Monthly Archives: October 2005

Darkening October

Caught up on the Blink backlog today, in between unsuccessful tries to install an update to my Norton Antivirus software; the install program kept hanging. Resorted to querying tech support, though finding the link to submit a query took a goodly amount of time itself; they don’t make it easy. But they did response — at length. It shouldn’t be this hard.

Still reading Kim Stanley Robinson’s Fifty Degrees Below, whose content is difficult to keep separate from recent headlines. More comment when I finish.

Heading for a neighbor’s pre-Halloween party later this evening. It was 2 years ago when I watched the fires 50 miles eastward (in Gary Westfahl’s neighborhood) flickering in the distance, from their balcony. Now it’s dark, chill, and calm.

October Interim

I’m back from my business trip to within the beltway, catching up on news and posting pages for the new issue, which was scheduled to have been mailed yesterday. Still have numerous ‘blinks’ to post.

It’s a busy season for new books, and I saw a bunch more on my weekly (or so) bookstore visit today. For a couple months now there have been 20 or more new books to list each week, more than the typical 10 or 12 average in slower parts of the year. And I ordered that new Bruce Sterling, which has arrived. There will be one more new books page, sometime early next week, before I’m off to World Fantasy Con on Thursday.

And now we’re watching ‘Desperate Housewives’… on DVD… and I’m impressed and involved despite initial skepticism. It’s the ongoing story, the introduction of a mystery (why did one of the housewives commit suicide?) in the first episode, making it a developing story analogous to Lost‘s, and the arch voice-over narration (by the woman who committed suicide) that makes it considerably more than any standard sitcom. So far; I’ve seen the disappointed buzz about the current season, which we aren’t watching. It seems to be suffering the sophomore year slump even worse than Lost‘s.

And the news about George Takei? Please. I met his partner at an event 15 years ago…

Passages from Alexandria

From a couple books I’ve been re/reading, passages that struck me.

Joan Didion on Doris Lessing:

Imagine an interplanetary conference, convened on Venus to discuss once again the problem of the self-destructive planet Earth. (The fancy that extraterrestrial life is by definition of a higher order than our own is one that soothes all children, and many writers.)

From one of Time Magazine’s 100 all-time novels (written in English and published since 1923):

On the trip back to the Western Hemisphere he had decided which of their ads he liked the most. “You know that recent Supreme Court ruling where a husband can legally murder his wife if he can prove she wouldn’t under any circumstances give him a divorce?”

Sound Check

I spent the afternoon catching up on New Book listings, including listings of several audiobooks that have been sent to me over the past couple months by Audio Renaissance (who are owned by Holtzbrinck Publishers LLC, who also own Tor Books). They’re pricey items and need to be acknowledged, though personally I’ve never gotten the hang of audiobooks. I’ve tried a couple times, while driving, but wasn’t able to maintain the constant attention required to track the narrative; it’s not like you can look up from the page of the book for a moment, and then back down to the point you left off. Locus, both magazine and online, tried audiobook reviews for a while, from John Joseph Adams, but that didn’t work out. Still, despite the prices ($49.95 and up), there must be an audience for them…

I’m off on a business trip this next week — my first business trip of any sort in about five years, given recent corporate belt-tightening. It’s a 3-day training course in Alexandria VA, just outside Washington DC, from Monday through Wednesday, and so I’m flying out of LA tomorrow, and since I was encouraged to travel on my own time, will be returning Wednesday night.

After that I’ll be home a week before flying out for World Fantasy Con, on Thursday the 3rd, arriving mid-afternoon at O’Hare and then driving to Madison; returning by reverse means on Monday.


I finished reading a short book by David Berlinski the other day, A Short History of Mathematics, which I’d picked up on impulse a couple weeks ago at the bookstore (a rare occurence of my actually *buying* something in a bookstore, rather than browsing, going home, and ordering from Amazon). I was a math major way back when and still find all that abstruse material fascinating, especially now that such material doesn’t come up very often in the course of my mundane (or fantastic) life.

Berlinski is quite a character, it turns out, especially so for someone best-known for writing mathematical tomes (earlier, A Tour of the Calculus and The Advent of the Algorithm). You can tell first by his haphazardly ornate prose style, in which straightforward accounts of people or concepts are swirled together with extravagant rhetoric and gratuitous, occasionally cranky metaphors. A review on Amazon quotes one line: “Gauss was able to turn down his tablet at once, the correct answer inscribed on slate, even as the dutiful donkeys in the room, chubby farm children of no intellectual distinction, scratched away industriously.” And here’s another from page 174:

An effective calculation is any calculation that could be undertaken, Turing argued, by an exceptionally simple imaginary machine, or even a human computer, someone who has, like a clerk in the department of motor vehicles or a college dean, been stripped of all cognitive powers and can as a result execute only a few primitive acts.

And two pages later: “The algorithm is the second of two great ideas in Western science; the first is the calculus. I have said this before, but I am so pleased with the thought that I am eager to say it again.”

Googling and Amazoning Berlinksi turned up very mixed reactions to his writing, as well as arrogant poses from the author (along the lines of, “that’s how I write, deal with it”), and most bemusingly, proudly displayed credentials from none other than the Discovery Institute, one of the forces promoting Intelligent Design. His Wikipedia entry links to a lengthy 1997 Firing Line TV debate about evolution and creation in which he worries over gaps and pesters an opponent about how many (50,000? 100,000?) morphological changes are required to take one kind of animal to another. His points come across as silly and cantankerous; a lesson about how experts in one field can’t necessarily be trusted in others.

So that’s what I learned about David Berlinski, and pass on to the six of you who read this blog. I think next time I want to refresh myself reading about math, I’ll pick up one of those Rudy Ruckers I’ve never gotten to.

Extreme Weather, LA Style

Extreme weather, LA style, means thunder and lightning throughout the night! And bursts of heavy rain during the day that bring office meetings to a pause while everyone wonders if the roof is about to cave in! And this, our second thunderstorm of the year; SoCal has already exceeded its quota. The theme is on my mind as I’m, still, part-way through Kim Stanley Robinson’s latest…

On Locus matters, the conventions list has been updated. Marianne Jablon, former Locus editor and wife of Jonathan Strahan way down in Perth Australia, keeps her hand in by compiling convention listings, which are printed in the magazine as space permits but are always updated the site, every month or two.

The long-awaited Rich Horton essay on which editors have been most successful publishing stories that have won Hugos and Nebulas is up as the next ‘feature’ on the website. It’s required more than usual fact-checking on my part to be certain subtotals and year-references are accurate. The essay should be up sometime this week.

If the Thundercloud Passes Rain

Two reports today of possible glitches with the site, for which I’d appreciate any further feedback….

First, can you reach the site via ‘’ rather than ‘’?

Second, does the site load completely in Firefox?

I’ve tried both of these on my home machine and they seem fine, but others have reported problems. As a general rule, I’ve always kept the coding of the site relatively simple, to avoid any such problems, since I don’t have the resources of a fully professional site to check every design change in all possible browsers… I only just recently added javascript features… and so I depend on feedback from readers to alert me of such issues.

UPDATE Sunday evening — thanks to the half dozen of you who responded and said you’ve seen no problems at all. I’ll consider the matter closed, though of course anyone detecting any problem should of course let me know…


There’s always something more to do. This week, I implemented, after a couple years of intending to do so, links from the Monitor pages back to the Directory pages, for each title listed. The Directory pages accumulate additional links for reviews, awards nominations and wins, etc. indefinitely, while the Monitor pages, once they’re posted, are never updated. The M to D links are a way of knitting the site together more thoroughly.

Then there’s News… about two years ago I switched to a blog-like structure for the homepage, whereby most news items were posted only as items there, on the homepage. I keep meaning to return to posting news items as independent pages — mainly because, as my experience with Google has shown, search engines don’t record changes only to the homepage, but they will pick up new pages. It makes a big difference in the big scheme of things whether your site gets picked up or not, as a source for news items. This evening I posted the Clarion news on a separate page, manually; my intention is to automate this process somehow. More to do.

For Your Consideration…

I spent an hour this evening putting together the 2005 Cover Art Gallery of book and magazine cover images. Unlike the earlier 2004 gallery, the ’05 page includes magazine covers, which entailed a bit of time to extract and blend records from two different databases.

Also, on the ’05 list, I omitted reprint books, which are mostly paperback reprints of last year’s hardcovers, because they generally use the same cover art. Since the purpose of the list is to gather artworks that would make their creators eligible for the Best Artist categories of the Hugo Awards (or the Locus Poll), it seems reasonable to omit ‘reprint’ art.

I did however include cover art from ‘classic reprints’ as compiled on Locus Online, since those are generally new editions with new artwork.

I have yet to gather covers for books I haven’t personally seen (based on listings elsewhere), including art books whose subjects have often made it onto Hugo ballots even when they haven’t done many covers. Also still to do, I’ll probably reformat the page to arrange covers in rows with smaller type beneath each one, rather than the present lengthy vertical list. And there are some other filters I might impose; at the moment nothing filters out ‘classic’ art used on book and magazine covers.

It will be interesting to see if this list has any noticeable influence on next year’s Hugo nominees for best artist….


The refurbished homepage went up Friday evening, and I’ve gotten a couple three nice comments about it. It’s not slick, but then I don’t have their budget. Maybe I’ll invest in something more dramatic for Locus Online’s 10th anniversary, which is only a year and a half from now (!).

I googled ‘locus online’ this afternoon to see if Google had cached the revised homepage, and of course it had; I also noticed via those results that Wikipedia now has an entry for Locus Online. (There’s been one for Locus Magazine for some time.) Who put it there? I have no idea. I look at Wikipedia once in a while but have never tried editing an entry myself, and remain slightly amazed that their ‘anyone can edit’ policy works, since invariably the entries I look at seem remarkably well written — concise and thorough. How can that be if ‘anyone’ can edit? If there’s a ‘flaw’ I can detect in Wikipedia, it’s the inordinate coverage given to aspect of pop culture… e.g. the many many pages about the various Myst games…

Saw Corpse Bride last night, partly due to fortuitous timing (nothing else interesting was playing for another hour) and partly because I assured my partner it was a romantic comedy. Fortunately, I was right. I enjoyed it thoroughly, though as with some previously animated features, I would just as soon have notched the speed control down by 5 or 10%. Why the rush? Perhaps, if Steven (Everything Bad Is Good For You) Johnson is right, it’s a deliberate, if unconscious, decision meant to encourage viewers to buy the eventual DVD that will permit repeated viewings…