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Journal: Merry Christmas! 1

Journal by mcgrew

For the first time in nine years I got to see my youngest daughter on Christmas; this is the first Christmas in nine years she didn't have to work. Great Christmas present!

And the second to last pre-publication copies came Christmas eve eve. I finished going through it this morning, and the book itself is ready. What wasn't was the cover; I fixed it and ordered another copy, so Mars, Ho! should be online in a couple of weeks.

"Fourteen: The Final Chapter" will be posted New Years Eve. Its link to Mars, Ho! will take you to the "coming soon" page on my web site until I actually publish a few days later.

Merry Christmas, everyone. For you in Britain and Canada, happy Boxing Day (tomorrow). And to everyone, may you have a safe, well, pleasant, and happy 2015.

User Journal

Journal: A mild rant 7

Journal by mcgrew

I've been listening to KSHE since the day they changed format in 1967. They play some great rock and roll.

They're a hundred miles away; Im in the fringe reception area so I listen online. So a few days ago I'm editing random Scribblings and the music stops. I curse Firefox and Flash and ComCast and pull the browser up to refresh the page that plays the music, and I see "Still listening?"

Well, no, YOU SHUT OFF THE MUSIC! WTF, if I wasn't listening I wouldn't have it running!

I do see why they started that, though: $$$. They have to pay the RIAA and ASCAP fees, which vary according to how many people are listening, and they don't want to pay for someone who isn't.

Still, it's annoyance.

User Journal

Journal: Three Irons Burning: Progress Report 2

Journal by mcgrew

When I was in college, I often took workshops in the summer. Two weeks of eight hour days equaled a normal class for a quarter. It would allow me a couple months vacation.

One was a blacksmithing workshop, where I learned to fashion stuff out of steel, learned a little metallurgy, and learned where a lot of the "old sayings" came from: blacksmithing. One is "too many irons in the fire", which is where this journal's title comes from. I'm working on three books right now.

Mars,Ho! is in its final editing stages, and I hope I'll be able to publish it next week; fingers crossed.

Next up is Random Scribblings, a collection of stuff I've posted on the internet since 1997; what I consider the best of what I can remember and find. It's also in the editing stage, but there's a lot more work to be done. it's huge, well over 100,000 words.

Then there's Mars Bars, a collection of short science fiction stories. It's in the beginning stages, with seven stories written so far and Voyage to Earth about half a novelette, at a little over 3000 words so far. I still don't know how long that story will be, or what other stories I'll come up with when it's written.

I'll probably post Fourteen: The Final Chapter a week from Thursday. I'll have a rant about my favorite radio station tomorrow or Monday.

User Journal

Journal: Interface

Journal by mcgrew

I plan on trying the suggested browsers, but thought I'd revisit Opera first. It dawned on me that changing browsers is going to be a big PIA, since Firefox holds a bunch of passwords.

It's been at least a decade since I've tried Opera; it was brand new when I last tried it. So I installed the latest one. The result was...

Who designed this gawdoffal mess? Look, folks, I'm all for hiring the handicapped, but you shouldn't have the learning-disabled designing interfaces. Look, folks, it shouldn't take five damned clicks to get to a bookmark. And what idiot had the idea to have each bookmark take up a square inch or two, with stupid illustrations?

I haven't uninstalled it yet, maybe there's a way to make the interface less idiotic (Firefox does), but I'm not hopeful.

Saturday morning I started working and just wasn't in the mood; I needed a weekend off. I probably wrote a paragraph in "Voyage to Earth". So I did a little random googling and ran across the fact that Windows lets you easily catch and save an audio stream, but it's disabled by default.

I'd been using EAC to sample my LPs and tapes for years, but it will only run on the XP tower. Someone clued me to Audacity a few years ago; it's been installed but unused.

I fired it up to see if I could indeed catch streams, and it does indeed.

And unlike EAC or Opera, it has an excellent interface and its manual is actually useful! I love that program! There are a ton of advanced features I'll probably never use, but it's good that they're there.

Sunday night I copped ACDC's new album, a Deep Purple "best of", and the Grateful Dead's "Skullfuck" album from KSHE's "Seventh Day" show. I guess I need some blank CDs for the car...

User Journal

Journal: WTF, Firefox??? 7

Journal by mcgrew

As usual when I boot on Patch Tuesday, I open a bunch of tabs, the notebook slows to a crawl, and this time it was locked up so tight that Windows gave a message saying it couldn't display the message and to use the power button. I had to pull the battery to reboot the damned thing.

So I start Firefox back up and it says it's updating. It finally opens, with an extra tab, one telling me that it changed my default search to Yahoo.

WHAT THE GOD DAMNED HELL, FIREFOX??? This is bullshit! If I wanted that God damned Yahoo, an even worse search engine than Bing, I would have chosen it.

Yahoo, when your product is so shitty you have to trick people into using it... fucking morons!

There used to be a drop down by the search box; it's gone now. I tried tools->options; that's where it is now. Non nerds would give up.

Pissing off your users is NOT the way to get more of them. Anybody have any suggestions for a less annoying browser?

Also, I need to dig out that kubuntu CD and load it on a thumb drive; I'm damned sick and tired of Microsoft's patch Tuesday.

Excuse me while I reboot. Again.

User Journal

Journal: This is a first 5

Journal by mcgrew

Mod points both here and s/n at the same time. And here I'm working on three books!

There's Mars, Ho! which I'm hopeful I'll publish soon.

Then there's Random Scribblings, a collection of articles and stuff I've posted on the internet since 1997. Its subtitle will be "junk I've littered the internet with". Even though there's probably less than 10% of what I've written it's huge, well over 100,000 words. It will probably grow a little, because I just found six articles I thought had been lost forever.

This is kind of related; much stuff from my old Quake site is there. Someone once asked if I could re-post the shoutcasts, but there's too much RIAA music in them and they would surely be quickly taken down, so if you want them, email me and I'll send them as attachments.

Finally there's MarsBars, a collection of short science fiction stories. I worked on Voyage to Earth some yesterday. That book is less than 20% done.

I've been working harder than I worked when I still worked. So I'm glad I got all those mod points, I needed a break.

User Journal

Journal: Crappy Holidays 5

Journal by mcgrew

Thanksgiving morning I was ready to pick up my daughter and visit our family a hundred miles south in St. Louis.

My keys weren't in my pocket. An hour later I gave up looking and called all concerned with the sad news; no Thanksgiving for me this year; I was stuck in my house.

I found them Saturday.

I'd ordered a copy of Mars,Ho!, hopefully the final pre-print, on Monday before Thanksgiving. I expected it to ship Saturday, but it still hasn't shipped. So I doubt I'll have it published by Christmas, let alone soon enough for it to be gifts.

Sorry, guys.

User Journal

Journal: I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas 1

Journal by mcgrew

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
In these modern secular days
With a secular tree with secular lights
And a Santa in a secular sleigh

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
With lots of secular snow
With a secular wreath and some secular lights
And some secular mistletoe

No baby in a manger
No wise men at his bed
No thought of Jesus Christ at all
Just get him out of your head

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
With lots of secular snow
With a secular Santa in a secular sleigh
And a secular HO HO HO!

No baby in a manger
No wise men at his bed
No thought of Jesus Christ at all
Just get him out of your head

I'm dreaming of a secular Christmas
Have a Happy Holiday!
Don't forget the secular eggnog
Just forget just whose birthday...

---

The above is of course sarcasm, but I think that ironically, antitheists might embrace it.

I am offended by the Honda commercials, where toys given to adults when they were children as "holiday gifts" are attempting to sell cars.

There are no "holiday gifts". Only Hebrews and Christians; it's Hanukkah gifts and Christmas presents. and only 1.8% of Americans are Jewish. Damned Japanese! Then I had a second thought -- is there a Japanese holiday where gifts are exchanged?

It turns out that there is a Japanese holiday, this year on the last day of Hanukkah. It's the Emperor's birthday, but gifts are not exchanged; the emperor's palace is open to the public on that day.

Honda ad agency people, you are idiots. 1.8% of Americans are Jewish, 77% identify themselves as Christian. Guess what, morons? You just offended half the Christians in the US while trying to not disenfranchise the less than two percent who are Jewish.

If you're trying to use Christians' second most holy day to further your worship of mammon, you better damned well mention Christ, or risk pissing off half the population.

User Journal

Journal: New Story

Journal by mcgrew

Sundays at noon an old friend has a blues show on a local college radio station, WQNA. Of course, since the blues and booze go so well together, Sunday is my "drink too much" day. So by eight I was too drunk to edit. I put the book down and picked up the notebook and started typing.

It's only started, with only a few more than 600 words so far. The title is "Voyage to Earth". It starts in John's bar five years after arriving at Mars. He's gone to college, learned chemistry, and is brewing the most popular beer on Mars.

Meanwhile, They're going to Earth so Destiny can collect a Nobel in astrophysics for her paradigm-shifting results from her new telescope, John is going along with a shipload of beer to export to Earth ("Earth is buying beer from Mars? Even with the shipping costs? What the hell?"
        "Rich dumbasses trying to be cool. Mars is cool now, I could piss in a can and theyâ(TM)d buy it.").

Tammy is getting an award for her work with drug addicts, not the Nobel and will be accompanying them.

I have no idea how long it will be. It could be a short story or a novel, I don't know yet.

I sent for another copy of Mars, Ho! yesterday. I'm hopeful I'll be able to release it for publication this round, but I doubt it will be on sale in time to buy them for Christmas presents. Bummer.

Saturday I'll post a secular Christmas carol I wrote back in 2005 that almost nobody has seen.

User Journal

Journal: Semiliterate professional writers 7

Journal by mcgrew

This story on Slashgear about net neutrality showed up in Google News this morning. I was appalled.

Not at the story, so far I've only read the first sentence. "Today, President Obama sided with you and I."

What the God damned FUCK?! I don't know what uneducated moron wrote that sentence... wait, I found a byline: Nate Swanner. Nate, you show about a fourth grade reading level. Nate, you uneducated moron, QUIT YOU JOB, go back and get your GED and learn the English language before you present yourself as a "journalist".

And you who run slashgear, have you not thought about just maybe hiring an editor who's spent a semester or two in college?

One more question: how do these rank amateurs wind up in the Google News feed?

Oh, and Nate, for your information, it's "you and ME." Would you say "Today, President Obama sided with I"?

Moron. I hear McDonald's and Wal Mart are hiring.

User Journal

Journal: Wierd... 3

Journal by mcgrew

Before S/N opened, I spent a lot of time commenting at /. Any more, I check messages and read little of /., partly because stories have been showing up at S/N before /. and partly because there are so many more short bus riders at /. Oh, and slashdot's "stupid quotes" annoy the hell out of me.

I hadn't had mod points at /. for years, despite being at karma cap.

So two days ago I had five /. mod points. Today I had fifteen. I guess heavy posters don't get points.

User Journal

Journal: Grommler 4

Journal by mcgrew

This story takes place in a bar on Mars over a century later than "Mars, Ho!". Kudos to slashdot for finally fixing its handling of smart characters.
        âoeJoe? Is that you? You're still tending bar? I thought you'd be retired. How you doin', you old rascal?â
        Joe frowned. âoeSorry, son, I must be getting old, do I know you? And can I get you a drink?â
        âoeIt's Dave, man. Give me a Knolls lager, draft.â
        âoeSorry, Dave, we're sold out of Knolls. We have some Guinness, that's almost as good. But I'm sorry, but I still don't know who you are. Memory ain't as good as it used to be.â
        âoeDave Rayfield, Joe. Of course it's been a lot longer for you than me. Yeah, Guinness will do.â
        âoeDave Rayfield? I haven't seen him since I was twenty. You his grandson?â he asked, pouring the beer.
        âoeNo, Joe, I'm Dave. Same Dave you knew back then.â
        âoeBut you're so young!â
        âoeIt was the trip. I piloted the science expedition to Grommler while you were throwing rocks from the asteroid belt at Mars.â
        âoeThe terraforming is still going on here. I'm a little old for space hopping. Hell, if I spent any more time traveling through space I'd live forever. But how the hell did you stay a damned kid?â
        âoeSame way you're not dead at a hundred twenty five. Time dilation. Most Earthians die before they're ninety five, but speed stretches time. You'd be dead by now if you hadn't been a spaceship captain. It's been a hundred years since you've seen me, but it's only been ten years since I've seen you.â
        âoeSo where have you been for the last hundred years?â
        âoeTen years to me. We went to Grommler.â
        âoeWhere's that?â
        Dave laughed. "It orbits Sirius, but it was the least serious place I've ever seen! Really weird place.â
        âoeWeird how?â
        âoeEvery way weird goes. First off, there was no fauna at all, not even insects. Only flora, despite having more oxygen than Earth. The geologists said it was because of the CO2 from volcanoes that there could even be any flora.
        âoeBut the weirdest was the plants. We were there for two years, and that's in real time, and every single plant the biologists tested had cannabinoids and other psychoactive components. There were a lot of brush fires because of the wind and lightning, so every time you went outside you got stoned. Hell, some of the guys practically lived outside!â
        âoeNeed another beer?â
        Dave eyed his glass and downed it. âoeYeah. Jesus, Joe, things sure changed in the last ten years.â
        âoeIt's been a hundred years since you left, Dave. It only seems like ten to you.â
        âoeI guess. But you know what, Joe? I'm going to clean up!â
        âoeWhat do you mean?â
        Dave pulled out an envelope. âoeThese. Grommlerian tomato seeds. Grommlerian plants have a completely different ordering than our plants, it's something different than DNA and the scientists are still trying to figure it out. But they make seeds like Earth plants.â
        âoeTomatoes?â
        âoeNot really. They look like tomatoes but taste way different, but they taste really good. And they get you really stoned.â
        âoeWell, okay, you found a reefer planet. When you find a beer planet, let me know.â

User Journal

Journal: Missed Deadlines 1

Journal by mcgrew

I "finished" writing Mars, Ho! early in the summer, and since it became a horror story I was aiming to publish it by Halloween. Well, that didn't happen.

I wanted it to be done by then so it would show up in bookstores by Thanksgiving. I still had hopes of getting it at least for sale on my web site by then, especially since a fan wrote with news he was planning to buy several copies as gifts.

It doesn't look like that will happen, either. I just finished making the changes I'd made in the second printed copy (the first goes to my daughter Patty, the second to Dewey, who stirred the muse) and sent off for a third. It will be a couple weeks before it shows up on my porch, and if there are no more changes, which is doubtful, it would be at least another week before I cleared it for publication.

I'll be lucky if it's for sale this year. I'm frustrated.

Oh, well. I'm not in it for the money, just for the satisfaction of writing novels and actually have people read them. It's a good thing I'm not in it for the money because I'm barely breaking even, after copyright registration, ISBNs, and buying copies, many of which are marked up in pencil, not completely edited, and not for sale.

However, even though I'm not in it for the money, I'm still planning to sell the e-book on Amazon. If I got on their best seller list it would get more people reading, and many might read other of my books from the web site. Mars, Ho!'s HTML and PDF will still be free. Few are downloading the free e-books of the first two books, most are either reading it online or downloading the single HTML file.

Anyway, I guess I'm on vacation again... oh, wait, there's Random Scribblings.

User Journal

Journal: Amazon's Hachette fight 7

Journal by mcgrew

I ran across an interesting opinion piece in Vox while going through Google News today. The piece is by Matthew Yglesias. What made me sit up and take notice is that he's on Amazon's side in the Hachette fight.

What's interesting is that his piece got published at all, considering that (as he notes) the newspaper, movie, music, and book publishers are all owned by the same big corporations.

I mostly agree with him, but not about everything. He writes:

In the traditional book purchasing paradigm, when a reader bought a book at the store there were two separate layers of middlemen taking a cut of the cash before money reached the author: a retailer and a publisher. The publisher, in this paradigm, was doing very real work as part of the value-chain. A typed and printed book manuscript looks nothing like a book. Transforming the manuscript into a book and then arranging for it to be shipped in appropriate quantities to physical stores around the country is a non-trivial task. What's more, neither bookstore owners nor authors have any expertise in this field.

Digital publishing is not like that. Transforming a writer's words into a readable e-book product can be done with a combination of software and a minimal amount of training. Book publishers do not have any substantial expertise in software development, but Amazon and its key competitors (Apple, Google, and the B&B/Microsoft partnership) do.

My "manuscripts" are exactly like the printed books. I upload a PDF and they print it.

But publishers aren't just middlemen who only offer publicity, as I've found out from experience. The publisher has editors and proofreaders, and this aspect is (at least for me) the hardest part of writing a book.

What's more, a self-published physical book is far more expensive than a book published by someone like Doubleday. I can get a copy of Andy Weir's The Martian at Barnes and Noble cheaper than I can get a copy of one of my own books from the printer.

He also seems to agree with everyone that physical books will go away. I used to think so, too, but reality changed my mind. I used to think that old fogeys like me were the only ones who prefer dead trees to electrons.

First was my 28 year old daughter, who when she saw the physical copy of Nobots exclaimed "My dad wrote a book. And it's a REAL book!"

Second was sales. Most people read my books for free on my web site, but far more people buy them than download them, and far more download the PDF or single file HTML than the e-book version.

I also discovered that people highly value books that were signed by the author. When a Felbers patron bought a paperback copy of Nobots (I have a box of them in my car's trunk), the first thing he did was ask me to sign it.

How can an author sign an e-book? I do what printmakers do and sign in pencil, because pencil is far harder to fake than ink.

But I agree with him on Amazon vs e-book publishers. E-books from publishers are way, way too expensive, and there's no reason whatever why an e-book should cost fifteen bucks. As he notes, there is almost no cost at all for making another copy of an e-book.

User Journal

Journal: Random Scribblings 1

Journal by mcgrew

While I'm waiting for the corrected copy of Mars, Ho! to show up I've been working on another, Random Scribblings. It's a compilation of garbage I've littered the internet with for almost twenty years.

I'm having problems, though. There is a lot of stuff I've written that just doesn't exist any more, like my "Weak End Hell Hole" column I wrote for Arcadia. I can't find Arcadia at archive.org at all and saved none of the columns. There's stuff I could have sworn I'd saved but can't find on my hard drives.

But there's stuff I don't even remember. I do remember that I wrote 17 front page stories at K5 a decade ago, but I don't remember what they all were.

If you've been reading my stuff for years and have a favorite article, let me know and I'll put it in the book. That is, if I can find it.

The clash of ideas is the sound of freedom.

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