Sunday, November 19, 2006

We've Moved Elsewhere

We've MOVED!

Please reset your bookmarks.

If you want to comment on existing posts,
they've been moved as well.
Please comment at the new site.

(We needed a few more features.
Thanks to Blogger Beta for getting us started.)

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Why Aren't You Watching More TV?


We’re in a new golden age of television. I’m not kidding. So stop your sniggering, you over there.

Why am I making such a bold statement? ‘Cause it’s true.

Right now on almost every night of the week there is at least one outstanding program that you should be watching. Since I’m going to be going on a bit, I should give my background on my love of the idiot box.

You see, nobody knew I was fantastically nearsighted until I was eight. My mother used to say things when we were driving like, “Oooo, look at the cow in the field.” And my answer would be, “What cow?” With brilliant insight, instead of wondering if I could see the cow, she thought I was a moron. (This was a remarkable assumption on her part in light of the fact that I started reading when I was three.)

I am going somewhere with this . . . oh yeah, aside from books, the only thing I could see that wasn’t a blurry, blobby mass was the screen of our 12” portable black and white television.

Books and TV became my buddies. Both allowed me to escape from a world I couldn’t see clearly. And that leads me back to why you should be watching more TV.

Not to numb yourself out, but to see where some of the best writing is going on in the mainstream media. It ain’t in movies -- that’s for damn sure.

So let me give you my day-by-day program guide and you can decide for yourself:


Prison Break: Warren hates it. I love it. It’s nearing shark jumping territory in this, its sophomore, season, but I think the writers may be able to pull it off the water ski before it’s too late. If you haven’t been watching, rent the first season. It’s an over-the-top-willing-to-kill-primary-characters-and-doesn’t play-annoying-narrative-mind-games-like-Lost joyride.

How I Met Your Mother: Warren and I love it, so does Brad. (I think Brad has a thing for Alyson Hannigan which would explain his whimpering whenever she comes onscreen.) A must watch for Neil Patrick-Okay-Fine-I’m-Gay-Whatever-Harris alone. His horn-dog, skirt-chasing lawyer, Barney, is possibly the best thing on the show. And you can often see actors from Joss Whedon’s shows doing cameos.

Heroes: Holy Frijoles, Batman! It’s Wild Cards! Okay, not so much, but this sci-fi/comic book crossover has plenty going for it. You can go on-line and read graphic novels that cover parts of the story not present on the show. Masi Oka plays Hiro, a hero with the ability to bend time and space. He may very well be the most appealing actor to come on the small screen in a long time. Also, it has Adrian Pasdar, who was also on one of the weirdest short-lived TV shows ever, Profit.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip: Oh dear, part of me feels guilty about recommending this, but Aaron Sorkin is writing it and had it not been for West Wing I doubt I would have made it through chunks of the last six years. Self-indulgent-smitten-with-its-own-cuteness-predicated-on-a-slightly-dated-premise, it is, nonetheless, well-written and has moments of wonderfulness.


Friday Night Lights: Yes, it’s about football in a small town in Texas. Yes, I know, you probably lived though something like it. And heaven knows the jumping hand-held camera action is enough to make me queasy, but it’s about so much more. This is not a valentine to football. It’s a valentine to growing up -- both hard and fast as well as hard and slow.

House: Perhaps I’m a sucker for procedurals. Or maybe it’s just that Hugh Laurie is so -- woof! -- sorry, I mean, exceptionally talented. The show is in its third season and starting to show signs of fatigue, but Laurie is always a joy to watch. If you’ve ever seen him in any of The Black Adder or Bertie and Wooster series, you will be stunned at his range as an actor.


Bones: Another procedural with a bit of a spin. Instead of being a criminologist, the main character is a forensic anthropologist working at a barely disguised Smithsonian Institute. She and her co-workers are smart. Really smart. And they are assisted by a stalwart FBI agent, played by David Boreanaz. Why do I like this? First, smart, really smart, people are the heroes of this show. How often do you see that on TV? It’s Real Genius with ookiness and corpses. Also, the chemistry between Boreanaz and his co-star, Emily Deschanel, is utterly charming. Charm goes a long way in my book.

Lost: Though I’m still watching this like one might pick at a scab, it really has jumped the shark for me. The only good thing I’ll say for it is that I suspect Heroes might not have gotten a green-light had Lost not done so well for ABC. I don’t think the writers have a single clue where the story is going and I hate the post-modern snottiness of it.


Survivor: You, in the back, stop the cat-calls. The granddaddy of reality shows, it is still the best. I will not apologize for watching and enjoying it. The game itself is exceptionally well-designed and the challenges within the game are also outstanding. As for the stunt this year of dividing the groups into ethnicities, well, let’s just say it was less and more than it appeared. A lot of reality programming is crap. Survivor is not.

C.S.I.: Mmmmmm, William Peterson. Mmmmmmmmm. Mmmmmmm. What? Oh yeah. C.S.I. -- the Big Dog of procedural shows. Perhaps it hit its finest hour when it did an episode about a murder at a “Plushy” convention. Yiffing is now in my vocabulary because of it. How many other TV shows could do that kind of episode and not have every religious group in the country boycotting it? And then there’s William Peterson. Mmmmmmmm. William Peterson.

Supernatural: Yeah, it could be better. But as I am a complete whore for “alternative” programming, I gotta give this show some love. It’s Buffy with boys. Sorta. I think the show could be more ambitious, but it has had some moments of real scariness.

Scrubs: Oh please, don’t tell me you haven’t been watching Scrubs. No, I don’t even want to hear it. You just broke the Chocolate Bear’s heart.

30 Rock: Tina Fey’s show, except Alec Baldwin just ripped it out of her well-manicured hands. Happily, 30 Rock has gotten better since its pilot episode. But the real greatness of this show is Baldwin’s hysterically funny network executive. Vain, misogynistic, shallow, clueless, and oddly appealing, Baldwin is so wonderful it’s a revelation.


Or, as I like to think of it, The Best Night of TV.

If any of you remember the debut of the Sci-Fi channel, you will see just how wacky the following statement sounds:

The Sci-Fi channel’s Friday night lineup is the best TV around right now. And it has achieved that with the following programming: Heroes, Doctor Who, and Battlestar Galactica.
Take a moment to recover from the cognitive dissonance.

The Sci-fi channel re-broadcasts NBC’s Monday night Heroes episode on Friday. And then it follows it with:

Doctor Who: It’s new. It has an effects budget. And it has good writers. In fact, one of last season’s episodes was nominated for a Hugo. It lost out to Serenity, and it shouldn’t have. This is another show I would suggest starting by watching the first season on rental. The second episode of the first season is dark, haunting, funny, and wonderful.

And . . .

Battlestar Galactica: I’m getting tired of trying to convince people that Battlestar Galactica is fantastic. You watched Buffy. You watched Angel. You watched X-files. Stop being so snooty.

Battlestar Galactic is hunting big game. This is not a fluffy show. This is a show about real stuff: politics, terrorism, religion, faith, betrayal, humanity, madness and love. There are no easy answers in the BG universe. The people here do wonderful and terrible things -- sometimes all at once.

And, once again, I highly recommend watching from the beginning. Start with the mini-series, then work your way through the first two seasons.

You can thank me later.


It’s the black hole of programming. Which works at the Spector house because we have all this stuff TiVoed and usually haven’t worked our way through it.


Sunday is a big floating smorgasbord of programming. This is the night that the cable channels like to trot out their original series such as: The Sopranos, Entourage, Rome, Dexter, and Deadwood. (Yes, I know Deadwood is no longer on, sniff).

And I didn’t mention The 4400 which has its moments. Or The Daily Show, The Simpsons, and South Park.

What I do find interesting about my listing is the dominance of “alternate” programming. Sci-fi used to be outrĂ© and only the provence of geeks and nerds. But we’re mainstream now, baby.

Now I’ve got to go worship at the altar of my great God, TiVo. He may not be Zeus, but when I ask him for something -- record every movie with Norma Shearer in it -- he provides.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Remedial Zombification, 101

In honor of our zombie-themed blog, for your amusement, I offer this entertaining little undead nugget.

Separate link here.

(I wonder if buzzards would go after zombies...? Seems like they should.)

Guest Post: Laura J. Mixon on Jack Williamson's Memorial Service

Steve and I went to Jack Williamson's memorial in Portales yesterday. There are supposed to be two Locus issues coming that will be devoted to remembrances of him, and there have been tributes in the NY Times, LA Times, the Chicago Tribune, and elsewhere. Letters have flooded in from all over the world. In addition to his influence and vision, which molded the field of SF, he was just an amazingly kind, decent, modest, and loving man. He touched so many lives, including mine.

I've always thought it was so cool that he was a native New Mexican, too (Well, he moved here when he was eight or so, but given that he's still got almost twice as many years here as I do, I figure he more than qualifies...) In the booklet prepared for his memorial, they printed some words of his, including what it felt like to grow up in a small New Mexican town. I could see my own childhood in his words, and in the slide show they gave, of him and his family and friends, who stood on front porches a lot like my own.

He grew up in Portales. I spent the first couple years of my life only a stone's throw away in Roswell, and the rest in Albuquerque, a few hours to the west. Like me, he ran barefoot in summer among honeysuckle blossoms, goatheads, ants, and desert brush. At night, he too watched the meteors (and in more recent years, the satellites) track across the huge starry sky. Like me, he could always look across the hilly desert plains at the mountains on the horizon, with their thunderstorms and their verga, or he could lie back in the grass and stare up into that startling indigo-blue sky. Like me, he lived near space and military research centers and ancient Indian villages, with green chili stew and Hispanic music and churches -- amid teachers and shop owners and artists and ranchers and other people eeking out a living in a poor state.

Our childhoods were separated in time, but not so very far in space, and he fell in love with the vast array of possibilities that science and technology promised, too. Not a blind love -- he was concerned about its abuses -- but he also saw its potential.

About ten years ago, a group of us NM (and formerly of NM) writers and SF folks started a little mailing list, and Jack joined, too. I always treasured his posts. He was a regular guest at our local SF convention, Bubonicon (which btw is a really lovely, literary-oriented con; y'all should come). Once or twice, we had the opportunity to talk about SF stories we loved. I remember once we talked about Roger Zelazny's Nine Princes in Amber. Another time, we shared our experiences of how much therapy had benefited us. We discussed evolution and meteors.

We did not have opportunities to connect often, but whenever we did, he was present with his whole self -- his rational mind, his loving heart. I was only one of many people whose lives he touched. I doubt if he even knew how much our occasional conversations and contacts meant to me. It was a great gift he gave me, of his time and attention, and I will always treasure that memory.

SF writer Connie Willis, Patrice Caldwell, who taught with him at ENMU, and his niece, Betty Williamson spoke at his service. Craig Chrissinger was there, as were Ed Bryant, Walter Jon Williams, and others from the SF community.

Nearly every piece written about his life mentions that he came to New Mexico in a covered wagon. That fact is mentioned so often because it is so striking. He was an honest-to-God American pioneer, a denizen of the old west. His family almost certainly knew people who had known Jesse James, who lived in that area, too. They also mention all the terms he coined: terraforming, anti-matter, genetic engineering, to name a few. He was as much a pioneer in the field of SF as he was a pioneer in the west.

Here lived a man who was born at the start of the 20th century and who lived several years into the 21st: a man educated in the humanities and widely read in the sciences. He not only saw all the wonders, dangers, and terrors that have unfolded in the past century; he even predicted some of them, in that peculiar, watercolor-soaked way SF is known for.

His own words about his life, from the booklet handed out at the service:

"We lived close to nature. ... I recall the look and feel and smell and taste of whatever grew in the sand: the wonder of sleek green acorns swelling in their ornamental cups on the low-growing oak brush we called shinnery; the magic promise of a tiny tender watermelon growing out of its dying bloom; the mystery of the sensitive plants that shut their leaves when you touched them. There was sweet nectar to be sucked from one white, deep-necked bloom. Grassburrs and goatheads had to be avoided in the summer, when we were happily barefoot.

"I enjoyed them all [my classes], but one I loved was called 'Literary Figures.' A wonderful way of self-education, it let me pick one or two inviting writers and explore them with a little group of curious students. ... Best of all, I was allowed to teach science fiction. When a newspaper described the pioneer course that Mark Hillegas taught at Colgate in 1962, I proposed one of my own. Though some of my colleagues considered it 'fluff,' the department approved it, and I taught it for a dozen years, from 1964 until I retired.

"Though writing is another social thing, it's lonely, the responses long delayed. In the classroom, what you say and do gets instant feedback. And you belong. You're accepted, commonly respected, sometimes even loved.

"Science fiction remade my life when I found it long ago in those early pulp magazines where it was being invented. Its name was strange at first to nearly everybody. Not that many cared to know. Not then, because the magazines looked like trash. They were cheaply printed "pulps: with queer machines and horrid monsters on their cover, but for the few of us who dug them, even their names were drenched and dripping with wonder. Amazing Stories, Astounding Stories, Astonishing and Startling and Marvel; even Wonder Stories. ... Most of these once-beloved magazines are gone now, and all of us have changed. Yet I think we need wonder more than ever now ..."

It's not surprising to me that Jack embodied this uniquely Southwestern blend: a love of the humanities, of scientific and intellectual reach, of nature, technology, culture, a mix of down-to-earth friendliness, and a deep, thoughtful intellect. In Jack, it was all rolled up into a single, lovely person.

He had a long and fulfilled life, and he was prepared to die. He was surrounded by people who loved him. He retained his mental faculties pretty much right up till the end, and enjoyed good health well into his last years. I'm very grateful for all of that, and for the great gift of all those years we had with him.

But damn. I will miss him sorely. Good-bye, Jack.

Added by Steve: NPR story with quotes from Ray Bradbury, Jim Frenkel, and Patrice Caldwell.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Childe Buzzard to the Dark Tower Came

Barb and I go for a walk with our three dogs every morning before sunrise. As we leave our driveway in the gray light and head toward the end of our street, our view is dominated by an enormous cell-phone tower.

I hated the thing when it was erected a few years ago, because it destroyed my illusion of rural seclusion. It's at least three hundred feet high. I mean, it must be. It's huge. It could be the base of a space elevator. It's as stark and metallic as Gort the Robot in The Day the Earth Stood Still. Only a lot bigger. It wounds my blue sky and casts a shadow over my green yard.

Yet it serves a purpose, and I know it has to be somewhere. We postmodern humans, we gots to have us our cell phones.

Soon after the tower's appearance, however, I was reminded that other residents of the world will find their own uses for man's devices.

You see, our cell-phone tower is now the permanent nighttime home of over a hundred black-headed buzzards. Big, ugly buzzards. The kind you see playing tug-of-war with whole deer carcasses.

Every morning when Barb and I begin our walk, there they are . . . just waking up, clacking their talons on the reverberant steel and stretching their great dark wings as they prepare to leap away and soar in search of the dead.

Once, I counted a hundred and twenty of them before I decided I didn't want to know how many there were. Sometimes the tower is black-feathered from top to bottom. Other days, there aren't so many. But I can't recall a morning when there were none. And those who are there always watch us as we walk by.

This must be a metaphor for something.

Barb and I always glance at each other and say the same thing:

"Look alive," we say.

Thirty minutes later, when we return, the buzzards are leaving for their daily rounds.

They're beautiful when they fly.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Tuesday: Desktop Management

Mea culpa. The Dog ate my Homework. I will be right on time next Tuesday, scout's honor.

Despite my children's opinions, I am not a neurotic neat freak. Any normal person coming to my house would realize this. I was brought up in a house that was, essentially, my parents' shared artistic project, and when I left anything lying around the family rooms, I heard about it. Thus, my room--up a ladder from the other living areas, and rarely visited by my parents--was messy. My first college room-mate found me annoyingly untidy. It really wasn't until I got my own room at college that I started practicing a certain amount of order, because I had no other space that represented me.

As I got older and the jobs I did became more complex, I found that I needed to keep my environment at least minimally tidy, not so much because it was easier to find things, but because I found it easier to focus in an environment that was not too chaotic. I'm fine with a fair amount of disorder, but go over the line and I start to feel oppressed by it. I know where the line between acceptable and oppressive lies--but I don't live alone. I live with three people (and a dog) who have different setpoints than mine for organizational squalor.

I was thinking about this because of my husband's computer desktop. The desktop of my laptop has maybe four files sitting on it, and the icon for my hard drive. The desktop of his computer has two or three dozen files on it, in no particular order. This seems to work for him; he can find what he's looking for, whereas I look at his desktop and my life passes before my eyes. It's his desktop, not mine. So I have to wrestle with my impulse to put things away, or at least organize the files in a way that makes sense to me. It's the same thing in the girls' rooms; I have a hard time going in to clean up and reorganize, because I feel strongly that the way things make sense to me is not necessarily the way things make sense to someone else. But if I don't get things tidied up, I do start to feel a little crazy, which spills over onto my ability to remember who has what activities that day and whether we have milk and butter or not.

So what are my options? I rarely go on the husband's computer, so I don't have to be offended by his desktop. I could, I suppose, refuse to go into my daughters' rooms. But what of the dining room table, which accretes mail, homework assignments, spare socks, bills and other nonsense with frightening speed? What of the kitchen counters, where half-used BART tickets and notes home from school and Scouts vie with dirty dishes? I am left with one of two conclusions/options: 1) no one else in the house sees these things, and thus it is for me to clean them up; or 2) everyone sees them, but hopes that someone else, which would be me, will clean them up. You notice that in the end, it all falls on me. Someday I will burst this bud of calm and blossom...

Mystic Ninjas Podcast About Jumper

The kind folks over at The Kick-Ass Mystic Ninjas PodCast have done a podcast on my first novel Jumper (Tor 1992). Their mission is the discussion of "Old School" Science Fiction and Fantasy, both good and bad. It's a weird thing that 1992 qualifies as "old" SF nowadays.

I just listened to it and had to blog about it. It's like one of those (rare) times when you're about to walk around a corner and you hear people talking about you so instead of scuffing your feet and clearing your throat, you stop, lean nonchalantly against the wall, and shamelessly evesdrop.

Of course when you do this in the real world, the next line is, "Too bad he's such an asshole." Fortunately, they mostly loved it.

I did know this was coming up as one of the 'casters, Summer Brooks, introduced herself to my editor at World Fantasy (and then Beth dragged her over to me) and talked about it. Sometime later, we may do an interview.

They also discuss the upcoming movie staring Samuel Jackson, Hayden Christensen, Rachel Bilson, Jamie Bell, and Diane Lane, though you can learn a lot more about that here.

WARNING: Lots of spoilers in the podcast so if you haven't read the book yet, wait until you have. OTHER WARNING: It's 30 minutes long.


We live, historically speaking, very private lives. The first world may be the first place where, for example, almost all children sleep in different rooms than their parents. Before, say, 1700, most extended families slept in the same room. (In some cultures, along with some of the livestock.) In the 100,000 years since, as a species, we walked out of Africa, we have lived most of our intimate lives in each other's presence. But now, one's closest friends do not really know things about us that everyone would have known three hundred years ago, and that in rural India or Central Africa, everyone knows about each other now.

I came to understand a little more about the Asian concept of face when I began to see it as linked to privacy. My Chinese students lived eight to a dorm room and so had, as most of their families did, very little privacy. Which means that there is a lot of etiquette of eye-averting. When everyone lives together, there are things you look away from. 'Privacy' is a Western concept. Chinese history is about 6000 years old, but they had no word for privacy until is was introduced from the West about 100 years ago. I asked a student one time where one could be private. After a long moment wrestling with the idea, she pointed to her forehead. In her head. So when someone loses face, it often resembles the feeling we get when someone inadvertently walks into the bathroom on you.

With all our bedrooms and separate house, we're oddly free to have secrets and we also fetishize those secrets. That's a great deal of what realty programs like The Real World pretend to provide, the private person. (Although I think that if someone cleans your house for you, you have no real secrets.)

Moving into a house where someone else has lived, I have found myself forced to consider their lives because in our case they left us a lot. Since all we have of these people is our brief history of negotiation and what we find of them in what used to be their house, we get a skewed view of them, I know. But they left a lot of stuff. Enough to fill up the back of my Subaru Outback (I'm taking a lot of it to Goodwill.) This includes a very dirty toddler's basketball hoop, a toddler's big wheel, a framed charcoal sketch of three vaguely Renaissance nudes, a poster of a baby giraffe, some broken stuff, a bunch of trash, two picture collage frames, two pillows, a bunch of baking stuff (a cookie sheet, a couple of aluminium muffin pans, a clay roaster, some glass jars, one with three rolls of life savers in it and bunch of other miscellany) a couple of pillows and, as pictured above, a container of toddler bath toys, used. (After we had closed on the house, we did see that they had come back in and gotten some towels and a clock they had left. Which, frankly, felt a little creepy. We changed the locks.)

So my entire understanding of the people who had this house before us is based on the fact that they left us used and dirty toys. I suspect it's not a fair understanding. But as I clean up after them, it's hard not to assign some meaning to all of this. It's my own, personal little reality show.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Free stream of new Clapton / JJ Cale Album

'The Road to Escondido' is a collaboration between Eric Clapton and JJ Cale that came out last week.

I'm listening to it as I type, and liking it a lot.

Go to:

Clapton's Official Site

Click on the pic of the Victrola at the top, labelled 'New Music'.

I haven't been listening to much Clapton for the past few years, because he just started sounding... tired, I guess, to me.

On this one, he sounds relaxed, an entirely different thing. He and JJ Cale together have made some extremley enjoyable, laid-back grooves on this album.

Incidentally, when the stream window opened for the first time last night, it started a process named 'vsnpt13.exe', which seriously messed up my keyboard. Killed keys, made others open commands instead of typing letters. When I dumped the process, all went back to normal, so no big deal. When I re-opened at work today, no such problems, so it might have just been my home system.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Ethics, Nanotech, and SF?

NSMS 550

ST: Societal Implications of Nanotechnology

Albuquerque/Main Campus
Topics Schedule Type
3.000 Credits

Laura and I went back to college today, sitting in on a talk by a visiting ethicist, Rosalyn W. Berne, speaking to the above graduate level class (taught by Dr. Kirsty Mills).

Berne is currently focused directly on nanoscience and nanotechnology investigators, to understand the formulation of their personal motivations, beliefs, aspirations and goals, as well as the development of individual ethical frameworks, as these are connected to their research in nanotechnology.

What was really fascinating, is that Ros is using Science Fiction, big time, both to examine potential problems for nanotech, but also to get scientists and engineers to examine thi
ngs they are not willing to talk about openly. She actually gets them to write fiction and uses the issues that emerge in the fiction itself, to engage them about things they wouldn't ever discuss in a straight forward conversation. (This is by no means a new interest in SF--one of her published articles is “Robosapiens, Transhumanism and the Kurzweilian Utopia: Why the Trans in Transhumanism."

Steve Smith, a physicist and virtual reality guru from Los Alamos National Laboratories roped us in on this, and the discussions in the classroom and later, at lunch were riveting.

Dr. Berne would be the first person to say she doesn't have the answers--but she sure has the questions and she's all about getting people to ask them.

Maybe we won't all dissolve into gray goo after all.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Return of the Ghost of Los Blues Guys

You, of course, already know of the legendary Los Blues Guys, the band that nearly everyone was in, a decade or so ago.

I'd like to tell you the most important thing about Los Blues Guys:

We didn't suck nearly as bad as you remember.

I was fooling around with some old cassettes and some recently-acquired audio hardware and software today. I thought it might be fun to find a live LBG performance and see what I could do to it with modern software.

This is the first and only song I played, on the first cassette I picked up:

Texas Flood

It was the kick-off song for our second set at ArmadilloCon in 1992.

I can promise you that you've paid good money to hear worse music. We were at the height of our unnatural powers.

It's being hosted by my nice friend Bradley Denton (sick of that phrase already, aren't you, Brad?)

Vocals and drums by Bradley, bass by Casey Hamilton (I think), and guitar-wankery by, well.... me. I'd like to warn you that there's a lot of loud drum playing and vocals, and especially, guitar-wankery in this song.

It's raw as sushi. Brad sounds amazing, IMHO.

The tape was incredibly messed up. A buzz that was louder than the music, and cassette hiss like a cobra spitting at you. I got rid of those. The mike was at the back of the ballroom, so it picked up every bit of crowd chatter to be had. I couldn't get rid of all of that without badly messing up the overall frequency curve. Sorry about that. Would have done better if I'd had more time.

I kept the process simple, quick, and dirty, so you'll hear it much as the original audience did.

I have complex memories about Los Blues Guys. I always felt stressed, anxious, and vastly under-rehearsed every time we got up. We didn't carry off every song on wings of creative genius, to say the least.

But sometimes we rocked the house.

Software tools used:

Magix Audio Cleaning Lab 10 for recording, de-hissing, and noise-reduction.

Reaper 1.37 used for editing and processing. There will be much more here about Reaper from me in the future. It's a mind-blowing app that you will soon own if you have any desire whatsoever to make music with your computer.

VST audio-processing plug-ins: Voxengo VoxFormer, TLS Maximizer, TLS Pocket Limiter, Voxengo SPAN.


This administration has fought aggressively against oversight of their corporate cronies, chief among them Halliburton, whose share price has soared as billion-dollar contracts have been thrown at them. And now we are learning that Halliburton has been providing contaminated water to our soldiers over there.

Go here. Watch the video. It's sickening, the kinds of things they are getting away with. This has to stop.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

A sky thick with stars

(image via NASA: Saturn eclipsing the sun, taken by the Cassini probe. In the larger image, you can see Earth just outside the main rings, to the left of the planet.)

(Also, an apology to Caroline, for encroaching on your Saturday. Yesterday I procrastinated, and then we had unexpected visitors for dinner, so I didn't get my post out on time.)

My love affair with science began in second grade, when one of my classmates' dads took several of us to a local park one summer night to do some star gazing. He had a telescope set up; looking back, it was probably about a four-inch reflector. All I knew then was that it was big and black, and perched precariously on a tripod, and we weren't supposed to touch it, but just step up on the foot stool, lean very carefully over the viewer, and peek through.

First he showed us Saturn. He pointed it out to the naked eye and told us that was a planet, and explained how a planet was different from a star. I remember looking at that faint white fleck about halfway up the sky. It was pretty unremarkable, really. Just another dot among many. But when I peered at that same fleck through a glass, I thought I was going to pee in my pants from excitement. It was no fleck -- it was a world! With rings! And its own moons!

And then came Mars. That little yellow speck, it was actually orange, and it had ice caps! And then the moon, my God, it looked so big, and all those craters! Some of the craters even had craters in them! It was like I could almost reach out and touch it! We were all so excited, we crowded around and asked for multiple turns at the scope.

While we were still reeling from this new reality, talking excitedly among ourselves, he turned the scope to the deep sky, and showed us just how many stars are really out there. I’d thought I knew – I’d looked up at the sky many times at night. But I hadn’t had a clue. The sky was thick with stars. Every tiny inch of space up there was swimming in them, all piled one on top of the other, stretching out forever in all directions.

And every single one of those dots was a sun. And every single sun might have its own worlds, each with their own moons, each possibly with their own life forms. Perhaps there was even a creature somewhere out there, peering back at me through a glass. I thought my brain was going to explode.

For me, science, and its spiritual sibling, science fiction, have always been a source of hope -- a hope grounded in reality, based on persistence, patience, and competence. No matter how grim things might seem, I could look up at the stars and know that there is a whole universe of discovery and possibility out there.

Jack Williamson gave us that. He lived in a land of big skies and big ideas, and he had an optimism annealed by unblinking integrity and a love of humanity. He supported aspiring writers -- I will never forget the time that he came to a reading of mine, simply to support me. I'll never forget his generosity of spirit.

One time, you know, a meteor landed in his back yard. I thought that was pretty cool. If you live to be ninety-eight, the odds accumulate that weird things will happen to you.

He will be sorely missed.

Postscript: I fear that my mention of Jack feels rather tacked-on. I had most of this post mentally composed and ready to write before learning of Jack's death. I had been reflecting on my love of science, technology, and SF, and how it has seen me through this past twelve years of our country's slow creep toward fascism. However bad things got, I could look up at the stars at night, and believe there were other times and other places where things were better. Faint echos of Susan Palwick's FLYING IN PLACE -- escapism is a very valuable device, when things seem grim.

But for me, Jack Williamson does stand for the best and brightest in science fiction. He was a renaissance man: educated in the arts and in the sciences, a creature of the enlightenment, a believer in the ability of rationalism and its fruits to help us solve many of our societal ills. People say he was a gentleman, and that's exactly right, but that label seems a poor approximation to describe his unfailing kindness and his thoughtful engagement with the world. His influence looms large among us in science fiction, both fandom and prodom. We are far better for his having lived.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Twelve-percenters

(I’ve been told by friends that no matter how good the situation is, I always look for the cloud around the silver lining. They may be on to something . . .)

I should be happy. I should be freaking delirious. But I’m not. I’m cranky.

Yeah, I know, the Dems took the House and the Senate. We took six governorships and got Rummy fired.

And heaven knows watching The Little Dauphine mince to the presidential podium as if he’d just been kneed in the nads by a significant part of the voting public and then watching him having to make nice with the same Democrats he’s been shitting on for the better part of six years . . . yes, that was gravy.

And yet, I am not filled with joie de vivre.

The reason is, well, lemme ‘splain . . .

See, down here in the Lone Star state, we had a five-way race for governor.

The current governor, Rick Perry a.k.a. Governor Good-hair was being challenged by four competitors: Chris Bell (boring) (D), Carol Keeton Strayhorn whatever-the-heck-her-name-is-now-as-she’s-been- married-more-times-than-Erica-Kane (I), Kinky Friedman (I wear a black cowboy hat and smoke a big cee-gar so you know I’m quirky) (I), and the Libertarian Guy who pulled 1% of the vote and couldn’t get an invite to the only debate between the other four yabos (L).

Here’s how the voting shook out:
Perry: 39%
Bell: 30%
Strayhorn: 18%
Friedman: 12%
Guy: 1%

A whopping 61% of voters didn’t want Rick Perry in office. But there are no runoffs in Texas, so we’re stuck with him. (Perry’s the kind of well-dressed, impeccably-coiffed guy who you just know uses too much JOOP! cologne to cover up whatever his real man–scent is, no doubt, a cross between the hot fetid smell of sexual deviation and the corpses of his political foes.)

Now the reason Strayhorn (former (D), former (R), now (I)) was running as an Independent instead of as Republican (aside from her personal loathing for Perry) is that she needs political power like a junkie needs a dime bag. With Perry in her way as the Republican candidate, Strayhorn bolted from yet another political party to run for office. She’s spent 30 years as a career politician and ran her campaign as an “outsider.” The mind reels.

And then there’s Kinky.

I’m not here to debate Kinky’s motives for running. Perhaps he genuinely thought he could make a difference. But in the grip of his fevered ego he failed to see that he was in no way suited for the job.

The problem with dewy-eyed political wannabes like Kinky and his campaign manager’s former boss, Jesse Ventura, is that they don’t understand that governing is harder than running for office and getting your picture taken. Governing is damned hard work -- even in the weak governorship we have in Texas. But the governor has a powerful bully pulpit and putting the guy who filed ethics charges against Tom Delay in charge of that bully pulpit might have, you know, Sent A Message.

Kinky ran the “Kinky: Why the hell not?” campaign and sadly a whopping 12% of voters here bought it. Enough voters that had they voted for Bell, Texas would have a Democratic governor right now. Imagine how Dubya would’ve been walking had that happened.

Sour grapes? You bet your ass.

Kinky is a buffoon. A professional buffoon. He led a band called the Kinky Friedman and the Texas Jewboys which I think is hilarious. But I don’t find it hilarious when the same guy is cracking wise about how to fix the manifest problems in this state. We’re 50th in just about everything, except executions where we’re number one with a bullet . . . okay, lethal injection, but you see where I’m going. I think Kinky was concerned about these issues, but you have to know how to fix problems and how to implement those fixes. (And, no, his Five Mexican Generals Initiative, no matter how he cares to spin that statement now, doesn’t count.)

I watched the debate between these candidates and let me say, none of them covered themselves in glory. Strayhorn was jaw-droppingly bad. When asked, she couldn’t name the newly elected president of Mexico. (And if you don’t understand why that’s bad, stop reading now.) Perry and Bell tried to out dull each other, and Kinky, well, for a guy who is an alleged wit and a public speaker, it was nothing short of an embarrassment. You can see the debate here, if you’ve got the stomach to watch it.

The people who voted for Kinky weren’t interested in making a real statement. They could have done that had they voted for the person who could have won and made a difference.

And just so you know, Chris Bell is not an exciting guy. He’s not going to make women swoon and throw panties and subpoenas at him like Bill Clinton. (Bill, call me . . .) But Chris Bell is a big part of the reason Tom Delay isn’t in power right now. And for that alone he deserved a grateful nation’s vote, much less a few cranky pants in Texas. If Kinky voters had really wanted to clean up politics, they would have voted for the guy who actually did something about the appalling corruption in Texas.

Yes, all you Kinky voters, you had your “protest” vote. And you insured that that asshat Rick Perry stayed Governor. You showed those in power that you were just as easily manipulated as they thought you would be. For you twelve-percenters out there, let me say, Job Well Done. You voted for the clown. The spoiler. The guy in the black hat. I mean, good grief, didn’t any of you ever see a Western? The guy in the black hat is never the good guy.

P.S. I don’t hate Kinky. I actually think he’s a talented guy who has done some real good in the world. He founded the Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch which has done amazing work saving animals. Personally, I think the best measure of man’s character is how he treats animals. And by that standard, Kinky is absolute aces.

And These Are Just the Novels

Jack Williamson

Legion of Space
1. The Legion of Space (1934)
2. The Cometeers (1936)
3. One against the Legion (1939)
Three from the Legion (omnibus) (1980)
4. The Queen of the Legion (1982)

Legion of Time
1. The Legion of Time (1938)
2. After World's End (1939)

1. The Humanoids (1949)
2. The Humanoid Touch (1980)

Seetee (writing as Will Stewart)
1. Seetee Shock (1950)
2. Seetee Ship (1951)

Undersea Eden (with Frederik Pohl)
1. Undersea Quest (1954)
2. Undersea Fleet (1955)
3. Undersea City (1958)
The Undersea Trilogy (omnibus) (1992)

Starchild (with Frederik Pohl)
1. The Reefs of Space (1964)
2. Starchild (1965)
3. Rogue Star (1969)
The Starchild Trilogy (omnibus) (1980)

Saga of Cuckoo (with Frederik Pohl)
1. Farthest Star (1975)
2. Wall Around a Star (1975)
The Saga of Cuckoo (omnibus) (1983)

The Alien Intelligence (1929)
The Girl from Mars (1930) (with Miles J Breuer)
The Green Girl (1930)
The Stone from the Green Star (1931)
Golden Blood (1933)
Xandulu (1934)
The Blue Spot (1935)
Islands of the Sun (1935)
The Fortress of Utopia (1939)
Realm of Wizardry (1940)
With Folded Hands (1947)
Darker Than You Think (1948)
Dragon's Island (1951)
aka The Not-Men
Star Bridge (1955) (with James E Gunn)
The Dome Around America (1955)
aka Gateway to Paradise
Wolves of Darkness (1958)
The Trial of Terra (1962)
The Reign of Wizardry (1964)
Bright New Universe (1967)
Trapped in Space (1968)
Jamboree (1969)
The Moon Children (1972)
The Power of Blackness (1975)
Brother to Demons, Brother to Gods (1979)
Manseed (1982)
Lifeburst (1984)
Firechild (1986)
Land's End (1988) (with Frederik Pohl)
Mazeway (1990)
The Singers of Time (1991) (with Frederik Pohl)
Beachhead (1992)
Demon Moon (1994)
The Black Sun (1997)
The Silicon Dagger (1999)
Terraforming Earth (2001)
The Stonehenge Gate (2005)

born April 29, 1908, died Today, November 10, 2006

He goes before us to pave the way--as always.

Caroline Spector: Queen of Snark

There's a woman who leads a life of danger....

Caroline Spector is not happy. And she's going to tell you about it. At length. And you are going to laugh at her.

Now, just to be clear, Caroline is trying to make you laugh. She wants you to laugh. She knows that if you laugh you are twice as likely to get the point. She knows what the Daily show knows. Laugh and the world laughs with you. Cry and you're a whiny nobody.

Caroline is the Queen of Snark. As in Snarky, like it says at Wikipedia: a portmanteau of "Snide Remark", loosely described as irritable, backhanded or "snidely derisive." If you go to the OED, well, there's just a picture of Caroline.

An example from Democratic Underground:

During Bill Clinton’s campaign against Poppy Bush, there was one thing that his campaign managers kept hammering away on: The moribund US economy. The “It’s the Economy, stupid” slogan was born and written in large letters in the campaign war room.

It’s time for a new slogan.

Personally, I think “It’s the Stupidity, stupid” has a nice alliterative ring to it, but since that might sound like too much of an ad hominem attack on the person currently occupying the White House, perhaps we should go with “It’s the Incompetence, stupid.”

Formerly an assistant editor at Amazing Magazine and an editor of RPG modules, Caroline has published three novels, Scars, Little Treasures, and Worlds Without End, as well as non-fiction gaming books. She will have a story in the first volume of the new Wild Card trilogy, Inside Straight, along side such luminaries as Walter Jon Williams, John Jos. Miller, Michael Cassutt, Walton (Bud) Simons, Stephen Leigh, Kevin Andrew Murphy, and others, edited by George R.R. Martin and Melinda Snodgrass.

As you can tell from the photo above, Caroline plays bass (and cello and vocals, too) in bands that other members of the Brainoids (note to self: come up with better label before am snarked to death by someone) have also played in. (Link -- scroll down.)

She also thinks she can play pool, but we are all entitled to our delusions.

Above photo courtesy of Keith Stokes and the MidAmerican Fan Photo Archive.

(Caroline Spector NAKED.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

That's Right. You're Not from Texas.

Dear [Name Withheld]:

A few days ago, while speaking before a mostly friendly group of colleagues, I uttered the sentence, "Texas was readmitted to the Union in 1870, and we haven't caused any trouble since."

I expected that sentence to elicit a chuckle, which it did . . . but what surprised me were the boos and hisses.

Wounded, I put a hand to my chest and asked, "Whatever can you be thinking of?"

But of course I knew. They were thinking of you.

Frankly, this has gone on long enough. So I'm asking you to come clean.

When you're born in Connecticut . . . go to prep school in Massachusetts . . . become a cheerleader at Yale . . . attend business school at Harvard . . . and currently live in Washington, D.C. --

Well, I don't think you get to call yourself a Texan. And I certainly don't think Texas should have to suffer the boos and hisses resulting from your behavior.

Oh, sure, you've taken some long vacations here (such as when you were Governor). But if that were enough to qualify you as "Texan," then we'd have to include every retired Minnesotan who owns an RV . . . as well as half the Saudi royal family.

Besides, every true Texan knows that brush-cutting is not a recreational activity. Real ranching ain't playtime, son.

Barbecue. Beer. That's what Texans do for fun.

But I wouldn't expect a Yale cheerleader to know that.

Sincerely yours,

Bradley Denton
Manchaca, Texas

P.S. Yes, I was born in Kansas. But I've lived in the Lone Star State for the past eighteen years. And I'll be happy to whip out my Texas credentials and compare them to yours any day of the week, Bubba.

P.P.S. Two words: Ann Richards. SHE was a TEXAN.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

I Feel Good Today

Steve and I talked about political blogging when he was starting up EatOurBrains, and he was able to gently steer me away from posting my pessimistic outlook at that time.

I believed that the Dems would be allowed to take maybe 10 to 12 seats in Congress, maybe three Senate positions. The rest would be bluntly stolen, via blackboxes, voter suppression, and apathy. I thought the US was over with.

Yep, I'm a paranoid idiot. Ain't it terrible? The Dems have taken the House and, likely, the Senate. I'm soooo embarrassed that I was wrong.

That said, I keep checking to see if there's a cloud inside the silver lining. I do NOT believe that the authoritarian criminal assholes that have wrecked my beloved country for so long have given up the fight and things will now be flowers and bunnies in the meadow.

We still have to deal with a broken media, a Supreme Court that's a hair away from being dominated by theocrats, and monstrous corporations that care for nothing but profits, no matter who gets hurt or killed in the process.

I feel good today, because I'd thought that our system was so broken that elections had become the kind of phony shows that the USSR used to have. Today, that's not the case, especially if the Dems have the balls to force changes in the election system, so that complete and easy theft of national elections is simply not possible.

I feel good today, because I'd thought that the American population had become too uneducated, too propagandized, too inert, too blinded by fear, to practice democracy anymore. You get the government you deserve.

Maybe we we only get two years to do something lasting, but you can do a lot in two years. Especially if you own a lot of Governorships and State legislatures. Which the Dems now do.

Hell, maybe we can even stop a senseless, meaningless war if we put our minds to it.

I'd thought that this war, and the ones to follow, would likely grind on for a generation, with the draft, of necessity, reinstated to feed new bodies to the ever-growing war machine .

I feel good today because I'd thought the battle was completely over and we were just pretending that we aren't owned. Now, I think we still are in terrible danger, and that it can go bad again vey quickly. But, right now, this year, we have a chance to make something good. I have hope, where only despair existed before.

....Everything changes so fast these days; the curve of technological change is going asymptotic, and maybe cultural change, too, so anything I say here today will be woefully obsolete almost immediately.

But, I feel good today.

Because, today, for the first time in three years, I'm not trying to figure out how to get my daughter safely out of the country before the war machine kills her.

Love to you All,


Sic Transit Gloria Austin: Here Comes Maureen McHugh

Our Wednesday Child (Full of Woe?) Maureen F. McHugh is the award winning (a Hugo and a Tiptree, 2 Locus, a Lambda and many nominations) author of novels China Mountain Zhang, Half the Day Is Night, Mission Child, and Nekropolis. Her short story collection Mothers and Other Monsters was shortlisted as a finalist for the Story Prize in December, 2005. (You've got to respect a prize where the runners up get as much money as I did for selling my first novel.)

I first met Maureen on an exotic island somewhere off the west coast of England. Way, way off the west coast of England. Okay, it was within eyesight of Cape Cod. We were both teaching at Viable Paradise IV, the week-long SF & Fantasy workshop on Martha's Vineyard. Back then, she had unruly, tightly-curled hair, glasses, and this whimsical smile. She still has the glasses and the smile--and the hair, too, but it's straighter now.

The first day she stood up before the assembled instructors and students to give some quick rules for work-shopping critiques. I'll never forget what she said for two reasons--because of what she said and how she said it.

"Say something that is both true and useful." Also, on the subject of receiving critique: "Your story is like an organism, crafted in the lab, that you are releasing into the wild to see how it fares. You are observing its behavior, its ability to function in the wild. You cannot intercede on its behalf. You cannot protect it from attack. You cannot explain it to other organisms when they don't understand it. You're there to see if it succeeds or fails and how and why."

(I'm paraphrasing on both of these as VP IV was at the tail-end of the last century and who can be expected to remember stuff they experienced in a previous century?)

But as I said, the other thing that got me was how she said it. Her voice changed and I had to sit up suddenly, fighting an urge to snap to attention. Affable, yes. Easy going, yes. Spine of steel? Also, yes.

She's in the middle, this week, of moving from Cleveland, Ohio to Austin, Texas. A change this extreme may induce a degree of culture shock...but I'm sure Austin will recover.

Sona si latine loqueris!

I'm sitting here posting while surrounded by boxes. The moving van is coming in about twenty-five minutes. I'm looking for the perfect Latin phrase to describe my predicament, because it's a lot more fun than actually dealing with the move.

People always said Latin was a dead language, but when I was a kid, there were people who still spoke it. They tended not to have kids and pass it on because they were priests and Cardinals. I'm not saying that none of them had kids, but I suspect if they did, they kept quiet about it and didn't have a lot to do with the kid's education. The Synod of Bishops stopped being in Latin in 1999 but the current Pope is fluent in it and Vatican documents are still issued in it. There is a person at the Vatican whose job it is to decide what the official Latin term is for stuff that wasn't around when Latin was still spoken at home over the family dinner table. (The Latin for 'spaceship' is astronavis, and for 'jumbo jet' the term is aeronavis capacissima. I'm sure there are Latin words for cell phone and fax machine as well.)

I went to Catholic school from second to sixth grade and although much of the experience was unfortunate, it did instill a belief that there was something about Latin. Grad school classes in Medieval Lit reinforced my belief. Really, really smart people spoke Latin. It proved one was classically educated. I never actually studied Latin. I was told it would help my spelling but I think my spelling is pretty much beyond help. Still, I am way more amused by a site with useful Latin phrases than I probably should be. I just really like the idea of being able to say, in Latin, 'I'm not interested in your dopey religious cult.' Nihil curo de ista tua stulta superstitione.

Unfortunately, even after I try to commit a phrase to memory, I forget. So I'm off to buy doughnuts for the movers.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Beauty Is IN the Eye of the Beholder

So 11-year-old daughter (formally known as the twilight ninja) came home with a sheep eye retina and parts of the eyelid. "Look how beautiful it is," she said.

Update: Twilight Ninja wants me to point out that she was a party to the dissection of same eye of sheep.

Are We There Yet?

Look guys, am I going to have to separate you two? I'll turn this Blog around in a minute and drive all the way back home. Don't think I won't.

Don't make me reach back there.

A Letter From My Nice Friend Bradley Denton

Bradley sent me this letter after he saw my story about him in the World Fantasy Convention book:

*Sigh* All right. You know what happens when you're bad. Back into the little dark room again, Rory. That's right. The tiny one with the metal door and the grate on the floor, where you have to hunch over naked and hug your knees to wait for when the slits in the ceiling open and the wasps fly in. Go on, now. That's a good boy. Stay in there for four or five days and maybe your nice friend Bradley won't have to hurt you again.

He really is very nice, though.

Most of the time.......

As Luck Would Have It

Election Day falls to me.

I don't understand being apathetic about voting. I understand being apathetic about politics--at this point, with the crazed state of California politics, I want to lie down and avoid the whole thing. The He-Said-She-Said nature of political advertisements is numbing, and in my darker hours I think that that's just what they want. But voting itself is sacred. First off, it's taken centuries to get to the point where all of us (theoretically) can vote. Black, white, male, female, propertied or without a dime. The Founders, prisoners of their own time, place, and prejudices, insisted that the franchise was limited to landed white men. Period. I never forget that my grandmother wasn't allowed to vote until the 1920s. I never forget that when I was a kid there were all sorts of "rules" in place to keep the undesireable voter (black, poor, illiterate) from voting. I never forget that my very first vote was thrown out because the local party machine was afraid that having a bunch of newly enfranchised kids voting might throw them out of power (they were right, tho' it took a couple of years to happen). When my kids were small I made a point of taking them with me to vote, on the theory that it would give them a sense of how critical a contribution to the public and private weal this is.

If you don't vote, you're giving up your chance to change things. Or (if that's the way you feel about it) to make sure things stay the way they are.

If you don't vote, you don't get to bitch about how screwed up things are. Period.

If you don't vote, the terrorists (and I'm not talking about 9/11 here) will have won.

I'm probably preaching to the choir here, but: go vote.

Now I'm going to take the Wonder Dog for a drag.

Monday, November 06, 2006

And 3 More Makes 7

I'm just back from World Fantasy Convention in Austin where every one of my "first round" picks actually said some form of "Okay, I'll do it, but only if you don't publish the pictures." (The pictures they weren't talking about.)

I want to do a post on all three of them but I'm about to fall over from an over-exposure to quickstop coffee and country & western stations, so I'm going to limit myself to one, right now, and get the other two in over the next couple of days.

Brad Denton Joins Eat Our Brains

Bradley "Play My Riff" Denton's novel Buddy Holly Is Alive and Well on Ganymede won the John W. Campbell Memorial Award in 1992, and his two-volume story collection The Calvin Coolidge Home for Dead Comedians / A Conflagration Artist won the World Fantasy Award in 1995. More recently, in July 2005, his F&SF novella "Seargent Chip" won the Theodore Sturgeon Memorial Award. His nominations are too numerous to mention.

I've known him for over twenty years (when we were, no doubt, seven or so) and there are some things that have changed over the years and some things that haven't. He didn't used to live in Texas. He didn't used to play drums, harmonica, and guitar. He didn't used to have five novels and numerous short stories published. But under the right circumstances, he still blushes like a fire engine.

We went shopping together Thursday morning before World Fantasy started. He bought a bitchin' leather jacket and I bought some mousse, "Thus," Brad explained, "Confirming the rumours."

I'm delighted he will be sharing his brains here every Thursday.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Hacking the EyeToy

It looks like a baby Terminator, with one blue eye and one red one. I’d buy it for that alone. Fortunately, it’s also the best $50 webcam you’ll ever buy for under ten bucks.

I just love getting really black-colored tech for ridiculously cheap. It’s a geek thing….

Here’s the Wiki on it.

I’m following up on a post last week where I talked about Skyping with my loved ones. I used to think that video-conferencing was a bit of a gimmick, like the Internet Refrigerator.

But I have seen the light, say Hallelujah!

Vid-calling is a paradigm-shifter, like e-mail was. Voice-only is now obsolete tech.

The EyeToy is designed to be a motion-detector to control PS2 games. But drivers have been hacked to make it work as a superlative (and cute!) 640x480 USB webcam. Its microphone is also excellent. The ring around the lens will adjust focus.

You’ll have to go on a treasure hunt for the maximum deal on this little guy. You want to get the black one, not the silver one, which apparently sucks. People have reported getting them for as little as $3.99 at EBGames. They can sometimes be found at GameStop, Target, Hollywood Video, and Blockbuster.

I’ve bought six of them at the local Toys”R”Us over a period of several months. They started out at $10, but the last batch this weekend rang up at $7.98. The geek-boy that ran the game section at Toy”R”Us originally denied that they had any on clearance. On the way out of the store, I spotted a bunch of them behind glass in the lock-up at the front.

I don’t think he was holding out on me. He just wasn’t as on-top of the intricacies of his demanding profession as he should have been.

They come inside boxes containing PS2 games. The Known Good games are Antigrav, Groove, Kinetic, and Play. These normally sell for $30 - $50, but are randomly priced less in various places at various times.

There are lots of drivers and instructions floating around, but I used the ones here, as well as ripping from it the image used at the top of this post.

If you’ve been disappointed by past webcam experiences, are just cheap like me, or simply want a new little robot buddy to keep you company during those lonely hours of compulsively surfing the net, give this one a spin.

I love mine so much, I’ve named it E.T.

If I was more clever, I’d have named it….Wait… I’m not clever enough to know what I’d have named it if I was more clever….


Scott's Only In It For The Money

A belated Halloween pic of Scott McCullar, lead singer, rhythm guitarist, and composer of many of the greatest hits of the legendary Los Blues Guys Band. He' s a serious rock 'n roll kinda guy, not afraid to provoke a firestorm of controversy with this elaborate costume mocking the commercialization of......well, hell....I dunno. Damn near everything, I guess....

He doesn't know it yet, but I'm soon gonna harass him to record with me some of his greatest hits, such as 'They Want my Four-Wheel Drive', 'The Egg', 'Element of Fire', and 'PC Woman Blues'.

For the culturally challenged -- Steve and Scott and me and Brad Denton and Martha Wells and other notables too numerous to mention were in Los Blues Guys throughout much of the go-go Nineties. I still get emails, flowers, and boxes of panties from adoring groupies.

Perhaps my favorite memory of an LBG gig was the night we were playing at some rowdy con, (perhaps 'DilloCon?) and Gardner Dozois started heckling us. Was he drunk, or stoned, or just crazy? We'll likely never know.

Anyhow, he loudly and repeatedly demanded that we play 'Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida'.

Little did he know that we'd recently added 'Inna-Gadda-Da-Vida' to our set list --but we used the lyrics from 'Take Me Out to the Ball Game'. The mixture works shockingly well, creating a heavy, doom-laden song drenched with a twisted dark love for professional sports.

Gardner fell over and started convulsing when we kicked into it.

Yay, Scott! Great memories of our misspent youth, dude.

Friday, November 03, 2006


(Here is the picture of that red giant I mentioned in my post below -- the blogging software laid it out oddly when I tried to get both images into one post.)

Friday Aperitifs: Do you want wasabi with that red giant?

Well, today is My Day to Post, and project deadlines have turned my brain to jelly. I am at a complete loss for what to post on.

I suppose I could talk to y'all about a study concerned with overfishing and the potential collapse of the world's fisheries (major bummer! but hold onto your tuna; we still have time to avert disaster, IF we act now) (image from AAAS, via the LATimes)...

... or about how the Guys in Charge have approved plans to save the 16-year-old Hubble telescope once more (huzzah!) More images here.

Or, hey, how about this? Did you know that November is National Bone Marrow Awareness Month?
Donate bone marrow, if you can, and support stem cell research.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

Rachael's a Biker Chick

I'm taking this little jewel up to my daughter in Austin this morning. It's a 2001 Yamaha Virago 250cc cruiser, and is exactly Rachael-sized. We've both gotten the motorcycle bug, and it's her fault.

She got the disease first, and ended up with a 1988 Honda Elite CH80 last year. The Elite is Honda's classic 80cc scooter, so good that it's remained unchanged from 1985 until today. It'll do 45 mph on the street and gets 90 miles to the gallon. Good used ones can be easily found for about $1,000, though prices seem to be going up as gas gets more expensive. When my last car suicided this summer outside San Marcos, I drove her scooter for a few weeks while plotting my next auto purchase.

Gradually, I realized that I was having a blast bombing around all over town on the scooter, and I didn't miss having a car at all.

So I bought one for myself, too, a 1986 model. Mine's ratty and has broken off plastic in several places as a result of previous owners dropping it over. I adore it. I've affixed a large Harley-Davidson decal to the left rear panel as an upgrade. The Harley riders, so far, haven't killed me for this heresy.

We took our Motorcycle Safety Foundations course together in the middle of Texas July. It was hot as the boiler-room of hell. We almost toasted that weekend, but we passed and got our full licenses shortly therafter. It was an amazing father-daughter bonding experience for me.

The Virago surfaced in the For Sale section of Two Wheeled Texans, and Rach bought it through me a week later. Much credit to Road Weazel, for posting the above pic in the TWT sale thread and turning her head when she saw it.

The thought of her riding this thing around town, and especially on the highways, scares the bejeebers out of me. But, she's grown-up now, and is gonna live her own life. Birds gotta fly, fish gotta swim. And daughters gotta ride motorcycles, I guess.

I'm saving my pennies to get a somewhat larger bike for myself come next spring. If all goes well, me and Rach will be in the wind together for a long time to come.

Uh, have I mentioned that Rachael is Awesome?

My Nice Friend Bradley

Bradley Denton is one of the better writers of his generation. I may be a bit prejudiced because he, like Steve, is one of my few adoptive brothers. You should now visit Brad's site and sample the good music and short stories and other neat stuff there. Buy some books. Then come back here and congratulate me for my good taste in writers and adoptive brothers.

Brad is the Toastmaster at this weekend's World Fantasy Con in Austin. Exhibiting an endearing level of trust, he allowed his friends to write whatever they wanted to write for his bio page in the con's program guide.

Here's my bit:

Bradley Denton is my very nice friend. I knew him as long as I can remember. He told me to make this story about him. He said I could tell anything I wanted, but I won’t tell the really bad things.

He is nice most of the time. And he’s really funny too. He has three dogs and a cat. Two of the dogs are big and they jump on me. It doesn’t hurt much.

He has a big house in the woods. It has a big yard where the dogs live in the back. Sometimes he lets me be in the yard, but I don’t stay long, because the dogs jump on me then.

He lets me sleep in his house sometimes when I don’t have any other place to stay. He made me smoke a cigar once, and he gave me a drink and I thought it was a Coke, but it burned.

He is really, really smart. He has a computer. There are lots and lots of books in his big house. He told me that he wrote some of the books. He tried to read me one of the books, called ‘Blackburn’. But I got scared, so he stopped. Also, another day, he read me a story he wrote, called ‘Sergeant Chip’. He said lots of people like it, but I didn’t understand it. It was about a dog that was brave and nice just like Bradley and killed a lot of people. I think.

But I don’t think my friend Bradley has killed a lot of people yet.

He also is a famous musician. He plays about a hundred drums with wooden sticks. I think he just likes to hit things, but when I said that, he hit me with the sticks. It didn't hurt much.

Sometimes he makes me and other friends play music with him.

It’s nice, mostly. We get real loud sometimes. Sometimes he will stop the music and tell me I am playing my guitar too loud and I have to turn it down. And he says it doesn’t sound right when I turn on my stortion pedal. I like the way it sounds when I turn on my stortion pedal, but he makes me turn it off all the time. Sometimes I cry, but he pretends he doesn’t see. He’s just trying to help me play better. I know.

He makes Warren turn down his guitar, too. I think Warren cries too, but he wears glasses, so I’m not sure. He makes Caroline stand right in front of the big loud drum and play her bass whenever he kicks the big loud drum. She pretends she likes it, but you can tell. She does like to sing though. Gilda likes to sing, too, and Bradley doesn’t make her play an instrument. Except the shaky-rattly thing sometimes.

Bradley lives with Barb. She’s really, really nice. Even nicer than him maybe. They said they were married. But they’re always friendly and nice to each other, so I don’t know.

Anyhow, that’s my story about my nice friend Bradley.

p.s. My friend Jessica wrote this story when I said it, because I don't write too good. Jessica is really, really nice. Only different from Bradley because she never makes me cry.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Facts are facts, aren't they?

The circle goes around.

While driving 12 straight hours by myself from Albuquerque to Austin today, I listened to a lot of radio.

One thing of interest was the NPR Morning Edition story about John Rabe, a German member of the Nazi party in China during World War II who was responsible for saving many Chinese during the 1937 Japanese invasion of Nanjing. Essentially, like
Oskar Schindler, he used his position and house to shelter 600 from the Japanese soldiers.

What was odd to me is that this is being made into a very big deal by the Chinese not because he did this wonderful thing, but because a small number of Japanese Ultra-Nationalists are denying that the "Rape of Nanjing" happened or that the numbers were a "few thousand," not the 300,000 civillians estimated killed.

Why did I find this odd? Because the Chinese are busy doing "denials" about current practices in China. From CNET (via Boing Boing):

"While many countries block off some Web sites, China has long drawn heightened scrutiny because of the breadth and sophistication of its Internet censorship.

Which is why it came as a surprise on Tuesday when a Chinese government official claimed at a United Nations summit here that no Net censorship existed at all."

And what about Tiananmen Square?
"It is common for Chinese, especially younger Chinese who live far from Beijing, to be entirely unaware of the Tiananmen protests."

The Rape of Nanjing happened. The Chinese currently censor the internet. An unnamed Chinese Red Cross official at the time reported that 2,600 people were killed and 30,000 were injured during the Tiananmen Square crackdown (reports vary quite a bit and this may be high.)

But these things still happened.

Don't get me started on people denying the Holocaust.