I installed the pedals on my bike and went for a short ride. I was happy to find I was able to disengage and dismount without tipping over! I’ll have to practice a lot more before it becomes instinctive, though.
I expect that I will continue to use platform pedals on a day-to-day basis, as the practical advantages of being able to ride with any footwear far outweigh the potential performance benefits of being clipped in to the bike, at least for my routine errand-oriented riding. I can imagine using these pedals if I ever get into racing, though, or for future bike tours where I expect to be in the saddle all day.
And yeah, it’s confusing that shoes which clip in to matching spring-loaded pedals are referred to as “clipless.” The name distinguishes the design from pedals with straps or toe cages that surround the foot.
Posted on Friday, September 21st, 2012.