Having endured many minor mishaps and miscommunications over the years, this morning our ship was threatened by an “account suspended” warning that seemed set to scuttle the site. Fortunately, it proved to be a false alarm triggered by a server problem unrelated to my account.
Smart spacers know that there’s no such thing as gremlins, only substandard preventative maintenance practices. A worn and weathered vessel is one thing, but no one loves a glitchy ship.
So, I backed up my database to a cryo buoy, hailed a passing hosting carrier, and bailed out the airlock. After a few quick config trips to the engineering deck, anoved.net is now berthed at Laughing Squid.
Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2012.
Typically I only read one novel at a time. At present, however, I am reading Ben Bova’s Titan as well as Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice. These novels are sufficiently distinct that I don’t think I’ll have any trouble keeping the stories straight – although both are certainly set in alien environments. Fortuitously, both books have short chapters, making it feasible to alternate between them whenever I sit down to read.
My hope was that these books would complement each other as part of a balanced fictional diet. Titan has big ideas and a technically intriguing setting, but, admittedly, its characters perform like cardboard character actors (a risk of its subjective yet superficial third-person perspective, I suppose). An exception is Titan Alpha, the rover whose misbehavior is the most interesting enigma I’ve encountered in the story. Titan Alpha is a viewpoint character.
I like it when a character cracks a joke and it still seems fresh despite the knickers and two hundred year old diction.
Pride and Prejudice portrays people with much more nuance, although they are all perhaps a bit too snooty to earn much sympathy from me. (I realize that this impression may well be intentional, given the title.) What I like most about Pride and Prejudice is the language – the sentences themselves exhibit a variety of structure that is a pleasure to unravel, yet never too baroque to understand. I like it when a character cracks a joke and it still seems fresh despite the knickers and two hundred year old diction. Whether it is Austen’s own style or simply English of the era that I enjoy, I cannot say.
I’m only about a quarter of the way through each book, so the impressions above shouldn’t be construed as final reviews. Mainly, my intent is to compare what I’ve noticed in the process of alternating between books.
So, do you ever select books based on what you perceive to be their complementary properties? Are you a gourmet, seasoning your reads with sweet and sour, or is your mind a furnace into which you must shovel as many ideas and experiences and as possible?
Posted on Tuesday, September 18th, 2012.
Last week I was dismayed to discover that my Kindle had developed a malfunction. A strip along the top of the screen no longer displays anything but noise. No software reset procedures dispel the artifact, so I believe the screen itself is damaged. Otherwise, the Kindle still works fine. Unfortunately the device is out of warranty.
But! Fixing broken things is nice, too. Gadget-repair emporium iFixIt makes a good environmental argument for resisting disposable material culture. Their self-repair manifesto enumerates other compelling reasons for undertaking to fix things, and is sort of inspiring to boot. Being prepared to repair our domestic robots may help ward off the inevitable robot uprising as well.
So, instead of replacing my Kindle, I’ve ordered a replacement screen. The e-ink panel is probably the most expensive component of an ereader, so this approach isn’t a whole lot cheaper than a new ereader, but at least this way I won’t be throwing out an otherwise serviceable device. I’ll post an update once the screen arrives (it’s shipping from Hong Kong) and I’ve attempted the repair.
In the meantime, I’ll continue reading – on paper.
- Clarkesworld Magazine publishes good stuff for the discerning science fiction and fantasy fan. You can read the stories and articles online for free, but if you’re a fan of the genre, considering subscribing to the ebook edition. Places like this are where SF is happening.
- The “Computers and Satellites” ebook is a collation of T. S. Kelso’s Satellite Times column, which was an instrumental reference in the making of Ground Track Generator.
Posted on Thursday, September 13th, 2012.
Last month, SF Signal published a two-part “mind meld” on point of view in fiction. Earlier this year, the folks at Writing Excuses discussed the omniscient viewpoint. I encountered all of these discussions recently, and it got me thinking about point of view. At first I found it challenging to recall the perspective of books I’d previously read, even if they were among my favorites. With concentration, however, I realize I can figure it out for most examples that come to mind.
(Sometimes it’s obvious. It’s a good bet that stories with large ensemble casts – like The Song of Ice and Fire, to name a popular example – are told from a third person perspective that can follow the separate adventures of multiple characters.)
Conflicts are revealed from multiple perspectives; tension arises from wondering how these perspectives will converge – or collide.
In contrast to my fuzzy recollection of the narrative perspective of some past reads, I feel acutely aware of point of view now that I’ve encountered the discussions mentioned above. I am reading Ben Bova’s Titan, and the third person perspective seems conspicuous. Conflicts are revealed from multiple perspectives; tension arises from wondering how these perspectives will converge – or collide. The plot becomes an almost secondary source of suspense.
I can’t say that I prefer one perspective over another (well, second person perspective sure is an odd duck1), but I do think it enriches the reading experience to better understand how a story is told. There’s a parallel with science here: knowledge does not sap a system of wonder, but rather equips you recognize and appreciate its even deeper mysteries.
- To read a fascinating visual analysis of the “Choose Your Own Adventure” format, you decide to check out Christian Swinehart’s One Book, Many Readings.
Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012.
This is a test of my emergency portrait drawing system.
The drawing on the right was drawn left handed. (I’m right handed.)
Posted on Tuesday, September 11th, 2012.
One StarShipSofa segment I have come to particularly enjoy is David Raiklen’s SciFi Soundtracks. David plays excerpts from selected soundtracks (films as well as television shows and now video games) and points out the notable characteristics of each bit of music. His comments help an unsophisticated ear understand how a composition or performance influences the associated story. That increases my appreciation for the soundtracks I hear.
Posted on Monday, September 10th, 2012.
Hit 3000 miles on my main bike today. That’s 2800 miles since last May, soon after I built it.
Posted on Friday, September 7th, 2012.
My appreciation of Dan Simmons’ novel Ilium was greatly enhanced by my prior reading, in translation, of the actual Iliad. A passing familiarity with some of Willy Shakespeare’s work was helpful, too. The sort of literary name-dropping and cultural cross-referencing encountered in Ilium is called “intertextuality” in word-nerd circles. Whatever; it served to weave the world inhabited by Ilium’s characters into the world inhabited by Ilium’s well-read readers, and that’s a nifty trick.
(And isn’t it interesting how references to familiar works of fiction or mythic tradition constitute references to the reader’s “real world”? Dude, what is reality, anyway? )
More recently, I read Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light. A captivating book, and especially fun to figure out without any advance knowledge of the setting – so don’t read that Wikipedia synopsis if you plan to read the book. Suffice to say that the Lord of Light story is deeply rooted in the Hindu tradition. It’s a good read even if you don’t know much about Hinduism, but I suspect that, as with Ilium and the Iliad, the read would be richer if you did. I’m sure there are layers of foreshadowing and suspense transparent to me which add texture to the tale for those more familiar with the personalities and themes of Hindu mythology.
(A common concern of Ilium, Lord of Light, and many other parables, science fictional or not: the hubris of those who would be gods.)
So what are some other examples of how your familiarity with one set of stories informs your understanding and appreciation of another? Bonus question: how does real-world mythology contribute to fictional worldbuilding?
Posted on Monday, September 3rd, 2012.
I had a half-baked plan to sell instructions for new models you could build with pieces from specific LEGO sets. The name I came up with for this project was Brick Blueprint, which I mentioned here a couple times last year before deciding to shelve the idea. Earlier this summer, I revived the idea and built a storefront using Shopify and FetchApp. I created a “blueprint”-inspired instructions template and worked out a streamlined pipeline to produce the instructions, from bricks to LDraw files to final PDFs. I designed a bunch of models. There was a Twitter account, too.
Marketing is no fun, though – and more to the point, store hosting isn’t cheap when you’re bootstrapping sales from zero. So, after a midsummer hiatus, I decided this is not how I would make my first million. The store has been put on ice and the instructions have been posted to Flickr.
Here are the twenty-six sample models I produced. These are free. Play well!
Links to the LDraw files for each model are available from the image pages.
As conceived, Brick Blueprint may not have been commercially viable, but I did learn some useful things such as how to set up a functional web store and how Google AdWords works from an advertiser’s perspective. I learned some new tricks for my favorite LDraw tools. Last but not least, I put together this nice little portfolio of pocket-size models built with a highly limited palette of parts. LEGO, hire me!
Posted on Thursday, August 30th, 2012.
I’ve airlocked a couple LEGO-related scripts that had been lingering in stowage. They received little traffic, and had in fact been inoperable for some time without generating any complaints.
Bitsticker converted bitmap images to LDraw “sticker” elements; Scott Wardlaw’s Sticker Generator is a viable replacement. To create text-based LDraw stickers, I recommend using Ross Crawford’s original txt2dat instead of the “txt2dat online” interface I created, now retired. Likewise, LDraw part authors should use Philo Hurbain’s original LDraw utilities instead of my “Isecalc online” script, also retired.
cgi-bin hold cleared of such jetsam, the ship is leaner, meaner, and, practically speaking, more portable should I decide to change hosts or redesign the site.
Additionally, after years of uncertainty and intermittent customer support correspondence, I am pleased to report that the anoved.net domain is now unambiguously mine. (And now registered with Hover.com – buy your own domain name and make me rich with referral credit!)
Previously, the domain was registered in my hosting company’s name. At the time of purchase it seemed a reasonable consequence of my hosting package, but it proved difficult to make configuration changes and unclear what would happen to the name in a variety of a scenarios (change of company ownership, lapsed payments, etc.). Now that is all squared away and telemetry indicates nominal domain name operation.
End log. Stand by to resume standard content comm channel.
Posted on Tuesday, August 21st, 2012.