We All Have Heroes, and Models


Who were the writers you imitated (or imitate!) in your pastiche phase?

Much as I loved and read Andre Norton, I never seemed to do anything her style. I had a definite Lester Dent phase, resulting in my first finished novella, then went into a Weird Tales swords and sorcery phase, with REH plots and CAS language (oh, my poor teacher), then moved more into the style of Fritz Leiber.

After that, I actually started finding my own style. I think the continued factors of “my style” are characters one recent critter described as talking as wittily as he wished real people did (based largely on myself and my friends: we really did and do try to be amusing) and a reality-based mixture of the wonderful and the gritty.

An analogy for that looks in the window at me: a beautiful crescent moon in a dawn-painted frame of clouds, above ranks of dusty rain-streaked storage containers with peeling warehouses in the middle distance and container cranes beyond, all laced with power wires.

Everything else, whether my language is plain or fancy (level of language), whether it’s all dialogue or all action, the genre — that varies. Bits of CAS’s vocabulary creep in, but my critters will tell me where they go “huh?”

What’s your style? What do you wish it were? What do you need to change to get there?

It’s Creeping Me Out


It’s not that Alexa spends all its time listening to your household. If people are willing to bug their own homes for Big Brother to monitor them, that’s their silly choice.

It’s the company’s choice of name.

Why Alexa?

It’s not an unpopular name. It’s like they’re trying to make “her” pretty and fashionable. What do all the women named Alexa do now? They all have to go by nicknames? Why not give the device a currently unpopular name like Gertrude or Agatha?

But I have to ask …

Why did they make it a woman? Why not the name of a butler, like Alfred or Jeeves? They also just wait to serve – no, wait. They have personality and opinions and agency. If you expect something to live to fulfill your commands, and have no life of its own, of course you make it a woman.

But they could have called it Fido. I never met a dog of that name, but everyone knows it’s a dog’s name. They could have called it Servo or some nonsense name.

But they had to give it not just one but two women’s names, Alexa and Echo.

Maybe now I can stop thinking about it.

Brake, Horse Power


When people add coaches, carriages, wagons, and carts to their stories, they often do enough research to find out they may have something called “brakes” and then treat them largely as autos or trucks with horses up front. (Less often, mules, donkeys, camels, zebras, oxen, elephants, or carabao, not to mention moose, caribou, goats, or dogs for motive power.)

In an auto, you can be zooming at freeway speeds, stomp the brakes, and come down to a complete stop. But auto brakes are complicated and highly engineered, even before they were computerized. You have the force multiplier of hydraulic systems in power brakes. You have the brake shoes exerting friction against the whole brake drum.

On a carriage, you have a pivoted stick exerting friction against several inches of the iron tire on a four-foot-high wheel. That’s all.

Let’s get the variations that make no difference brushed aside and call it a horse-drawn coach. Think of it as a British mail coach or a frontier stage coach or a polished private coach – doesn’t matter. What matters is that none of these can be stopped at any notable speed by the mechanical brake.

Read the rest of this entry

Without My Innate Optimism …


“A happy person is not a person in a certain set of circumstances, but rather a person with a certain set of attitudes.” -Hugh Downs

“Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier.” -Colin Powell

…I can’t imagine where I’d be. We live in a culture of dissatisfaction, designed to make us try to buy happiness, and drama, where we seize unhappiness so we can be “interesting” like the people in movies.

Long ago, I decided you’re happy when you decide to be, and make the most of what you’ve got. It’s worked.

Washed Away by Fluid Pricing


Amazon.com is getting silly to shop at.

So I tuned in Monday morning with a set budget. My shopping cart told me that a certain doll I like for customizing had been $8.55 but had gone up to $16. Groan of disappointment at missing the super-low price (from a third-party seller). So I go about my shopping, having a temporary fit for getting back to embroidery, then putting that stuff to buy later, getting the X-Acto blades I came for only to find out #16 are no longer made, and so on.

When I’m finalizing the order, I look at some things for later to fill out the total, beads and books and hair extensions, and the doll is $12.55. So I stick him in the basket.

I go to check out, but my total has jumped. The doll is $19.98!

Back to juggling. I take him out. I get a different doll and a pack of doll shoes. Before I buy, I look over my order and see, since he’s right under the total …

He’s down to $11.

Can I mouse fast enough to catch him at the price? I have to remove the other doll and shoes, too. I hit checkout and miraculously the price stays the same through the whole process.

80% jumps every five or ten minutes? What is with this seller? I don’t need the stress and surprises. I just want to buy some things, not do day-trading in the Pink Aisle.

A Peep in the Warehouse


Okay, so what was the nitty-gritty of SKU for 1000 tree books and 2000 orderly bundles of electrons?

Already, we looked at the database and what fields it needed. At that level, no difference between the two.

In the real world, I had to designate the physical locations by some method. First step was to list the room (bedroom, office, frontroom, kitchen), then where the books stay (say, in the office, Bookcase A or B, the little bookcase on the other side of the room, the shelf in my computer desk, Patrick’s alcove, the music book bag, &c). In a bookcase, there’s the shelf designation, from 1 at the top to 5 on the bottom, and a final small “b” means that it’s in the back row.

Having printed out the partial list I had, I stood at the bookcases, pulling out books and making notes on the backs of anything without any entry. Others, I just updated the location. When things got too messy, I went back to the keyboard, keyed it all in, and printed it out anew. The whole thing is only half an inch/13mm thick, printed prettily and tucked into a D-ring binder of a close size.

Some time I would like to invite the total chaos of storing everything by size. As it is, segregation by project still dominates location. I just wasn’t up to wholesale removals, though I did some shuffling inside a room.

Ordering the e-books was simple and straightforward. Their storage is on the terabyte drive, under “Ebook Library.” Looking at the picture probably tells you the most. After all, I am the promoter of sub-files. Read the rest of this entry

There! E-Books done.


At least all the non-fiction I can find. Total: a few dozen over 2000. I’m allowing for finding and eliminating a few more duplicates in the database.

That does include a few fiction items, including those that are research. (Some just fell in accidentally, and in SKU you don’t worry about it.) A novel written about a war, while it’s going on, can tell you a good deal about attitudes, if not reality. A novel of a quiet period can give you a hundred details of everyday life, especially when you have several to compare. You need to figure out if someone’s behavior is kind of universally expected, or outré, or simply the author commenting on character. I always hark back to Bulwer-Lytton inadvertently preserving for us the fact that people used to feed their canaries lump sugar as a treat, or Jane Austen the list of Gothic novels not suitable for young ladies.

I am still facing organizing the e-books for Early Dreamers, and that looks like another 300 or so is all. (whimper)

But for now, there’s champagne chilling, corned beef and potatoes in the foodbot, and a Krispy Kreme cake to bake. Celebrate the little victories along the way, or you’ll never keep your hand in at popping corks if you only wait for big ones.