5/22/2014

New Cat - Myoshi

As it turns out, Bastet's former place in the household cat pantheon got filled sooner than expected or planned. The local Petsmart has an adoption section where the H.A.L.O. organization keeps adoptable cats on display (dogs are brought in on weekends), and the selection when I went there for cat food yesterday included a striking tortoise-point named Myoshi that caught my attention.  (Danger Point #1.)  So I asked the attendant for a closer look. (Danger Point #2.)  She turned out to be a very calm and sweet-tempered cat. (Danger Point #3.)



So when I went home I told Hilde about her and showed her phonecam pictures I'd taken (Danger Point #4), and we went back over today. Myoshi took well to sitting in Hilde's lap (Danger Point #5.) (Bingo!) So we filled out paperwork, paid the adoption fee, and brought her home.

She's four years old, and was turned in for adoption when her previous owners moved and couldn't keep her.  The adoption organization wasn't sure if she'd lived with other cats before, but she's been taking the presence of our other cats calmly so I suspect she probably did. Still a little nervous about the new household, and presently tucked into a cubbyhole at the back of our bedroom closet. (Mostly calm reactions from the other cats towards her so far, though Tyr has made some "WTF?" noises.)

For the record, yes, I do have the word "SUCKER" tattooed on my forehead in a color only cats can see.

5/21/2014

Anniversary (Informal)

Hilde and I have both our wedding anniversary later this year and a more informal anniversary we celebrate on May 21st.

On this day in 1976, I was driving Hilde to the local SF club's meeting, and in the course of conversation on that drive... it came out that both of us had been thinking "What if?" about the other for the previous few months.

Welp, that sure changed the course of my life.  For the better. Definitely for the better.  I never expected to have joy in my life, and I've had thirty-eight years with someone who can give me that joy.  Not continuously, -- there have been uncomfortable moments in those years, but they never lasted -- but joy was something I never expected to have at all.

(I was talking to Hilde earlier today, and said, "I probably would have done okay if I'd ended up as a solitary unmarried bachelor. Except for the being lonely and miserable all the time part.") 

So thank you, Hilde, for all the past years and the ones to come.  You are the love of my life.

5/20/2014

Steampulp For Oenophiles

Over on behance.net, where artists can post portfolios and projects, photographer Dean Bradshaw, in conjunction with Bulldog Drummond studio, posted a striking set of steampunkish/pulp-hero-ish/mad-scientisty images for the Stark Raving wine brand. Here's the set of labels:

For individual images, without the typography, see the set here.

5/15/2014

Slow Words: Book Titles

Besides having a good cover, a striking and/or memorable title is one of the best ways to get people to take a further look at your book, maybe even the actual words inside. Past titles that have caught my attention in such a manner include THE DIRTY PARTS OF THE BIBLE and DEATH BLIMPS OF DOOM!

Here's the newest one to catch my eye: DIE YOU DOUGHNUT BASTARDS by Cameron Pierce. This falls into the "Bizarro" genre, which is kind of anything-goes, weird, weirder, weirdest combination of magic realism minus the realism, mixed with the brown acid from Woodstock and frequently with a large dose of tastelessness as well. (Pierce is also the author of ASS GOBLINS OF AUSCHWITZ, frequently cited as an exemplar of Bizarro fiction.) Not really to my taste, so I probably won't ever read the book, but I do love DYDB's title; I get a smile on my face every time I read it.

And I note from the latest LOCUS magazine that a fellow named Sam Munson has a book titled THE WAR AGAINST ASSHOLES coming out from Saga Press next year. Another great title, but, dammit!, now I have to come up with a different title for the autobiography I thought I might write someday.

So what are your favorite book titles?

5/07/2014

My Unexpected Career As A Boing Boing Troll

Popular website Boing Boing just put into effect a major redesign.  A lot of Boing Boing readers, including me, are not happy with it, and have been saying so in the comment thread on the subject.

I was about to post a new comment a few minutes ago, and found that I have been "Suspended For Trolling" and blocked from commenting for the next week.

Really?

I'm going to copy, for the record, all my posts on that thread.

One:
Whoa! Major deja vu! Didn't you guys learn anything from the LAST time you tried a major redesign for the home page? This reminds me a lot of that not-quite-Epic Fail. I've always assumed that the return to a more vintage design was because of all the negative reaction to that earlier attempt at redesign.
The "Classic" Boing Boing design works, and works well.  There was no need to "fix" it.
Two:
"eye-ping-pong" [quoting from a comment by ghostly1, describing the effect of the new BB design]
Yes. This. Exactly.
And there was one more comment I posted, but... it's been deleted from the BB thread.   Hmmph, I guess that was the post that was supposed to be me trolling. 

Then I saw Rob Beschizza, who's moderating the comment thread, had posted this comment:
Disclosure: I just gave a temp ban to a poster -- the only ban or even comment moderation in this lengthy thread so far. Criticism is cool, even a little hostility. But don't make it smarmy and personal, because you'll lose that fight instantly.
Among the many other complaints about the redesign, many people pointed out that the abbreviated teaser text on new posts (only a sentence or two, as opposed to the old design which featured a paragraph or more of teaser text before providing a link to more) sometimes came across as typical of  "clickbait".  The example cited multiple times was a post by Maggie Koerth-Baker about water, with the headline IT CAME FROM THE FAUCET, a microphotograph of bacteria, and the teaser text "There's something nasty in the water, but Maggie Koerth-Baker has you covered."  It had the alarming implications and lack of real content of "clickbait".  Rob Beschizza, the moderator for that discussion thread, kept responding to those complaints by saying that the full article was worthwhile, so there shouldn't be any problem clicking thru to the full piece. He kept ignoring, pointedly ignoring, that the complaints were about the article's front-end presentation, not the article itself.

The deleted comment added my own remarks to those previous complaints, stating that if something looked liked clickbait, smell like clickbait, and walked like clickbait, I was NOT going to click on that link. Even with reassurances that it wasn't actual clickbait.

But I think what got Beschizza riled up, and resulted in my suspension and the deletion of that comment from the BB thread was that I started out the comment with these words:
"Rob, you are coming across as deliberately obtuse..."
That was it?  "Obtuse" is "smarmy"?  "Obtuse" is "personal"?

Jeezus Fucking Christ, I thought I was being nice.  Because if Beschizza wasn't letting defensiveness over the new design keep him from acknowledging legitimate and clearly stated criticisms of the redesign, then he wasn't being obtuse, he was Just Plain Fucking Stupid.

I don't think Rob Beschizza is stupid.

What I think now is that Rob Beschizza is a Special Little Snowflake and a fucking crybaby.   And willing to delete any evidence that might show the "smarmy and personal" words that so upset him weren't so smarmy and personal as he pretends them to have been.

-----

For the record, here's the comment I was trying to post when I found out my BB account was suspended:
I'm going to show my age, and mention that Orson Scott Card might approve of the change. 
Back in the mid-1980's, OSC published a magazine/fanzine titled SHORT FORM, dedicated to reviewing short fiction in the SF/F genre.  Some nice writing there, both by OSC and others.  (He had some very nice things to say about one of my first published short stories.) 
But a lot of people complained about the design.  Because for some reason OSC decided to run with a two-column format, with a different article/column running in each column.
Unfortunately, there was very little in the way of design to distinguish the text of one column from the other.  
The way it was SUPPOSED to work was that you'd read the left-hand column, *then go to the next page* and read the left-hand column there.  Likewise, you were supposed to move from right-hand column to right-hand column. 
But that wasn't how people were used to reading.  Readers would reach the bottom of a left-hand column, and automatically track back up to the top of the right-hand column.   They'd reach the bottom of a right-hand column, and automatically start at the top of the next page's left-hand column.  So, repeatedly, a reader would keep finding themselves *in the middle of a completely different article* than the one they'd been reading. 
It was the in-print equivalent of the "eye-ping-pong" ghostly1 so eloquently coined to describe the BB redesign.  It was difficult, it was frustrating, and to a lot of people it was simply "unreadable". 
And OSC's response to the complaints were along the lines of "I think this is an *interesting* way to do things."  Or "You'll get used to it after awhile."  Or "You're not giving the format a fair chance." 
What the SHORT FORM format did was **get in the way of the content**.  And that's pretty much my complaint about the BB redesign. 
(Plus the discussion here is pretty much a retread of the response to the previous big redesign about, what?, seven or eight years ago.  Which eventually resulted in a return to a mostly "classic" BB format.  Really, I'm flabbergasted that we're going thru all this again.) 
But the BB team might want to pause a moment to consider the fact that Orson Scott Card is their role model.


Update: Rob Bescizza has responded in comments.

Crusie on Story Evolution and the Writer's Mind

On Jennifer Crusie's Argh Ink blog, she had a recent post, "The Wanderer's Guild To Story Evolution" , about the thought processes involved in plotting out a story. Great stuff, as is often the case with Crusie. She goes into very amusing depth about a potential project and the various choices and thoughts she's had so far.

I resemble a lot of the things she mentions, in my own writing, especially when I'm trying to write at longer length. Usually start with an image: Who are these people? Why are they there? Why are they doing what they're doing? All very fuzzy and loose at first, a mystery even to the author.

Build from there. Trying out different possibilities and ideas. Keeping some, discarding others, keeping others in on a provisional basis "for a reason to be named later", or not. That initial fuzzy view gets a little clearer, a little more focused, a little more sensible each time you go back in to give it more thought. Do the new ideas work? Are the characters consistent? Do their new actions make sense with what's already written? If not, revise the old writing or discard the new?

And particularly, that sometimes you have to walk away for a bit, let the story perk away in your subconscious for a while. In Crusie's parlance, let the dough rise before you go back to punch it down and work it some more.

This last is why I'll probably never participate in Nanowrimo. For me, I seem to get better (if slower) results by not forcing myself to write X number of words per day, or to plot according to a strict structure, or by making myself finish one story before starting another.

(It's easier to get away with this when you're only a part-time writer. For Crusie, a professional, it means keeping multiple projects in the air, some at the point of contracts and advances, some not.)

I've been working on... I hesitate to use the N-word, because I've never finished a novel, but... "a longer work", and progress on that has been more a process of punctuated equilibrium than steady evolution. I've taken breaks from that longer work, and written several short stories instead, in recent months. And I think that's been useful. I started out with a fairly strong idea of the backstory and several main characters, what kind of story I wanted it to be, a fairly solid opening image, a rough idea of what the ending would be, and a *B*I*G* *F*U*Z*Z*Y* of everything in between. Those breaks let the story perk in my backbrain, and I think the results have been better than if I'd tried to force the wordcount up in a quicker manner. That *B*I*G* *F*U*Z*Z*Y* is now more of a *M*E*D*I*U*M*-*S*I*Z*E* *F*U*Z*Z*Y* and the choices -- choices that feel like the right choices -- of what needs to happen in the story are coming more quickly and easily.

(It's kind of like working on a jigsaw puzzle after only hearing a brief description of the box illustration. Start with the easier edge pieces. Study the confusing jumble of interior pieces. Find colors and patterns that are similar. Group them together. Twist and turn the pieces, seeing which match and which don't. The more pieces that are fitted in, the fewer left, and the easier it becomes to match and fit those until the puzzle is finally complete.)

Check Crusie's piece out; it's one of the best descriptions of "Writer's Mind" I've seen.