Solitaire

I just finished Kelley
Eskridge’s
debut novel Solitaire. As full
disclosure, I’ve been friends with Kelley for a decade and have
personally been quite smitten with her for many years. I say to her
without irony, sarcasm or humor that she is my heroine and I really
couldn’t be more sincere. That said, onward. The book is very very
good. It started like one sort of book and surprised me by becoming
another. It also never became a mystery, when it seemed like that was
the standard way to go. She was assured enough not to answer every
question, which I liked. In fact, huge freaking things are left
unsaid, not to leave a hook for a sequel but because that’s how life
is. There was a deep lack of sentimentality, which made it more
touching emotionally to me. I cared what happened, and how the
protagonist dealt with the damage of her shattered life, without ever
feeling like I was having my emotional puppet strings yanked. I appreciated
the lack of a storybook moment where everything was made good. The
book ends conclusively with much damage still in evidence. I read it a
little like a J. G. Ballard disaster novel on a personal level. Rather
than fixing what is wrong, the book is about accepting what is
wrong. I recommend this quite highly. As a weird after-moment, the
book was over and I was going to close it and put it up when a page
flapped to the acknowledgements page, one after the last story
page. In a glance, I was able to pick out my name (and my wife’s) off
the list, the way you can hear your own name through the noise of a
crowd. I had no idea we were cited, and I’m delighted to have it
associated with such a good book. And to close out the personal
comments about Kelley, in my life she’s the closest I have to a
Winston Wolf. If there is a problem that seems unsolvable by my means,
the way to make it right is to ask Kelley for help.

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Looking at Teresa Nielsen-Hayden’s thoughts
on the election
from their weblog Making Light has made me feel a
little better. As usual with (P|T)NH writing, the emotional is
stripped out and the pragmatic focused upon. Interesting discussion of the tools of
democracy. A quote I like:

Get real, vote real. If you want to make changes happen, you have to
get your guys elected. Deciding the whole system is corrupt so
why bother, and/or casting symbolic votes and protest votes for
non-starter candidates, is like wasting your ammunition on symbolic
volleys that don’t hit anything. The other side won’t be impressed, and they’ll still be aiming their own shots at you.

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I found it very difficult to watch the West Wing tonight. The whole
thing with the openly and unapologetically liberal president winning
reelection was a stark contrast to our world, where the liberals
pretend to be conservatives, fooling no one and getting their asses
handed to them. Oh well, I do like science fiction so what am I
complaining about? When I see this fictional White House full of
people who ache to help people even if it costs them personally, it’s
kind of like reading about faster-than-light drives or time travel –
impossible things that are used as literary devices.

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I was wrong about the Blogmax stuff. The monthly upload thing does not
update every page, only the first day of the month. I really want
every page to have a full calendar, so I do need to brush off the
Lisp. Cover me, I’m going in!

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Here is something that I’m looking at using in the V2 version of the
WREK automation scheduler, a simple XML file configuration handler
called XMLConfig. It looks
like it can serialize arbitrary Java objects as XML. I was thinking
about doing XML configuration files the way that the Ant project does theirs with
the neat way properties can either be defined as attributes in a tag
or as an element that is contained within the tag. The XMLConfig might
be better, though, since it is simpler. I’ll have to think through if
I really need the more complex stuff.

Abintra

Ed Howdershelt is someone I’ve seen online in various venues,
including eBook mailing lists and such. He was also a panelist at
Dragon*con, although I didn’t actually talk to him. He writes and
publishes his own eBooks and makes his living exclusively this
way. Now they are being
carried at OfficeMax
.

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Forwarded by a coworker: an examination written up in Design Pattern
style of the pattern that occurs most often in the actual development
process: The Big Ball of
Mud
. This includes such morsels of wisdom as

engineers will differ in their levels of skill and commitment to
architecture. Sadly, architecture has been undervalued for so long
that many engineers regard life with a BIG BALL OF MUD as
normal. Indeed some engineers are particularly skilled at learning to
navigate these quagmires, and guiding others through them. Over time,
this symbiosis between architecture and skills can change the
character of the organization itself, as swamp guides become more
valuable than architects.

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This morning as I was getting ready for work, I heard in the course of
about 90 seconds that Jimmy Carter had won the Nobel Peace Prize and
that there was an accident at Jimmy Carter Boulevard that was backing
up I-85. About 10 years ago, we lived in Smithville GA while I worked
for Merck in Albany. At that point, we were about 15 miles from
Plains in one direction and Americus in another. We always kind of
meant to visit Plains and the Carter Museum, but we never did. We have
visited the Carter Center here in town. It’s in a great spot, about
half a mile from downtown and the Little Five Points/ Virginia
Highlands area. There were gardens and libraries and lots of peaceful
spots. I guess that was the plan.

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I finished listening to the George Carlin book today. It was mostly
the same experience as listening to one of his albums and in a few
cases was the same material I first heard on albums. His delivery
makes already funny stuff even funnier. I would definitely consider
becoming an Audible customer, if only they had some way of hooking up
their DRM crap to my iRiver SlimX. As it is, I’ll be looking at
BookEars or other places that sell audiobooks on MP3 CDs. It makes so
much sense to me to do it this way, when you can put 10 or more hours
of book on a single CD. Beats that tall stack of tapes with the
bizarre “part 1 on the left channel, part 3 on the right” schemes to
put more stuff on one tape.

While I’m talking audiobooks, I should mention the company founded by
author Bruce Coville, Full
Cast Audio
. I don’t actually know Mr. Coville but I do run in
similar online SF circles (which is how I first learned about FCA –
from his group on Dueling Modems.) He has a taste for similar films as
I do, and seems like a good guy. What Full Cast Audio does is do big
production versions of prose fiction. It’s more like Seeing Ear
Theater than an audiobook. He has a free sample, one of his
stories up there, available for download or he’ll even send you a tape
for free. As best I can tell, all the material is the kind of young
adult fiction he writes, which translates into fun for the whole
family. Slap some of these babies on your Diamond Rio and plug it into
the car stereo during long trips. I wish this kind of technology was
available when I was a kid living in western Kansas, where any
vacation involved driving at least 3 or 4 hours, 8 or 9 for the good ones.

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I broke down and worked through the Audible docs, and finally got the
problem resolved. I had to delete a file called “debug.log” and
restart everything. This kind of bugs me, but it worked. I have heard
most of this as standup material or on comedy albums but it still
cracks me up. I swear there is new stuff, even in familar
routines. For example, in the classic “Football and Baseball” routine,
he now includes this section:

What is all this fuss about taunting? I don’t think it goes far
enough. If a lineman sacks the quarterback, I think he should be
allowed to pull down his pants and masturbate on him. If he can’t
ejaculate because of the 60,000 people in the stands, slap a 15 yard
penalty on him for delay of game.

Ever since I heard that, I’ve had the low-level giggles.

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On Dueling Modems, the question arose whether World Fantasy Convention
was at Callaway Gardens in 1992. I was completely sure that it was,
but I looked it up to be sure. As I looked it up,
memory that the special award went that year to
W. Paul Ganley. The first night I was there, he and I were each going
to the restaurant individually to eat dinner, and they didn’t have
any tables for one ready. I turned to him and asked if he wanted to
share a table, and then they seated us immediately. I didn’t
previously know him, just introduced myself on the stop. He was a
nice guy, and we just talked books and fandom for an hour while we
had dinner. I’ve never seen him again.

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I’ve made the decision for myself that I’m not watching the extensive
major network coverage of the 9/11 commemoration. As a group, I think
we are teetering on the hairy edge of grief turning to morbid
obsession.

I’ve been wondering a little why things are so radically
different between the Trade Center attacks vs. the Oklahoma City
bombing. The 150 or so people killed in Oklahoma City is probably a
similar percentage of the population as that of 3000 people is to
Manhattan. Why are Americans so much more worked up about this than we
were 6 years ago? Is it because New York captures more of our
attentions and hearts than Oklahoma? That the people killed in NYC
were more interesting than the people in Oklahoma? That we have an
“other” to blame and hate in this case? I just don’t understand it.

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I fear this next week is going to be unbearable with remembrances of
September 11th. While not saying that I think we shouldn’t commemorate
or observe the anniversary, I note that those seeking to make hay from
this observance are thick on the ground. Politicians, TV channels,
newspapers are all plucking our heartstrings for all they are
worth. The artificiality of it makes me sick. This was a terrible day,
but probably not the worst moment in our history, not a reason to
alter the fundaments of our lives or values. Let’s spend a day
remember lost loved ones, thinking about what matters to us, and then
let’s move on. Morbidly obsessing on every detail that might fill up a
segment on the local news (“Local couple visited the Trade Center just
days before the attack!”) is not seemly and is a poor way to
memorialize an important and somber event.

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Mmmmm, just had dinner at
Rocky Mountain Pizza
over by Georgia Tech. I’ve never had pizza
there, only their Smokehouse Burger. We’ve taken to always getting the
sweet potato fries. Tasty! Part of the deal was that we also got to
play the South Park pinball machine, one of my favorites.

Haven’t yet mentioned it here, but I’m on a mad dash to finish the
next Reality Break book. It will have interviews with Michael Moorcock, Kage Baker, Storm Constantine and
probably a fourth writer as well. I have targets on the length, so if
it runs short I’ll add another person in. I’m leaning towards James
Patrick Kelly, but Elizabeth Hand is also on the list. I’m trying to
group them such that it makes sense having them all in the same
volume. I just don’t know. This part is hard. To think that at one
point I thought I could put out three volumes a year. Ha! I’ve been nine
months on this and I’m not done! I so want to be done with the text by
next weekend, but that’s looking unlikely.