Monthly Archives: January 2008

Books to Films

I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s No Country for Old Men, *after* having seen the film earlier this month, in contrast to my experience with Ian McEwan’s Atonement last month, where I read the book first and then saw the film. My experiences could have been interchanged, however, with similar reactions — that I can’t remember seeing films so faithfully adapted from their literary sources. No Country, the book, reads — especially given McCarthy’s spare, stripped down prose — almost like a transcript of the film, except that of course some of the scenes *are* longer in the book, and there are more passages of philosophical monologues by the sheriff, Bell (Tommy Lee Jones in the film). The book ends even more elegaically than the film; it does work better, easing toward a contemplative conclusion that’s not quite so abrupt as the film’s ending, which apparently has been widely debated. (Of course, in the defenses of the film’s ending I’ve seen, no one mentions that it’s because the book ended that way. It’s not a reason, of course.)

I also spent two weeks reading Dan Simmons’ The Terror, not just because it’s long–nearly 800 pages–but because during the first of those weeks I had precious little time to read, for multitasking priority reasons. In any case, it’s an amazing books in many ways: gruelling, in its depiction of what mid-19th century explorers went through in their quest to find the Northwest Passage (living aboard a ship stuck in the ice for *three years*, for instance, under dark skies with ice cracking all around, hoping that maybe *next* summer the ice would melt and they could continue their voyage…), but impressive and overwhelming; the length of the book serves to impress you with the explorers’ trials in a way no shorter book would. It’s also fascinating in that you’re not entirely sure what kind of book it is until very nearly the end, i.e., to what extent the fantastic premise — focused on a some sort of monster attacking the ships’ survivors — is truly supernatural or not. [Note added later: not unlike, it occurs to me this week, Lost.] By the end, it all wraps up suitably, and though I can’t help but feel it would have been just as strong a novel as a straight historical adventure, Simmons does justice to his fantasy presumptions by drawing on the setting and culture of that time and place, to create an extraordinary feat of historical interpolation about the fate of the infamous expedition. It’s long, but it reads fast, and it’s worth the trip. And it would make a terrific film.

Winter Storms

In between rainstorms this past weekend here in Southern California was one of those magical, chamber of commerce photo-op moments when the mountains to the northeast were capped with snow and the sky was blue and the sun was warm. I snapped a few pix and cut one down to size to replace, at least for the moment, the purple twilight view from here on Medina Road.

More about recent books read shortly.

2007 Reading

I read 87 books in 2007 — all the way through, I mean, not counting the dozens of others that crossed my desk that I skimmed or browsed to some extent to write up their descriptions for the website. That’s actually the most books I’ve read in a single year in the past… 20 years. For over a decade, I had the excuse of reading more short fiction (for my review column in Locus Magazine) than books, and since I gave up the column, various personal and day-job associated circumstances have constrained my reading time, but finally, this past year, I’ve managed to multitask in ways I would not care to further detail in order to get through almost as many books as I’d like to read in a year, and which in my editorial position I feel I *should* get through… at last. And I’m fairly optimistic about keeping it up.

Somewhat like the photographs of the prominent books of each year that used to grace the covers of February issues of Locus Magazine, I’ve stacked up (– *footnote* –) all the books I’ve read in the past year, all 87 of them, and posted a photo of them over in the middle-right pane of this blog. Click for expanded view. Below that, I’ve trimmed away some of the individual cover images of books I read earlier than 3 or 4 months ago.

For a couple years now I’ve meant to write a post about how I’ve variably kept lists and statistics of books and other material I’ve read (inspired by Andrew Wheeler’s book-a-day ambitions, and periodic annual goals of SF Signal’s John DeNardo), and I have forgotten about it. I’ll get to it eventually, maybe soon.

*footnote: It’s raining here in SoCal, and as I was typing this into the Blogger posting window, the power went out. I restarted the PC, relaunched Mozilla Firefox, my current preferred browser, and when it offered to restore my session, I accepted — and the text of this post that I’d typed reappeared! A Blogger ‘saves drafts automatically’ feature, apparently. Cool.

New PC Glitches and Fixes

Per C.E. Petit’s comment to the previous post, I’ve fixed my network adapter (aka wireless receiver) problem; he suggested simply unplugging the device, then plugging it back in. That worked. I’ve also found two other solutions: in the network settings dialogue, disable the wireless connection, then re-enable it; this has the same effect as unplugging and plugging back in. Best, I’ve simply reset the PC’s power settings so that the thing never goes into hibernation. The default had been 20 minutes. I can shut it down when I go to work each day if I want to, but while I’m home, I’d just as soon not have it keep conking out on me.

This morning I had another problem: I woke the machine up, clicked update in Outlook, and got a Windows error message to the effect that “symantic system network inoperable” or somesuch (I didn’t write it down), with the effect being that Outlook would not download any email. I waited half the day, rebooting several times to no better effect, then phoned HP. Turned out HP no longer provides phone technical service for new PCs, so I went online and launched a technical service chat. Eventual result: some problem with the pre-installed Norton Virus utility. Turning off ingoing and outgoing email scanning solved the immediate problem — Outlook downloaded pending emails from the server — and even though Norton reactivated the scanning after 15 minutes, Outlook has been working ever since. HP did follow up with instructions for re-installing Norton, and suggested as a last resort contact Norton themselves to diagnose the problem with their utility. If Outlook hangs from this problem again, I’ll do one or both of those.

Promise to get back to real Locus Online related content soon. Should have a review from Howard & Lawrence of CLOVERFIELD by tomorrow night, or Monday morning at latest.


All files including Outlook folders copied onto new machine, and up and running here now, on this big new widescreen monitor.

To previous commentator, I did have some Vista problems when I bought the now-broken laptop last March. One old program, Paint Shop Pro v4, seemed to install, but could not be found in file manager or the programs menu. Worse, programs seemed to simply stop working after I’d launched many windows, or opened and closed many files (e.g. graphics files inside PSP), but this problem went away after a couple months, as if the automatically downloaded Windows updates took care of this problem. I haven’t had any Vista issues in some time, though I’m not using any fancy software–only MS Office and very basic graphics programs and browsers.

OTOH, I must have figured this out last time, but this evening am frustrated trying to find the settings in Vista to 1) show file extensions in Windows Explorer (or whatever it’s called now), and 2) change my mouse setting so hover selects and one click runs, which I’ve become used to on all my XP machines…

Hardware aside, today I’ve set up 2008 archive pages on the website, and 2008 directory pages. Awards index updates still proceeding in the background…

–Oh, I am having one odd hardware problem with the new PC, or rather the new ‘network adapter’ (wifi antenna) that I bought the other day. It works just fine with the new PC is first booted, but after the PC hibernates and is re-awakened, it fails to detect the wireless network; at best it advises that the network signal is very weak, or perhaps there is some interference from another network. But then rebooting the PC seems to reset the adapter, and it picks up and connects the wifi network just fine. Hmm.

Office Song and Dance

Yes, I did buy an HP desktop, to answer the previous commenter (why do you ask?); I’ve been happy with HP products for several updates now, thefts and cracked cases aside.

Today I bought a new network adapter (which, the Linksys product, looks like a fat flash drive rather than the cabled box with a little antenna) and successfully connected to the internet. Et cetera, Windows updates and Norton antivirus activation, et cetera.

Then I started installing real software. I use three components of Microsoft Office virtually every day — Access, Excel, and Word, in approximate descending order of use — and have upgraded versions of Office at every opportunity. I haven’t purchased a fresh install of Office since I can’t remember. This means I purchase upgrade versions to load on top of previous installs, or, with new computers, to install on top of qualifying products, typically Microsoft Works, which usually comes pre-installed.

This time, trying to install Office 2007 didn’t work, first because it didn’t recognize the pre-installed MS Works. So, I tried Office 2003. Same issue. Tried Office 2000. (I’ve done this before, having to install old versions of Office and then cascading upgrades.) Office 2000 worked. Install complete. So, then back to Office 2007, which now installed on top of Office 2000. Fine.

Except that it wouldn’t ‘activate’, because MS keeps track of how many computers you’ve installed their software on. I’d installed Office 2007 not only on my now hobbled laptop, but I’d also loaned the s/w to my partner’s two boys, one in high school, one at university, who’d installed the s/w on *their* laptops. What is the limit? I ended up phoning MS help, who informed me (in a typically Indian accent) that the limit was one desktop, one laptop. Hmm, well, I seemed to have already violated that rule; but I told the MS help person that I’d just uninstalled it from one of the laptops (my partner had just phoned his older boy and had him uninstall Office on his laptop — he’s about to migrate to Mac). I had thought MS had some magical database that keeps track of installs and uninstalls, but I’m not so sure now that the MS help person said OK! to my story, and read to me a lengthy activation code which, finally, activated the install of Office 2007.

So… so far, so good. Now I’m copying data files. (I notice how difficult new PCs make it to see, in Windows Explorer, your C drive. They want to hide it beneath layers of personal Documents.) Next task: transfering Outlook mailbox files and activating the pop3 mailbox on the new PC. That, probably not until tomorrow…

PC Transitions

January is the busiest month, what with end-of-the-year summaries and whatnot, including my own small contribution to Locus Magazine’s February issue, a tabulation of short fiction sources in comparison to previous years, which however small always takes longer to put together than I expect…

Currently I’m dealing with computer difficulties. The new laptop I bought just 10 months ago (after my previous working machine was stolen from a hotel room in Key West) has become broken at the left hinge; opening and closing the screen lid results in alarming creaking noises and more alarming splits of the screen casing along the outside edge. I’ve contact Hewlett Packard and, since I’m within the 1-year warranty, they are happy to fix it, but that entails shipping the machine to them and waiting a week or so for them to repair and return….

Meanwhile, I’ve been meaning to replace my household desktop PC anyway…and so, today, I bought a new desktop machine, with a cool 22 inch flatscreen monitor, in order to transition my files and day to day email transactions to it, while I ship off the laptop for repair. Currently, alas, the Linksys wireless network adapter (a little box with an antenna, to connect to the wifi network in my house) from my old desktop PC does not work with the new one, which of course comes with Windows Vista. Online searches for updated drivers have proved unfruitful. Perhaps I need to buy a new adapter…

Meanwhile, I’m gathering data for an annual update to the Locus Index to SF Awards, a tad behind my usual schedule. But it’s in work. I’ll also be trimming the cover image pane to this blog, real soon now…