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Invention is a son of a b*tch

Sunday, April 21, 2013

4:22PM - How long it's been

LJ reminded me that it existed today. Well more precisely, it sent me an email explaining how it was starting to fail to believe I still existed and if I wanted to keep this account, I'd better log in.

So I'm logging in. Don't delete me, bro. I don't know what I want to do with this space, but it's mine.

Monday, June 29, 2009

6:55PM - i can haz BOOK!!

I don’t actually know how this happened, but I appear to be the first person checking in with Lisa having gotten a bit of mail today.


It’s screwy.  I never get mail this fast.  I got the shipment notice on Friday.  We don’t even have mail on the weekend.  Saturday pickup is all.

But today, I got home, and the phone rang as I opened the door, and it was Lisa saying hi. And I had this box waiting for me.


And it’s the book.  It’s THE BOOK!!



Now I have to go wipe my eyes. 

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

12:57AM - Strawed in, Weighed and Sourced Out

Since setting out as an independent contractor, I've been noticing a lot of personal growth. Emotional and spiritual growth, certainly, but the one that's got me concerned is the physical growth. My most recent travels seem to have expanded my horizons, starting at my diameter.
I've tried to find the time and energy to get back to working out. And it's just not working. I'm too tired. I'm too disinterested. But I'm a problem-solver and this is a web 2.0 world.

Fatboy 2.0

So I'm outsourcing my personal fitness. To me. I'm going to pay myself to do my workouts. If I work out, I get a reward. If I continue to work out, I'll get more rewards.
The goal is to incent myself to keep going, without making it too discouraging if I take a break for a month for injury or travel or other reasons. The other goal is to make it okay to spend money on things that aren't completely functional, so I'm just going to take the existing amount I spend on books and movies and such and use that as my funding budget.
First, here are the goals that earn pay:
  1. Daily Goals (5 days a week)
    • Update Weight Log
    • Complete Full Workout
  2. Weekly Goals:
    • Completed 5 Workouts in a week
    • Updated Weight Log, 7 days a week (Yes, the daily goal is only 5)
    • 5+7 Bonus (If I achieve 5 workouts and 7 updates in a week)
  3. Sustain Bonus:
    • Repeat of a weekly bonus
Second, I need to fund this. So I’ll take my average monthly spending on toys and treats like books and movies and such, and divide by four to get the weekly spend, which is 100%,. Now I just have to figure out how to break up the 100% among the goals. And I have no idea how to do that so I'm just going to build something called a Straw Model.

Weighing the Straw Model

The Politically Correct term “Straw Model” evolved from “Straw Man” which dates back to a time when people would make human-shaped figures out of straw as training targets for weapons training. A straw man wasn't as good as a live opponent, but it was a great place to start. The Straw Model is conceptual, another creative tool for dealing with the unknown, a place to start.
I want to build a financial model for paying myself, but I don't know what the right answer is. So I just make up a model and pick some numbers and then test it a little to see how it works out.
My instinct is to emphasize sustain, so I’ll put 50% into sustain and split the rest. Actually, I'll break it out a little more than that:

Table 1: Reward Model, Version 1

Daily x 5d/wk (25%)
Workout 4
Log Weight 1
Weekly (25%)
5 Workouts 13
7 Log Updates 7
Bonus (for 5+7) 5
Sustain (50%)
Repeat weekly bonus goal 50

So take my monthly spend divided by four and that's what I spend in a week, call that 100%. Each time I hit a goal, I pay out according to the table. Great. Done. That’s the straw model. Now to test it.
If I work out and log one day, I get 5% At the end of a week, that adds up to 25% Plus another 25% for doing a complete week. Though I start the program without the sustain bonus because it’s the first week.
But wait. . If I miss one day's workout, I lose 23% of my week’s incentives. And I lose 50% in sustain bonus. And I lose 50% in sustain the next week because this week wasn't complete. So one day's screw up costs me 123% of my whole week of "pay." So one day’s lapse undoes over a week of a achievement.
That's a little harsh. so let me try a different balance.

Table 2: Reward Model, Version 2

Daily x 5d/wk (50%)
Workout 9
Log Weight 1
Weekly (20%)
5 Workouts 10
7 Log Updates 2
Bonus (for 5+7) 8
Sustain (30%)
Repeat weekly bonus goal 30

Now if I miss a day’s workout, I lose 28% for the week again. And 30% for two weeks. Now my penalty is 78%. That’s better, but it’s still saying that one day undoes about a week’s good work. Which still feels unbalanced.
And that’s okay. This is still the straw model, and I’m adjusting the shape of it as I go. Right now there’s a big hit for the first missed day, whereas a second missed day in the week would be only 10% more pain. So I continue refining.
This time, I think I need to put the emphasis on the daily work, and make the weekly bonuses smaller.

Table 2: Reward Model, Version 3

Daily x 5d/wk (70%)
Workout 12
Log Weight 2
Weekly (20%)
5 Workouts 10
7 Log Updates 2
Bonus (for 5+7) 8
Sustain (10%)
Repeat weekly bonus goal 10

Now if I miss a day’s workout, I lose 30% on the week. With the two week 10% impact to my sustain bonus, that’s a total of 50% hit for a day of slacking. That’s still a big hit, but not so big that it’s discouraging.
And now I have a model that I like. It turns out that my initial assumption, that the bonuses were key, was wrong. This revised model looks like it’ll actually help motivate me to do my workout.

Handling the Unknown

The Straw Model is a very useful tool for dealing with a lack of knowledge. The key is to accept that you don’t know and make guesses. As good a guess as you can make, but if you can’t make a good guess, then make a bad one.
  1. Build the model, quickly.
  2. Test the model
  3. Refine the model and return to testing.
  4. Enjoy the awe that people will feel as you tame the unknown and unknowable.
The Straw Model is almost silly, but it is one of the best tools in my consulting toolset. The fact is there are lots of times you have to proceed with incomplete information. And this is a way to do that.
Photo by OnlyForward

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

3:43PM - Some Moron Cooking

I thought it would be fun to post the pictures of chocolate goodness I had taken.  I’m a photographer, and there is something just sensual about that chocolatey goodness.  I didn’t even think to post the recipe, because I was working from a book and I wasn’t sure about how to do it.  And more important, the book was in the kitchen and I was in the basement and walking seemed likely to be less comfortable than sitting and just posting more pictures.

So I hope that my dear friend [info]jennawaterford will forgive me for being lazy and not think that I was being intentionally cruel. 


The recipe for “Molten-center chocolate cupcakes” comes from Everyday Chocolate  


Directions (makes 8 cupcakes):  (As told by me)


The major discovery that I wish we’d been warned about is that this thing produces batter so thick it’s almost dough.  I thought we’d made a mistake when we added everything, and again when we saw how much my poor old egg-beater was whining about the work.  We added a bit of milk which was unnecessary.


Also, between the all-purpose flour substitution and the semi-sweet, it was a very dryly chocolate taste.  Good moist cupcake, but very not sweet.  Loved it. 

Friday, March 20, 2009

10:43AM - Sometimes you get the elevator

Sometimes you get the molten-chocolate-centered, chocolate cupcakes.


So I’ve got the cousins over for the tail end of their winter break from school.  And after a brutal shopping session discovering that post massive propane explosion in the city’s west end had resulted in the shut down down all the gas station propane filling stations, and the gas station attendant didn’t know how his own tank exchange system works, and…

After a brutal grocery session, it was nice to break out into the kitchen and just cook.  And it’s still a remarkable experience to take “the plan” and slice it into a logistically sane set of tasks that I can pass around to various teens.  You want a project management lesson, there it is.  Skill levels, skill sets, experience, balancing so everybody gets to participate on something non-trivial and of course, getting the job done.


And they are reliably talented.  As I let go of the task list, things got a lot less frenetic, and the kids worked magic.  All I ended up having to do was work the grill.  And we ended up with a dinner of steak, portobello mushrooms with red pepper,  pan-fried tomatoes in garlic, baked sweet potato.

And a mouthwatering cupcake for desert.


How was your dinner? 

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

11:03PM - The (lemon) Danish Bikini Team

This morning, I arrived at work to a crisis.

Friday night, at 4:30, they had run into a problem and threw it over the wall at 5. I got the email, but everybody was gone. And I was annoyed. So I went home too.

This morning, I sat down, and figured out the problem in about a minute and a half. (For any database people, I dropped a disused debug table. Except I forgot to apply the patch that made the app stop using it.)

Meanwhile the fact that they had actually started testing meant that suddenly I had actual bugs to fix, as opposed to just things that I thought would eventually become bugs if anybody ever got around to using the system they made me build.

That's what I arrived to work to drop into. And before I was going to face the slavering hordes of frustrated (yet indifferent) users, I decided to hit the commissary and get hot water for my morning tea.

Other people play the lottery. They get their savage joy from contemplating the certain millions that are but a ticket away.

Me, I've developed a more visceral game over the last three years. I get my morning tea and discover if the commissary has ordered lemon danishes. They don't order danishes often, and for some reason I appear to be alone in my lemon obsession. Which makes them a once or twice a month treat.

Except it's been months since I saw a lemon danish on the pastry rack. Months. Once in a while, I round the corner and for a moment I'm breathing just a little bit faster because I see the profiles of danishes on the rack. Only to have my hopes dashed as I get close enough to look down on the cherry, or blueberry, or apple centers.

The apple danishes are the worst. The solid colours communicate disappointment at range, where the pale of the apple filling is never going to be mistaken for lemon except in the strange, semishadow of the pastry rack. Those are close and personal disappointments, knife-strikes to the stomach.

Today I saw danishes, and I hurried to investigate. My eyes did not move from my goal. And thats why I walked past a client staffer without even seeing her there. She's an attractive woman, dirty blonde and with eyes that are pretty, but also make me think about why Terrence and Philip are drawn as they are.

She was actually wanting to talk to me about the project, but I didn't even hear her hail, so focused on my preemptive dessertion was I. Not until Hollywood tapped me on the shoulder and discretely faded back did I realize she was in the same room as not one, not two, but THREE lemon danishes.

I was mortified. Because I'd just completely ignored my client. Because I'd just walked past a pretty girl while staring at a danish.

Because I couldn't even explain what had happened without sounding like an utter loon. "I'm so sorry. I didn't see you because I was obsessing about a lemon danish."

And the only thing I can think of, that can possibly redeem me, is that maybe, just maybe, I was suffering a pirates perspective. And that privateering bent is why I mistakenly ended up fixated on the pastries. Rrrrr.

Monday, January 19, 2009

7:27AM - The First Timesheet

So I was putting together a timesheet template and coming so soon after Christmas, there are still carols leaking out of my brain.

For the record, none of this is based on my current situation. Though ask me again after I start submitting these, and we'll see how it's going.

To the first timesheet, the client did say
"I don't remember approving those hours on thursday"
So I went to my desk and put the timesheets away
till I could find my meeting notes and reclaim my pay.

Timesheet, Timesheet.
Timesheet, Timesheet
If they would just sign it, things would be so neat.

I'm updating my invoice, to make Thursday look fine
Figure if I just change it, they might stop the whine.
Sure I'm out a few hours but if I draw a line
The next seat they get rid of will surely be mine.

Timesheet, Timesheet.
Timesheet, Timesheet
If I just get paid, won't this contract be sweet.

I think the changes are done, now to save revision 3
So the new version is done, just need a hardcopy
Wonder if this time, the client will hide from me
Cause if I can't get this signed I won't get my fee.

Timesheet, Timesheet.
Timesheet, Timesheet
If they would just sign it, things would be so neat.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

1:26PM - Freelancing by Dummy

So after 10 long years, in the middle of the worst economy since the 1930s (or the 1690s, if you take the Bank of England's interest rates as your indicator), I've just resigned from my position as a consultant to become a freelance something-or-other.

It's a very strange thing. For one, my consulting company has people scattered across North America, and we tend to only see each other in the local project teams. So I'm not really sitting next to people so there's not much more than a goodbye email to send. And I haven't seen the inside of a company office in years, so it's not like there's a desk to pack up.

It's more like arriving at the mirage to discover that everything I thought I saw has just vanished in a puff of reality. Or woken from a dream.

But dream or not, I've come out of it a changed person. While I have no doubt that I'm long overdue to have left my current employer, it has been a great relationship and one that I think has benefited us both a great deal. File that for something to talk about another time.

For now, the point is that here I am, at the start of a new thing. I'm taking all the little freelance bits that I've been doing for years and taking on a new primary client and reactivating my old business.

And now I have to set up my new laptop because my soon-to-be-ex employer wants their hardware back.

Wish me luck.

Photo by foxy_moron

Monday, January 5, 2009

12:29AM - Back from the dead again

Okay. This time we'll see if writing here sticks. I'm a little distracted, what with quitting my job today.

When I started travelling as a consultant, I very quickly started to find a need for a portable "blogging" solution. I had my laptop, sure, but 10 years ago, a laptop sucked that little battery dry almost before the drink service on the flight had come out.

After a few years, I had it down to a folding keyboard and my Palm PDA. The keyboard was great, folding to something only slightly larger than the Palm, and the two together could be up and running a text editor within seconds of the seatbelt light going off, and I got four or five hours before the batteries died.

The setup was beautiful in its compact simplicity. It fit on an airline tray table. I could share a table in a coffee shop. I could set up anywhere, and I'd write, back then.

Now I go out, and when there's time to kill on an errand, I have note cards, but they're slow and analog. Give me a keyboard where I can spill out my words at the speed of my thought.

I sat at the mall today and read where I'd rather have written. Because I didn't have the laptop. And my phone has a keyboard, but it's not really much fun for anything serious.

If the iPhone supported one of the old stowaway style fold up keyboards, I'd get one in a heartbeat. My phone actually *does* support bluetooth keyboards, but there are no drivers for the old models that are out there and for whatever reason, the last time I looked, I didn't find any.

So where has this segment gone? Granted, I'm the only one I ever saw, but am I actually the only person who ever used this? I don't believe it, seeing the mockups of iPhone keyboards that I've seen. And yet, the animal exists only as hacks.

I'm considering a netbook as a poor substitute for my old ultramobile setup. A 10" block isn't going to fit in my pocket the way the 5" diagonal of the Palm.

But something is better than nothing. Right?

Photo by alles-schlumpf

Current mood: awake

Thursday, October 2, 2008

9:56PM - Q: What ebook reader do you use?

I use Mobipocket Reader, on windows and on my phone (Window's Mobile).  

It supports the formats I get books in, and it lets me convert Word and PDF files.  More importantly, it gives me a fast and relatively painless way to make notes against the document, which means I get more editing time when [info]lisamantchev has been unsupervised for ten minutes and has yet another novel to read.  (That's not a complaint.  Honestly, her output and edits are probably saving me a fortune at the bookstore)

The ebook situation is, of course, a total mess.  The rights management stuff has pretty much balkanized the market and the only way to resolve it right now seems to be to hope that someone wins, a la iTunes.  Though I refuse to purchase from iTunes, so I guess that's not a win either. 

And everybody talks about gracefully unlocking the content if they abandon the scheme, but as yahoo music and now walmart media consumers are discovering, it's far easier to turn off the authorization server and make you buy something new. 

I don't have a solution.  I don't think the current situation helps me get what I want, which is the books I like in nice light portable ebook formats and the stuff I love in deliciously sensual paper.  Go go Gutenberg project, I guess.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

12:56AM - A treatment for crabs

So I made an origami crab...

Look!  Crab

... and then when I showed someone the pictures, they said they wished I'd taken some along the way so they could see how it was made.

Well, that seemed like an interesting exercise, so I started taking pictures. And then I had a whole set of pictures of the birth of a paper crab. And that gave me a new idea...

Thursday, October 4, 2007

8:29PM - Editable Inevitable

A comment from lisamantchev suddenly made me realize just how long I've been sitting on her manuscript and in a fresh heap of guilt, I've been thinking about the problem. Not that she meant to guilt me, she was just talking about a conversation with her agent, and it occurred to me that I really don't want to be holding the potato at whatever point she's in a sale situation. Partly because I don't want to stress her out, period, and partly because she'd not hesitate to kick my ass, but she'd be all nice about it and I would feel so incredibly guilty.

There's no question that there are *reasons* for being slow on this effort, and she claims that she's getting value out of the exercise so I think my line of fresh jam is preserved for now. But circumstances aside, it's a slow business and it bothers me, because I'm supposed to be a smart guy, and I'm usually a blazing fast reader.

Take as a reference point that I can rip through an average mass-market paperback in about an 4 hours. Depends on the books, depends how much I care, I can do it faster or slower, but it's a good working position. 400 pages, say, working out to about 100 pages an hour, or a page and a half a minute.

Take as another reference point that I can usually turn over one of her short stories by the next day, without it particularly impinging on the stuff that I would do anyway. Say 5000 words in about an half an hour of effort. Which is just under two hundred words per minute.

But editing a novel is harder. To me. And the effort is increased not only by word count, but by relationships. Not only do characters have to be consistent within the chapter, but they have to be consistent between them. Add larger plot arcs, and character development, and all that jazz. Editing a second novel is even harder than that, because now there's consistency issues between novels, and character issues on this new dimention and so on, and so forth.

It hurts my brain.

The more I get to see about this whole creation process, the more I am awestruck by the capacity to do it. I realize that at one level it is "just" writing, but at another level, the raw magic of this process is a hurricane wind. In my face.

But here I am now, in the way. And I don't want to be, because this is Lisa Effing Mantchev and that leaves no room for dereliction. It must be done, for I am her faithful sidekick.

So last night, I sat down and worked out a plan. I decided to treat it like I would any other piece of work, rather than my normal approach of throwing myself at it and seeing how far I could get before I got distracted. Which means I needed some metrics.

Lisa writes chapters of the Theatre Illuminata in chunks that average around 20 pages. Which means that if I just focus for two minutes on a page, I can get through a chapter in forty minutes. I can give her two minutes of my undivided attention. That's easy.

So I set my watch and it chirped as I started my clock. And read. Made scratches and suggestions and observations. And around halfway down the page, BEEP BEEP BEEP.

Seriously?? That was two minutes? Did I set that up right?

I check the watch first, and the page second. Doesn't seem like I did very well. On the other hand, it was the first page under this regime.

Okay. I'll use the timer again, while I finish this page, it should only be a few more seconds anyway, right?


This time, I was at the bottom of that first page, so I figured it's a warm up and I just need to get into Flow. I took a deep breath, started the timer and hit page 2 of chapter 8. Part way through the page....


I gave myself two or three more pages to try to get into the rhythm before I decided that there was a flaw in the model. I was confronted with reality: It takes longer than two minutes to edit a page. The timer going off mid-page is just a painful distraction. So I adjusted the timer to three minutes, and tried again.

And made it BEEP BEEP BEEP most of the way down the page.

A few repetitions of three-minute trials showed me a few things. The fixed effort of editing is scanning the page. The variable effort is marking it up. And that variable is determined by two major factors. How careful Lisa had been and how much of a smartass did I need to be?

So, I think, roughly, that I can sustain a 3.5 minute page. 3.5*20 = 70 minutes per chapter. Times twenty chapters means that I will require about twenty four hours to do a detailed edit.

Wow, I thought. That's pretty impressive.

Really?, my inner smartass replied. Because that means that you weren't able to find 24 hours for poor, neglected Lisa in the last few months.

Which really does suck and I have to apologize now. I'd not looked at the big picture and I'm very very sorry, lady.

I'm going to try to continue my timer-based editing. I've got more refining to do. Three minutes isn't enough for a page, but it's enough to seriously push. I can finish off the page, and start the next clock.

So far, I've also been working "immediately." Find something and mark it. It has the advantage of letting me get my thoughts as things occur to me, but it also slows me down as I think about what and why I reacted as I did. It can actually mess out how I percieve scenes. So a thought was to make very short, fast marks as I do a first pass, and then go back to fill in details.

All I can say I'm gonna get done with this, because it's getting in the way of my plan where Lisa sells this puppy soon, makes a multi-million dollar movie deal that includes a directors-cut DVD with the deleted scenes wherein I make out with Ms Johansson, after which Lisa hires me as her full-time exclusive reader and sidekick. And I'm flexible, Lis. If you can't get rid of Ms Johansson after the shoot, you can store her at my place.

I'd totally do that for you.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

10:24PM - JK missed her own point.

Please be advised that I'm about to add to the vast ecology of articles on the internet that discuss Harry Potter and Specifically Book 7. If you are likely to feel that this is a spoiler, then stop reading the internet and start reading the massively hyped book so you don't have to whine about the spoiler. Okay? Okay.

This Post Contains Spoilers you Dink

Like all the other screaming schoolchildren, I read Deathly Hallows early in July, and mostly enjoyed the read. It certainly made up for the almost pointless book six, in my mind, and I liked the sense of having progressed from the preparatory stuff to the end game. I have to admit, I mostly liked the end sequence, despite some really annoying bits about specific characters' brushes with death. But in the end, I wasn't satisfied, and I set it down figuring I'd just forget about it. Except I haven't forgotten about it, and today the lightbulb *finally* clicked. I know why I didn't like Harry Potter 7. It's that damned epilogue.

Not the fact that she has one, because really she needed that. But in going decades into the future, the author dropped one a fundamental piece of the story.

From the start, the books have been about Harry Potter and Hogwarts, his true home. Privet Drive was the unpleasantness before he could go Home, and take up this wonderful life that he'd never known he would have. Each book has been evolving his place in Hogwarts, but also marking his progress *through* the seven years of wizarding school.

Rowling isn't stupid. She understood that Hogwarts was important, or else the final battle would have been somewhere that offered more spectacle, like London-town perhaps. And it was right that the showdown should occur there, in the place that has been important to Harry and to his nemesis. But my big epiphany is that that she fumbled that thread at the end

When all the dust has settled, when this great distraction of his mortal battle with He-Who-Needs-A-Hairpiece is done, the story remains that of The-Boy-Who-Lived. And The-Boy-Who-Lived would have needed to put all the excitement away, and finish his final year of classes. Before the author flipped us twenty years ahead, I really think that she owed us the finish to Harry's story, which would have been his finish at Hogwarts. It offers a degree of closure and completeness that seems to be lacking from the implicit ending in the epilogue she did give us.

I'm a little staggered by the resonant righteousness of the idea. And I'm thrilled that I found this idea, because I can't articulate what, but it makes me feel like I've learned something important about story construction. Of course, that might just be my imagination, but at the least it's fun analysis.

Think about it, won't you? Yes you, the only person left still reading me. Harry should have gotten his moment on the podium, accepting his diploma with all his friends around him. Looking out into the new world, finally at peace, and in his proper place. Right?  Am I wrong? Is Harry Potter and the Mid-Life Crisis a better close than Harry Potter and the Commencement Address?

You're all I've got, so I'm hoping you'll react. ;) Cheers.

Monday, June 4, 2007

9:29PM - The Wrong Verb

Every once in a while I get these opportunities or prompts to look at things differently.  And I've been looking at my life and what pleases me and what doesn't and I suddenly realized, the things that currently don't please me are also the things where the verb, the action is wrong. 

It seems important somehow.  All I have to do to make things more right is to change the verbs.  That's not a lot of life-changing work.  That's just writing.  Right?

Life distills to tautologies.  People hate tautologies.  (People hate symbolic logic too, but it's fun when you have time to spend).

This isn't what I'd meant to write. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2007


Care of xkcd.com

Sunday, April 22, 2007

11:30PM - Sidekick Shuffle

So one of the things I did this crazy weekend was some design work for the lisamantchev and I have to say, I'm really tickled with the challenge she set me.  See, she's one of the people contributing to this International Pixel-Stained Technopeasant thing and needed a design to go with her story. 

That's where I got to play.

I'm pleased with most of it.  I think there are pieces that I would do differently (yes already), but it feels like a solid design.  And updates were almost painless, which also hints at good work. 

Anyway, I may be jumping the gun, but I'm really excited.  Go check out The Story of the Princess without a Destiny.

(And scroll down to the bottom while you're reading and check out A Thousand Paper Cranes, won't you please?  Interesting bit of creative charity work)

Friday, April 20, 2007

12:04AM - Small Fish. Big Splash. Hungry Glances.

Almost two months after I got the word that I'd been promoted, an envelope showed up at my door with a new employment contract that I'm apparently supposed to sign. 

Here's what I did:

Now. Here's what I should have done:
Why I didn't do what I should have done:
It was a failure of empathy. 

I've sent a more conciliatory email since then (I hope it was taken that way, anyway).  I'm not saying they didn't earn my temper, but they deserve credit for how much control they've put into their processes compared to the days when I first signed up.  And I need to remember that I'm under a lot more scrutiny now that I'm...  well...  not management...   how about upper-level peon. 

Educational.  I shouldn't have needed it.

In case the employer is peeking, sorry for the confusion. 

Current mood: Mortified

Tuesday, April 10, 2007

6:29PM - Plato's "Republic"

In his "Republic", Captain Plato sailed, in brillig infamy
Ever towards the sunset, all across the wine-dark sea
One day to Aristotle, Mate, cried out the captain loud
"There's more to that horizon than a Pythagorean cloud!"

Then from the crowsnest came the call, "To Starboard, Sail Ho!"
And sky rang out with thunder from an Olympian blow.
Plato gave over the looking glass, and scowled across the brine
at the colours of Sir Issac hung off distant brigantine

"Raise the Roger, lads," the Captain cried, "Tell them who they face!"
And the grinning skull and crossbones leered across the foaming space.
Sir Issac's cannons spoke once more, upon the surging ocean
Iron hissed into the sea, launched from "Object in Motion"

Plato replied Socraticly; posing with full broad-side
the question of which ship would bottom, and which the storm outride
"Republic" might even have won, but for Newton's surprise
A second ship, and then a third revealed between sea's rise

"Republic" put on her finest, and strained under the gale
"Object" slapped the bitch in passing, raking the portside gunwhale
But canvas held, and Plato was certain to give the slip
When Einstein blew her straight to hell from his Helo-Gunship.

Monday, March 12, 2007

9:40PM - Walter Mondale, you inspire me.

So one of the perks of being [info]lisamantchev's sidekick is getting the advanced class on the whole publication process. And now that she's gotten herself an agent (who is a respectable technical geek that I got to meet way back before they were all officially a couple) it's a massive step forward in the road to getting me an autograph. (And yes, I know I could get her to sign my copy of the anthology she's in, but I'm holding out for her hardcover. It'll be cooler.)

Hollywood's been vaguely following the fact that I'd been editing for her, and I was pretty stoked that she'd gotten an agent, so I told him about the development, and he replied, "Excellent, so when does her book come out." Which necessitated a brief synopsis of the publication process as I understand it, followed by the observation that she was currently readying a fresh draft that would be sent out to more established authors to win those blurbs you see at the back of the book.

"You should write one," he said, and I burst out laughing, because, as I told him, that's marketing space, reserved for blurbists who will possibly help the book to sell, rather than space for friends and hangers-on. And I told her about it too, because it was pretty funny.

Except then I thought about it. The reason that I can't get my blurb onto her book is because I'm not somebody famous who can vouch for how good the book is.

Cue retrospective sidebar.

I remember a radio program pointing out something monumental about the 1984 United States Presidential Election in which the late President Ronald Reagan won a landslide victory. In fact, his opponent, Walter Mondale, obtained only 3% of the roughly 540 electoral college votes.1

Three percent. 13 votes.

And the brilliant observation wasn't that it was a small number. No, the speaker managed to quantify the defeat in very human terms: Walter Mondale had beaten *me* by only 13 college votes. I didn't even run.

The radio program, I should admit, was a comedy, but there's something magical in that misguided bit of trivia. (Anybody able to attribute the comedian should drop me a line, please, he deserves credit). Sure it's funny, but at a completely different level, it suddenly made me picture myself *in* the presidential race. Only for a little while, what with not being American or Interested in the position, but thanks to Walter Mondale, I had a whole new way to look at the world.

I mean, sure I didn't win the presidency, but heck, even Walter Mondale only got 13 more votes, and he had to campaign way harder than than I did.

Blurbs are written by the most successful writers you can find who are willing to say something positive about your book. Stephen King writing about how your book is a terrifying perspective into the depths of the human soul and that you are the logical successor to Stephen King is going to cause all the Stephen King fans to at least take a look at your writing, and there are an awful lot of Stephen King fans.

Stephen King is a massively published author. I am not published at all (not anywhere that counts). Clearly, if it were to be a choice between Stephen King's blurb or my blurb on the back of her book, there is no question that she should pick the one from Mr King. That's just a no-brainer.

But here's where my Mondale effect kicks in. Because now I can say, "Yeah, I wrote a blurb for Scrimshaw, but they picked Stephen King over me." And on the one hand, it's a lop-sided competition, but on the other hand, a little tiny corner of your brain has just accepted the absurd proposition that I have any place in a literary face-off with a Name.

And that may still leave me the loser, but hey, I faced off against the master of contemporary horror, what have you done lately?

So I'm working on my blurb. I don't think they'll be talking to Mr King about her book. (They haven't mentioned it to me) But I'm betting on her getting published, and I know I can lose to whoever's blurbs get picked.

I'm just good that way.

A bold, genre-busting tale of derring-do, of pathos, of bitter conflict, and lasting friendships, Lisa Mantchev's Scrimshaw is a brilliantly executed tour-de-force, a rousing romp, where all the world's the stage, and only the players can save it.

(Okay, I was just goofing, but is it bad that I actually *like* that last part? Damn you, Stephen King, you've thwarted me again!!!2)

1For anybody left ignorant of the electoral college after the 2000 election, the popular voting in the United States is subdivided into electoral college seats, and each seat is won individually. Mathematically, it's a wonderfully democratic system, but I guess the Americans aren't good at math because they then screw it up by assigning all the seats in a state to the candidate who wins a electoral college majority in that state.
2The first time being Lawnmower Man.

Thursday, March 8, 2007

8:41AM - The Machine is Us/ing Us

Check out Michael Wesche.

This one is kind of cool. Probably more accessible than the last one.

Hi ho, Hi ho.

Current mood: enraged

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