Non-Writing Update: Week Ending April 27, 2013

And thus endeth the seventh consecutive week, and the thirteenth overall this year (out of a total of seventeen weeks so far) in which I had not the slightest time for writing.

I would normally expect to revisit my goals for the year sometime in late June or early July.  But by next week I’ll have exhausted my propsed 14-week allotment of writing-free weeks for the year, with only a third of the year gone.  It is self-evident, at this point, that I will not be coming anywhere close to my writing goals for the year.  That’s how things go.  I can whine and make excuses – and I usually do – but at the end of the day it comes down to this: I basically don’t have anything like “free time”.  (When I went to JordanCon last weekend, I was living on borrowed time.  That sort of thing is an extremely rare event these days.  I owe Dear Wife a day or two out on her own while I manage the little guys, and I owe her a huge debt of gratitude.) 

Given that I have no true free time, the time that I do have is almost entirely consumed by things that have higher priority and greater claim on me than my writing which, as important as it is to me, does not feed anyone and, heck, doesn’t even bring in date money.  So yeah: Day job, taking care of B.T. and V.R., trying (and sometimes failing) to be a good husband and father, trying (and sometimes failing) to be responsible around the house.  These are the things that take all of my time, lately.  Heck, it’s been well over a week since I even read anything for enjoyment.

Still, I’ve got no way to even guess how things will go as the year progresses, in terms of my available time and the demands thereon.  So there’s no point in revisiting those goals, yet.  Suffice to say that I’m hard into the process of stomping the broken pieces of my 2013 goals into a fine, powdery dust.  Maybe I’ll make something useful out of the debris for next year?

This week one of the new things on my plate was a return of some Home Project stuff.  (Did I mention, before, that Home Projects are basically a never-ending cycle of stuff that needs doing.)  Two things are currently on the collective plate of Dear Wife and I: first, we’re starting work on turning what used to be a laundry closet (complete with washer and dryer hookups) into an honest-to-goodness pantry.  The washing machine and dryer are elsewhere, and this closet immediately adjoins the kitchen.  And we need a pantry.

We’ve been using the space as a pantry already, but it’s all very ad-hoc and not very conducive for that use.  We’re not using the space very efficiently.  There’s some dry-wall to patch up, some old and not-space-efficient shelves to pull out, painting to do and new shelves to put in.  I’m not the world’s handiest man, so this all sounds very daunting to me. (Note: As of this writing, one of the more daunting tasks in the pantry job has been done; Dear Wife and I successfully removed the old cabinetry, making space for the new shelves to go in.  Drywall repair comes next.)

Second, pursuant to a relatively recent natal anniversary of mine, I was endowed with the capacity to acquire a permanent display case for my “collection”.  By which I mean, I spent a goodly chunk of the weekend getting my hands on a pair of bookshelf units which will soon be the home for all of my books.  I’m not a true book-hoarder, but I’ve got a good few books lying around in different places.  Some are stashed under my bed, some are boxed up and stored away, some sitting on my nightstand, and so on.  Some are in a pile waiting to be sorted and prioritized, which arrived as part of the festivities related to the aforementioned natal anniversary, to whit: The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin, Throne of the Crescent Moon by Saladin Ahmed, a Prydain Chronicles companion/encyclopedia, and the original novelizations of the original Star Wars movies.  That adds to my pile of unread books that I physically have on hand – though the first three books were already on my wish and reading lists.

The bookshelves are going in what is going to be (for now) the combination Office & Craft Room.  There’s a bit of work to do there, too: painting, obtaining a desk (and chair), filing everything important that needs to be filed, and so on.  Also daunting. 

I’m happy to (eventually) be getting an office.  Someday, I may even be able to use it.  The theory is Dear Wife and I can both spend time in there together, she working on various crafts, and I in my writing.  But we’re a very long way from that second part being viable.  Still, it’s exciting.

So that’s how my week went.  In the comments, if you dare, tell us about how things are with you.

Links to Chew On: In One Fell Swoop

Wow… Has it been a while since I cleaned out my link supply.  I guess it’s well and past time, now, isn’t it?  So here’s a half-year’s supply of links for you to gorge in one fell swoop.

(Incidentally… it’s taken this long because I typically don’t just post the links, I often include my own commentary.  That takes a lot of work and blogging time.  Of necessity, my commentary on these links will be kept to a minimum.)

  • John Scalzi and David B. Coe were just two of the authors who weighed in when Amazon announced their new author ranking tool.  Neither was terribly enthused, and neither took the bait.  Myself?  I can’t say I have an opinion that counts; I’ve got no dogs in this race. 
  • Mary Robinette Kowal shares some words of wisdom as she parses the difference between “audience” and “market”.  A hint: you want someone to read your story, right?  Who is it that you hope will read it?
  • Some people don’t quite trust the “cloud”, or Amazon.  This story of a user whose data was wiped by Amazon without explanation is part of the reason why.  Some further perspective and updates on this story could be found here and here.
  • SCIENCE!  It boggles the mind!  Imagine if this artificial leaf technology proved viable, and really took root…
  • SCIENCE!  It boggles the mind!  Imagine if we could develop viable technology based on the insanely mind-boggling weirdness of Quantum Entanglement that somehow enabled faster-than-light communications! 
  • I’ve occassionally been critical of some aspects of Apple’s business… but when it comes to criticizing Apple, this is is just a bridge too far.  Seriously… literal demonization is for intellectual lightweights
  • SCIENCE is SCIENCE!  It still boggles the mind!  Also, space opera-class tractor beams, here we come!  (Imagine the real-world practical applications of a system like this.)
  • I know I’m the last geek on the internet left to opine on this, but, hey, did you hear Disney bought Star Wars?  What am I thinking.  Of course you did.  It was only the biggest news in Geekdom when word got out.  I found some additional (and interesting) reactions here, here, and here.  Actually, I do have a somewhat unique opinion of my own to share on the topic: Prequel Remakes, anyone?  As in… Prequels that don’t suck!? I actually have an idea or two about how that might work – what you need to keep and what you need to jetison – and it’s a lot more complicated than “Kill Jar Jar Binks”.  If anybody actually cared enough to ask, and I found the time to answer, I might share those thoughts in another post.
  • Surprisingly, there wasn’t a lot of chatter in the Writing World, that I saw, talking about the Random-House/Penguine merger.  Here’s the NY Times, Hollywood Reporter, and Publisher’s Weekly on the proposal (which, as I understand, has subsequently been green-lit by a Justice Department that’s clearly asleep at the wheel).  Speaking strictly from a business-strategy perspective, this is bad for writers, inasmuch as it presents a strategic “threat” (in the classic “SWOT” analysis style) to writers.  The reasoning is fairly simple: for writers publishing in the traditional industry, the publishers are their customers (not the actual readers, although the readers are still very highly relevant; see above-linked wisdom from Mary Robinette Kowal on audience vs. market).  When the suppliers in an industry (i.e. the writers) are many in number and the customers (i.e. the publishers) are few, that creates an imbalance of power in favor of the customers, who are able to negotiate/force lower prices or customer-favorable terms on the suppliers.  (This is the same effect that allows Wal-Mart to lean so heavily on its suppliers.)  That means, ultimately, that less money will flow toward writers.  It’s bad for readers too, because of the opposite effect: when suppliers (in this case the publishers) are very few in number, and customers very many, the suppliers have disproportionate power to force customers to accept whatever terms they dictate.  This is why monopolies have traditionally been considered bad in America (although the government’s monopoly-fighting powers have been severely restricted and defanged in the last few decades).  For some further thoughts and legal analysis, check out Scrivener’s Error on the subject.
  • Hey, did you hear there’s a whole new way to get published, these days?  It’s called self-publishing. But with new publishing dynamics comes new ways to scam would-be authors.  Here’s John Scalzi, again, with a warning note about one of the myriad new ways self-published authors may find themselves on the business end of a scam operation…
  • Did Nathan Bransford really just compare the biographies of Steve Jobs and George Washington to NaNoWriMos?  Nathan clearly knows his stuff, but his argument that even without the traditional publishing industry large-scale, high-quality, critically and culturally important, time consuming and expensive books will still be produced sounds a bit off-key.  His pointing toward Kickstarter as a means of funding 500,000-dollar epic biographies and such doesn’t bear any meaningful resemblance to reality.  (How many crowd-funded Kickstarter publishing projects can you name?  I can think of only a small handful, some even quite successful, but none with which I am familiar are at all comparable to a Steve Jobs or George Washington biography.)  Nathan also misses the mark in a big way by arguing that books are commodities.  Some books, perhaps, are.  But many books, and especially the most important books, and possibly most books generally, lack a critical element of what makes a good a commodity: fungibility.  The fact is, one book is not easily traded for another; one author is not the same as the next.  Because of this, books are different than commodity goods.  That’s just basic economics.  This doesn’t necessarily negate the question of whether books should be cheaper and easier to produce, or whether digital disruption is a good thing, or the fact that there are big problems in the traditional publishing world.  But it does undermine some of the basic underpinnings of Nathan’s argument. 
  • Speaking of Kickstarter, here’s the story of one of those very few successful publishing Kickstarters with which I am familiar: Tobias Buckell’s Kickstarting of his new novel The Apocalypse Ocean.  I haven’t read the other books in this series (this is the fourth; the first three were traditionally published) but the first book in this series is still on my To Read list (which I’m sure I’ll catch up to eventually).  The story of Buckell’s Kickstarter campaign makes for some pretty fascinating reading.  Obviously this relates to the pri0r link, and in case you missed it, I threw in a second link to an interview Buckell did in which he discussed his Kickstarter experience.
  • The State of My Career“, in which author Jim Hines responds to critics of his who popped up on the blog of Kristine Rusch (here).
  • The  Encyclopedia of Fantasy is Free?  Oh, here it is…   
  • Here’s a fun little article on the Macroeconomics of Middle-Earth (and the impact of Smaug)… because DRAGONS!
  • It is the conventional wisdom, now, among the brashest cheerleaders of self-publishing that you will automatically make MOAR MONEY self-publishing than you can going the traditional publishing route because ZOMG 70% ROYALTIES!  AMAZON 4EVR!  But best-selling author John Scalzi would like to disabuse you of that notion as he discusses how the finances of an e-book “gold mine” would actually work out for him, based on the data and sales of his most recent best-seller.  Short form: self-publishing will work for some, of course, but it is not automatically the best decision, financially speaking, for every author.  (About which, Scalzi has another thing to say about the reasons writers write.  Yes, it’s about artistic stuff or love of story, or whatever.  But, quite frankly, it’s also about the money.  Not “get rich quick” money, but “hey, I could do this for a living” money.  There’s nothing wrong with that.)
  • Bilbo’s “Contract” with the Dwarves… Because Hobbits!
  • Tobias Buckell shares some thoughts on being a pro-writer
  • There’s been a lot of interest bubbling up around the idea of resales of ebooks.  Here’s John Scalzi with some thoughts on this recent Publisher’s Weekly piece that speculates on an Amazon patent filing; there are some interesting comments from readers on Scalzi’s post. Scalzi follows up with an additional thought. But that’s not the end of the story, as Tobias Buckell points out a news story on a judicial ruling on the resale of mp3s, and suspects this will have an impact on the idea of reselling ebooks.  The Guardian takes a crack at the topic, as well (with an extended aside on the subject of the difficulty of citing e-texts in academic papers). I suspect we have not heard the last of this, yet…
  • Macmillan Settles with the DOJ: And thus this particular episode of Publishing Cat Fight (that is, episode 3.x, “Major Publisher Collusion vs. The Trustbusters”) came to a close… but the show promises more shenanigans and hijinks in future seasons.  (You knew the networks were going to renew this one…)
  • Speaking of more shenanigans and hijinks… Independent Booksellers sue Amazon and the DRM-happy Big publishers, because DRM as it’s currently implemented effectively locks Independent Booksellers out of the e-book market.  Not surprisingly, John Scalzi has a few thoughts on this, which I feel merit linking.  But there’s another perspective on this lawsuit that needs to be considered, as well: the technical side.
  • Speaking of DRM, Tor UK has a run-down of what it’s been like after one-year DRM-Free.  The short take-away: Tor UK thinks the move has been “hugely positive”.
  • I’m sure you’ve heard by now about the Epic Smack-Down battle between SFWA and Random House with their new e-book imprints such as Hydra and Alibi?  Well, here’s a link rundown of what I’ve seen on the story: I first became aware of the story when John Scalzi (outgoing president of the SFWA) noted that it looked like RH’s Hydra imprint was trying to suck authors dry.  He followed up with an assessment of an actual contract from Hydra’s sister imprint Alibi. Scalzi’s assessment? RH was acting like Jurassic Park’s “raptors at the fences“, systematically testing the resolve of hungry-for-publication authors for weaknesses.  Publisher’s Weekly carried RH’s response to SFWA’s slamming.  SFWA provided an official response here. John Scalzi had further thoughts and musings on the event related to advances and negotiating power. As part of the fallout to the debacle, Random House made changes to the contracts at Hydra and Alibi. Scalzi further opined on the changes made to the contract (tl/dr: good on RH for changing the contracts after public outrcy, but mostly those contracts still sound like they suck; note: this is my reading of it, and may not comport with the author’s actual intentions).  Literary agent Evan Gregory responded to the whole story with a defense of “royalty-only contracts” as a viable path to publication for many niche-genre writers.  But the legal shark from the Scrivener’s Error law blawg smelled blood in the water… here’s Scrivener’s analysis of the end result, and from a legal perspective, the shark is not pleased.
  • I still see the “No Adverbs” writing advice zombie periodically rear its misbegotten head, but this is perhaps the final take-down of that silly and erroneous writing advice.  To extend the zombie metaphor: it’s a headshot.
  • This video about Damsels in Distress in video games makes a lot of awesome points, and is well worth watching.  But the big take-away for me, as a fan of the Zelda game franchise?  Based on this vid’s mock-up of a Master Sword-weilding Zelda, I would so play a Zelda game where Zelda was the protagonist and got to kick but with sword and shield. She looks awesome as her own Hero.  Maybe this time Ganon targets the other piece of the Triforce and Zelda has to save Link?  Yeah.  I’d play that.  Here’s the home site for this video series, and I look forward to more of these at Feminist Frequency (where there are more videos on other topics of interest to speculative fiction fans).
  • So… Amazon purchased Goodreads… This has inspired a a number of folks to opine on the acquisition and its implications, including here, here, and here.  For myself: I was this close to jumping into Goodreads and setting up an account.  I mean really: this close.  As in, it was really more a question of when would I find the time than if I would.  But now?  I’m going to wait.  I’ve let Amazon have enough of its claws on my personal preferences.  I’d prefered to have had a separate, independent place that filled Goodreads’ role.  So, we’ll see how the site evolves and Amazonifies before I decide to take another look at it.
  • In which Tobias Buckell vents about frustration with news media that wanted to make him a poster child for the Brave New World of Publishing, and then lost interest when they learned he was taking a hybrid approach.  The money quote: “In retrospect, I should do what a couple other preachers of the new digital movement do. Decry traditional publishing, say you should go it alone, while working with a corporate behemoth of my own anyway so I get hybrid career and the attention boost.”  This is so true: nearly to a man most of the biggest names in digital self-publishing have achieved their success by simultaneously shouting about the death of large-scale corporate publishing and the virtues of the go-it-alone approach while raking in the benefits of deals and agreements with large corporate publishers of one kind or another. (Chuck Wendig has some mirror-image-like thoughts on the same matter.)
  • Dramatic publishing debacles are never, it seems, in short supply.  This time it’s Night Shade Books – which has published some pretty great stuff, but apparently has been financially mismanaged for years.  They want to pay back all their authors the  royalties they’re owed.  But to do it, they’re going to sell those author’s contracts, and force some pretty onerous contract changes going forward, like a sharp cut in royalties and some provisions that are ripe for abuse.  At least, that’s the picture I’ve gleaned from a variety of sources that have shared opinions on the subject.  Here’s Jason Sanford, Michael Stackpole, Tobias Buckell, agent Joshua Bilmes, Justin Landon of Staffer’s Book Review and Girl Genius creators Phil and Kaja Foglio with more on the whole sordid tale.  (In fact, that’s just the beginning… each of those has several more links you can follow to find even more juicy details.)  Obviously, I don’t have a dog in this fight – I’m a “pre-published” writer, so-to-speak, and have no business connection with Night Shade nor with any of their authors.  But based on the information I’ve seen in these places, were I in a position to have the choice the Night Shade authors have before them, I’d probably say: thanks, but no thanks; I’ll take my chances in bankruptcy court.
  • Chuck Wendig isn’t actually arguing with Hugh Howey in “Indie First? What Is Best In Publishing?” (The obvious two possible answers: “To crosh the traditional publishers, see dem driffen before you, and hear de lamentations of deir big box bookstores.” vs. “To crosh the self-publishers, see dem driffen before you, and hear de lamentations of deir poorly designed covers.”  Take your pick.)  Sadly… Howey and many of those who are cheerleaders for the digital self-publishing model are so far into “One-True-Wayism” that a relatively moderate voice like Wendig saying “Hey, waitaminnit, there’s more than one path, and different paths will be better for different people for different reasons” sounds, to these One-True-Wayers, like an attack.  The best quote from Wendig’s article, for my money: “Preference matters. The parameters of happiness and satisfaction are not universal across all of authordom. When you say something is best, you’re speaking in terms so simplistic they’re meaningless. Best how? Best for money? Readership? Respect? Happiness? Everybody has a different metric…” This is a microcosm of one of the most important lessons I learned in my MBA: How you measure something, and the metrics you use to measure it, matters, and to arrive at a useful comparison between options, you need to be able to be able to take account for a variety of different preferences on a variety of different axes of measurement.  When you put useful though like this into something, you won’t come out with a “Option A is the BESTXRS 4EVR!”  Instead, you’ll have a useful model into which people can input their own preferences and ideal outcomes and come out with the best individualized option that meets their own preferences.  Wendig’s article is sort of an analog, purely-qualitative version of a useful model like that, and it’s well worth the read.  Tobias Buckell, who has linked to Howey as a voice of reason on self-publishing before, has this to say on a related topic (vis-a-vis Howey using his platform in unpallatable ways): “Don’t punch down“.
  • A short film… Because ZOMBIES! And also Heartstrings! Yeah, I found this zombie/father-themed short flick both moving and refreshing.  You should check it out.
  • It turns out: this whole digital self-publishing revolution?  We’ve been there before.  In “Nobody’s Job But Yours“, webcomic artist and self-published novelist K.B. Spangler discusses the similarities in the boom & bust of the two media.
  • Because this is something important, I’m going to link it: “David Farland’s lack of insurance due to refusal of insurers to let him sign up for a plan” by Tobias Buckell with a link to this article: “An Army of Friends Rally Around Best Selling Author David Farland“.  I’ll leave to the reader as an exercise a study of the political, social, and moral implications of this story…
  • Charlie Stross muses on some ways that publishing could change, if legacy boilerplate contracts were modified to fit modern market realities…
  • And Stross again, back on the subject of self-publishing, on why he feels it would not work for him… this touches very briefly on something I’ve been musing, myself, about self-publishing.  In the modern digital self-publishing paradigm, I’ve wondered at what factors help or inhibit success.  The relative prolificity of an author seems to be one such factor.  Many of those who are successful cite the size and growth of the backlist as a key factor of their success.  This, then, favors authors who can write faster.  Authors who, for whatever reason, take longer to write a good book… may be at a disadvantage in the digital self-publishing world.

Non-Writing Update: Week Ending April 20, 2013

It was a week filled to full with Action! Adventure! and Intrigue!

No, really.

First the Action!  Fairly early in the week I proved once again my superior grace, athleticism, and acrobatic talents – it’s uncanny how uber I am – by gracefully, athletically, and acrobatically falling down the stairs.

Lesson learned: don’t try to carry B.T. down the stairs while wearing technologically-advanced footwear designed for superior slipperiness.  Or, you know, socks

Don’t worry, no one was hurt.  Much.  B.T. was fine within minutes, and exhibited no ill symptoms.  I held him tight to myself as I fell, so that if anything hit or broke anything, it would be me and not him.  Speaking of hitting and breaking – oh boy did I hit.  And my fragile ego? Broken.  Absolutely shattered.  My posterior was in pain for several days.  And also my right elbow.  (I don’t even remember hitting my elbow on the way down.)  Oddly, it’s been the elbow that has been in pain the longest.  My bottom side recuperated wihtin a few days.  But my elbow is still bothering me.

I don’t think there were any broken bones, but none of the pain was sufficiently debilitating to warrant a check-up.  I still retain full motion in my arm, I just can’t put much pressure on the elbow.  It’s getting better day-by-day.

But even if I broke no bones, I sure did break the stairs.  Well, one stair, really.  The wooden step split right in two.  So this week Dear Wife and I had to obtain “things required for the repair of a broken stair”.  Liquid nails, it turns out.  And actual nails, too.  But the wood of the step was so hard that I had to pre-drill the holes for the actual nails.  But I pre-drilled them too small and the nails wouldn’t go through without breaking the nails.  So I had to pull those nails and redrill the holes bigger.

And there you have it: I’m clearly a hard-@##.  My bottomside broke a piece of wood that is so hard it breaks metal nails.  Boo-yah!

The Adventure! part I’d mentioned before.  This weekend I went to JordanCon; my second time going.  It was big this year – at least compared to the prior time I went.  I don’t know all the details of the event, but I know they broke prior attendance records.  It all ran smoothly, and the operations were pretty sophisticated.  There were more guests this year than two years ago – more authors, more artists, and this time several editors and agents, even.  And there was quite the variety of panels.  I was able to meet more authors, and even met one of the agents, and ask a few useful questions that may help guide my writing and career.

What’s more, I ventured out on one of those days to JordanCon with little V.R. in tow, and carried him around the con.  He proved much more popular and attention-grabbing than yours-truly.  I gaurantee you there are people from the con who won’t remember me, but who’ll remember that guy carrying a baby.  That, by itself, was quite the adventure.

I’ll have more to report on JordanCon when I have the time to decompress myself, the time to unpack my thoughts, and the time to actually, you know, write it all up.

As for Intrigue!  Well, I mostly made that part up.  There wasn’t really any Ingtrigue! this last week.  I mean, not counting that secret spy mission I was sent on personally by the President of the United States.*  But that’s all hush hush, you know.  If I told you, I’d have to kill you.

*Note: I was not sent on a secret spy mission by the President of the United States.  Also, I don’t have to kill you.  Which is good because I don’t think I could if I had to.

So that’s how my week went.  How was your week?

Con-Bound

A couple years ago, I had the opportunity to attend JordanCon, which is the nearest-to-me and most affordable convention focused on speculative fiction literature (in this case, specifically on the writings of the late Robert Jordan and other like-minded fantasists, of course). 

I couldn’t go last year, for reasons varied and not necessary to detail.

But this year, through the magic of magic… I’ll be there again.

So yeah, if you happen to sometimes read this blog and happen to be going to JordanCon 2013… drop me a line and say hello.

If we  haven’t previously met in person… well… I look roughly like the guy who’s picture appears on my twitter profile.  (It’s me.)

(Okay, you got me.  It’s me like 4 years ago.)

Non-Writing Update: Week Ending April 13, 2013

Another week, in many respects similar to the last.  Same busy work schedule and busy home-life schedule and all that.

One of the events of greatest import last week was the arrival of Pollenmageddon.  It’s an annual disaster of epic proportions around here, where everything below tree-height that’s standing still for more than ten minutes at a time gets painted yellow.  Because pollen counts: astronomical.  My city is notorious for being bad for allergy sufferers.

The effect of this is that one of the regular home-maintenance types of projects for this week was starting to clean up from the polleny mess.  I started by sweeping out our screened back porch and spraying down the porch furniture.  We still have to finish the back deck and the front porch, as well as our driveway.

I tried to grill out again, this weekend, but ran into a small problem: I’d run out of fuel for the job.  So I’ll have to pick up some more in the coming weeks. Dear Wife and I both enjoy when I grill out.

While I still didn’t write anything this week – as is obvious by my doing a “non-writing” update instead of a writing update – I did begin work on a project that will hopefully better enable me to write in the near future. 

Sound cryptic?

Don’t worry.  I’m gonna break it down.

You see, one of the biggest reasons why I’m not able to find time to write these days – second, really, after being the father of a toddler and an infant with a very busy full-time day-job – is that I’m not able to take advantage of what, to me, are the mythical “fifteen minutes” that everyone says you need to find here and there.  In theory I have the same 15-30 minute micro-opportunities for writing that any other writer has.  (They’re not good for my writing – I do my best work when I’m an hour or longer groove of writing, but I almost never get whole blocks of time like that, these days.  Writing in 15-minute bursts wreaks havoc on my pacing – as those of you who may perchance volunteer to alpha-read “The Story of V” will undoubtedly discover.)  In practice, increasingly, I’m completely incapable of taking advantage of those short bursts of free time.

The reason?  My computer.

It sounds like a cop out.  But I’m serious.

My computer is somewhere in the 5-6ish year-old territory.  That’s oldish for a computer, but that’s not a killer.  If it runs and does what it’s supposed to do, then good on it.  Except, it doesn’t run very well.  I’m running a 32-bit version of Windows Vista on my machine (I can already hear some of you groaning from here).  Vista alone already doesn’t have a terribly good reputation for memory management.  That’s part of the problem.  The 32-bit part means there’s a hard upper-limit to how much memory the system can even use.  In other words, there’s a point at which adding memory will do nothing to speed up the machine.  What’s more, my 100+ GB hard-drive is about 95% full (family photos and music files take up a large chunk, and Windows system files that I can’t make  heads or tales of take up the next biggest chunk).  Now, I didn’t take any OS theory classes when I got my minor in Comp Sci all those years ago, but I think it works something like this: the OS has to keep a cache record of the system addresses for all those files.  And that means that just keeping track of what I’ve already saved on the system takes up a significant chunk of the system’s resources.

Yeah, I’m not an expert here, despite the aforementioned 10-year-old Comp Sci undergrad minor.  Regardless, whether my description of the causes is wholly accurate or only marginally reflective of an alternate version of reality, the net result is the same: it literally takes anywhere between 5 and 15 minutes just to boot up.  From the time the desktop first appears, I’m still locked out for several more minutes (this is part of that magnificently insane boot-up time).  Opening each individual program or file (I keep open several Word documents while writing: my outline, my current scene, the previous scene, and any prior scenes that relate to the current action so I can fact-check myself as I go) takes several minutes each.  By the time I’d finally be ready to start writing… I’d have lost all but a tiny fraction of that supposed 15-30 minutes of free time.  If I had a couple hours of free continguous writing time, I could live with this.  But I don’t.

So what am I doing about it? No, not buying a new computer.  (I wish.)  But I’ve had a mostly-empty external USB hard-drive for years.  And now I’m offloading as much of my actual stuff as I can.  (Not much I can do about the massive number of windows system files which, I suspect, come from way to many freaking updates.)  I’ve dumped my photos folder, which includes all my family photos as well as a large number of very large GIMP files where I’d been working on some world maps for one of my fantasy novel projects.  I’m clearing out my documents.  Next up: my music files.  I believe this will give me back several minutes every time I turn it on (or wake it up, as I often don’t turn the computer all the way off, having been under the apparently mistaken impression that the computer would boot faster from Sleep than it does from Off).  If I can reclaim even five minutes from any given boot up, that might give me just enough time to actually get some writing done.  We’ll see in the weeks ahead.

So that’s life at the Casa Chez Watkins.  How are things down at Casa Chez Tu?

2013: Movies of Interest

The first of the two big Movie Seasons is almost upon us… indeed I daresay it starts rather soon.  Last year, I wrote about the upcoming flicks that had captured my interest.  I thought it would be a fine idea to do so again.  In fact, if I can remember in time next year, maybe this’ll be an annual feature.

Here are the movies that have caught my interest this year, in a sort-of-order of my interest:

  1. The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug With a few relatively minor caveats (Storm Giants, anyone? What the Helsinki was that, and how, exactly, was it even remotely necessary for the movie?) I thoroughly enjoyed the first of the planned Hobbit trilogy, as I had expected to.  Being a huge fan of both the Lord of the Rings books and movies, I’m sure it comes as no surprise that the next Hobbit movie is my top flick-to-see in 2013.
  2. Man of Steel Only one comicbook superhero ranks higher on my all-time favorite list than Batman, and that is his boyscout, super-powered, primary-color-clad sometimes friend and rival Superman.  So yes: I plan to see the latest incarnation of the cinematic Superman, and I have very high hopes.
  3. The Hunger Games: Catching Fire Dear Wife and I quite enjoyed first Hunger Games movie (well, I did; I can’t really speak for Dear Wife, but it is my belief that she enjoyed it).  I finished reading all three books last year, and I’m quite looking forward to the second installment in the film franchise.
  4.  

    Those are the movies that I expect I’ll actually see in the theaters.  After that… there’s a big drop in the likelihood that I think I’ll manage to catch anything else on this list.

     

  5. Pacific Rim I think I’ve mentioned before how much of an anime geek I am.  Not the hugest one around, but still… enough of one that I totally grok where this movie is going.  Giant Robots (called “Jaegers“, no less) versus Giant Monsters (“Kaiju“).  This is totally live-action anime.  And so, I’m excited for this movie.  I figure, though, that this could go one of two ways: this could be this year’s Inception… or this could be this year’s Prometheus.  With Guillermo Del Toro directing, I’m hopeful it’s more like the latter… but then again, Ridley Scott carried a lot of cache into Prometheus… Assuming the sci-fi and fantasy community tends to lean more toward the former than the latter, then you can be sure, even if I miss this in theaters, I’ll queue it up on DVD as soon as I’m able.
  6. Star Trek: Into Darkness I saw and enjoyed 2009’s Star Trek reboot – although a few things about it left me unsettled. (Red Matter?  And really, [Spoilers] did you need to blow up Vulcan?  And with all that time-traveling going on, you really couldn’t, you know, travel back in time and save the planet?  The last fact really miffed me fiercely.  Once you’ve established that time travel is an option, you better have a dang good reason why it can’t be used again to undo later events in the story.)  Regardless of those snafus, I enjoyed the Star Trek reboot enough that I’m very interested to see the next in the new series.  Added to that the mystery of who, precisely, Benedict Cumberbatch is playing – is it Kahn Noonien Singh? Is it Gary Mitchell? Is it some other dude who combines the attributes of Kahn and Mitchell? – adds to the intrigue and interest in this film.  As I expect this movie will skip the time travel plot problems of Star Trek, I expect this will actually be a better movie.  Still… I figure I’m unlikely (all things considered) to catch this in theaters.  So, as with Pacific Rim, I’m sure I’ll be queueing this up on DVD as soon as available.
  7. Oblivion The trailer for this flick has at least intrigued me – it’s hinted that not is all as it seems for Tom Cruise’s character, nor for desolate planet Earth in the far future.  But what really catches my interest: Morgan Freeman as some sort of Resistance/Rebel leader.  Is there any role that is not automatically cooler when played by Morgan Freeman?  That gives me promise that this film can live up to the ideas presented in its trailers.
  8. After Earth ‘Tis the Year for “In the Future, Earth has been abandoned by Humans”, isn’t it?  The attraction of this particular version of that story is in having real-life father-and-son acting team Will and Jaden Smith play a father and son stranded on an inhospitable future Earth struggling to survive.  The downside? It’s directed by M. Night Shyamalan (whose last few movies have not exactly been great, and who lost whatever remaining goodwill he had left as a director when he miscast and ruined the fundamentally un-ruinable big screen adaptation of Avatar: The Last Airbender) – so don’t expect the trailers to pint that little fact out.  The possible saving grace? This is Will Smith’s baby more than it is Shyamalan’s.  Regardless, I’m interested, but I’ll see what the critics have to say.
  9. Ender’s Game This one very nearly snuck up on me.  There’s very little buzz about Ender’s Game that I’ve seen so far.  Many, many years ago I read (and enjoyed) the novel as well as the companion novel (Ender’s Shadow).  I have yet to read (and not a terrible great interest in reading) the supposed sequels to Ender’s Game. (My understanding, for the most part, is that they diverge in some pretty radical ways from the story, characters, and world presented in Ender’s Game.) Anyway… I’m interested to see and hear more about this before casting judgment.
  10. World War Z Funny… I think I saw this title on a list of movies I made somewhere, once before.  Oh yeah: It was last year’s list.  Obviously, World War Z didn’t make it out in 2012.  But I find myself more interested now than I was then, thanks to several trailers that have given me a better idea of the film.  On the other hand… long delays and changes in release dates usually don’t bode well for a film.
  11. Elysium What was that I said above about the year for desolate or abandoned future Earths? Okay, so the Earth of Elysium isn’t really desolate or abandoned, but it may as well be: it’s a place where the poor and downtrodden are confined while the rich live high above.  (And the meek shall inhereit the Earth?)  What Elysium has going for it is a top-calibre cast, including Matt Damon and Jodi Foster.  Again, however, other than this, I know relatively little about the movie.  So I’ll take the wait-and-see approach.
  12. The Wolverine Remember when I said Superman was the superhero who ranked just above Batman at the top of my personal superhero pantheon?  The guy right below Batman is Wolverine.  And yet… I did not see the X-Men Origins: Wolverine movie.  I heard the reviews were pretty bad.  But I’m open-minded.  I’ll wait and see what the buzz says about Logan’s second solo-outing.  On a semi-related note… I’m still keen to catch X-Men: First Class on DVD some time.

Honorable Mentions:

These are the movies I feel like I want to see (in theaters, where possible). But a few other movies have hit my radar, too. Some of these I have no interest in seeing theaters, but may be interested to catch on DVD later, some it’s practically too late to catch in theaters, and some I just don’t know enough about.

Oz the Great and Powerful There’s no way I’ll find the time to see this before it makes its way out of theaters.  I’m interested in it, but not enough to try to make the time, and especially not enough to to press the issue when there’s a brand new wee bairn at home.

Frozen Frankly, I don’t know enough about this movie yet.  I think it’s an animated Epic Fantasy sort of movie.  But… I’m not really sure I’ve read about it right.  If and when I hear more, I’ll make a judgment at that time.

Monster’s University It’s Pixar and it’s not Cars.  So that’s a good thing.  On the otherhand, while I enjoyed the previous Monster’s Inc., I didn’t love it enough to want a sequel.  This movie seems… I dunno… gratuitous.  But because it’s Pixar and, Cars and Cars 2 notwithstanding, Pixar has a lot of goodwill with me, I can almost garauntee I’ll watch it on DVD at some point.

The Lone Ranger I was convinced, when I heard about this, that it had “Epic Flop of John Carter Proportions” written all over it.  I thought: Johnny Depp (no matter how good an actor he is) in a racially insensitive portrayal of Tonto?  This thing is going to get cremated in the blogosphere!  Now I’ve seen the trailers and I’m… less convinced.  And the buzz is actually pretty decent.  And word is Disney has done a lot of legwork (enough? I don’t know) to make good with Native Americans over the casting and portrayal of Tonto.  (I’m that mythical “1/16th” Native American, which basically doesn’t mean anything, except that a deep respect for Native American peoples has been passed down in my family, owing to that ancestry as told in family legend.  I haven’t done the genealogy work to back up that claim.  But the end result is that I’m a little sensitive to the question of how American Indians are portrayed in stories.)  So… If all that holds true… well… you can expect The Lone Ranger to do bonzo at the Box Office.

Iron Man 3 I have not seen Iron Man 2 (nor, for that matter, The Avengers).  So I know there is Zero Percent chance I’ll make it out to see Iron Man 3.  I at least owe it to the movie to see the two preceeding flicks (even if I still manage to avoid Thor because I think the idea of “Thor” as a superhero character is basically a bit cheesy and overwrought).  I did see and enjoy the first Iron Man movie, though, and I enjoyed Robert Downey Jr.’s portrayal of Stark.  So, whenever I get around to picking up Iron Man 2 and The Avengers, I’ll eventually follow that up with Iron Man 3.

What happened to 2012’s Movies?

As for the 2012 movies that I had listed previously?  As alluded above, I did see the first Hobbit movie and the first Hunger Games movie.  I also caught Dark Knight Rises and Brave at the theaters.  I did not get a chance to see The Secret World of Arietty, but that’s okay, because I’ve always consumed anime on the small-screen in the past.  (I love Hayao Miyazaki, but I’ve never seen a Miyazaki movie in theaters.)  Prometheus was… well… based on all the reviews I heard, it wasn’t what I wanted it to be.  And life’s too short to waste a few hours on a basically dumb movie.  The Amazing Spider-Man, as predicted, I did not see.  I still expect I’ll see it on DVD eventually.  Also didn’t see The Avengers, so no, I did not contribute to that massive box office haul.  John Carter, I heard, was actually better than many gave it credit for.  But, again… well… my own sense of it was not super-positive from the trailers.  (I said it looked “vistual-tastic”, but I also worried, based on the trailers, that there wasn’t much “there there”.  I still sort of feel that way.)  Again, life’s too short. 

So, that’s where I stand on movies in 2013.  How’s about you?

Non-Writing Update: Week Ending April 6, 2013

Let’s see… how did this week go?

More work at the dayjob.  Busy, that was.  Good busy, you know, but busy.

More home-life of the neo-parental kind on the home-front, combined with home-life of the rambunctious toddler parent kind as well.

The highlights of the week included planting flowers in the front garden.  Plus, I committed a deliberate act of Barbecue!  (Actually, that’s the second time this year I’ve barbecued… we had a beautiful run of warm weather back in late-February/early-March.)  I concocted some sort of non-duplicable dry rub from various seasonings in our spice drawer for some chicken kabobs, and it was quite delicious.

Of writing or time therefore there was narry a peep.  I mollified myself be engaging in a nice bit of readage.  I got through a good chunk of the book I’m currently reading (A Memory of Light, by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson, if you’re curious).  It turns out: it’s hard to write when you’re feeding a baby, but relatively easy to read. 

That’s life down at the Casa Chez Watkins.  How are things in your neck-of-the-woods?