Category Archives: Uncategorized

A short hiatus

Apologies for the long pause in the Stephen King story writeups. Things have gotten a bit busy and distracting this month.

But we’re still on for “Night Surf,” which I’ll likely get to in the next day or two. In the meantime, if you’re following along, I’ve got my eyes on one more King novella to cover this month—”The Mist,” from Skeleton Crew.

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In nomine

Thessaly is upset about her bath.One of the most fun parts of pregnancy—from my perspective as a dad, at least—was brainstorming names for our little Bundle of Joy. For years (well before the pregnancy happened), Michele and I have noted cool, amusing, and interesting names that might be appropriate for a hypothetical child. Most of them were probably not appropriate, being ancient Mesopotamian and Byzantine in origin, but when we learned last year that a baby was on the way, we were nevertheless faced with the challenge of distilling a monstrous list of potential names down to our very favorites.

I won’t list out the various names we considered (hey, if another baby ever comes along, we might put one of them to use). But as you know, an important part of choosing a baby name is trying to think of any possible embarassing nicknames that might be derived from the name by angsty junior-high classmates. We were unable to come up with anything too awful for Thessaly (what’s that—you thought of a dirty-sounding nickname? Get your mind out of the gutter!), but since her birth we have nevertheless seen the emergence of many nicknames that we never anticipated.

Here’s a partial list of names that we’ve used for Thessaly that are not her actual name:

  • Thesso
  • Fussaly
  • T-Bot
  • Thessie
  • Señorita Fussypants
  • Sweetie (awwww…)
  • Your Daughter (as in “Hey Michele, Your Daughter just spit up all over the chair again”)
  • FormuLass (her superhero identity)
  • That Baby
  • Little Miss Pee Pants (or “Poopy Pants,” depending on the situation)
  • Cuddles (awwww…)

We’ll have to get in the habit of using her actual name by the time she becomes sufficiently aware as to understand what we’re saying—I don’t think we really want her going through life as T-Bot. (OK, that would actually be kinda cool.) So what obvious nicknames for Thessaly are we missing?

Oh, and choice #2—narrowly beaten out by “Thessaly”—was the name of a Byzantine empress. Maybe next time.

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Yes Virginia, bloggers are still destroying civilization

Ah, the sweet sound of another old-media journalist bemoaning the end of Culture at the hands of those pesky bloggers. Don’t those rank amateurs recognize the harm they’re doing by… sharing their thoughts and ideas with others online?

I exaggerate, but not by much. It’s a bit puzzling to see a book like this come out in 2007—it seems clear at this point that while the phenomenon is still evolving and changing, the blogging/social-internet/citizen-journalist cat is highly unlikely to crawl back into the bag whence it emerged, and so it seems a bit pointless to whine about it. There are plenty of serious questions and problems one could raise about this media shift (actually they have been raised, and discussed to death already), but what are these whiners seriously suggesting we do about them? Sit there and wish really hard that people would stop, uh, sharing their thoughts and ideas with others online? Good luck with that.

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Because you really want to know what I think about politics these days

So today is the big Iowa caucus. I’ve been alternately interested and repulsed by this latest, interminable election cycle (and so many months to go yet!), but the caucus has managed to once again get me reading all those political blogs I periodically try to purge from my daily reading list.

One of the ways in which this election cycle is different is that it’s the first one in a long while where I’ve been genuinely interested in who the Other Party—the Democrats—will put forth as their candidate. I don’t remember ever feeling like I had a personal stake in the Democratic party’s choice of nominees, as I’m usually most concerned with who the Republicans will pick. But this year, there are worthy candidates in both parties, and the closeness of the races makes this all interesting in a way that it hasn’t been in… oh, about seven years. Small as it might be, the potential exists that I might, for the first time I can remember, have to choose between two candidates who each look pretty good, rather than settling for the least distasteful choice, and that’s exciting. We’re in a brief window here where politics is (sort of) fun and interesting again. By February or March, of course, the two main opposing candidates (almost certainly the least pleasant of all the possibilities) will have been effectively chosen, and we’ll have to wade through months of degrading political muck to get to the actual election.

But until that happens, I’m going to try and be positive about all this. Here’s hoping that the end-result of all these caucus shenanigans is a presidential race in which two respectable candidates face off against each other in an old-school Battle of Ideas (*cough*Obama and McCain*cough*). And while I’m at it, I would really like a pony for my birthday this year, and I wish my Warcraft character were level 70.

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Put it in writing!

Charles Stross, author of numerous sci-fi and other novels, recently mused online about why the commercial ebook market is broken. Much of his post (which is focused on the ebook novel market) revolves around the issues of piracy, DRM, short-sighted publishers, etc. Insightful stuff.

I have often wondered why digital versions of novels haven’t seemed to catch on; in theory, making available digital versions of clunky print books seems like a no-brainer. I have no doubt that publisher overreaction to the piracy issue has done a great deal to hobble the ebook market. But as for myself, I just don’t enjoy reading novels in electronic format as much as I enjoy reading them in print format. I regularly use and purchase ebooks (in PDF format, generally), but the ones I use the most are invariably some form of reference work. I skim through them looking for specific pieces of information; I don’t read them from start to finish.

I don’t know if it’s a hard-wired mental association that makes me prefer print novels; but put a lengthy story on any size screen (computer monitor, PDA, whatever) and it becomes a struggle for me to read it. I just can’t read any form of narrative onscreen for more than a few pages (see, I can’t even break out of archaic pre-digital metrics!) before I start getting antsy. Lengthy blog posts and online articles in the New York Times are about all I can handle before I start wishing for a print version. If I want to read something by Jane Austen, I’d sooner shell out for the paperback than read the freely-available online text.

Maybe I’m just a dinosaur when it comes to this issue. My wife, for one, seems fairly comfortable reading longer pieces of literature on a computer screen. But I suspect, given the failure of ebooks compared to the popularity of digital music, that I’m not alone in just not finding ebooks as they exist today to be an attractive medium for lengthy, involved stories. While I certainly agree in principle that cumbersome DRM and other reader-hostile practices are a terrible idea, the real reason I’m not buying ebooks is that I just don’t find them very usable to me. Maybe somebody will come along in the next few years and make the medium more attractive to aging Gen Xers like myself, but until then I’ll stick with my beat-up, cracked-binding, age-yellowed print library.

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