Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
May 29th, 2007

Website stuff

I am letting a few websites expire. AstoundingSF.com, ATales.com and AstoundingScienceFiction will all disappear in a few days. If anyone needs them, let me know. I have not had good luck transferring domains out of Register.com. I am betwixt and between about AstoundingTales.com. It is due, also. It is a very good name for a zine, in spite of its disastrous history. I may keep it for a while. I will let sciencefictional.com and strangetales.net drop. I do not need these spec-fic names as I do not want to be in the business side of spec-fic.

I am going to stop the story of a day at ScienceFictional.com. It is time consuming to find the stories and stats show a negative slope. It jumped up to nearly a hundred hits a day after the SFSignal mention. It has been dropping steadily ever since (see graph at left). I have a few dozen RSS readers and a dozen page hits a day. This is not worth the effort and there is no indication that things will get better.

I have been tracking the blog entries of people whose stories get mentioned. Everyone, it seems, thinks that it is some kind of honor, like their story is the best story. The truth is, I read the first paragraph or two looking for sciencefictional elements and then scan the rest for bad words, zombies, vampires, unicorns or other deal killers. I read the last paragraph to see if the story is worth reading (it never is). If I think it’s a real SF story, I add it to the list.

I saw this as a promotional tool. I thought that writers would flock to the page to promote their science fiction. I even wrote a program to automatically post stories from the suggested story list. So far I’ve received two usable suggestions and a bunch of self published stories. The self published stories aren’t all that terrible, but I would like to include only real published stories on the list.

I have stories on ScienceFictional until June 1. If I have time between now and then I’ll hunt up a few more. If next weekend comes around and I can’t find any stories in the new zine issues, I will dump the site.






May 28th, 2007

LINA – open source everywhere

The big buy-in for the Java language was write-once – run-anywhere. Java classes work on different machines. This was a good thing for CIOs that came from the big mainframe world and bought into various mini and micro computers, only to find that software had to be rewritten each time. The AS/400 was a counter attack by IBM against the PC that it spawned. The AS/400 felt and tasted like a mainframe so the CIOs of the big companies fell in love – until they discovered that the code needed to be re-written.

The upper management of companies with expensive development costs have been searching for a way to cut my salary for 35 years. The idea of write-once run anywhere is one answer they understand. The code re-use argument of Object-Oriented programming sounded good, but has never paid off. Java is a dog and seems to cost ten times as much as hardware costs as programmer savings, just to make it run.

This is an old idea. Back in the early 1970s, Nicklaus Wirth invented a programming language called Pascal based on an older language called Algol. Pascal (based on Algol) is the father of C, Java and PHP. One feature of Pascal was that it compiled into P-code, a virtual machine language. In the 1990s the idea of P-code was reinvented in Java Byte Codes.

Since Java, we have learned a lot about machine languages and now there is

Lina

Lina is a byte code/p-code engine for Linux and perhaps even Windows and Apple OS’s. It is designed, not only to take care of different CPUs, but to handle different operating systems and hardware. The goal is a true write-once Run-anywhere engine. Something that Pascal and Java never achieved.

I like this because it means more work for me. Now, there will be a porting of Java that compiles to the Java Byte Code to Java apps that compile to LINA. PHP, which already compiles to an intermediate byte code, could easily compile to LINA. I hope that this appeals to the CIOs of all the major corporations, and they need people like me to implement it.

By the way, nobody seems to understand that there is no such thing as a interchangeable parts when it comes to programming. I am an artist, I am a poet, I am a mystic – at least when it comes to programs. There is no one who can replace me.

I produce art, not code.

LINA – open source everywhere






May 27th, 2007

How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later

You gotta love P.K. Dick. He’s just great. How to Build a Universe That Doesn’t Fall Apart Two Days Later






May 25th, 2007

Affiliate Program – Science Fiction & Fantasy Audio Books

I just joined the buzzymultimedia affiliate program for two three reasons. First, I am always looking for a way to make a little money. Two they produce audio Science Fiction and Fantasy. I like audio books and I love sf, so I want to support anyone who is supporting both of these. Lastly, anybody who calls themselves Buzzy Media deserves all the help that I can give them.

Affiliate programs cost you nothing. You sign up with them, put their ads on your blog or webpage, and collect money. The odds are you won’t collect much, so think of this as supporting the arts.

For us website owners and bloggers there is no cost, but for Buzzy there is some expense. BuzzyMedia uses the ShareASale system which is a $350 buy-in and they charge him $25 a month. BuzzyMedia has to sell a few hundred dollars worth of merchandise every month to make the system pay. My Amazon affiliate stuff on this blog grosses somewhere in between $25 or so a month (usually one or two books or CDs), which translates to less than $5 a month. Buzzy is going to have to pull in a few dozen partners like me to show a profit on this.

I am rooting for Buzzy, so everybody go sign up and get a banner for your websites. It will be a while before I make enough money to receive a payment, if ever, but I want them to stay in business long enough to get some cash. I will probably use any profit that I get to buy Audio books from them, anyway.

Affiliate Program – Buzzy Multimedia – Excellence in Science Fiction & Fantasy Audio Books






May 25th, 2007

Will Work for Spaceflight

I’ve been applying for NASA jobs (they even have some writing jobs, J) for a while, but unfortunately there have been no nibbles. You can sign up for free job alerts at USAJobs. For NASA only jobs you have to choose NASA as an Agency.

I just read this article at Space.com about volunteering to promote space. The article is very vague on exactly how you might go about doing this, but it seems like a good idea. I want space to be in humanity’s future. I think is important for humans to expand to the stars. I’ve been trying to get a job working one of the space related agencies or in a government contractor working at NASA. I’ve even sent a resume out to Scaled Composites, the winners of the X prize.

This weekend, I will send in my tuition to Swinburne for their intro course in their Master’s Degree in Astronomy.

Space is a worthwhile goal and I intend to figure out some way to help make it happen.






May 23rd, 2007

Audio Book Report

I just finished listening to The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty. It was remarkably well written, but I was very turned off by the gross-out scenes. They did not appear necessary to the story. I suspect that the scenes involving the demented sexual activities of a 12 year old girl could easily be removed. It is quite possible to make the book frightening and horrific without having children molested. Don’t listen to this one unless you have a high tolerance for this kind of thing. It left a bad taste in my mouth and without the nasty stuff, the book would have been much better (but probably not as popular).

Previous to this, I listened to Potshot by Robert B. Parker. This is another Spenser book. I am finding Parker very good, in spite of Steven K. Zoltán Brust’s claim that Parker is past is prime and is phoning in the Spenser novels. This one, however, takes place far from Boston, and is not as good as the others because of this. It is reminiscent of “The Magnificent Seven” where Spenser gathers his friend Hawk and a bunch of honorable criminals to clean out the corruption in New Mexico town. Everyone lives at the end and Spenser maintains his honor in spite of the murderer getting away free. It features a short part for the “Gray Man” and I am eagerly awaiting the final confrontation between the Gray Man and Spenser.

I am currently listening to Justine by Lawrence Durrell on tape. It took a long time to find this as it is published only in England and is not available in the US. Justine is part of the Alexandrian Quartet. Erica had to read this at Fordham and after she finished, I read the four books. I’ve read Justine three times since and I think that it is one of the most beautifully complex and significant books that I have ever read. It is in the same vein as Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake or Ulysses, but it is much more accessible. The Quartet is four novels told with different viewpoints, styles and plots about the same characters and events. It is not as though they are the same events told by different characters, but they are four separate novels. They yield a composite truth, but I think the overall idea is that reality really depends on the observer. It is steeped in Durrell’s interest in the uncertainty principle and Einstein’s relativity as much as the art of a Novel. There is no real truth and different observers not only see events differently, but the significance of the events change dramatically in each novel.

The famous mirror scene in Justine seems to state Durrell’s intentions:

I remember her sitting before the multiple mirrors at the dressmaker’s, being fitted for a shark-skin costume, and saying: ‘Look! five different pictures of the same subject. Now if I wrote I would try for a multi-dimension effect in character, a sort of prism-sightedness. Why should not people show more than one profile at a time?

The question is this. If Justine sees five different images and there are four books, who is the fifth image? Herself? The Reader? Durrell?

I intend to listen to Justine over again as soon as I finish it. As I ride to work in the morning traffic, I frequently rewind the tape to listen to a particularly good part or replay a section that was difficult to understand. This book, like all good books, is all the better for being read aloud.

In my listening box are two detective novels by Elmore Leonard and Invasion of the Body Snatchers by Jack Finney. I will be having a happy commute for the next few weeks.






May 23rd, 2007

bacteria as a data store

In Gibson’s Johnny Mnemonic, a man stored secrets in a chip in his head. He eventually teams up with a dolphin, modified by the Navy to detect magnetic traces. The Dolphin uses it’s SQUID (superconducting quantum interference devices) technology to read the secrets and blackmail the Yakuza. Johnny is later murdered in Neuromancer. Why wasn’t the information encrypted? Well, Gibson isn’t all that technical.

This idea of storing information in a human is from the Hitchcock movie The 39 Steps, where a mentalist is given a secret plan to memorize and doesn’t even know it.

A Japanese researcher has been able to encode a message in the DNA of bacteria. As much as 90% of DNA is garbage fill between the useful parts. This garbage is bits and pieces of old genes or random noise. It has to be there, though because, at least some of it, is required to get the significant code to work and there is kind of error correcting checksum that relies on parts of the garbage sections to turn out right. (At least this is my understanding.) These garbage sections of code can be rewritten to contain information encoded in base 4.

I am sure that this has been done, but I think an interesting MacGuffin would be to have an innocent person’s DNA encoded with some top secret information and pursued in a novel.

Japanese use bacteria to store data






May 22nd, 2007

Nasty Zine Closure

I don’t know anything about Dark Krypt. The name alone tells you that it is not my kind of zine.

The closure message was very nasty, though.

“An extended illness coupled with incompetent and unreliable staff has forced The Dark Krypt to temporarily close its doors.”

Unpleasant, to say the least.

As Woodrow Wilson said about academic politics, “they are so vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”






May 22nd, 2007

Toufee – Create Free Flash Movies!

I have blogged about flash being a new interface. Flash permits the integration of music, graphics and text in a way that HTML can not even start to do. Flash has been around for a while, but unlike HTML, flash has several barriers to newbies. The flash software from Macromedia is expensive. The interface is not overly hard, but the concepts are much more difficult than putting text on an html page. Good flash requires a little programming and most people are daunted by programming. Good for me because I make a living at it. Bad for the rest of the world.

One of the writers on a web group where I lurk has produced a “Book Trailer” in flash. This is an animated short flash piece that works like a Movie Trailer. It is a teaser for the book. I can possibly think of a few ways to improve what he has done, but looking at it, it is very impressive. I would like to see more words from the book. I want to hear less music or perhaps some juicy quotes over the music. I want to see even more snazzy graphics. That being said, the Trailer Lee has created is dynamite and is a very good starting point. I look forward to Trailer 2.0. His Trailer, by the way, is one of the better examples on Toufee.com

You can see the Book Trailer at Lee Pletzers’ website.

You can create your own Book Trailer for your website at:

Toufee – Create Free Flash Movies!






May 22nd, 2007

Stylin’

I have spent the last 15 years writing basically butt-ugly web pages. I have always been proud that my pages have a certain Joie d’Ordure. I think it has been the absolute lack of aesthetic values that have made my web pages stand out. They are memorable in their butt-ugliness. I have received countless complaints from sensitive web surfers about how my pages hurt their eyes or their sensibilities. These same self same surfers continually return to my pages because I offer something that is hard to find on the internet – good content.

So, when I was asked to teach a course in web page design, I thought it was a joke. Sure, I know how to make a web page. I am up on all the latest CSS tricks and techniques. I am not, however an artist, just a poor mechanic who can cobble together a working page in a matter of minutes.

Last week I finished teaching Art 144 – Web page Design, for the second time, and I have been looking at the student projects and some of them are damn fine. I tried to give the kids in my class all the tools that they could use to make a web page, but little guidance as to what makes a good web page. We discussed it in class, but I limited my comments on design to a saying borrowed from my wife’s aviation career. Any landing that you can walk away from is a good landing – translated to web pages – Any web page you can read is a good web page.

The last four class periods, I banged into their pointed little heads a three-column template. I wanted them to be able to make a top banner, left and right floating columns for ads and menus, and a footer at the bottom of the page. This is very easy to do with CSS, but I wanted them to be able to understand what they were doing so they did not need a template or a cheat sheet. I wanted them to be able to do it in notepad if needed. The CSS is very simple. I wanted them to use DIV tags instead of tables. At least four times each class I started with a blank screen and built the three columns. I had different students try it on the screen and I got it so some of them could call out “Float Left!” when I came to the right place in the style section. The class took this and ran with it.

I suppose I yelled out things like “Don’t use too many fonts”, “Don’t use color unless it really means something”, “Don’t use the marquee tag or the blink tag”, “KISS (keep it simple stupid)”, “Use white space to separate ideas” and so on for the whole three hours. Something must have stuck, because the class projects were very good.

I recently have been faced with declining ad revenue from my harmonica sites. I make up for this with the FreeNameAStar site, but I wanted to do a rewrite on one the harmonica sites to make it more search engine friendly. Using the three column design that I forced on my class, I began to rewrite the site template.

I made the template as simple as I possibly could. I have a top banner 60 pixels high by 100% wide. Above the banner, I have a thin ad link bar. Under the banner, I have a thin strip with a search box and an email contact. The left column is 120 pixels wide and has one ad tower. The right side is 200 pixels wide and has links to my related sites, a drop down box with the archive files, and then links to articles that I’ve written over the years.

The bottom banner has the WebRing code (one of the lost secrets of driving traffic.) It also has the hard coded links to all the articles on the site. I hard coded them in the bottom banner because the rightmost menu is done in JavaScript. Spiders won’t crawl inside of JavaScript so I wanted to make sure that the web spiders find all of my pages, that’s why I link everywhere in the bottom banner area. This bottom banner is a server side include and has the MyBlogLog code and other scripts to help me with the web stats.

I made the right column menu JavaScript to keep the real content nearer to the top of the page. On the old web page, there was so much crap that the spiders didn’t get to the important content until 5K into the html. This hurts me in the search engine rankings.

The context ads on the left hand side are subtly colored, while the rest of the site is starkly black and white. This makes the ads, situated in the “hot spot”, sparkle just a little more.

The site looks a little Web 2.0-ish. I am not fond of that style, but I have to admit that it is easier to read and it loads much faster than it used to.

The results are that in two days of running the new site, I have tripled my eCPM (measure of how many people click ads). The old ads were at the top of the page and on the right hand side after some menus. Now the ads are on the left only (except for the link bars) and are right up against content. The content has more space between entries and some white space padding. The ads are very readable and difficult to ignore. The context ads for my harmonica site are all about harmonica amplifiers, harp amps, and microphones, giving surfers a real reason to click the ads.

I will see if my search engine hits go up as the new page is spidered. This takes months sometimes, as the search engines don’t rebuild their indexes every day. There is always the danger that I took something off the site that will lower my search traffic. 85% of my traffic comes from searches and the rest comes from my die hard fans. I’ll report in a few weeks how my search engine traffic is holding up.

I only applied these changes to the blog part of my pages. Now I have to rewrite all of the other pages. Some are technically in violation of the search engine Terms of service, so I have to get to it. I can apply the new template to every page on the site and if I am lucky, I might double my income.






May 22nd, 2007

blog post from Google docs

This is a document created by Google Docs. Google Docs is a way to share and publish documents on the internet. It is compatible with Microsoft Word documents and Excel Spreadsheets.

This is a test of the ability to publish a blog post from Google docs.

Note: I had to go back and edit the post. It screwed up the title and messed up my blog format.






May 21st, 2007

Neuromancer Movie

After years of legal hassle, they might finally be making the Movie version Gibson’s Neuromancer.

The Garden State Mall used to be an outdoor mall. There are 4 or 5 malls in that part of New Jersey within a mile or two of each other. I used to go with Erica and while she shopped I would hang out at a Science Fiction book store ( I can’t remember the name). At the time it was the only SF book store that I’ve ever seen. I bought Vernor Vinge’s novel True Names at this store. There was a trade paperback of Neuromancer. It was the one with the cool cover that is now worth several thousand dollars. I wanted to buy it, but it was $10 and I did not want to invest my cash in a book with a cool cover and a good first page that might be a dud. I bought another edition later. Ah well, I used to own spiderman #1, but my brother took it and I never thought that it would be valuable some day. I can’t predict the future.

Neuromancer changed my life. It was a very different book. I had already read “Shock Wave Rider” and “True Names”, so I wasn’t surprised by the use of computer technology in a Science Fiction novel. Gibson’s gritty style just amazed me. It was perfect. It made me want to write SF again. Luckily, I lost the cyberpunk novella that I wrote right after reading Neuromancer – it was pretty awful. I soon realized that Gibson has ruined direct man-machine interface for the rest of us. I used it in Girl with the Error Message Eyes, but I used a cell phone/spam paradigm and avoided Gibson’s incredibly rich cyberspace. Vinge’s True Names cyberspace is technically more believable, but he lacks the dangerous plot and sweaty tension of Neuromancer.

I don’t recommend Neuromancer to anyone. It and the two other books in the series are very complex. I know of few people who will be able to follow Gibson. The book is difficult, to say the least. There are a great many twists and turns in the plot that cannot be put into a movie.

Molly Millions is my favorite woman character in any book. She was totally misunderstood and turned into some kind of femme-ninja in the movie version of Johnny mnemonic, totally ignoring the lovesick sadness she feels for her doomed technical boy Johnny. In Neuromancer, she describes how she finds the love of her life murdered. She has at her heart a deep grief. She is a small lost girl hiding behind mirror shades.

Neuromancer will probably be based on the comic book version that I once saw. I can’t imagine capturing 10% of the book in a 2 hour film. It will be full of computer graphics that will try to hide the bad screenplay. The parts of Case and Molly will be played by stone faced actors doing slow motion karate moves. They’ll probably have to cut out the part of the Dixie construct. The whole point of the Neuromancer intelligence at the end will be lost without all of the supporting clues. Amitage’s dangerously ruined personality will be just a manikin used to move the plot.

I don’t go to the movies often and I prefer black and white films from the 1940s to any modern movie that I’ve ever seen. When Neuromancer comes to one of the free cable channels (within a year, no doubt), I might talk Erica into watching it, but her tolerance for crap is much lower than mine.

Read the book – if you dare!

“Neuromancer” Finally Goes Online






May 17th, 2007

The end of the Digital Era

A group of researchers are claiming that analog computers are potentially more powerful than digital ones. For me this is obvious. Digital means dealing in zeros and ones. Analog means smooth variation from zero to one and all the values in between. In digital, things are true or false, in analog things are all shades of gray. An analog computer can be programmed to provide a solution, but can also provide a range or a class of solutions.

In audio, I prefer vacuum tubes to transistors. The tubes provide a natural low noise level and pleasing harmonics, adding to the richness of music. Music played on a vacuum tube amp sound smoother and more realistic. Music from a digital amplifier sounds sterile and cold. This is not just my opinion, but that of thousands of retro audiophiles who collect old equipment and design new applications using a new generation of tubes and transformers.

I prefer vinyl records to CDs for the same reason. In spite of the tendency for records to accumulate pops, hiss and dirt, they almost always sound better than a CD. The CD digital signal loses some of the subtlety of the original analog recordings and sounds flat and antiseptic compared to the organic feeling you get from vinyl.

Analog devices have played a part in some of my stories. I am currently about half way through a story called The End of the Digital Era. It is a little derivative of a story I once listened to called The Anarchist’s Convention, by John Sayles (Read by Jerry Stiller – great!). It was a very funny story about a gang of anarchists holding a convention. They are pushed around by the hotel management and so start a revolution. I thought that aging hackers would be an interesting topic and started writing a story about a Hacker convention in 2035. It features very old hackers who refuse to give up their digital tools in an age when analog devices are coming into their own. The advantage of digital is that building blocks can be created that will fit together easily to make things like CD players or telephones or computers. At some time in the future, MOD (manufacturing on demand) will replace mass production and it will be just as easy to make an analog device as a digital one.

The human brain is analog, not digital. Our senses are analog, not digital. Our world is analog, not digital. I think the digital era is just a phase that will soon fade away, only to remembered by a few die-hard hackers.

EETimes.com – Analog computer trumps Turing model: HAIFA, Israel — Recent developments in computing theory challenge longstanding assumption about digital and analog computing, and suggest that analog computations are more powerful than digital ones.






May 12th, 2007

Stats

J published his stats. He’s doing a lot better than I am. These are my paid sales.
SF: 12
Fantasy: 9
Horror: 2
Sword & Sorcery: 4

In addition to this, I have a 20 or more stories in flash contests and other free venues that I don’t count, and usually aren’t that good. I expect that I made under $100 total sales, which is a little discouraging. There’s not much incentive to submit anymore. I used to do it for the glory, but that wore off. I still write a bit, but not as much as did three or four years ago. I have 11 unpublished stories, 4 of which are out waiting to be disparaged by editors. I have about 20 stories that I think are good enough to be finished that are partially written. I have a partially written novel (about 30,000 words) that I really want to go back and work on someday, because it has some of the best stuff that I’ve ever written in it. I have a 23,000 word novella in the style of H.P. Lovecraft written in the early seventies in longhand, that I think is good enough to type up.

My plan is to retire as early as I can and spend my mornings writing, and then have someone find a trunk of my stuff 100 years after I am dead and finally become famous.