Sunday, December 5, 2010

Knife of Dreams


Knife of Dreams is much better than Winter's Heart or Crossroads of Twilight. Stuff happens in spite of Jordan’s usual foot-dragging, boring mental landscapes, and scene-killing clothing descriptions.
My favorite scene: Egwene mastering the situation as a prisoner of the Tower, converting the novices to her side, coping with the pain of punishment, drawing on her considerable inner resources, defying expectations, using her Aiel education. I thought that part of the book was especially well-paced and dramatized.
I’ve become more tolerant of Nynaeve, and more appreciative of her role as a source of amusement. Elayne, however, is an idiot, who succeeds in spite of herself. The Perrin/Faile separation was a trial in ways the author didn’t fully intend, and in the end the reader is relieved that THAT’s over. I was disappointed at the way RJ disposed of Rolan, but what would one expect from the Forsaken (e.g., Jordan.)
The buildup to Perrin's attack on the Shaido was a dreary, dull, drawn-out affair (as are most scenes.) I'm sorry, but that's not how one builds drama and tension, that's "frittering the time away and annoying the readers" or something like that.
I'm very much looking forward to seeing what Sanderson does in The Gathering Storm.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Shameless promo of Adonalsium.net

Stooping to brutal marketing tactics, Adonanalsium.net promises Brandon Sanderson fans that social networking promotion of Adonalsium will improve their chances to win Sanderson books. I'm happy to oblige, although I draw the line at Facebook.

Note that you do have to register for their Drupal forum in order to fill out the giveaway form.

Cool stuff: free download of Warbreaker! Kindle owners can convert this PDF to Kindle format, hooray! (Sigh... I already bought a paperback.)

It's easy to follow them on Twitter, too.

I wonder if the discussion forums are worth reading?

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Altering CSS for every nth element of a class

I wanted to improve on my previous jquery fix to remove the left padding for the 4th floating div.widget on the Rabbit Software homepage. If I add more widgets, the rows won't align correctly unless I can remove the padding from every 4th one. Because of the fixed width template and fixed width of the widgets, there are always 3 widgets per row.

The index of widgets counts up from 0, so I needed to fix every child whose index is a multiple of 3.

Even floated div columns: equalHeights

When you are floating a bunch of divs inside a container, it is a design problem when the divs are of different heights depending on their content, because they tend to wrap funky. One can, by brute force, make them all the same height, but that approach is fragile and can create problems with the content contained in each div. (Why is there a flower photo? Just because it looks nice.)

A better approach would be to measure the tallest div and force that height on all the remaining divs. Alas, although there exist some CSS methods for doing this, they're not adequately cross-browser compatible, so a javascript method is the only effective approach.

I found a very nice jquery plugin called equalHeights, and implemented it in the SimpleFolio theme for rabbitsoftware. Thank you again, Filament Group, a great resource for JQuery plugins.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Rip an Audiobook CD to an IPod

I have been spending time with audiobooks lately. Managing and navigating audio book CDs, which can have up to 99 tracks per disc, can be a nightmare on the IPod unless you build playlists before syncing.

This CNet post, How to rip an audiobook CD to an iPod, was very helpful.

Join tracks in ITunes

If you imported an audiobook CD to ITunes but didn't join the tracks when you imported, there is a solution.

Doug's Applescripts for ITunes will allow you to select a set of tracks (AAC or MP3) and join them into a single file. This is a great help for audiobooks, because there's no reason to have 99 tracks in an audio book. If you have several audiobooks in this condition, they're a holy mess to navigate in your IPod: 26 CDs of 99 tracks each? Try scrolling to the end or beginning of that list and see what I mean. This is a nightmare because my IPod Nano doesn't have a convenient album cover style browse feature for books.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

New logo for Rabbit Software

I made a new logo for Rabbit Software:
Richard loves the Barry Flanagan leaping hare, but we don't want to infringe on creative copyright. We've seen one of these wonderful sculptures at the Virginia Museum of Art.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Wheel of Time Online Resources

This material was first published on Dreams & Speculation: Winter's Heart Mid-month Discussion.

Here are some valuable Wheel of Time online resources. My list is necessarily incomplete, because there is so much material available. Please add links to your favorite sites in the comments.

Can't keep up with a Wheel of Time read-through?

Not to worry! Hop on to one of the read-through summary sites below, to get acquainted with the books you missed, and you’ll be ready to start on this month’s book, and join in the discussion. I assure you, you’ll be just fine. Only those masochistic enough to want to savor every word — you know who you are — will feel that they’ve missed something. Many of us are eager to find out what Brandon Sanderson does with the completion of the Wheel of Time. If you can read a few of Jordan’s novels, you’ll be able to better appreciate Sanderson’s accomplishment.

Please note that websites are ephemeral. Wheel of Time fan sites are disappearing faster than they are appearing as the series nears completion, and as fans move beyond their enthusiasms. Many of the sites, even if they exist, have broken links and server errors because they are no longer maintained.

Read-throughs and synopses of the Wheel of Time novels

Foremost among these, for its depth, wit, and authority:
Leigh Butler’s Wheel of Time Re-read on Tor, the WoT publisher
Superbly, entertainingly written. Relatively spoiler-free if you don’t read the comments.

If that’s too long for you, try the solely plot-focused Wheel of Time Summary
Click the characters in the right column to see where they appear in the books and chapters. When I checked, the rest of that site had gone offline just days ago. Thanks to Google cache you can still see some of the other pages, but the summary is the meat.

If you want just a little more detail, try the Enyclopaedia WoT chapter summaries for each book
Warning: To avoid spoilers, do not read the notes, just read the summary.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Some small modifications of the SimpleFolio Wordpress theme

I'm using the delightful SimpleFolio Wordpress theme for the Rabbit Software website. I made a donation; it's nice to support good opensource work.

I found a few issues with it that I have addressed.

1. The single post view was incorrectly showing the excluded "Portfolio" category in its Recent Posts sidebar widget. In this theme, you can select a specific category to populate the homepage slideshow. One doesn't necessarily want those posts to appear as normal blog posts. Unfortunately, the exclusion function wasn't working on the single post view page. This problem is easily addressed by editing the sf_portfolio_filter function in the theme's functions.php file.

Change line 50,
if(!is_archive() && !is_admin() && !is_single()){
to
if(!is_archive() && !is_admin() ){


2. I'm using more than 3 homepage widgets, and they weren't wrapping nicely. While the first one had a proper margin-left:0, the fourth one had the default margin-left:30px. I realized there must be some javascript at work behind the scenes, inserting the inline styling to adjust the left margin. Indeed, I opened custom.js in the js folder, and found this line:
$(".home_widgets .widget:first").css("margin-left", "0");
A bit of snooping on the JQuery site clarified this usage for me, and I added this line:
$(".home_widgets .widget:eq(3)").css("margin-left", "0");
to make the 2nd line of 3 widgets line up with the first batch.


3. Of course, I've made a few custom tweaks to the stylesheet so far, such as adding more space below the unordered lists in the .home_widgets .widget class, and adding underlines to the links in the .home_widgets .textwidget.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Review: The Last Page

The Last Page book cover
Please see my guest-blogger review of Anthony Huso's fantasy novel, The Last Page at Dreams & Speculation.

Friday, September 24, 2010

D. H. Lawrence poems formatted for Kindle

I've been messing around with my new Kindle, downloading free books (e.g., Thomas Paine's "Common Sense") and turning other digital content such as PDF and HTML into Kindle-ready form. Amazon provides a free service to convert compatible documents into Kindle format, and loads them automatically onto your Kindle. Kindle owners get a personal email address which they use to convert content. For the Wifi Kindle owners, this is a free service, 3G version has to pay a small conversion fee unless they use a workaround.

My sister pointed me to a selection of D. H. Lawrence poems, and on a lark I formatted them for Kindle, adding a table of contents and suitable paragraph formatting.

If you would like my Kindle version of D. H. Lawrence poems, just download this html file, attach it to an email to send to your Kindle account, and voila, semi-properly formatted poems. Only Kindle owners can do this, and permission to send to the account is restricted to email addresses defined by the owner. Amazon receives the attachment, converts it automatically (within seconds for a small file) and shoots it back to your wireless Kindle, where it appears, like magic!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Winter's Heart by Robert Jordan

Tor reread by Leigh Butler

Wheel of Time Challenge discussion on Dreams & Speculation

My "first half" review, through Chapter 18.

The second half of the book suffers from the same problems as the first half: chapters that are full of padding, pointless description, flaccid tension-building, wordy sentences, sub-plot shifts that ruin plot momentum, and meandering point-of-view writing that does little or nothing to enhance our understanding, enjoyment, or appreciation of the characters.

Jordan's editor evidently failed to tell him that a book composed of plotting and scheming is a dull thing without sparkling insights, tight dramatic writing, and unique characters. We can enjoy reading about the plotting and scheming that ensued, say, at the end of World War II, between Stalin, Roosevelt, and Churchill (if it's well-written.) I'm just offering that, for the record, to show that I'm not opposed to reading about "plotting and scheming" per se.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Not so excited about Boardwalk Empire

The pilot for Boardwalk Empire, the new HBO series, didn't thrill me.

First of all, let me say that there is goodness in it: the sets, costumes, and lighting, all done very nicely, quite atmospheric and carefully, lovingly observed. The historical detail is superbly researched. Very educational.

Number one turnoff: my goodness, you've got all the brilliance of Jazz Age music to choose from, yet someone chose namby-pamby modern alt-rock-styled easy-to-forget theme music? For love of God, that's a huge opportunity lost. At first, I'd say that it makes no sense cinematically or musically, but upon saying that, I realized that it is sadly consistent with the shallow, contemporary tone of this production.

Number two fail: Steve Buscemi. He's awesome. I find no fault in his performance, he's a wonderful actor, whom I love to watch. But he's sadly miscast. Someone-- the script writer? Director? Casting agent? -- doesn't understand the Prohibition era, and gangster personalities. I'm sorry, Steve is not brutal. He could be vindictively vicious, I can get that. But brutal? No. The Nucky Thompson role is for a brute who knows how to dress and pose and present a facade, while keeping a cold eye on all the risks and angles. He's a dangerous man, and he dominates because people are afraid of him, and because he knows how to gain loyalty through favors. Go watch James Cagney!


Friday, September 17, 2010

Half-way through Winter's Heart ... the tedium of it

My contribution to the mid-month discussion. Actually, I'm almost done with the book, and I can assure you... almost nothing happens in this book, and there's little to enjoy about it. Oh yes, there are a few scenes you might enjoy, but wading through 800 pages for a few scenes spoils the enjoyment. Better to read the synopsis of this book.

I’m putting hands to head and screaming, “Hundreds of pages and nothing happens!”

What mostly happens so far in Winter’s Heart is a lot of scheming and plotting. I find it tedious, especially since I don’t have a strong emotional connection to the characters, and certainly not to sketchily-drawn minor Aes Sedai or random darkfriend wannabes, who, when they’re not lording it over someone, are whingeing and cringing. Why would I care about Toveine’s misfortune to be bonded to Logain? Jordan has fun demeaning the arrogant Aes Sedai, a theme close to his heart; unfortunately the writing lacks the humor that should enliven these events. Ahem: I’ll allow that there’s crude humor in the scenes where the Sea Folk Windfinders turn their Aes Sedai teacher (Nynaeve) upside down, but again, there’s the morally painful, constant undercurrent of sadism, arrogance vs. humiliation. For more fun along those lines, we have Elayne stripping in front of Mazrim Taim. Such arbitrary, sexually humiliating scenes are self-indulgent, creepy, and Graendal-like, not “delightfully titillating.” It’s young adult porn.


Sunday, September 5, 2010

Solutions to missing Home/End keypad keys on Macbook

Do you ever want to quickly navigate to the beginning or end of a Word document on your Macbook?

Do you find yourself missing the old Home and End shortcut keys that are on the keypad of full size keyboards?

The keyboard commands are fn-Command-right arrow and fn-Command-left arrow.

If you said, "Man, that is so not intuitive," you have a couple of options.
  1. You can use a two-step keyboard sequence, recommended by lefthander57 on this thread:
just hit Cmd-A, "Select All," then hit a left or up arrow key to go to the beginning, or a down or right arrow key to go to the end.
  1. If you like to use the up and down arrows for that navigation in Word, try Daiya's suggestion:
If the problem is specifically in Word, there are commands in Tools > Customize Keyboard that can be assigned to custom shortkeys. Rather hidden, though.

in Word, Tools > Customize Keyboard, click on All Commands in the left column, tab to the right column, and keyboard navigate to the commands:

EndOfDocument
StartOfDocument

This lets me assign cmd-up arrow and cmd-down arrow, which I can hit with one hand (unlike using the fn key).

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Review: Songs of the Dying Earth

Please see my review of Songs of the Dying Earth: Stories in Honor of Jack Vance, edited by George R. R. Martin and Gardner Dozois.

TJ is letting me be a regular reviewer at her Dreams and Speculation blog. Thank you, TJ!

Climate change: my view

A dear old friend of mine sent me a link to this article published in the UK paper The Daily Express, perhaps thinking he would be making a crucial point.

CLIMATE CHANGE LIES ARE EXPOSED


My emailed reply, below.

Media Matters discussion of that article

Wikipedia's well researched article on scientific opinion on climate change

I'm not a climate scientist, but when I see people kicking around this issue as a political football, I know it's being hijacked.

Have human beings significantly polluted fresh water supplies in many industrialized places, affecting aquifers, rivers, and lakes? I think we can find an unambiguous answer to that. Do all those toxic elements in our water supply pose a risk to the health of people? I think an answer could be found for that.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

The Path of Daggers

The Path of Daggers re-read at Tor Publishing

The Dreams and Speculation Discussion

I have to confess that I enjoyed this book more than the previous three books. I find that I'm more engaged in the good vs. evil context, and I'm less repelled, confused, or bored. That's not to say that all is good, but I feel more tolerant. Is it just me? Have I become more... submissive?

One of the most tedious aspects of the Wheel of Time (so far) is the unreflective dominance/bondage/submission theme. But I felt at least in Path of Daggers that the Aes Sedai played out the theme within a larger cultural background, more context-conscious and less prurient.  The reader sees the Aes Sedai clinging to the claims of knowledge and wisdom in their elaborate hierarchies even when actual knowledge is absent or lost, and that since the Asha'man (male channelers) and Dragon Reborn have become realities, the Aes Sedai are losing their certainties and must become more individually engaged in problems of knowledge and action, not merely asserting dominance and superiority. In other words, they seem more human. The scenes of the worst cringing, by the Kin (the not-so-secret-after-all ex-Aes-Sedai society) are alleviated by the mockery they suffer from the Atha'an Miere Windfinder and Wave Mistress channelers, who as outsiders (with their own deeply hierarchical dominance culture) aren't especially impressed by the Aes Sedai. The Forsaken have a more peripherally menacing role in this book, so we're not entertained by extended gratuitous torture scenes, nor are there many detail-relishing Aes Sedai debasing scenes, and Egwene doesn't have her bare bottom spanked, thank the Light.

I had the distinct impression that Path of Daggers benefitted from judicious editing, rather more than Crown of Swords. There were cases where I suspected that would-be drawn-out scenes were cut down to paragraph summaries — quite a relief.


Friday, August 20, 2010

Duplex printing for Brother HL-2170W laser printer on Mac OS X

I've been disappointed with this printer's lack of at least manual duplexing: you know the routine, print even pages, flip paper, refeed in the right direction, print odd pages. I use the same printer on my Windows bootcamp/VM, and that driver has a nice set of instructions and pictures, showing the user how to feed the paper in easy steps.

Anyway, after another stint of research, I found out where this is accomplished in the Mac OS X driver.

How to print duplex on Brother HL-2170W printer on Mac OS X

In short, the even/odd pages setting is under Paper Handling, not Layout.

Manual duplex printing from the paper tray
  1. Choose "Print" from the File menu and open the Print dialogue.
  2. Choose the "Paper Handling" option in the Presets.
  3. Choose "Even numbered pages" and click on Print.
  1. After the even pages are printed, remove them from the output tray, flip over the paper and place back into the paper tray, so that the printed pages face up, with the bottom edge first.
  2. Again choose the "Paper Handling" option in the Presets as you did in the Step 2.
  3. Choose "Odd numbered pages" and click on Print.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Photos: Rosalie and me, and Dad, 1964-1968

A few amusing photos that Rosalie pulled out of her album.

http://opally.tumblr.com/post/978594929/family-photos-1960s

She gave them to Dad, he scanned them, and sent them to me.

Me and my sister: our own culture.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Review: The Dying Earth

Please read and comment on my review of the audio book The Dying Earth by Jack Vance, published at Dreams and Speculation.
The Dying Earth influenced a whole generation of science fiction and fantasy writers who grew up in the 1950’s and 60's.

Friday, August 13, 2010

My life as an avatar, part 1: Kesmai

My trolls

My stuffed dolls
Since childhood, I always dreamed of being other than myself, being a better, stronger being, in a more beautiful, nobler world. As a child, this usually involved pretending to be a wild horse (yes, girls love horses) or enacting made-up dramas and comedies with stuffed dolls, trolls, or even Corgi and Matchbox cars. Any obect that spoke its personality to me could be a player in an impromptu, creative, dramatic experience.
My Corgi cars

I stumbled into a job at Kesmai in 1993, one of the earliest developers of multiplayer online games, where I discovered the joys and pitfalls of alternate realities. I became a devoted player of Legends of Kesmai, a thief named SoSneaky.
Source for this LOK screenshot: Shadow Bay Sentinel
Legends grew out of Island of Kesmai, an earlier MMORPG (massively multiplayer online role-playing game), for which Compuserve customers --this was before the World Wide Web-- paid an expensive hourly rate for the privilege. It was an enhanced MUD (multi-user dungeon) that used an ASCII character generated map to enhance the mainly text-based interface. Remember that early computer monitors were monotone and did not display graphics (with the Atari and Commodore 64 as notable exceptions.


Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Review: The Name of the Wind -- and yay, I'm a guest blogger!

Thank you TJ at Dreams & Speculation for allowing me to be a guest reviewer! More incentive for me to read and write.

My review of The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss is here.

TJ has a lovely, popular book review blog focused on sci-fi and fantasy genres. I'm very impressed with what she's put together; she must be a reading and writing machine.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Tea party contradictions

Great reply by George R. R. Martin in response to a comment from a reader on his blog.

The blog post was about the eerie similarity he observed between a video of a Tea Party political rally or town hall meeting, not sure which, and the biergarten scene in Cabaret where a Hitlerjungend sings "Tomorrow belongs to me". I think George's observation is spot-on. He's picking up on the emotionalism of people, the kind of emotions that lead to fascism, as people cling ever more strongly to failing narratives about American individualism and American exceptionalism.

Pugix says (in his serious, professorial mode) that the Tea Party is a type of libertarianism. They want minimal government; they want to be left alone. The desire to be left alone by government was the founding impulse for Americans to move West. This may be why the Southwest part of the country demonstrates so well the consequences of libertarian pressure on government: note Arizona selling off their government buildings to try to meet debt obligations as a consequence of both economic downturn and severe cutting of taxes.


Thursday, July 15, 2010

A Crown of Swords

Dreams and Speculation blog's Wheel of Time challenge

Tor's Wheel of Time re-read and synopsis by Leigh Butler.

I am tired of whining about the quality and characteristics of these books. This month I just plunged in, and read it as if I were AA-grinding in EverQuest. If you want a payoff, you knuckle down and endure the dreary bits. I'm glad to say I finished it a few days ago.

I'm getting better at skimming over useless redundant detail. I've settled in my mind that this is poorly-written plot-driven "young adult" lit, and I'm treating it as the smelly object it is, trying to enjoy a few sparkly bits here and there.

My attitude being less-than-serious, I'm not glaring at the details, demanding that they make sense, I'm just shrugging my shoulders and saying "whatever!" It's like watching a bad movie and saying to oneself, "what the heck, it's sort of entertaining, though the script/acting/costumes/setting/effects are wrong and stupid," which would be typical of most movies these days.


Saturday, July 10, 2010

Margaret Atwood and Science Fiction and Space Opera

Over at TJ's Dreams and Speculation fiction review blog, I was surprised to learn that Margaret Atwood had denied that her books The Handmaid's Tale or Oryx and Crake were science fiction, saying "science fiction has monsters and spaceships; speculative fiction could really happen." According to Wikipedia she has since refined her objection, and described her work as social science fiction.

It made me think that she actually had in mind the sub-genre known as "Space Opera", which is light on the science, and heavy on the interpersonal and situational drama. Not that they can't go together.

Space opera on TV is the topic over at Dreams and Speculation.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Parallels VM configuration

Finally got my Parallels VM working.
Turns out Parallels 5.0.9344 doesn't really play nice in the Mac OS 10.6.4 environment. It's hogging memory, so... give it less memory. It has to be physically restricted.
Parallels preferences: Total memory allocated: Manual: 1456 Mb
VM Configuration:
  General: 1Gb memory (I have 4Gb total memory)
  Options: Optimization: UNcheck Adaptive Hypervisor 
           UNcheck autocompress 
           CHECK Tune Windows for Speed
           Optimize performance for Mac OS X applications 
  Options: Shared Applications: UNcheck Share Windows Applications with OS X 
           UNcheck Share Mac OS X Applications with Windows 

  Hardware: Video: Maximized video memory (256Mb on this MacBook Pro).

Removed my Parallels VM folder from Spotlight. 

I'm a bit miffed about the product's crappy support. I had to rely on other users discovered solutions to resolve a serious problem that affects many users.

Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Lord of Chaos

Dreams and Speculation blog's Wheel of Time challenge: review of LoC.

Tor's Wheel of Time re-read and synopsis by Leigh Butler.

Sigh, what to say. I'm fully onboard with sci-fi author Adam Roberts' take on this series.

What I detest about the Wheel of Time series so far:

  1. I am not finding the characters to be interesting and compelling; rather I find them to be flawed creations that serve the plot. I detest when characters are stupid and dense merely to create plot tension, and that happens over and over. Mat could be interesting, Rand could be interesting, Perrin could be interesting... but they're mostly stupid. That's not fun to read, it's tiresome and condescending to readers. Feh.
  2. The BD/SM (bondage-discipline/sado-masochism) themes permeating the series -- what I'd call the dominance-submission theme, is repetitive and not insightfully handled. I expect works of literature to shed at least a small light on human nature, to create some catharsis, but that's asking too much from WoT, and I fear from the "epic fantasy" genre in general. The prurient naughtiness of the description of Egwene having her bare bottom spanked by the Wise Ones... words fail me, I want to say "wtf!?" The female characters are consumed with finding ways to dominate men (the one exception being Min, the tomboy.) Men, for the most part, are chumps about female wiles, except when Rand returns the favor, and the reader feels a cheap thrill of relief. Feh. 
  3. The good/evil theme? I'm still waiting for some development there.
  4. Finally, the writing style itself, which Roberts dwells on at length, is puffed up with circumlocutions, descriptions that add little or no insight into character or events, and repetitive characterizations (I've heard so much about Nynaeve yanking her braid that I expect her hair to fall out from the abuse.) I enjoy descriptions that create a vivid sense of place, when the place is important to the story (usually a major theme in sci-fi and fantasy), and some of these are quite good in WoT, but the way the character descriptions are handled spoils the effect. Really, if the author wanted sprightly plot turns and to go light on characterization, he should have used pungent, focused sentences, and shorten these books by 50%! Epic = bloat? Feh.

Friday, June 18, 2010

Adam Roberts' sharp and witty criticism of Wheel of Time

I relish Adam Roberts' criticisms of Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time series. I'm slogging along, barely able to keep up with the one-book-per-month guilty pleasure/onerous chore of TJ's Wheel of Time Challenge. (see my footer.)

I was spoiled by George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire series. I thought other popular fantasy writing would be up to those standards. Au contraire, mes amis.

I love how Adam puts it:
...stylistically it’s the same hideous jumble, the same self-parodic bloat. Jordan is a writer who writes ‘this fire was not at all small, and the room seemed not far short of hot, a welcome heat that soaked into the flesh and banished shivers’ [343] because he is constitutionally allergic to the phrasing ‘a large fire warmed the room.’ He thinks the former sentence is more precise and therefore evocative. He’s wrong. That's not precision, it’s a finicky fussing textual aspergers, a style that can see nothing but details (and, more to the point, nothing but a certain very limited palate of details – colours of clothing, speed of movement, types of food, gradations of heat and cold—never the telling details great writers master). It is a style wholly incapable of illuminating penetration or evocation.
Go, Adam! Poor thing, he has to keep repeating this point on every WoT book review. But he does find spicy, fun ways to say it. I am looking forward to what he makes of Brandon Sanderson's work completing the series. From the snippets I've read by Sanderson, I'd say he's a much better writer.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

As liberal democracies decline into fascism...

I love this Daily Show.

What more can I say?

Well, since you asked, I'll try to be succinct:

Democracy requires an informed, educated, active, healthy and nourished population. As our newspapers and new outlets succumb to journalistic mediocrity and underfunding, there is a natural tendency for journalists to collaborate with corporate and government interests in controlling information and the cultural narratives. It is the most basic aspect of human nature to cower before authority, to seek protection and guidance from leaders. The challenging of authority and questioning of the accepted world-view is a perilous undertaking and usually regarded as a threat of the highest order. That, my dears, is why Socrates was put to death.

As people become less educated and informed, they become easy subjects for manipulation by those who wish to exert power and control. The means of that control is to use fear to encourage citizens to willingly surrender their freedoms and rights. You can read Naomi Klein's Shock Doctrine to see how cataclysmic events and engineered false flag operations are used by governments and autocrats to grab control.

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Wordpress: show paginated list of posts at URLs other than site root

I FINALLY fixed the problem on Pugix's blog where the "more recent posts" wasn't paginating properly to older posts. Sadly, my question was ignored on the WordPress forum.

I found the answer in this WordPress documentation codex page, Making Your Blog Appear in a Non-Root Folder.

I *did* have to create a new template. The key was this: the posts.php template isn't a display template, it just generates the query, then loads the display template, index.php. So happy!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Revising Pugix's Wordpress Blog

Over the Memorial Day weekend I delved back into WordPress and made some needed changes for pugix.com, my husband's analog synthesizer blog. It uses WordPress 2.9.2, the current release, and a pack o' plugins.

In essence, we wanted to get current content onto the homepage, not just as a little "what's new" link in the sidebar. About four years ago I used WordPress to convert his static HTML, hard-to-maintain synth website into something that had better web presence and was more easily maintained and had an easier future development path. Now we wanted to make it a bit more blog-like by making the new content easy to find, and keeping the homepage fresh.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

The Fires of Heaven

Dreams and Speculation's Wheel of Time Challenge.

Tor.com's Wheel of Time reread of TFoH by the ever-entertaining and in-your-face Leigh Butler

Adam Roberts' witty and snide review of TFoH. What most concerns him is the writing style. And really, I agree with him.

A very sprawling read, and I really began to feel bored. Very tedious and repetitive detail. What kind of literary mind repeats unilluminating details over and over, as if that conveys character? Perhaps he wrote each scene in isolation, then stitched it all together without realizing, "hey, I used that same description in the last chapter." A good editor could have pruned and tightened this up and reduced it by 200 pages without losing anything. This book demonstrates a failure in editing as much as writing. Perhaps by book five RJ's Tor editors were bowing and scraping — unwisely.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Why I'm so tired of rock music

Rock music today cannot reproduce the excitement of its youth. People who were listening to music in the 60's and 70's remember the excitement, anticipation, and mind-opening of new albums by great rock bands. Progressive rock stations played that music, not corporatized market-oriented pablum. The problem today with "classic rock" is nostalgia. Yes, Led Zeppelin was great, but there cannot be a Led Zeppelin today. To see those old bands on tour is sad and wholly lacking the spirit of rock. For contrast, just look at the films of performances from the 60s and 70s, look at those audiences, and at how intense those concerts were. Not that I begrudge someone making a dollar, but don't ask me to get excited about hearing old songs trotted out 30 years later, or new songs sounding like old songs.

For me, the last interesting, exploratory and challenging rock music was (is) Sonic Youth. The last meaningful rock movement that engaged listeners in a cathartic experience was the Nirvana/Pixies "grunge" scene.

Society underwent convulsions and transformation in the 60's. That is why the music of 1969 is so much farther away from 1949 than 2009 is from 1989. Parents today can listen to the same music as their children. Parents of the baby boom generation had cultural references much closer to their own parents than to their children. Young people in the 60s and 70s had the feeling of being on the crest of a great change. Today there is little originality in popular music. Maybe that's because the concepts and attitudes about life and its problems have remained the same for the past 30 years.

(written as a response to this blog post by Krist Novoselic.)

Friday, May 7, 2010

Starting The Fires of Heaven

So I broke down last night and started reading The Fires of Heaven, book 5 of The Wheel of Time series by Robert Jordan. Participating in a reading group does give one some of the "stick" when the "carrot" isn't so tasty.

Elaida, the new Amyrlin Seat, is being ignored because although she instigated the revolt and deposing of the previous Amyrlin, she doesn't herself command enough power and authority over the other Aes Sedai co-conspirators.

I'm going to try and be less of a curmudgeon about this, I get tired of listening to my own criticism. I think I can enjoy this as long as my time is available! Maybe it will stimulate my own writing, I have been taking a short writing course at WriterHouse, and I should make a stab at "speculative fiction".

(I remember that the biggest badass guild in EverQuest was the Fires of Heaven. On my server, it was Triton.)

Saturday, May 1, 2010

The Shadow Rising

Book Love Affair blog discussion for this book and the Tor reread outline by Leigh Butler.

I feel like I'm being sucked along in this Wheel of Time epic. I'm not a rabid fan (they seem to be out there) but I am enjoying certain aspects of the story. It's written in a way that moves along well, for plot, and has dreamworld and magic themes that interest me, and I care just enough about the main characters to want to see what happens to them.

But still, I'm sad that there's so little depth of personality in the characters. Sigh.

Least liked scene: Egwene and Elayne chatting like junior high school girls about who's going to go out with Rand -- oh, excuse me -- who "really loves him." (gag me with a spoon, please!) The manipulativeness of the women, their disdain for men (even the women who claim to like men) is tedious. If this was a characteristic of just a handful of the female characters I could understand that as an intrinsic part of the story, but ALL the female characters despise men and talk to them in an egregiously condescending manner. And the men are social bumpkins who are unable to master the schemes of women; they respond like surly children who are constantly being scolded. In a word: there's NO romance going on anywhere in this epic, so move along. In defense, there is this conceit that men have broken the world, and now women are more powerful, but still, there should be some distinctness among characters about this condition of social relations between men and women. Bleah. I'm seriously considering not reading any more of this. The good part is that Rand seems to be becoming more of a man in this book, and he takes responsibility for his own actions, and resists the machinations of the women around him. Yes, the men are never manipulative, it's just the women.

Oh wait, maybe there is ONE female character who isn't SO manipulative: that would be Min. Whew. But she's rather a weakling, mostly a device for foreshadowing.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Show full path in Finder menu bar in OS X

If you like to see the full path to the active folder in the Finder menu bar, enter this in a terminal window:

defaults write com.apple.finder _FXShowPosixPathInTitle -bool YES
killall Finder

killall Finder will relaunch the Finder with the changes.

Find hidden files in Mac OSX 10.6 Finder

Inspired by Pat Durr's screen capture movie.

My first recording! My first YouTube video!

For my Quicktime recording, I resized my screen to 640x480 for a form factor more agreeable for this narrow blog.

I used Squared 5's MPEG Streamclip for Mac — the beta version was needed to make an MPEG-4 that is visible to YouTube — to downsize it further. I think I need a wider theme if I'm going to embed videos here.

View/hide hidden Mac OSX files in finder

View hidden files in finder:

defaults write com.apple.finder AppleShowAllFiles -bool TRUE
killall Finder

change to FALSE to hide hidden files.

killallFinder will restart the finder.

You need this if you do any kind of development work on your Mac! This is the best method.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Dragon Reborn

Book Love Affair blog discussion for this book and the Tor reread outline by Leigh Butler.

I love the feeling of being absorbed in a richly imagined alternative world, as I used to enjoy in Everquest, and I experience some of that in these books. They're very long, with enough juiciness and intrigue to stay inviting, although they have their frustrations for this reader.

It has become more clear to me how women dominate in the Wheel of Time world. The breaking of the world legend turns female power (saidar) into the authority, and women dominate or are equals in most of the societies, as compared to our world. To the extent that it's not mere "political correctness" I find that angle interesting and compelling.  Compare Jordan's WoT world to the Tolkien world of The Lord of the Rings: female characters there have a distinctly minor importance, Galadriel excepted. Is there a well-conceived theme of feminine and masculine principles organizing the thread of the Wheel of Time story and the trajectories of character actions? Mmmm... sort of,  but not really. I'll see how it unfolds.

Sunday, February 28, 2010

The Great Hunt

Reactions to The Great Hunt
I found this book more absorbing than The Eye of the World; I finished reading it around Feb. 15 and had to force myself not to start The Dragon Reborn until March. Picked up Bernard Cornwell's The Winter King in the meantime, but more about that in another post (TK).

Leigh Butler's smartly written synopses at Tor are very handy references and refreshers.

I think these books need to be understood as "Lord of the Rings fan fiction". I read that quote somewhere. Wheel of Time could never have been written without LoTR. These books have similar strengths and weaknesses of LoTR: shallow characters, black-and-white vision of good/evil, a chaste and non-gritty way of describing and experiencing, richly envisioned landscape, culture, and long journeys, epic "save the world" plot, and of course the usual cast of warriors, magicians, orcs, elves and other such myth-like beings. For those of us who were entranced by LoTR, the WoT promises a much longer immersion in a magical world where one's actions have epic meaning and value.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Starting The Great Hunt

Reactions so far to The Great Hunt:

I'm enjoying Rand's resistance to his calling. Almost every genuine spiritual calling is met by horror and resistance. Oh, you need examples to prove the point? Moses, St. Augustine, Jesus (if you like Kazantsakis' deeply-felt interpretation) ... um, I'll think of some more. A "spiritual transformation" is a destruction of the ego. It's a "lose yourself to find yourself" thing. It's the meaning of death. Yeah, I don't think most of us are ready to die, we're way too full of self-love.

No, I think Siddhartha is a different story, Buddhism isn't about "spiritual calling", a Buddhist should laugh or snort about "spirituality", they wouldn't have patience with it. Most of what goes by the name of "spirituality" these days is new-age wishful thinking, quest for warm-fuzzies, yearning to feel connected or important.

I do like the Aes Sedai envisioned as spiritual practitioners.

The Eye of the World

OK, signed up for the Wheel of Time big read-in on Book Love Affair blog.

Just happenstance that I started reading WoT. I really liked George R. R. Martin's Song of Ice and Fire (so far) and wanted to indulge my LoTR-inclination, did some research, and picked up The Eye of the World.

What I enjoyed in this book:
  • Large, detailed world with (typical fantasy-lit) medieval-style political/economic/technology/cultural setting
  • Plot-driven, suspenseful writing
  • Sense of an epic, unfolding narrative
  • evocative villages/towns/cities, buildings, clothing, and landscape descriptions
  • Likable characters
  • Tolkienesque equivalents are enjoyable homage: Aragorn/Strider, hobbits, wizards, Sauron.

What I didn't enjoy in this book:
  • simplistic, unexplained good vs. evil scenario
  • uncomplicated (dare I say shallow, one-dimensional) characters
  • some continuity/context errors

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Count number of files of certain size


find ./ -size 0k | grep "sess_" -c

This finds the files and directories matching a path and matching a size.
Can use -size +[number]k (above a certain size) or -size -[number]k (below a certain size), or a size match.
Then it pipes that to a grep for the word "sess_" and returns a count.
Helps us count the enormous number of blank sessions that our app is generating on OSX.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Selecting non-distinct rows in MySQL

Got this here.

SELECT *, COUNT(*) AS count FROM tablename GROUP BY fieldname HAVING count > 1