Wanderings

Anything you dream is fiction,
and anything you accomplish is science,
the whole history of mankind is nothing but science fiction.
- Ray Bradbury
September 26th, 2007

MP3 Player

I have finally entered the 21st century. I blew some of my FreeNameAStar.com money on an MP3 player. Almost everyone told me to buy an iPod, but as far as price goes they are too much. I researched MP3 players at AnyThingButIpod.com and I read the requirements for an MP3 book reader at Audible.com and I began to search the discount sites and eBay. Price was my main criterion and storage was the second. It was also an absolute must that the MP3 player be able restart at the point it left off when I turn it off. MP3 books are long and you don’t want to listen to 45 minutes of previously heard novel to get to where you left off.

There are several players that meet these requirements, but I found that I could buy an INOi hard disk player quite reasonably. It has a 20 gig disk drive that can be used to hold backups and software for my PC’s as well as play MP3 and WMF files. It has very rudimentary controls, but it starts up where it left off when you restart it. I am not sure, but it should hold about 500 hours of books or 250 hours of music. I have it loaded up with some stuff that Ward gave me. and some music that I ripped from CDs.

The positives: The INOi is simple to use. The volume is loud when I need it. It works for 13 hours and charges from my USB port. I can use it to store data as well as sound. It was very cheap and about half the cost of a 20gb iPod. It’s not much more than the price of a 20gb 1.5 inch drive alone. It does not mess with my mp3 files or try to convert them like Apple products.

The negatives: I can’t figure out how to fast forward through a file. I have not found a bookmark function. It does not play AA, FLAC, OGG VORBIS, or WAV files. These files are not a requirement as there are converters around, but some of these compress better and it would be nice to fit more stuff on the drive. There are sporadic reports of failures on the reviews, but all MP3 players are fragile and do not survive a drop to hard floor. I just have to be careful with it. INOi is an “off” brand as far as I can tell. It may be the manufacturer of many “name” brand items, but I am not familiar with INOi, so there is no brand trust.

One negative is that I found that I cannot work writing a program and listen to a story at the same time. I keep concentrating on the code and missing things and since there is no fast forward or reverse, I find that I can’t follow the plot. I have a half a dozen blues albums on the thing so I’ll try listening to those next.

INOi.com






September 25th, 2007

Gary Primich

My friend Gary Primich died. He was only 49. I learned more about playing harmonica from Gary than anyone else. He was an amazing teacher. He was one of the smartest persons that I have ever known.

Perhaps he never made it big because he sort of looked like Curly in the three stooges, but some of the greatest players agree that he was possibly the greatest harp player that ever lived.

Here is a video from youtube of an interview that Dave Barret did with Gary last month. Some of Gary’s sweet personality and thoughtful nature comes through.

I also told some Gary stories on JT3.com, my harp blog.

Sorry about the vid, Jim.






September 25th, 2007

Speculative Fiction Bloggers Webring


When you talk about the shape of cyberspace, webrings are one of the ways that cyberspace can be twisted into a circle. A webring is a ring of links. There are probably webrings for everything and they are good for small sites that need readers. People like to follow the ring links to find more pages like the one that they are on. You can see the ring badge over on the right side of this page, down below the recent posts and the amazon ad.

Webrings are a tried and true promotional tool. You don’t get many hits, but they are steady and they grow fast as the ring grows. If you have a blog, you’ll benefit from the traffic on other sites in the ring. When a surfer finishes reading your page, they can click on “next” and go to the next page in the ring. It’s a win-win situation.

The hard part, however is getting the ring code on your page in the right place. When you join up, the webring site gives you a code snippet that you have to copy into your blog template. In Geeklog, you create a widget with the Javascript in it. In Blogger, you have have to edit the template. In WordPress, there is a plugin for putting javascript on your blog, or you can edit the template directly if you are techy enough.

The easiest place to put the javascript is way down at the bottom of the web page template, just before the /body tag. This effectively hides it, though so try to get it into the left or right side panel near your links or blog roll so that it is closer to the top.

The Spec Fic Bloggers badge is 160 pixels wide, just the right size for most blogs.

I just updated the code to bring it into the 21st century. It uses fancy css and gets rid of the clunky table format.

Please join up. The traffic grows exponentially with the number of sites in the ring. 10 sites get four times the traffic as 5 sites. 20 sites get 16 times the traffic as 5 sites. If you know any spec-fic bloggers that have control over their blog templates, send them this way. It will help all of us.

Join the Speculative Fiction Bloggers Webring.






September 25th, 2007

The Crawling Eye

When we were discussing the to 20 great Science Fiction Movies, I forgot this one. It was syndicated to one of the New York City TV stations (probably WPIX) in the late 50s. I watched it one Saturday morning and it scared the hell out of me. There was a shadow of tree branches on the window one night that looked exactly like tentacles coming down from the roof. I had a vivid imagination when I was 8 years old.

The movie stars Forest Tucker who later starred in F-Troop. The effects are cheesey, but when you are a little kid, you don’t notice things like that. It has been called an under appreciated gem. John Carpenter said that this film, with its creatures hidden in the clouds, was the inspiration for his film The Fog (1980). It has been suggested that the E.S.P summoning of the characters to the swiss mountain was, in part, inspiration for Close Encounters of the Third Kind.

It was released in England as The Trollenberg Terror. It was actually a TV serial that was turned into a movie. It would be fun to find the original TV show.






September 24th, 2007

Unsold Story Inventory

I haven’t really sold a story in many months, mainly because I haven’t written much. Recently, Tyree accepted a 150 word short-short for “Between Kisses” and I placed a flash story with “Souther Fried Weirdness” for some time in October. Both are no pay and I always hate when I do that, but I was trying to get down my inventory of unsold stories.

I made a list of the stories that I have completed and have yet to sell. I spent the morning submitting a few of these. Several were written about Hurricane Katrina.

Speed Trap – At 28 and counting this is the King of the Rejections. I love this story and each rejection makes me love it more. Dark story about a man who lays traps for speeding cars so he can rob the wrecks. I just need to find the right market.

La Soer Sans Merci – Flash (not spec fic) about a woman in an evil nursing home during Katrina.

Girl with the Error message Eyes – Story of war, the inescapable media and grieving parents. I thought this was an easy sale, but the story is too dark and has little action. It is had 6 rejects so far. It’s been out at an anthology market for a little bit, but I don’t like selling to anthologies.

The Duke’s Left Eye – Medieval fantasy S&S – hard sell lately. Only OK, not great.

On Ben Klibreck – Scottish ghost story. There is no market for this. It was fun to write, but I am not sure it’s such a good story.

The Window Washer Murder – Cyberpunk – first in a series. I have sold others, but this one is a tough sell.

At the Submarine Races – silly alien contact. I just reread it and I like it, but it may be too much for most markets.

You Can’t think about it – Flash – Vietnam war story (not spec fic) based on a story a friend once told me.

Rescue Boat – Flash Katrina SF story.

The Shunned Well – Lovecraftian short horror (1800 words). Odd, but not that compelling.

Please Leave a Message – short (2k) horror about premature burial – ending is a little too obvious.

Marching Saints – Gruesome horror flash. Another Katrina story.

Gran Gator – Silly flash story about rescue workers and a Huge Gator during Katrina.

A Nest of Flames – 5K Story about fire eaters in the early 1800s. (Currently subbed to TOT). This is the best of the bunch. TOT has had it two months, which is a good sign.

The answer to this is to finish some of the stories that are more than half done. I have a dozen of these that are decent stories and should sell eventually. It’s this damn job. I have to work all day. Waisting my time blogging doesn’t help either.






September 24th, 2007

William Gibson interview at CNN

William Gibson published Neuromancer in 1984. I didn’t read it until I bought the used paperback at The Book Exchange in Philadelphia around 1988. The book altered the way that I think about Science Fiction and inspired me to write a Cyberpunk novella (lost in a failed backup about 15 years ago). Neuromancer was the first book that, when I finished the last page, I went back to the first page and started reading again. I bought Count Zero and Mona Lisa Overdrive as soon as I could find them. I even had to buy the last one in hardcover, because the paperback wasn’t out yet.

These books are hard as diamonds and not an easy read. They are dense with information and full of assumptions about the reader’s ability to keep up with difficult concepts. I sometimes hesitate to recommend them.

I identify most with character Gentry in Mona Lisa Overdrive who is searching for the shape of the nets. Here’s one of my favorite quotes:

“Well, then,” Gentry said, turning, click as the beam died, the light of his obsession burning bright, bright behind his eyes, amplified so powerfully by Kid Afrika’s derm that it seemed to Slick that the Shape must be right there, blazing through Gentry’s forehead, for anyone at all to see except Gentry himself, “that must be just what it is. . . .”

My favorite character is Molly Millions, who first appears in the short story Johnny Mnemonic (avoid the movie – not like the story at all). Molly starts out in the early works as an young woman who has lost the love of her life and is full of anger. She is the love interest of Case, the hacker. By the end of the last book, she is much older and quite jaded, but risks all to save the lives of two young lovers. Did I mention that she has fingernails that extend into razors when she needs to kill someone?

Gibson’s influence on SF is amazing, even twenty years later when the genre seems to be much softer. I prefer the hard edgy writing of the cyberpunks, even now, when many of their themes have turned into cliches. I have a bunch of cyberpunk themed stories in the trunk that I know I can’t sell because the sub-genre is so compelling to new authors. The Matrix and Blade Runner have ruined it for writers like me who admire Gibson’s sentences, which read like well written computer code.

Gibson’s books after the Neuromancer Trilogy are less than interesting. Gibson gave hundreds of interviews, but began to believe his own press. I read Virtual Light, and tried to read Idoru and Pattern Recognition, but I couldn’t get interested in them. I am not going to buy Spook Country, his latest. The CNN blurb reeks of hype. The book can’t be as good as the press is painting it.

It’s time to read Gibson’s Trilogy again.

The ‘spooky’ worlds of William Gibson – CNN.com






September 21st, 2007

SF Heroes How Old?

I received an email asking how old a Science Fiction hero is supposed to be. Of course, the answer is “old enough”, but I am thinking that in many of the best SF stories, the hero is a teenager. They say the Golden Age of Science Fiction is 14. SF heroes tend to be young because the readers are young. Even older readers like me are teenagers in heart and spirit.

Hi!
Might you have some sense of the approximate age of sci-fi heroes? We have a project intended for an adult audience, and the hero is nineteen. When I think of heroes in other genres, the hero seems to be in his early thirties.
Thank you in advance for your input. Of course I would appreciate hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
Best regards,
(Name withheld on request)






September 21st, 2007

The Heinlein Archives

The Heinlein Archives are open.

This is a store where you can buy copies of Heinlein’s files. It consists of scrapbooks and notes, works in progress and other stuff that was found in Heinlein’s filing cabinets.

I am a little disappointed that you can’t buy any originals or hard copies. Originals would be very expensive, though. They sell you a PDF that you download (just like my name a star site).

Fr $3.00 you can buy a copy of Life-Line, Heinlein’s first short story, just as he typed it out to submit to Campbell. I might just go for it.

The Heinlein Archives






September 20th, 2007

IED in Iraq

Check out this close call from an IED that was either buried too deep or didn’t have enough enough fire power. The IED is amazing and extremely frighting. It is hard to understand the people who sign up for this kind of abuse, but one must respect them.

http://shock.military.com/Shock/videos.do?displayContent=149477&ESRC=airforce-a.nl

I read military.com because it is mostly geared toward the average guy in the field. Its politics is definitely ant-Bush, although they are not an overtly political site.






September 20th, 2007

Is the internet good or evil?

Back in the early 1980s, I got my first PC. It was a “luggable” computer that I got cheap through an IBM employee. It was an XT that was about the size of a portable sewing machine or a vacuum cleaner. It was an XT with one floppy disk drive, 256K memory and a small amber screen. I upgraded this with a second floppy, bumped the memory up to 784K and a VGA Wonder card that could display full color (in shades of amber) on the six inch screen. I eventually got a 40 meg drive and I even replaced the motherboard with a 386 cpu with 4 megs of ram. (To put thing in perspective, the crappy Dell desktop that I use here at work costs 1/10 the price in 1984 dollars, and is about 10,000 times as powerful, although only a little more useful.)

I wrote a whole s—- load of code on this machine. I took it to my job at Lockheed every day for four or five years. ( I was the manager of the microcomputer development department, but they would not buy me a PC.) The most useful part of the PC was the modem. I was hooked on the bulletin boards systems (BBS). I partook in many interesting and active threads. I wrote shareware and freeware and was voted one of the top ten shareware authors of 1988. My big hits were image viewers. My software could display hundreds of image formats and convert back and forth between them. I am afraid that often the viewers were used for porn.

The success of windows put me out of business. I did not like writing in C language so I stopped writing shareware until I discovered PHP language about five years ago. I have written a bunch of small PHP utilities that are fairly popular and used on numerous websites. None of them achieved the popularity of my Optiks program in the late 1980s, because non have anything to do with the main drivers on the internet.

The internet seems to be driven by:

1) Pornography.
2) Free Music Downloads.
3) Gaming.
4) Social Interaction.

This seems cynical, but it is a well known fact. The most popular search term at all of the search engines is “Free Porn” and its variations.

There is a school of thought that believes that if you want to make money on the internet you have to have a website that is free, offers porn, ring tones and music, has time wasting games and allows you to have friends.

A friend of mine recently said he was looking for Vernor Vinge Torrents and received about 400 hits a day from that combination of words. (A torrent is a way to steal files with a bit of anonymity, Vernor Vinge is an author whose works are not available in audio). If I were to mention “Oscar Delahoya Torrents” or “Last Comic Standing Winner Torrent” in my blog I can guarantee thousands of hits. (These the two top non-porn search terms of the moment at Google Hot Trends). I have stopped my spoof pages, but Britney Spears Naked made me about $300 dollars in six months. I decided it was just too creepy to make money this way.

This doesn’t mean that the internet is full of porno freaks or ethically challenged music downloaders. It just means that these people are doing a lot of surfing for what they are having trouble finding.

In a previous post, I mentioned Blogger Play and how addictive it is. After watching this site for about 20 minutes, I was impressed with how positive the blog world is. I hear about war and death and pain on TV, but the pictures uploaded to blogs by ordinary people are all about peace and life and happiness. The pictures are almost all uplifting and makes me think that there may be some hope for the internet and the human race.

So… It may appear that the internet world is driven by our baser instincts, but I think that the search engine stats are misleading. I don’t need search engines to find my friends on the internet. I read about 25 blogs a day. Several hundred people read my blog every day. I send a dozen or so emails out every day and receive as many or more from good folks. People like us make up for and then some the negative elements on the nets. I don’t have porn or illegal music or even much social interaction on my websites and I make money. Call me an dope, but I think that what drives the internet is much more good than bad.






September 19th, 2007

Don’s Ghost Movie List

Beetlejuice
Ghost
House on Haunted Hill (the old one)
A Christmas Carol (with Alister Sims) maybe misspelled
Jacob’s Ladder
Poltergeist
1408 (with John Cusack) probably also misspelled
The Entity
Constantine
Volvere (yes, I count this as a ghost movie, so get over it)
The Frighteners ( with Michael J. Fox)
The Gift

only 12,
Don






September 18th, 2007

BBT Mag

BBT us shutting down. I know because I had a humorous story there for about 50 days.

From BBT Editors:

Thanks for your submission and thanks especially for your patience.

We are returning your submission unopened and unread, and freeing it for other markets.

We deeply apologize for any inconvenience or frustration this may have caused you but due to personal reasons, BBT Magazine is shutting it’s doors.

If it wasn’t for bad luck, I’d have no luck at all – Albert King in Born Under a Bad Sign.

Now I have to find another humor market to send them this silly silly story.






September 18th, 2007

The Final Frontier

A casket manufacturer has licensed the Star Trek logo. This is the way that I want to be planted.

Eternal Image Licenses Star Trek(TM) – MarketWatch






September 17th, 2007

Free Name A Star – Sudden Takeoff

My star naming site has suddenly taken off. It got picked up on some discussion boards last night and I have had 5000 hits in the last 8 hours. I made $10 in ads revenue and $50 in sales. I have spent all morning trying to help people who don’t know how to use a printer.

It’s time to revamp the site. I need to add an additional cost item to mail a certificate if they don’t want to print it. I figure it costs about $2 to print out a certificate and put it in a stiff mailer, then another $2.50 to mail in the US. I think people would pay $10 or even $12 for the certificate to be mailed. This is a good profit for 10 minutes work, but you have to count gas and time to go and stand in line at the post office. This needs some thinking.