Archive for March, 2008

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Best Post for Week of 3/29/2008

March 29, 2008

Lynn Viehl of Paperback Writer had a pair of posts this week that had me laughing:

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Post for Week of 3/22/2008

March 23, 2008

I intentionally left the “Best” off of this week’s post because of the content.  One of the grandmasters of science fiction and science vision, Arthur C. Clarke, died this week at the age of 90.  Clarke was a good writer who also led a very interesting life – two things to which I aspire.

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Time Travel and "Alina’s Gambit"

March 20, 2008

We’ve been making adequate progress on TheNovel these last couple of weeks.  TheNovel has now cleared the 50,000 word mark, which was quite a thrill.  We’re somewhere between a third and a half of the way through the story being told, so the final first draft should end up being between 100,000 and 150,000 words.  I’ve already been making some mental notes of areas that I think are dragging on too long, so I’m sure that will get cut down somewhat.

We have a list of things in previous chapters that need some additional attention, and I made myself promise that I would go back and tidy those items up before continuing on.  That will take up at least the next week’s writing, I’m sure.

We also came up with a tentative title for TheNovel a while back – “Alina’s Gambit”.  The title came from the first half of the climax of the story.  While I think it would make a great chapter title, we hadn’t planned on titling the chapters, so CJ thought it might be a good title for the book overall.  It doesn’t really give away anything about the plot or the ending, it sounds halfway decent, and it tells you who the book is primarily about – our protagonist, Alina.  I have to admit, it is growing on me.

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Well, it IS the NESA

March 15, 2008

I received a post card in the mail recently from the National Eagle Scout Association (NESA) saying that they were trying to track down all Eagle Scouts, and compile some basic information about them – their whereabouts, what they’re doing now, etc..  According to the post card, it was the first compilation of its kind.

What was really interesting about this post card was that it was mailed to my current address.

Now, you have to understand that I became an Eagle Scout over 15 years ago, and shortly after earning it I basically dropped out of Scouting, not because of a lack of interest so much as that other things became priorities.

It was astonishing that they would have had my current address considering I’ve never contacted them to update it, and both I and my parents have moved several times since then.  So how did they find me?

I voiced all of this to my wife, who merely replied “Well, they’re the Boy Scouts.  Aren’t they supposed to be able to find you?”

Ok.  I admit it.  I got pwned.

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Best Post for Week of 3/15/2008

March 15, 2008

TechEBlog.com has a few pictures of a French concert hall that changes colors.  With a facade like this, who needs a marquee?  This could be a large 30×250-ish color display.

I have to admit, as beautiful as the building is my first thought when I saw the title of “World’s First Color Changing Concert Hall” was that the color changes were inside the building.  Wouldn’t it be cool to have the inside of a concert or theatre hall change colors in time with the performance?

When the young lovers meet for the first time, the walls of the hall would glow a light green or blue.  When the dastardly villain makes his appearance, they would change to a menacing red.

I know.  I know.  As if the tech crew didn’t have enough to juggle already.

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Best Post for Week of 3/8/2008

March 8, 2008

This week is another where the Best Post nod was written by the inner geek.  TecheBlog.com has feature today titled “Laptop Designs that Think Outside the Box“, and one of the machines featured in the post really caught my attention – the LG E-Book.

The most interesting part of this laptop is not that it has an OLED display, which means it draws less power than more conventional laptop displays, and since it doesn’t require a wrap-around frame the visible display can literally go to the edge of the physical screen.

The most interesting part isn’t that the keyboard is actually a second OLED display (essentially a large touchscreen).

The most interesting part is the glowing blue cylinder shown in the picture – a tube of flammable liquid that doubles as the machine’s carrying handle.  Instead of using a lithium-ion battery that stores electricity it gets from being plugged into an outlet, the E-Book uses a fuel cell that produces electricity through a chemical reaction.  TecheBlog says the primary fuel is “blue methyl alcohol”, while Laptoping.com says it can use “natural gas, methanol, and other eco-friendly liquid fuels“. 

I haven’t found any information on the E-Book that was more recent than late 2006.  The Laptoping.com article was published December 2, and even the one official press release on the E-Book that I could find from LG was dated November 27 of that year.

Still, the concept of a fuel-cell powered laptop really intrigues me.  If the power to run the machine comes from liquid that you have to periodically replace and not from an outlet, that should mean that there isn’t a power adapter required.  In other words that’s one less piece of hardware you have to lug around with you through airports.

Then again, I seriously doubt you’d be able to take the E-Book with you on a flight (at least here in the States).  Try explaining to the nice TSA officers why you need to carry more than three ounces of a flammable liquid with you on board.

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Left Brain, Right Brain, and Music

March 1, 2008

I will probably never be accused of being an audiophile, but I do like listening to music.  Most of the time, the music is not an ends in itself, but rather accompaniment to something else that I doing, such as driving, playing video games, and especially programming.  I say “especially” because programming is far and away the most frequent and most time consuming activity I perform while listening to music.

I noticed a while ago that I can’t listen to music while I write prose, however.  For some reason the music, even instrumental music, distracts me too much.

This past week, though, I began to take inventory of the programming-related things that I don’t – or can’t – do to music.  If I am researching a bug, writing a technical specification, or thinking about how to architect a solution, I find that I more times than not take the headphones off.  Once I have a clear path to what I’m doing, I can don the ‘phones once again, and madly type away.

At first blush, writing software would appear to be very left-brain, analytical, logical work.  Writing fiction would appear to be very right-brain, intuitive, creative work.  For those readers that have never written a software program, you might be surprised to learn that there is quite a bit of creativity that goes into a piece of software.  It’s not all 1’s and 0’s – most of the time we programmers are trying to find a solution that maximizes functionality, usability, performance, maintainability and a half dozen other frequently-conflicting attributes.  The left hemisphere will get you to a point, but the truly elegant solutions require at least a little input from the right.

What was a little surprising to me in these last few months is the amount of logic and analysis that I’ve had to put into writing TheNovel.  Sure, there have been multiple sparks of intuition and creativity needed to flesh out the story, but there has also been a lot of left brain activity too: “Why is it about X’s past that would justify them saying this?”  “If Y used their magic in this way, what would happen?”  “Z was in this scene one day, and then they just appear in that scene the next day – what did they do in the interim, and is it important for the story?”  A hundred questions that need to be answered to make the story feel more plausible, and only a handful that seem answerable by intuition alone.

So where does music fit in?

It seems that the activities that I can perform to music are the ones that require less of my right hemisphere than the others.  Perhaps the music distracts the right side, and while it is off enjoying the audio input the left side can function better.  When I need the right side more, I have to turn off the music so it won’t be so distracted.

Perhaps there are aspects to writing software that I’ve done so many times that I can do them almost on autopilot, but others require more of my attention.  With writing prose, because I’ve only really been doing it for a few months, ALL of it requires my full attention.

What’s really ironic in writing this post is that while I’m not listening to music right now, I can’t help but think that if I were I might find a better explanation.