The ravens are looking a bit sluggish. Tell Malcolm they need new batteries.

Monday, December 27


Sand in the Gears

I'm fully occupied right now digesting (burp!) and watching anime, but here's something for you in the meantime:

My Christmas quest was simple enough: buy toy cowboy guns for my boys. Caleb and Eli have boots and hats, bandanas and sheriff's badges. But they don't have holsters and guns. Without those critical components, however, you've really just got yourself a Village People costume. We've made do until now with two wooden pistols that were originally designed to shoot rubber bands. But I wanted to get them shiny cowboy guns, the kind that make a little boy's heart race, that turn a bad guy's legs to jelly, and that give a damsel that funny climbing-the-rope-in-gym-class feeling when she sees them strapped around your waist.

One man's quest for the perfect Christmas present, at Sand in the Gears.

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Friday, December 24


Joyous Furlongs

What was The Mirthful Ones is now Fistful Of Fortnights. Only they are sad because no-one has pinged them.


Okay, it looks like the reason that no-one has pinged them is because no-one can ping them. I'll contact MuNu tech support and - oh, wait.

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More Words, Deeper Hole

If you have ever spent any time in the science fiction groups on Usenet, you'd recognise the name of James Nicoll. Witty and erudite, and the unfortunate victim of more bizarre accidents than the collected populations of five of the smaller European states*, he has been a regular contributor to rec.arts.sf.written for as long as I can remember:

Results 1 - 10 of about 57,600 for james nicoll. in rec.arts.sf.written.* (1.01 seconds)

Anyway, he now has a blog. Okay, it's at Livejournal, but we all have to start somewhere.

An Open Letter to my cat Hillary

I appreciate that there can be no pause in the ongoing war between you and your bitterest enemy, you tail. I applaud your diligence and am amazed at the RPMs you reach chasing it. I would offer one lone bit of advice: seek a venue for tail chasing other than the slippery edge of a water-filled bath tub.

James has a number of cats, and many of them seem to have acquired his affinity towards implausible misadventure:

Blotchy has a history of run-in with doors. In fact, I once had to cut up a door to get his paw from under it. In most ways, he is a bright cat but he just seems to have bad luck with doors.

This time, he had somehow managed to pull the bathroom door closed as he walked out, pinning himself between the door and the wall. He could have easily escaped by going backward but he does not understand that. Instead he must have kept trying to push forward, getting increasingly upset and angry that the door was grabbing him. The growls alarmed the other cats, who tried to calm him down by attacking him (I assume this makes sense if your brain is the size of a walnut), thus all the noise.

Apart from his cats, James has one of the best jobs in the world: He is paid (paid!) to read science fiction novels before they come out.

Lois McMaster Bujold's The Hallowed Hunt (non-spoiler)

So I finally read this. It's sitting in the work related TBR pile for ages, because I keep what I think will be the best manuscripts for last, to help me get through the latest "Recent Plot Chunk of On-Going Fantasy Story #62" and "Loud Explosion Clumsy Info Dump Space Adventure #23", which I wouldn't have to read if you people would just stop buying them.

Bias: I am not a fantasy fan. It's not like I hate it but it just doesn't punch the right buttons for me. It's like coffee, which I like, vs tea, which I am indifferent to.

Omission: I have not read the second book in this series.

Good News: It doesn't matter. Each book set in this universe is a complete book and each comes with enough information of the world that you do not need to have read the other books.

Lois McMaster Bujold is one of my favourite authors, and The Curse of Chalion is perhaps her finest work. James is reading the manuscript (MS) for the third book set in that world, something we mortals will not have the opportunity to do for months!

It's not all good, though:

A Short But Unkind Review

So for my sins, I was assigned Mission to Minerva by James P. Hogan. This is the fifth book in the Giants series, of which I have read the first three and this one. Nothing I have heard about Entoverse (the one I missed) makes me want to hunt it down but when I was a teen, I was very fond of _Inherit the Stars_.

Bias calibration: I am on record as thinking Hogan succumbed to the Brain Eater years ago. I base this on the crank theories he promotes on his website (and in his books, but there's really no way to tell just from a book if the author is using the idea because they think it makes for a good story or because they really truly think Jupiter horks out Venus sized loogies from time to time). Recently I discovered Hogan is a defender of David Irving and a promoter of the Institute for Historical Review as a news site, and swore off reading Hogan. A discussion with my boss in which various valid points were made convinced me to read this one for them, although I am sure they would accepted a no from me.

Ladies and gentlemen, I present James Nicoll. Please keep a safe distance, and be sure to extinguish any open flames.

* "What's the difference between a radiant space heater and an oven, when you get right down to it? Aside from the fact that I don't stick my leg in an oven."

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Monday, December 20


Before Anyone Asks...

I have absolutely no idea what most of the pictures used in the titlebar represent. One of them is the Sydney Opera House. One is opals, another is agate. The other 597, I dunno.

Just wait until I get the remaining 59,400 images loaded onto the server. Or, if I manage to get the font switching working without it screwing up permissions like it did last time, the remaining 959,400.

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Now That Is Style

Few of my correspondents manage to scale comparable heights of idleness and incompetenceOliver Kamm dismantles a Chomskyite:

Thank you for writing. I receive, if not quite hundreds, then certainly scores of messages from people who, like you, press Chomsky's case without having first read either him or his critics. Be assured, however, that your own message is distinctive, in that few of my correspondents manage to scale comparable heights of idleness and incompetence, or at least not in the opening sentence.

I won't exhort you to read the whole thing, which is part of a series of articles regarding our favorite left-wing crank, but if you have ever been irked by Chomsky's followers, or Moore's, or similar rabble, it is a delight to see Kamm's elegant handling of their uninformed diatribes.

Witness too his dismissal of some of Chomsky's fellow travellers in linguistics:

“I read books and talk to people about them,” she says. “Without a method?” asks Howard. “That’s right,” she says. “It doesn’t sound very convincing,” says Howard.

I thought of this exchange when considering an international symposium to be held next April at the University of Montreal under the felicitous title For a Proactive Translatology.

Translatology is the study of translation. Proactive is a gruesome synonym for anticipatory. Of this pseudoscholarly gobbledegook, one leading literary translator remarked despairingly that her own work required no proactive translatology beyond the aim of serving foreign authors and English-language readers as well as possible.

Take that, defilers of the syllabary!

Oh, and this too:

I think you should be aware that a discharged lunatic has managed to gain access to your email account and is using it to send out absurd messages in your name in an attempt to discredit you. I am forwarding an example.

I should look into this if I were you.

That one looks to be quite useful. I might need to adopt it at work.

Blog of the Day, folks: Oliver Kamm.

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Thursday, December 16


Innumeracy Are Us

Every ten or twenty minutes, someone is clicking through from the Ecosystem, wondering who this new number three blog* is, maybe one of the big bloggers has changed names, and ending up here, and saying huh? And it's funny, but even when it's just an accident, being number three in the world feels like it carries some responsibility, and that I should be, you know, actually doing something with this blog.

Unfortunately, most of my posts - and all the good ones - come when I am inspired (or more likely, irritated) by something. I can't write good stuff on demand; that's a talent, and not a common one. Also, left to my own devices, I'm a lazy slug. That's why I'm hosting a hundred or so other blogs - no, hang on, this actually makes sense. I have a lot of things to say, but unless something is really pissing me off right now (the editorials in New Scientist are good for this) I'm likely to just let it slide and go and watch some anime instead. But now I have a hundred bloggers doing my writing for me!

Am I sneaky or what? And I don't even pay them! Of course, they don't always do what I had planned, but then neither do I, so it works out pretty well. It used to be that if anyone wondered what my opinion was on something important, I could just point them at U.S.S. Clueless, but that was before Steven retired and became a hermit took up a new career as an anime critic. Now I can only point to him for that, and while there's only one Den Beste, there are other anime critics whose tastes match mine, near enough. (By the way, Steven, if you don't watch Escaflowne you're really missing out. Yes, there's a mecha in it, but it's central to the plot in name only. Err, literally. And the music - by Yoko Kanno - is fantastic. I'm utterly disinterested in the average mecha series, up to and including Evangelion, but Escaflowne had me hooked. Don't bother with the movie, though, it's rubbish.) But now I have the Munuvians to talk for me. (Oh, and I agree with you about manga, mostly. The only ones I've followed are where the anime series was cut short - Oh! My Goddess, Gunsmith Cats, and 3 x 3 Eyes being leading examples.)

So, um, that is all I really have to say right now. I'm going to take a nap, then set up some more blogs for various people. You can amuse yourself while I'm gone by reading some of the fine blogs listed on the right. Or you can hold a party in my comments, that's always good.

* Unaudited figures.

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Tuesday, December 14


King for a Day

Something is just slightly out of whack on the Ecosystem today - I've been elevated to Higher Being:

Higher Beings (4351) details
2.Daily Kos :: Political Analysis and other daily rants on the state of the nation. (279cool details
3.Ambient Irony (2572) details
4.lgf: skiing through the revolving door of life (250cool details
5.Talking Points Memo: by Joshua Micah Marshall (2422) details
6.Eschaton (232cool details
7.Boing Boing: A Directory of Wonderful Things (2137) details
8.Power Line (2131) details
9.The Volokh Conspiracy - (1914) details - Daily Dish (1851) details

I don't expect this to last. But you can all claim that you knew me when...

(Thanks to the Llamas for noticing.) more...

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There, That Wasn't Too Painful

This layout is starting to grow on me.

It's a little irritating that it looks better in Internet Explorer than Mozilla, but that might just be the font settings that I have in Mozilla.

Anywho, let me know what you think.

The only remaining problem is that for some reason, MT never puts the code for the icon in the first time around. Edit and re-save, and there it is. But never the first time. Pfui.

P.S. No, the images didn't just change. It must be your imagination. Yes indeedy.

P.P.S. Hey, I like these ones. Think I'll keep 'em for a while.

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Yes, Virginia, There Is A Scroll Wheel

This is why I had a three-column layout before.

Now I'll have to put two months' worth of posts on the main page just to make the content longer than the sidebar.

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Monday, December 13


Love-Hate Relationship

Beloved by designers, heartily loathed by those who actually have to read their crap. Yes, it's grey text.

Gone now.

Now where the hell has the icon for this post gone?! Oh, right, now it shows up.

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