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:


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.


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.