30, 2008: Souls in Silicon in All Major Ebook Formats
My SF collection Souls in Silicon (which I described in
my August 19, 2008 entry) is now available
from Lulu as a single downloadable ZIP containing all the major
ebook file formats. These formats include:
- .DOC: MS Word 2000
- .RTF: Rich text; loads in nearly all word processors
- .LIT: Microsoft Reader
- .LRF: Sony Reader
- .PRC: MobiPocket
- .PDF: Fixed-page Adobe Reader print image
- .HTML: Web browser
I consider these to be the most important ebook formats now in
use outside of the more or less separate Kindle universe. All files
When the book was first released, I configured the Lulu catalog
item so that it would sell the PDF print image as a download. This
was a mistake, because fixed-page PDF files are not very good ebooks
if you're using anything smaller than a laptop or a tablet, and
the download PDF option implied that PDF was all that you could
So I disabled the "download PDF" option from the Lulu
sales page for the printed book, and created a
new Lulu product consisting of the ebook edition ZIP file. The
price is $3.99 for the ZIP, just as it was for the PDF print image.
If anyone reading this bought the print image and would like the
ZIP with all the other ebook file formats, just shoot me an email
and I'll send it to you. (The ZIP contains the PDF print image as
well as the reflowable file formats.)
Big thanks go to John
Ridley for putting me on to the
Calibre ebook toolset, which converts very cleanly from a Microsoft
Reader .LIT file to the Sony Reader .LRF file. Odd tools like that
are popping up constantly in the ebook world, and it's hard to stay
ahead of it all.
If you mention Souls in Silicon somewhere, even if you only
saw the print edition, please indicate that it's available in an
ebook edition as well. Thanks!
I'm hard at work on my second collection, which I will (probably)
call Cold Hands and Other Stories. Much depends on whether
or not I decide to include my short novel Firejammer, which
is a YA item and may be better off on its own or with something
else like it. With Firejammer the collection would be a little
long; without Firejammer, it would be a little short. (25,000
words makes a difference!) I'll keep you posted.
28, 2008: Odd Lots
- We have lost another Duntemann, in a world where there have
never been many: John Philip Duntemann of Des Plaines, Illinois
died this past Monday night, of cancer. He was 83. John Phil (which
is how he was known in our family) was a strong and gentle man,
my father's first cousin, who raised seven kids and saw them earn
a collection of advanced degrees like I have never seen in a single
household. (Most of the 2-n Duntemanns you see online who aren't
me are his children.) John was in England during the Blitz, and
tells the story of how he heard an odd noise at one point while
working on a piece of construction machinery, put his wrench down,
looked up, and saw the guldurndest little airplane fly thirty
feet over his head, to go on another mile or so and explode. It
was a Nazi V-1. He didn't know that he was experiencing history;
he would say he that was just doing his job. (I'd prefer not to
live that kind of history!) Godspeed, John. Mission accomplished.
- Pat Thurman K7KR sent me a link to a
nice set of reviews of Chicago restaurants.
- Also from K7KR comes word that Tom
Kneitel has left us. Tom was a wickedly funny writer from
the heyday of CB and build-it-yourself electronics, and I used
to read his column in Electronics Illustrated before I
looked at anything else. (In flipping through some old issues
this morning, it sounds weirdly like a blog.) Oddly, his most
famous book was a small press thing about how to listen in on
other people's cordless phones, which was evidently quite a hobby
in the 80s and 90s, when they were basically FM walkie-talkies.
He was also the grandson of cartoonmeister Max Fleischer.
- If you were ever asked to carry around $1000 as either dimes
or quarters, which would you pick? Now
you don't have to do the math. Hint: It's a...coin toss. (Thanks
to Jim Strickland for the pointer.)
world's longest novel is SFand it's about mutant cicadasor
something. 12.6 million words. At least he sounds like he's having
fun. (Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the heads-up.)
face-animation technology seems awesome on the face of it
(as it were) but in reading the explanation, it sure starts to
sound like his-res rotoscoping to me. Hey guys, do it without
a model reading the lines for you, and I'll be much more
- I'm having hosting service problems herehave had them
for some time, actuallyand will probably jump to another
service in coming months. I'm considering using Joomla
to host Contra and my photo galleries, and create an online SF
workshopping system. I'm tired of editing Contra by hand, but
I'm unwilling to have its primary instance outside my control,
as it would be if it lived entirely on LiveJournal or Blogger.
Anybody out there have any thoughts on Joomla as a platform for
this sort of thing?
23, 2008: Review: Irreconcilable Differences
reason I like Jim Strickland's fiction is that I like the way he
thinks. He and I look at the future and draw a lot of the
same conclusions. I understand his logic, and that helps me appreciate
the stories he tells, even if I myself would not tell them in anything
like the same way. Being able to toss ideas around with him in person
helps a lot; we workshop together, and I've learned quite a bit
watching him hone his style.
So we come to Irreconcilable
Differences, which was released at the publisher's frontlist
party at Denvention a few weeks ago. As with his first novel, Looking
Glass, we have a police mission in a now+20 near future
in which the world has boiled over but not burned. The US has split
into several pieces along tribal lines, and various interests are
trying to bring the world into a new equilibrium. Chief of these
is Interpol Covert Services, which is paying particular attention
to activities on the Internet. As a means of cracking a particularly
difficult case, Interpol has gone deep bleeding edge and uploaded
the mind and memories of one of their toughest agents into a 16-year-old
hacker girl who got caught, and agreed to the mission as part of
a plea bargain. The agent is Rachel Santana, who's lived a little
too much; the girl is Micki Blake, who has barely lived at all.
The two coexist in a single body, Micki in her own brain, Rae in
a block of high-performance synthetic nerve tissue inserted surgically.
They communicate internally through a sort of VR boundary zone called
the gestalt, which is more than conversation but not quite telepathy.
With Rae on board directing the show, Micki returns to her small-town
hacker group, a little bleary but suspecting that she's not in Kansas
Except that she is. Micki is a Kansas farm girl (from a farm that
harvests the wind as much as meat and grain) and the action is out
on (and under) the Kansas plains. Micki/Rae ride with the rest of
their gang along dirt roads in a ramshackle Winnebago RV full of
state-of-the-art networking gear stuffed in a closet, ducking in
and out of the Net as needs require. The rest of the story is nonstop
action taking place at several levels, with some diabolical twists
and turns that I'll leave for you to discover.
Where we may also not quite be anymore is cyberpunk, even though
that's how Jim characterizes the novel. There's lots of exhaustively
researched cyber here, but very little punk. The American culture
of the plains has mutated in some ways, but it's not the oh-so-precious
Gibsonian San Francisco noir that always makes me giggle a little
when I read it. Kids still ride on school buses and go to dancesand
now help one another keep the family wind-turbines turning. The
rural character of the future is an intuition I had 20 years ago:
Once the Net genuinely fuzzes out the idea of physical location,
the real action will be where the food and the energy come from.
Cities produce nothing but proximityand once proximity
ceases to be a core value, life on Earth will change radically,
especially if even minor cold wars heat up a little. Maybe a better
word would be "cyberbilly." I think of it that way; the
heartland has more head than the headland will ever admit.
One of the few downsides to the novel is that it's too short to
give us as much flavor for this future world as I'd prefer. Jim
has rightfully emphasized the questions of what it's really like
to be a copy of a human beingsomething most cyberpunkers
and transhumanists take for granted and never think too deeply about.
Rae's struggles with this issue of self are mirrored in Micki's
struggles to appreciate the self that she has, and the two are inadvertent
agents in one another's healing processes. The story is a personal
one, intense and immediate. Another 50,000 words would have fleshed
it out, but also slowed it down. It's a conundrum that every good
writer has to confront eventually. I think Jim made the right choice
here. He will have future novels in which to develop the world as
a whole, and I'm patient enough to wait for them.
Jim gets extra points for appending a glossary to the end of the
novel, summarizing the technological and cultural ideas he's presented
through the story, along with quick brushups on networking terms.
You may need it; this is one of the most unabashedly technical novels
I've seen in a long time, and for a hard SF guy like me, well, that's
In short, highly recommended.
21, 2008: Odd Lots
- I lived in Scotts Valley, California for three years, and I
never once heard of Axel
Erlandson, an arborsculptor (that is, a person who coerces
trees to grow in odd or artistic ways) who had a roadside attraction
of sculpted trees in Scotts Valley from 1955 to about 1970. Not
as weird as the Mystery Spot and clearly not weird enough for
the Santa Cruz vicinity, the Tree Zoo was not a success, but some
of those trees are mighty odd.
- There's a PDF document detailing name changes to Chicago streets
and it explains who or what some of Chicago's streets were named
after. The street where I grew up, Clarence Avenue, was named
after a river in Australia. Kedvale, the street on which my grandparents
lived, was an Anglicization of an Indian term for the print of
a moccasin in damp ground. (Hence those shoes named "Keds.")
Thanks to Pete Albrecht (another old Chicago boy) for the link.
- From the Some People Have All The Fun Dept.: Walter Jon Williams
got himself and several other SF writers a
tour of the NORAD facility inside Cheyenne Mountain, during
this recent Worldcon. How they pulled it off isn't clear; I was
told by people who have reason to know that they're just not doing
tours anymore. (And sheesh, I only live about 3/4 of a mile from
the Big Iron Door!) Thanks to Jim Strickland for letting me know.
- Bill Higgins sent a link to an
interview with Wayne Green in ComputerWorld. Ol' Wayne
is now 86 and still out there, supporting weird causes and making
a ruckus--just not in the magazine business anymore. I'm fond
of the guy because he bought my very first published article in
the fall of 1974, and quite a few others in subsequent years.
His legend counfounds historians; I've gotten many different opinions
on just how much he had to do with Byte. I still have a
very funny but weird little book called See Wayne Run by
Gordon Williamson that suggests that he had little or nothing
to do with Byte, but other people with reason to know claim
some useful reminiscence/discussion; see especially the comment
by Harry Helms W5HLH.
19, 2008: Souls in Silicon
things have conspired to slow me down since Worldcon, but I've begun
to catch up, and this morning I finally got Souls
in Silicon uploaded to Lulu and ready for sale.
The book is a collection of all my published stories (plus a new
one) about strong AI. Some may be familiar to you (like "Guardian,"
which was published in Asimov's in 1980 and appeared on the
final Hugo ballot in 1981) but some of it appeared a long time ago
in markets that paid real money but were obscure or problematic
in various ways. Jan Howard Finder's hardcover anthology Alien
Encounters published "Marlowe" in 1982, but the only
sales report I ever saw indicated that it had sold 125 copies. Ditto
Larry Constantine's Infinite Loop, another hardcover anthology.
It put "Bathtub Mary" into print in 1993, but there were
shelving issues (bookstores thought it was a computer book because
it was published by Miller Freeman) and the only time I ever saw
it in stores was next to a pile of C++ tutorials. So it was time
to get them all available again, in a single presentable volume
that will never go out of print. The cover art is by Richard
Bartrop. 188 pp. $11.95 print; $3.99 PDF download. No DRM.
The collection includes:
- "The Steel Sonnets" (1975)
- "Guardian" (1980)
- "Silicon Psalm" (1981)
- "Marlowe" (1982)
- "Borovsky's Hollow Woman" (with Nancy Kress; 1983)
- "STORMY vs. the Tornadoes" (1990)
- "Bathtub Mary" (1993)
- "Sympathy on the Loss of One of Your Legs" (2008)
- ...and an excerpt from my nanotech AI novel, The Cunning
The book is currently available only from Lulu. I'm working on
getting it ISBN-ized and converted into all the major ebook formats,
and with some luck into Amazon's Kindle bookstore. I'm planning
a second collection for the fall, containing all the rest of my
published SF and a couple of new items. The title and and contents
of that one depend on several decisions I haven't made yet, but
I'll keep you posted. As always, reviews or simply blog mentions
would be greatly appreciated.
15, 2008: Odd Lots
- Wired ran a
nice piece on how little we know about brain functionand
therefore how silly it is to claim that we'll have "superhuman"
computation by 2020. If we can't model it, we can't duplicate
it, and the model has proven extremely slippery. Good-bye
singularity, not that it ever made much sense even granting astonishing
increases in computer power.
are some nice comparison tables showing how the pricing models
of the leading POD houses affect publisher take-home revenues
at various sales levels.
- I now have a photo of John T. Frye on my
Carl & Jerry page, in case anyone wondered what the man
himself looked like. Many thanks to Michael Covington for processing
the scan for me.
is not bulletproof, Microsoft's assurances to the contrary.
(Thanks to Pete Albrecht for the link.)
- I'm not quite sure what it's good for, but damn, this
is as fun as it is weird. (Thanks again to Pete.)
12, 2008: Off-By-One Error
Carol and I got up at 3:30 AM last night and found the skies crystal
clear, so we hauled out onto the back deck in our fuzzy robes (along
with a couple of doubtless-puzzled bichons) sat down in two of the
patrio chairs, and leaned back, facing generally east. The Perseids
did not disappoint; in forty minutes we saw twenty or so, and most
of them were quite bright. We didn't have access to the whole sky
with the house behind us, so I'm sure we missed quite a few. Still,
the count is about in line with what we've seen in past years, and
for Carol and me (and the Perseids) there have been a lot
of past years.
In fact, I'm pretty sure we watched them from her back yard two
weeks after we met in 1969, though not at three in the morning.
No matter. I see meteors almost any time I spend more than a minute
or two scanning the skies, even from as light-befouled a place as
the close-in Chicago suburbs. One reason Carol came to love as scruffy
and odd a specimen as me was that I was willing to talk science
with her. I pointed out the constellations to her, and dragged my
junkbox telescope out into her driveway to show her the moons of
Jupiter. Over the years, the Perseids have become something of a
tradition for us.
I have a talent for pastiche,
and when I was young it was almost a compulsion: If I read enough
of something I almost always tried to imitate it, with greater or
lesser success. During my sophomore year in the English Literature
program at De Paul I was taking one damned poetry course after another,
so it was inevitable that I would try my hand at poetry. During
my Robert Frost period (which was roughly the last three weeks of
April, 1972) I penned a lot of metered drivel in down-home country
dialect. One effort was a sonnet, just so I could say I had written
a sonnet. Even though I was a New Formalist long before there was
a New Formalism,
I knew the Prime Directive of modern poetry (Thou Shalt Not Rhyme)
and withheld any rhyme until the final couplet. I gave the poem
to Carol the night we watched the Perseids from my parents' summer
home at Third Lake, Illinois:
I saw a shooting star
last night, you see.
It bothered me to think that golden streak
That split the sky half-raw and hung awhile
As thought to rub the wound with pale white salt
Was washed clean-gone by night's soft-rushing flood
In just the time you'd take to poke the coals.
You know, they say it's just a grain of sand
So small you'd never see it in your cup
Once all the tea was gone. I wonder now
What made God give a speck like that such spunk
While here I balk and eye our road so roundly…
You know, I think I'd
not so fear the night
If, going out, I knew I'd make such light.
Carol read it appreciatively (as she always did, irrespective of
what it was I had handed her) and then, giving me a peck on the
check, asked, "Don't sonnets have 14 lines?"
"Well, sure!" I said, taking the sheet back from her
hands. A quick count reassured me that it had...13 lines. Damn.
Ever since then, I've been famous around the house as The Guy Who
Writes 13-Line Sonnets. Clearly, rhyme was good for somethinglike
helping numerically illiterate poets keep track of the number of
lines they were producing. After that, I returned to my more freeform
e. e. cummings period (which had been the first three weeks of May,
1972) until I found the wisdom to understand that I was a better
astronomer than I was a poet. I've stopped writing poems, but the
Perseidsheh, like Carol and me, that's forever.
11, 2008: Odd Lots
- I'm a sucker for a Depression-era railroad oddity called the
Galloping Goose, which is a stitched-together Frankenrailcar made
of bus and truck parts and other odd bits. Pete Albrecht sent
me a link to a
nice history/photo site, revealing something I had not known:
That there's a Goose still running and giving rides, down in southwestern
Colorado. Won't happen this year, but next year fersure!
- The Perseid meteors hit
their peak tonight; they're very reliable and I've watched
them pretty regularly for almost forty years. As with most meteor
showers, they're at their best in the very very early morning,
within two hours of when the sun rises. However, there will be
little skysplatters going off all night long, and after the moon
gets down in the west, you'll see more of them. Whenever you can
get somewhere dark, break out a lawn chair or just lie back in
the grass and look generally toward the east. I doubt you'll be
there more than ten minutes without seeing at least one, and they
can surprise you by coming in bunches. It's not as mathematical
as an eclipse or an occultation. You just won't know until it
happens. (PS: The Sun is still blank!)
- I accidentally deleted a bunch of fonts that I was bringing
back from Chicago, but a nice free undelete app named FreeUndelete
saved my clumsy bacon. It's not a no-install app, but it's pretty
lightweight, and works like a champ. Free for personal use. Recommended.
- Several people have mentioned Lexcycle's Stanza
ebook reader app to me in recent days. I downloaded it earlier
today and installed it downstairs on the XP lab machine (it's
another app that claims not to support Win2K) and I will say,
it has some promise. It does require the Java Runtime, and it
certainly needs to do a little growing up, but I'm glad to see
any serious effort to build a universal reader app for ebooks.
- And while we're talking books, take a look at Zoomii,
a Web front end for Amazon that shows books on shelves bookstore-style,
though every one is face-out. (Now that's a switch!) You can zoom
around and click on a book to get the details. The shelves come
up zoomed back enough so that the covers are undiscernable smudges;
make sure you click on the plus sign in the navigation cluster
to bring the display in close enough to read them. I found this
fascinating and fun (at least for the ten minutes I spent on it)
though I don't know whether I'd use it except for the serendipity
value. However, given that Amazon sells books that will never
see the inside of a bookstore, Zoomii may bring back the importance
of cover design to small and very small press books.
10, 2008: One Ebook Reader Inside Another
The programming tracks at Denvention 3 didn't get me terribly fired
up to see them, and that was evidently a common reaction. Instead,
I spent a lot of time with friends camped out on couches talking
tech. Intense discussion went on about ebook readers and what they
ought to be, along with much flashing of Kindles and Sonys and iPhoneswhich,
I might suggest, would make reasonable reflow readers if a Certain
Somebody of Inconsistent Insight wasn't so convinced that nobody
reads anymore. (And if Apple didn't reserve the right to reach down
to your iPhone and nuke any application it doesn't like...) So it
may be time to outline what several years of thinking (and a certain
amount of messing with various reader thingies that I have owned,
borrowed, or simply beaten on) have converged to, in my own vision
of an Ideal Ebook Reader.
The shouting war between those who want to read fixed pages and
those who want to read reflowable text is pointless, and after awhile,
silly. There is more than one possible view of a document, and as
with suits and dresses, some documents look better in certain views
than in others. A novel or nonfiction volume lacking illustrations
can be read reflowably on a small screen. Anything with useful page
structure or significant illustrations requires a genuine page view.
Page views require large displays. There's no getting around that.
On the other hand, the conventional wisdom that you must have either
a full-page view or a pocket-sized device is also dead wrong.
Envision this: A rectangular block roughly the size and shape of
an iPhone. It's really a storage module, with an SSD of a decent
size. (I'd suggest at least 32 GB for starters.) The storage module
has some minimal intelligence, and a battery. On one end, there's
a high-bandwidth serial connector. USB 2 isn't quite broad enough.
ESATA would work, or whatever comes after USB 2. Now, note well
that the storage module is not only a storage module. It
has an display and touch controls, and a renderer for reflowable
ebook text, as well as a viewer for images and videos. It may also
be a cell phone; certainly, there's room for the jelly beans in
something that size.
Now envision a second, larger device, which is basically a tablet,
or a convertible clamshell. It isn't necessarily a competitor to
a full-featured laptop or Tablet PC, but something more resembling
a 10" or 11" netbook, with enough processor muscle to handle Web
browsing, email, and light text/spreadsheet manipulation. It has
a slot for a removable drive…and the storage module I described
above plugs into the slot. The tablet uses the smaller module for
its data storage, but the data storage device itself can operate
independently, as a pocket ebook reader or even a cell phone. No
sync problems: There's only one SSD for both devices. But when you
don't need the tablet reader, you pop out the pocket reader and
stick in your pocket. If you have an idle moment, thumb it on and
read another chapter from The Molten Flesh. Or call ahead
to reserve a table at Chez Geeque.
What we basically have here is a GSM-equipped pocket reader that
"wears" a larger tablet reader for the sake of its display
and battery, and possibly its keyboard. The two devices (tablet
and pocket reader) don't necessarily have to be made by the same
firm. The two physical form factors and interface mechanisms should
ideally be an independent hardware/software standard, so that people
could choose one device or another from several vendors, mixing
and matching tablets and pocket readers to fit their own preferences.
Not everybody may want a pocket reader, so a "dumb" storage
block without a display would be possible, and cheaper. Putting
GSM on the pocket reader would allow the pocket reader to be a cellphone,
and the docked assembly to work like a Kindle.
I don't know how likely this is, and I know it's not going to happen
next week. I just need to make it clear that this is what I want,
and what I think might serve the needs of the greatest number of
ebook people in the greatest number of ways. I do know that getting
into the either-or mindset is a trap, for ebook readers or anything
else. We are engineers. We solve problems. And sometimes one solution
lies inside another.
9, 2008: A Worldcon of Unusual Size (WUS)
3, at the Denver Convention Center. I used to hit just about
but my life got a lot more complicated in the mid-80s, and the energy
I used to put into writing SF began to go into computer books. Then
when Keith and I kicked off our own publishing company, yikes! So
I haven't been to a Worldcon in 8 years, and haven't been to a con
at all since the 2005 Windycon
when ISFiC Press launched The
It was nice to be back, and it took me awhile to discern why: This
is a Worldcon of Unusual Size, which is to say, small enough not
to exhaust me with its hugeness, but still big enough to draw old
friends from the far corners of the country into a single graspable
space. Why it wasn't more popular is a puzzle; Denver is a Huge
City of Unusual Size (HCUS) too, small enough to not overwhelm but
large enough to be quirky and interesting. It's also one of the
cleanest and most beatiful huge cities in the US, followed by Seattle
and then (perhaps) Chicago, both of which suffer incresingly from
size and congestion. I'm getting to be more of a small-town guy
as I get older, and in my perspective even Denver is a shade big
for permanent residence, but if somebody bombed Colorado Springs,
I'd probably just scoot up I-25 and stay here. (Pete Albrecht continues
to worry about us moving to Nebraska, but I've grown mighty used
to dry climates since I first discovered them in 1987.)
I got here Thursday about suppertime and checked into the Westin
Tabor Center, which has great beds and showers but lousy soundproofing,
and perhaps the noisiest plumbing of any major hotel I've ever visited.
This morning I awoke to a sequence of three showers, one to either
side of me and then another above me. I know, I know, I'm an Insomniac
of Unusual Sensitivity (IUS) and waking me up doesn't take much.
The toilet tank refilling made a sound that should be sampled for
a film involving spacecraft of unusual propulsion systems (SUPS)
which is odd, considering how gutless the low-flow flush process
itself proved to be.
But the first item on the agenda was the Flying Pen Press premiere
party over at the Tattered Cover Bookstore, at which Jim Strickland
would be reading briefly from his second novel, Irreconcilable
Differerences. The book is terrific and I'll post a detailed
review here shortly; I want to read it again now that I have it
in paper. But it may establish a brand-new subsubgenre that I might
as well call "cyberbilly," which is to say, cyberpunk
in the small-town American heartland. Jim reads fiction well for
an audience, and while most of the other books presented left me
cold, I was left giggling by a short snippet read from David Boop's
new book, She
Murdered Me wth Science, which, well, defies description.
David has done time as a stand-up comic and it shows, and the event
as a whole reminded me that I've read my own work in front of an
audience precisely once, and need to practice a little.
Yesterday morning I finally got down to the convention proper,
and started running into people almost immediately; first Eric Bowersox,
then Alex and Phyllis Eisenstein, then Bonnie Jones, Kelley Higgins,
and (later) Bill Higgins. I had lunch with Mike and Alice Bentley,
and eventually collided with Jim Strickland and his wife Marcia
Bednarcyk. We camped out on one of the nice sofas set near the autographing
tables and ended up spending the rest of the afternoon there, hashing
out the issues of how the SF publishing business is changing, and
how writers of insufficient reputation (RIR) can take advantage
of the changes we're seeing. "Write more!" was Eric's
completely incontestable answer (directed primarily at me), but
tonnage, while important, is not sufficient. The issue remains open,
but I got some great insights from both Marcia and Alice Bentley,
who works part-time for Studio
Foglio and pays attention to other small and very small press
operations in this industry. There may not in fact be a general
solution to the problem, but being more visible among the people
who read your kind of material is something that kept coming up.
This (obviously) leaves less time for actually writing it,
especially for guys like me with Unusual Sleep Requirements (USR)
but as with almost any system of many equations, there's a sweet
spot on the curve somewhere. The main challenge is just finding
I'm about to go back over there and see what else may be going
on. I have a couple of sessions marked with stickies in the nicely-implemented
pocket program, but I will be heading home again later this afternoon.
A little con goes a long way with me, but as Worldcons go, I have
so far enjoyed this one a great deal.
6, 2008: Odd Lots
- I'll be staying at the Westin
Tabor Center in Denver for Worldcon, so leaving messages there
is one way to reach me if you don't have my cell number.
- I like the world "feckless"it describes so many
people so completely, without an excess of venomand often
wondered if there were a word "feckful" to describe
the opposite state. Yes
indeedy: Both words come from "feck", an old Scots
root from which we also get "effective," but somehow
"feckful" never caught on with non-Scots speakers of
mystifies me. 3.7 miles per hour is a modest walk, and this doesn't
look like something a disabled person would be likely to get on
and stay on. And if you're a guy and don't stay on it,
ouch! That vertical pillar between your thighs could go to a very
- And speaking of Odd Things That Go, here's a
cross between a Smart car and a Unimog. (Again, thanks, Pete!)
- And also speaking of Odd Things That Don't Go: The concrete
thingie we saw in Ogallala (see my entry for August
5, 2008) bears strong resemblance to the Czech
Hedghog (thanks to Bishop Sam'l Bassett for the link) but
I'm pretty sure it's a closer relation to the A-Jack
and the Xbloc,
both of which are used for building breakwaters. (Thanks to Pete
Albrecht for spotting those for me.)
has purchased ABEBooks, from which I have purchased most of
the used books I've read over the past three years. I don't know
if this is good or not. Actually, I don't know if this is bad
or not. The best we might hope for is retaining the status quo.
Fat Nazis are once more struggling to keep ground gained long
ago. It's gotten to the point where I just don't trust medical
advice anymore. I eat lots of protein (meat, eggs, and peanuts),
lots of dairy, a fair amount of fruit, as much vegetables as I
can choke down (which I admit is not much; they mostly taste like
poison to me) some carbs (but not a lot) and almost no sugar.
I cut obvious fat off of meat and then stop thinking about it.
My blood chem and pressure are good. I weigh less than I have
in 15 years. On nights when I can sleep well, I feel great. For
me at least, this war is over.
5, 2008: Back in Time for Worldcon
Well, we're backgot back late yesterday afternoon, a whole
week later than we thought we would, but we just didn't get as much
done out in Chicago as we had to in the four weeks we'd allowed.
The trip was hot, but dry; we saw no rain all the way across a route
we now would know blindfolded. The weather broke a little by the
time we got to Ogallala, and so we decided to take a day to recuperate
on the clean sand shores of Lake McConaughy. It was a little hotter
than I'd like, but the water in the shallows of the south shore
was 83°, and even out up to my neck my little Kodak photography
thermometer showed 74° down off my right hip.
We started out on the north shore, but the flies were out in force,
and after less than an hour we packed the puppies and the chairs
back into the car and drove around to the south shore. We stayed
there most of the rest of the day. I flew my supposedly cranky parafoil
kite, but in the strong breeze off the lake it performed flawlessly,
almost skyhook-style, sitting stock still at 200' while pulling
my 80-pound test line so hard the line was humming loud enough to
hear above the racket from the ubiquitous jet skis. Carol and I
swam while QBit and Aero watched, distressed, from the shore. They
were willing to frolic in the water if we frolicked with them, but
when we went out to deeper water for some simple swimming, they
sat on the sand, dodged waves, and whimpered.
filling up at the local Shell station for the last stretch home,
I spotted the item at left used as a traffic barrier. It was about
waist high. I've seen these before, mostly larger and piled up on
shorelines as breakwaters, but I've never been able to determine
what they're properly called. They're not exactly caltrops
(they have two points too many) but they're clearly related, at
There was high overcast our last day on the road, and even though
the temps were in the mid-90s, the lack of glare made the driving
a great deal easier. We got back just in time to dinner with Laurraine
Tutihasi and her husband Mike Weasner, who were on their way to
Worldcon in Denver from
Tucson. We knew Laurraine from our Rochester NY days 25+ years ago,
and Mike is the Web's leading authority on Meade ETX telescopes.
an hour after parting with Laurraine and Mike, a carload of friends
also on their way to Worldcon arrived, this time from Chicago, to
spend the night and then head up to set up Steve Salaba's huckster
table early this morning. Now, I'm a black belt car packer, but
I have met my match, and then some: There wasn't a wasted cubic
centimeter in that minivan. There was just enough room in the back
seat for one person, blocked in on all sides by coolers and shelves
and boxes of plush puppets and stuffed animals. (Note the "Bambi
butt" that worked its way out of an overstuffed box toward
the left.) It's not how I would have chosen to travel to Worldcon,
but Steve, Bonny (shown), and Eloise are all Worldcon pros from
way back, and rotated positions in the vehicle often enough so the
person in back didn't get suicidal.
We were away from Colorado Springs during the worst heat spell
in several years, and when we got in the front door the temperature
was 85 degrees, and the air rich with plasticisers and solvents
still being driven from the woodwork. It was hot for awhile while
we cranked open every window to get some less toxic air through
the place, but it had to be done. I'll willingly admit that I'm
still exhausted from our trip, but we're recuperating, and one more
good night's sleep should do it. Then, probably Thursday morning,
we're off to Worldcon ourselves, if not for the whole stretch then
at least long enough to see Nancy Kress again (along with numerous
other friends we used to see every Worldcon) and get a sense for
what the SF convention scene is like these days. We used to go to
Worldcon almost every year, but eventually real life intervened.
I have a soft spot for Denver Worldcons; at Denvention 2 in 1981
I had two stories on the Hugo ballot. I lost, of course, but wow:
What a rush that was!
2, 2008: Becalmed in...Nebraska
It really is Nebraska. It just feels like Hell. As we pulled into
North Platte about an hour ago, the 4Runner's outside thermometer
read 108°. And outside, well, we're reminded of a mild summer's
day in Scottsdale, except with three times the humidity. In short,
We're on our way back to Colorado Springs from almost five weeks
in Chicago. We got our new niece Juliana baptized and almost everything
else on our substantial do-it list done, but it took more time and
energy than we thought.
Just like, well, always.
We spent last night in Newton, Iowa, the former home of Maytag,
back when there still was a Maytag. The hotel we stayed in was awful
enough that I will issue an all-points avoidance notice: Whatever
else you may do to abuse your body, mind, or soul, do not stay
at the Newton, Iowa Holiday Inn Express on 4th Street. Unless,
of course, you wish to confront:
- Mold growing on the walls. Not the bathroom walls, either. The
walls in the main room.
- A hole in the ceiling. It was too dark to see where it went,
but it was about 1 1/2" in diameter and looked like it had
been poked with a piece of pipe. (This makes you wonder what the
ceiling was made out of.)
- Wireless Internet that did not work, would not connect, and
kept giving me weird error messages. At least it was free.
- Carpeting that smelled like dead fish or ocean bilge. Or both.
- Stale Raisin Bran at the breakfast bar.
- Coffee (again, at the breakfast bar) so bad I couldn't force
a second cup down.
Now, we like Nebraska and have been here a lot. However, there
is a local weirdness I'm seeing that I don't entirely understand:
Mid-grade gas is cheaper than regular. Gas is generally a bargain
here, especially compared to Illinois. Why Plus should be 15c a
gallon cheaper than the low-octane mix remains a puzzle.
We're going to stop at Lake McConaughy tomorrow morning (it's about
fifty miles west along I-80) but if the heat remains as bad as it
was today, we may dunk and run the final 275 miles to the Springs
rather than spend the day. There's no shade there, and at some point
I just can't deal with long periods in that kind of heat, lake or
no lake. We won't know until we get there. I'll keep you posted.