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June 22nd, 2014


02:53 pm - Dear Ebook publishers
The author's name is not (to pick an example from today's solstice shopping) Tarr, Judith. That's how you sort the author's name, but, you see, there actually is (honest!) a separate field for determining how you sort the author's name. No, really, it exists and everything. So there is no need to sell me a book which thinks it is by "Tarr, Judith" or "Delany, Samuel R."

Oh, and, as an extra free tip, may I remind you that typically the first letter of the author's names are capitalized, but not any other letters in their names? So it should be (again, real example from today's shopping) Gayle Rubin, not "GayLe Rubin."

Get your act together guys. This sort of BS would be unacceptable on the cover of a print book, so why do you keep doing it on the (electronic metadata) covers of your ebooks? Ebooks have been a thing for over half a decade now. It doesn't do you any favours when your merchandise has as many typos and errors in the bibliographic data as the dodgy crap available on pirate sites.

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/14387.html. Comment over there, please.

 

May 5th, 2014


07:42 pm - Cosmos (Sagan) vs Cosmos (Tyson)
After watching the first couple episodes of the new Cosmos, I decided to check out the original and compare them. Sagan's CosmosCollapse )

The new Cosmos, in contrast, is a lot more polished and slick... and a lot more cringe-inducing. Tyson vs SaganCollapse )

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/14106.html. Comment over there, please.

 

April 30th, 2014


11:17 am - Migrating Eudora data from Windows to Mac
Putting this here because there is no longer a Eudora forum, the Eudora mailing list has no archive, and posting to usenet involves too much fuckery to be worth my while (given that I do not wish to submit my private organs to the Google ovipositor) nerd alertCollapse )

Of course Eudora no longer works on OS X 10.7 and later. But you can install 10.6 in VirtualBox, then install Eudora in that. Which is a bit of a kludge for daily use, but might come in handy for archival purposes, or if you discover that you need to run Eudora Mailbox Cleaner (another 10.6-only program) to migrate your data to a new email app without stupid errors.

Protip: Buying a 10.6 disk directly from Apple is usually cheaper than trying to score one on Ebay. I don't know why, except that all pricing of Mac items on Ebay is insane.

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/14048.html. Comment over there, please.

 

December 26th, 2013


09:06 pm - Tree Carnage and continuing power silliness
Our power returned around 6am on Monday, after being off for 18 hours. Later on Monday, again on Tuesday, and twice again today, it cut off again for ten minutes or so. We are very much not amused by this demonstration of Why You Should Not Have An Above Ground Electrical Grid.

Since Sunday was cancelled due to a lack of electricity, and Monday did not get underway until after dark due to us both sleeping in after the stupidity of Sunday, I found myself doing a pre-holiday grocery run on Christmas Eve.

The one downside to our house's location is that there's no nearby supermarket. I don't particularly like walking along the main road (too noisy), so I tend to walk the side streets. My typical grocery run takes me through the "originally middle class but now upscale" neighbourhood to the east of us on the way to the health food store, and then north and west from there through an "originally upscale and now even more upscale" neighbourhood on the way to the small supermarket serving a dozen or so apartment towers a bit north of the subway station. Both neighbourhoods have plentiful front yard trees, ranging in size from small ornamental species to full grown maples.

So, I got to see a lot of tree carnage. I didn't see any large trees that had actually been felled, although one big tall old (maple?) tree that (IIRC) did not look in the best of health last summer, had lost essentially all of its leaf bearing minor branches, and all that was left were the trunk and primary branches naked against the sky. Most of the time the damage was more minor, but it was rare to see a tree that hadn't lost at least one branch, and in some of the more densely treed side streets the roads were completely lined with piles of fallen branches (which had presumably been in the road before someone moved them out of the way).

Darwinism in action: There are three or four paper birches along my route. Every single one was bent down under the weight of ice to little more than half its normal height... but none of them had any broken branches. The difference between being adapted for height and being adapted for resilience.

Christmas Eve was sunny but bitterly cold (more than 10 below freezing with wind chill on top). Now I've gone out in the aftermath of ice storms before, but usually when the ice is starting to soften and melt. This time, nothing had melted, and the cold had turned all that ice into hard brittle crystal.

So at one point in the "now even more upscale" neighbourhood. there was a fully treed block with no activity and no nearby cars. The wind picked up a bit, and I heard something I don't remember ever hearing before. The sound of thousands of brittle ice-covered tree branches clacking against each other and creaking and cracking as they bent in the breeze. It was beautiful, and unnerving. I was sorry I didn't have time to go find a bit of forested park where I could listen to it better... but at the same time I was very glad I was not in a forest with no place to be that was not under those branches.

By this time my fingers were turning blue inside my gloves and I was questioning whether we really needed the cheese and wishing I had not gone out, or at least had not decided to got to two stores. And then I turned a corner, and saw the (ridiculously early) sunset, pink and orange sky and a golden halo of fire fringing every branch of every tree. And I stopped grumping about the weather and decided it was a good thing I had gone out after all.

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/13637.html. Comment over there, please.

 

December 22nd, 2013


09:56 pm - Ice storm
The ice is half an inch thick on the trees. It looks like both the old cedars in the corner of our backyard are bent and broken halfway up. The radio says there's 300,000 people in Toronto without electricity. Our power went off for an hour yesterday evening, then came back. Today it went off again in the early afternoon and has been off now for 8 hours and counting. The radio says power could be out for days, since this isn't a single point of failure but rather thousands of individual fallen trees and downed lines creating a huge patchwork of little blackouts.

So, it's a bit weird. Some streets are fully lit, others totally dark, others lit here and not there. Outside our front door, all the houses are lit, but since we're on the corner, we, along with everyone else on the side street, are without power. Since Morgan's mobility is so severely restricted, we can't really go to one of the city's warming centres, and as it became clear this evening that this could last for days, we started to get very worried.

Fortunately, we thought of asking our neighbours, who do have power, if they would let us borrow some of their electricity. After a bit of mutual incomprehension (they're Italian and have extremely limited english, and I have zero Italian), they called their son, and I explained our request to him, who explained it to them, and they said yes. Such wonderful kind people cannot be thanked enough.

So, currently we have our hundred foot weed wacker power cord plugged into an outlet in their laundry room, strung out their basement window, around to our backdoor and in under the door. We have a little space heater striving to keep the temperature tolerable, a couple of lamps plugged in so we're not totally in the dark, our iPad chargers, and of course, the modem and router. When necessary, I turn off the space heater and plug in the microwave.

Naturally it took an hour online with tech support to get the Internet working again, but (knock wood) it looks like we may be able to survive now without having to call 911 and ask them to find a way to transport Morgan somewhere warm.

Next up, deciding how much of the food in the fridge needs to go on the back porch.

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/13455.html. Comment over there, please.

 

December 9th, 2013


06:23 pm - Miscellany
Not doing too well at this blogging thing, am I? Life continues to suck with the power of a galaxy-sized black hole, leaving little energy for engagement with the internets.

Department of, "someone did not give much thought to their layout":
The large supermarkets nearest our home all have significant Kosher sections. On my last visit to one of them, I realized that the cooler devoted to kosher meat was sandwiched between the cooler devoted to hams, and the cooler devoted to bacon and sausage.

Department of, "clueless white people":
Jim Hines snarks about conrunners who don't understand the need for diversity. Which made me think there really should be a shorthand label for a group that has too many white people in it (like "sausage fest" for groups that are too male). The one I came up with was "Wonderbread Party".

Department of, "awesome TV shows we've discovered recently":
Recently finished watching "Dancing on the Edge," a BBC miniseries starring Chiwetel Ejiofor as the leader of a jazz band in 1930's London. A very good period drama that on the one hand follows the rise of jazz from something black people listened to, to the cool new thing that all the important upper class white people were mad for... and on the other hand is a profound examination of racism and white privilege. Must-see.

Department of, "unlivable houses of the rich and upscale" (an ongoing series)*:
The most recent open house I visited was yet another bungalow torn down and replaced with a Mcmansion. The ground floor, as usual, was one huge "open concept" room (with not one, but two fireplaces), although the sales brochure described it as consisting of a living room, dining room, and kitchen. Upstairs, instead of the usual 3 bedrooms, we had 4 bedrooms, all of them smaller than the bedrooms in our modest downscale bungalow. The bathrooms (ensuite in the largest bedroom plus another) were also quite small. After looking in every door I finally figured out why everything was so cramped: they'd shrunk things down in order to make room for a massive, long and narrow, windowless walk in closet that ran the length of the second floor, and reminded me of a rather dark bowling alley. I guess the developer's vision of the potential buyer was a clothes horse with lots of kids. Asking price: 1.4 million.

*Background: our neighbourhood is not upscale, with rather narrow lots, many bungalows and duplexes, and most houses minimally altered from their original circa 1940's construction. The lot sizes and house types weren't originally all that different between our neighbourhood and the one to the east of us, which is much closer to the subway/freeway terminus. However, in recent years, the area to the east has undergone gentrification, with equivalent houses selling for three times as much. Most of the bungalows over there have been torn down and replaced with Mcmansions, and at any one time there's six or ten homes being gutted and redone to be much bigger (second floor additions, backyard additions, etc). When I have the time, I visit open houses over there just to see how the 1% like to live.

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/13072.html. Comment over there, please.

 

August 2nd, 2013


10:01 am - What life feels like lately
Clinging to the edge

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/13051.html. Comment where you please.

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February 7th, 2013


06:46 pm - It just (doesn't) work
When you make a backup of your Idevice, Apple, in its wisdom, does not consider your POP email account to be worth backing up (because what are you doing still having a POP account, you retro loser? that is SO last century! Just give all your private information to Google the way God intended!). If you are ever in a situation of doing a restore from backup, you will find that poof, all email stored on your device is gone forever. Lovely.

Another thing that's not included when you tell Itunes to make a backup of your Ithing -- your apps. One would think that a "backup" would be, you know, a full backup, but no. To back up your apps, you counter-intuitively have to tell it to "transfer purchases" (said option being hidden behind a right-click on the name of the Igadget). And then, after restoring from backup, in order to actually have your apps on there with the data that you restored from backup, you must go to the "apps" pane of Itunes' list of things you can do with the plugged in Iwidget, and individually tell it to "install" each app that you wish to have on the device. What fun!

(eta, forgot to mention that) What this bifurcated and broken backup system means, of course, is that if your app does not store its data in exactly the apple-blessed manner, then there is no way to do a backup of that apps data. Stanza appears to store its books in the blessed manner (but the app is abandoned and only half-functional under IOS 6); Shubook does not(1). Poof, all those books you uploaded? gone. After all, like your emails, they must not have been very important, right? Fortunately we store our ebooks on Dropbox, so no great harm done. Still, backup is supposed to save all your data, or so I was told.

(1) We shall not speak of Ibooks and the myriad other ebook (cr)apps that were obviously never designed to be used with a library of more than a hundred or so books.

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/12558.html. Comment where you please.

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03:35 pm - hot and sour noodle soup of the gods
At least, [personal profile] morgan_dhu tells me it's of the gods. Since chili peppers and vinegar both make me sick, I can't attest to that myself. It's designed to be made in large batches and stored in the fridge to be eaten over several days.

There are two steps to this soup. First make the hot and sour broth (I usually make 4 or 5 litres at a time), then use that broth to cook the noodles in and add whatever else you're in the mood for.

NB: if you just use generic chicken broth, you'll have soup with tons of added salt. Even if you like salt and aren't on a low-sodium diet, try to get "no salt added" broth or bouillon. There's plenty of salt in the soy sauce, and you don't want salt to overwhelm all the other flavours.

The Broth:

1 litre chicken broth (or bouillon from cubes). If using cubes, use an extra cube above what the box calls for per litre of water.
125 ml red wine vinegar
10-15 ml soy sauce
10 ml pureed garlic
15 ml chili powder
15 ml ground black pepper
2.5 ml chili oil
2.5 ml sesame oil

Add everything except the vinegar to the broth, bring to a boil. Stir a bit and turn down to a simmer. After a few minutes, stir in the vinegar, turn off the heat, and allow to cool.

Once you can do so without burning yourself, strain the broth though a coffee filter to remove the gritty bits of all those spices -- use a reusable filter so you can agitate the liquid that will stubbornly sit in the filter and refuse to strain through. I have a filter that fits nicely in a funnel so I can filter the broth directly into bottles for storage. Put the broth in the fridge until you're ready to make soup.

The Soup:

1 batch of hot & sour broth (as above)
100g dry noodles
125 ml peas
1/2 cooked chicken breast, diced
15 ml pureed garlic (you can never have too much garlic)
1 green onion (thin sliced)
5-10 diced mushrooms

Put the broth in a saucepan and add everything else. I generally add the mushrooms last and just keep putting in more mushrooms until the saucepan is full, hence the vague quantity. Bring to a boil, then simmer covered 5 minutes, and put aside to cool and allow the noodles to finish softening before putting the finished soup in the fridge. This makes a thick stew-like soup with very little free broth. If you want a more soupy soup, cut back on the noodles.

If you prefer a tofu-based soup instead of noodle based, then replace noodles with tofu, add 20 ml of cornstarch (dissolved in 30 ml of water, then stirred into the broth), and stir in 1 beaten egg at the last minute before turning off the heat.

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/12469.html. Comment where you please.

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January 13th, 2013


03:50 pm - How to discover Heinlein (and how not to)
Writing this so I can point to it in the future.

After reading for the nth time someone saying they once tried reading (insert title of mid-late Heinlein novel here) and ran away screaming, I thought I'd write up a little primer on how to discover if Heinlein wrote anything you might want to read.

Because if you pick up a highly recommended and easy to find Heinlein novel, chances are you're going to find yourself reading something written by a half-senile right-wingnut elitist libertarian nudist with an incest fetish who regularly interrupts his story to lecture you at length on his really quite peculiar ideas about sex and the virtues of polyamorous marriages. Chances are you're going put the book down and make a mental note that one should avoid Heinlein at all costs.

Which is just fine, except that not all Heinlein is like that. Early in his career, he was a left-wing socialist. Later on, he wrote a lot of books for boys that attempted to preach racial equality and tolerance. Then around 1959, he suddenly turned into an angry old man who wrote books full of ranting and lectures to the reader about politics and sex. Even then, he still managed to write some good books that weren't too annoyingly in-your-face with his politics and fetishes.

So, the question for Heinlein is not so much "what should I read first" as "what should I avoid as my first exposure to this person?" The problem is that as he got older, he got less and less able to keep his fetishes and quirks under control, and tended to let it all hang out. Which, given that he was a devoted nudist, is definitely not what you want to be exposed to when trying to get to know someone.

The last place to start with Heinlein are the brick sized novels he wrote in his dotage (after 1970). Not only are they long rambling books full of lectures about sex and group marriage and how people on welfare are parasites, but they tend not to work all that well as novels either. Some of them are fun if flawed, but you don't want to read one to find out if you're going to enjoy "books by Heinlein" or not.

The novels he wrote between 1959 and 1970 tend to be much better plotted, but they're just as full of angry lectures about sex and politics, so, likewise, not for a first go. Which means just about all of the award-winning and famous novels Heinlein wrote are not good places to start.

The place to start is with his early work. Not only are the books much shorter (so you'll be wasting less of your time if they're not for you) but they're also less angry and politically seem to come from an entirely different galaxy than the later works.

There are a few exceptions -- "Sixth Column" is a nasty example of "yellow peril" racism which he wrote on spec based on an outline by John W Campbell. The racist views in it are Campbell's, and it's best avoided. "The Puppet Masters" is a horror novel and a specimen of Cold War paranoia, kind of dated. The love interest for the hero in "The Door into Summer" is a young girl to whom he is a father figure of sorts (time travel lets him still be young when she finally gets old enough to marry), so, squick.

But in general, if you want to find out why it is that Heinlein became famous in SF before he was adopted as a patron saint of libertarians, if you want to find out why he remains so influential in the field of SF that numerous left-wing, non-libertarian authors, from Varley to Stross and Doctorow write homages and pastiches of his work, then the place to start is, first, with the short stories and novels that he wrote for magazine publication in the 30's and 40's, and second, with the novels that he wrote in the 50's (most but not all of which were written for teenage boys). Then, and only then, if you like what you've read so far, would I recommend picking up some of his famous work from the 60's (Stranger in a Strange Land, The Moon is a Harsh Mistress, Starship Troopers, and Glory Road, but not Podykane of Mars or Farnham's Freehold). His later brick-sized novels are best left till last (Time Enough For Love and Friday are the stand-outs there).

This entry was originally posted at http://glaurung-quena.dreamwidth.org/12255.html. Comment where you please.

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