Category Archives: Uncategorized

The Droid Maxx, Two Weeks In

I’m two weeks in to owning the Droid Maxx, and I gotta say that I love love love the thing, and the reason is almost entirely down to the battery life, which for me at least lives up to its advertised claim of lasting up to 48 hours. The acid test was me taking it to Emerald City Comicon and keeping it off a power tether from the moment I woke up until I put my head on the pillow. I simply never had to worry about how much battery life I had left. That’s literally the first time I could do that with a smart phone.

For those about to ask, I will note that I am not a “power” smartphone user, which is to say I don’t watch a lot of video or play many processor-intensive video games on it. I’m mostly text-based: I check Twitter and email, hit Facebook occasionally, cruise around the Web and read books, text every now and then and even (rarely) make a phone call. If I used the phone as a primary screen for Netflix and HBO Go, I could see possibly running out of juice at some point before midnight. But how I use the phone? Really, not a problem at all.

The phone is otherwise more than sufficient for what I use phones for — it pops up apps quickly, doesn’t get bogged down, processor-wise, and so far I haven’t once cursed at it, which may be a record for a smartphone. The screen is lovely (it’s not 1080p, which I understand some people hold against it, but it’s more than hi-def enough for me) and the no-touch commands Motorola and Google have baked into it work like a charm for me. My only real complaint is with the camera, which is inconsistent, particularly with auto-focus. But then I don’t think I’ve ever had a phone that has been more than barely adequate on that score, so I don’t really count it against it.

Also, while the five-inch screen is bright and lovely, I think I now know the maximum size I want my phone to be — I can only just get my thumb all the way across the screen while holding the phone with one hand. I can’t imagine wanting a larger phone. I mean, the thing is big enough as it is.

But really, again, for me what it comes down to is battery life, and this phone’s got it. Tons of it. Scads of it. The Droid Maxx is now my benchmark for that particular aspect of a smartphone. In the future, if a phone can’t match its battery longevity, I’m probably not going to get it. Likewise, if battery life is as much a consideration for you as it is for me, take a look at the Droid Maxx. So far, at least, I’ve been very happy with it.

And Now, For No Particular Reason, a List of My Top Ten Favorite Coen Brothers Films

Because why not. Note I use the word “favorite,” not the word “best,” although I would argue for the movie in my number one position being, if not the best, at least in the top three.

1. Miller’s Crossing

2. O Brother, Where Art Thou?

3. Intolerable Cruelty

4. Raising Arizona

5. Barton Fink

6. The Hudsucker Proxy

7. Fargo

8. The Big Lebowski

9. True Grit

10. Burn After Reading

For those wondering what’s at the bottom: The Ladykillers. 

Discuss.

Twitter Thoughts, April 2014

I see a lot of people obsessing about Twitter these days, with particular emphasis on who one should follow, or not follow, and why. Occasionally these conversations touch on me, sometimes as an positive example, and sometimes not (such as the random person purporting to be a writer attempting to lecture me on not following everyone who follows me — he’s been blocked, because, really, fuck off, dude). So I thought it might be useful to offer up a few thoughts on how I use Twitter these days, and why.

Obvious note: This is what works for me, and may not work for you, etc, blah blah blah. As a general rule, please note that anyone who tells you that you are doing Twitter wrong is probably an asshole who you can ignore (exception: When you use Twitter specifically to troll and attack people. It is almost always you who are the asshole then, and you should probably fall down some stairs).

The salient rule for Twitter and any other social media is: Are you using it in a way that you enjoy and makes you happy? If the answer is “yes,” then keep doing it that way.

Now, then:

I use Twitter largely for three purposes, and they are, in roughly descending order of importance: to keep up with friends, to blather in short form about topics which interest and/or amuse me, and to inform both fans and overly-committed haters what I am up to, careerwise.

Although I use Twitter to keep up with friends, I am well aware that the vast majority of people who follow me are people who I don’t know, and who follow me because they are fans/interested in my work/decided I was amusing on Twitter — in other words, that for the majority of people who follow me, I am entertainment, to a greater or lesser degree (my friends may also be entertained by me, but that’s secondary).

This does have some bearing on my Twitter presence, and is also of value to me as someone who is in fact a professional entertainer of the writing sort. My twitter presence is largely a public-oriented performance; save when I am talking to a friend through a direct message, I am always aware there is an audience for my tweets, regardless of who I am speaking to and what I am saying. I suspect many of the people with whom I regularly chat on Twitter are also aware of this “public performance” aspect.

Does this make our Twitter chatting “inauthentic”? I don’t think so; it merely means we’re aware we’re in public and that when we’re having a conversation on Twitter, that people are listening in over our shoulders — and will feel free to comment or repeat what we’ve said to others.

As a result, when I am on Twitter, I do what I do here on the blog, which is to be “personable but not personal” — I have a voice that is familiar and friendly, and will share stuff I deem to be amusing or pertinent, but I will rarely if ever share anything from the sphere of topics I deem to be too personal. I don’t share everything, and have no interest in sharing everything — not everything needs to be shared to or known by people who I don’t, in fact, have any relationship other than that I exist as entertainment for them.

For all that I am aware of the public nature of my Twitter feed, and that for the large percentage of my followers I exist as entertainment, I don’t generally go out of my way to strategize the commercial application of my Twitter feed as a writer, i.e., how to convert every single follower into a paying customer of my books or whatever. The reasons for this are simple. One, that sort of thing bores the shit out of me. I have things I want to do with my life, but obsessing whether my Twitter feed is selling my work is not really one of them. Two, overthinking that sort of thing makes one’s Twitter feed boring, because you’re not doing it to enjoy it, you’re doing it to manipulate people. Three, I think a lot of the people who do spend too much of their time worrying about how their Twitter feed is working for them give off an unpleasant, metallic whiff of desperation, and why would I want to be or do that?

This is why the jerk who tried to upbraid me for not following everyone who follows me found his way into my block queue: What he was saying was YOU ARE NOT OPTIMIZING YOUR TWITTER FEED TO MAKE EVERYONE ON IT MARGINALLY FEEL MORE SPECIAL AND THUS MORE LIKELY TO BUY YOUR THINGS HOW DARE YOU SIR. And well, you know. That’s not how I use Twitter, nor is it how I want to use Twitter. My career has gotten along fine without having HOW WILL THIS MAKE YOU WANT TO BUY ALL MY THINGS as the guiding principle for every single human interaction I have, online or off. Seeing every other human being as a mark is no way to go through life. It’s tiring, it’s insulting, and it’s no fun on either side of that exchange.

In terms of who I follow on Twitter, it susses out something like this: People I know in the real world as friends or colleagues (I’d say about 90% of my follow list), friends of friends who I find to be particularly clever, who I (happily) then often later get to know in real life (about 8% or so), and the occasional person who I don’t know but of whom I am a fan of their work (the remainder).

Note that the vast majority of people I follow are people I actually know. That’s a personal choice; I’m interested in the goings-on of people who are friends. One reason for that is that my friends tend to be far-flung — or more accurately, as I live in rural Ohio, I am far flung from them. Another reason is that my friends are entertaining and I like playing with them on Twitter. A third reason is that while I have my own (small) list of people I follow because I am a fan, at the end of the day my primary interest is the people I know and care about because of my personal history with them.

(Now, as it happens, because of who I am and the circles in which I run, some of the people I am friends with happen to be notable to one degree or another, particularly in geek fields. However, I don’t follow them on Twitter because they are notable. I follow them because they are my friends. It’s a difference which may mean little, looking in from the outside, but means a fair bit from the inside.)

It’s theoretically possible for me to follow everyone who follows me, but then I would have a Twitter feed that that would be useless for what I want it to do, which is to keep me up to date with my friends and what they are doing. There are 319 people on my follow list now, and I have a hard time keeping up with all of them as it is. Moreover, and this sounds a little mean, but come on, we’re grownups here, just because someone is interested in following me on Twitter doesn’t mean I’ll be interested in following them. Because I usually don’t know them, nor am I a fan of them or their work. It doesn’t mean they aren’t wonderful, interesting people with cool lives, etc. But I don’t know them, see. And that matters to me for my follow list.

This doesn’t mean I don’t interact with the people who follow me, or who directly address me on Twitter. I do a lot of both as people either respond to what I’ve written or want to ask me something. It’s fun and part of Twitter’s conversational style. But I think that’s to the point, here — you don’t need to follow someone to talk to them on Twitter. You just ping a comment to their handle. Follow who you want to; don’t follow the people you don’t. Simple enough.

On the flip side of following, there are the people I block or mute (“mute” being a function where they are not barred from following you or even responding to you, but you don’t see what they’re saying). I block real people rarely (as opposed to spambots, which I block all the time), but I do block, because some people are real shitheads and I don’t mind letting them know I think so.

I mostly mute people, because it’s quieter (people don’t know that they’re being muted) and because it’s flexible — the Twitter client I use, Janetter, allows you to mute people for times ranging from 30 minutes to forever. That’s useful when I post something contentious and someone follows up with something I find dumb; I (usually) put them in the timeout box for a day rather than snark at them, and the next time they comment to me, I’ve forgotten they annoyed me, which benefits both of us. There are some people I’ve permanently muted; I don’t miss them.

Muting is useful not only for people who annoy me, but for people I genuinely like but who are on a momentary hobby horse I don’t want cluttering up my follow feed. When that happens I’ll mute them for an hour or three while they rant and then later they are back to their usual selves. Or when two friends are being contentious to each other, I’ll sometimes mute them both for an hour, because watching my friends argue all over my Twitter feed is awkward. Muting them while they argue is the Twitter equivalent of seeing friends argue at a party and deciding to go into the next room and chat with other people, who are currently not arguing.

(Do people who follow me mute me? Oh, probably. I can be annoying on Twitter from time to time.)

As much time as I spend on Twitter, there’s no way for me to respond to everything, either on my Twitter feed or when people tweet at me. I can’t imagine how my friends who have substantially more followers than I manage it.

Twitter is a fast-moving stream, basically. I enjoy it — a lot — but I also know there’s only so much I can do with it. So I do with it what I enjoy, and which makes me happy. You should do the same, however that is for you. Again: Simple enough.

This is No Way to Run For Congress, Matthew Guyette

The good news is that John Boehner, Speaker of the House of Representatives and my congressional representative, has a Democratic opponent this year: A fellow by the name of Matthew Guyette. This is good news in that last election cycle Boehner ran unopposed, and generally speaking democracies are healthier when their elections are contested. Whether one intends to vote for Guyette or not, having a choice for one’s vote is a good thing.

The bad news is that at this point, it appears that the way Matthew Guyette is planning to run for the position of the Ohio District 8 Representative to the United States Congress is to put up a Facebook page and fill it with a bunch of snarky memes dedicated to the proposition that Republicans generally and Boehner in particular are, like, bad, and you should totally hate them. In other words, a page largely indistinguishable from umpteen million other snarky liberal and/or Democratic pages on Facebook.

What I can’t find on Guyette’s Facebook page: Any real information on who he is or any useful, detailed articulation of what his political positions are and how he plans to implement them if he gets to DC, or why he, in particular, deserves my vote over Boehner this November. The best I get is a sentence or two at the top of the various links and memes, most of which do not offer any substantive food for thought. Beyond that: Nothing useful.

So I thought, well, maybe all that is on Guyette’s Web site. I scrolled back to the top of the page, looking for the official “Guyette for Congress” Web site link. And didn’t find it. Fine, okay, I went looking for it on Google — which is already, incidentally, more than most people in this same situation would do — and came up with nothing. What I get is the Facebook page. I will note that at the top of the Facebook page there’s a link to an ActBlue page to collect contributions, but that ActBlue page is almost devoid of any information about Guyette beyond the “I am running against Boehner! Send me money!” sort. ActBlue has a $30K goal for Guyette; as of me writing this, he’s at $484.

And no, I didn’t donate. Why? Because, for starters, I know nothing about this dude, nor is he making it easy for me to learn anything. Facebook pages filled with memes, snark and links are not a substitute for a serious campaign Web site with serious and useful information for voters. Look, I’m deeply unlikely to vote for Boehner, this year or any other. But I’m not going to vote for Guyette — or anyone, for that matter — just because he’s running on the “I’m not Boehner” platform. You know what? I’m not Boehner, either. Not being Boehner is not that special. You have to give me something more. I’m perfectly happy not to vote for a Democratic contender for OH-8 if I don’t think he or she is worth my vote. Maybe Guyette is, but I don’t know. He’s not telling me.

Boehner, incidentally? Very nicely put together campaign Web site, with all sorts of details on his positions, what he’s doing, who he is and his engagement with his district. His facebook page? About his accomplishments and positions, not so much with the snark and memes. And, it has a link to his campaign site right where I can find it. If I was voting strictly on coherent social media messaging, this race would already be over, and Boehner would get the vote.

Mind you, this is part and parcel with how the Democratic party does things around here in OH-8. Boehner is basically unassailable in the seat until or unless he decides to retire and so the Democrats don’t appear to want to make that much of an effort. On one hand, this is understandable — why throw money and effort into a race you’re simply never going to win? — but on the other hand, come on, guys, throw me a bone, here. At least make me feel like if Boehner got hit by a truck and the Democrat was then the only living candidate in the race, that I could feel like whoever was running would do a better job in the role than Boehner’s flattened corpse. There’s more to being a Representative than being against one’s opponent. In Guyette’s case, I have no idea what more he brings to it.

So: Convince me, Mr. Guyette. Because otherwise, while Boehner won’t get my vote, you won’t get it either. You can start with a site — a real one, away from Facebook — that actually tells me what you are for, not merely who you are against.

Update 5:45pm: Commenter John Mark Ockerbloom notes another Democratic contender in OH-8, Tom Poetter. And look! He has a Web site with information about him and his positions! It’s just that easy!

Three Things on a Monday Morning

They are:

1. I’m traveling back home today, so once again don’t expect too much here. Don’t worry, you’ll get a full blast tomorrow, even if I don’t in fact get bored and write a post on the plane. Seattle was lovely; Emerald City Comicon was a blast.

2. Today is the VERY LAST DAY to nominate for the Hugos, so if you have not done so (and can), now’s the time to do it. You have until 11:59pm Pacific time. Get to it, folks.

3. Tomorrow will be the last day to get the latest edition of the Humble e-Book Bundle, the drm-free set of excellent science fiction and fantasy works which includes “The God Engines,” i.e., “The Most Cheerful Thing John Scalzi’s Ever Written” (note for the sarcasm-impaired: It’s not actually cheerful at all, quite the opposite in fact). Remember that you can name your price and that a portion of the proceeds go to charity. Can’t lose on this one.

Have an excellent Monday, folks.

 

Reminder to Emerald City Comicon Attendees: Reading/Q&A Today, 5pm

It’ll be in room 3AB, which I’m told seats about 350, so there should be pleeeenty of room. Please come by and do your best to fill it up. To entice you, I will be reading from Lock In, my upcoming novel. Yes! Get a sneak preview before nearly every other human on the planet! And then will be answering whatever questions folks can think up. It’ll be fun. And the rest of the day I will (mostly) be at my table, TCC Level 3, Table JJ-23. Bring your books from home or get new books from the University Bookstore, which has set up shop in room 309. I will sign them all.

An update for everyone else: Emerald City Comicon has been lovely and crowded so far (I expect today will be even more crowded), and I’m having a pretty good time. I’ve managed to get away from the Convention Center a couple of times and see the city with friends, so that’s been a good thing, too — Seattle is a great city, even when it rains. And some of my favorite people are at ECCC this year, so that’s been making it even better. So, generally, a good time. The only drawback is my body is still on east coast time, which means that by 10pm I turn into a pumpkin. I’m sure that will fix itself just in time for me to go home on Monday.

The God Engines Now Added to Humble Bundle 3

Here’s the cool thing: The God Engines, my Hugo and Nebula nominated novella, is now part of the Humble eBook Bundle 3, a collection of DRM-free electronic works. The God Engines joins Jumper by Stephen Gould, Uglies by Scott Westerfeld, Tithe by Holly Black, and several other books by some of the best science fiction and fantasy writers today.

And how much do you pay? Well, that’s the thing: You pay as much or as little as you like for the Humble Bundle. But the more you pay, the more titles you unlock — and if you kick in $15, you’ll get the audiobook version of Cory Doctorow’s novel Homeland, narrated by Wil Wheaton (who has a book of his own in the bundle). $15 for eleven titles in total is not a bad deal at all.

And, when you buy the Humble Bundle, not only does your payment go to the authors, it also goes to the SFWA Emergency Medical Fund (supporting science fiction and fantasy writers when they get into medical scrapes) and to Worldreader, dedicated to increase literacy worldwide. Two good causes, supported by this one bundle.

If you want this bundle — and why would you not? — move quickly: It’s only available for one more week.

Again, here’s the link. Happy reading!

My Emerald City Comicon Events

I’ll be at the Emerald City Comicon this weekend, hanging out, signing books and setting fire to all those who oppose me (well, maybe not so much that last one). If you will be at the convention, here are the things I will be doing:

Friday, March 28:

Writing Dialogue That Works
Room: WRITERS BLOCK (309-310)
Time: 11:00AM – 11:50AM

Writing great dialogue does not always come easily to writers. Join John Scalzi and local authors to learn how to know if your dialogue works and what to do if it doesn’t.

Saturday, March 29:

ECCC Writers Block presents John Scalzi
Room: 3AB
Time: 5:00PM – 5:50PM

Listen to John Scalzi talk about his life as author, father and all around raconteur! Best known for his Old Man’s War series, three novels of which have been nominated for the Hugo Award, John’s novel Redshirts was also recently optioned by FX to become a television series.

Also, apparently I have a table on the con floor: JJ-23, which is on TCC Level 3. Come find me. I will sign all your things. I will be there all weekend, when I’m not wandering about. My understanding is that the University Bookstore will be on hand selling books (look for Dwayne, he’ll be one of the three tallest humans at the con), so if you need to pick up copies for me to sign, there will be some on hand.

See you all in a few days!

New Public Appearance Announcements: Los Angeles, Detroit, New York, Phoenix

2014 has become a very busy year for travel and for appearances. New on the slate:

1. I’ll be at the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books on April 12, doing the panel “Redshirts: From Page to Screen” with Redshirts producer Jon Shestack and with TV Writer/novelist (and my super-awesome pal) Pamela Ribon as moderator. That will be at 2:30pm in the Ronald Tutor Campus Center, on the USC campus. Immediately after the panel I’ll be signing books, and I’ll be doing a second signing session at the Mysterious Galaxy tent at 5pm.

2. For booksellers and other folks in the publishing/book-related world, I’ll be at Book Expo America this year, which runs May 29 – May 31 at the Javits Center in New York. My schedule is still being formed and I will post it when I have it, but I can already tell you I will be doing some pretty cool stuff.

3. On May 2 – 4, I’ll be at Penguicon, in Southfield, MI (i.e., suburban Detroit). I don’t currently have anything planned for the convention other than hanging about, but I may add a panel or two.

4. Finally (for today, anyway), I’ll be returning to Phoenix Comicon once more for three days of fun and excitement and crazy wacky nonsense. The con runs June 5 – 8; I’ll be there Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Phoenix always does a great job getting fantastic authors to participate, and this year is no exception.

These are on top of already scheduled appearances in Seattle (this week!), Houston, San Francisco, Detroit (again) and London. And there are likely to be at least a couple more to come, not including the tour for Lock In, which will happen in the August/September timeframe. All the dates and details, as always, are noted on my Scheduled Appearances page. Check in on that page anytime.

Reader Request Week 2014 Recap

In case you missed any this year, the complete Reader Request entries for 2014:

Reader Request Week 2014 #1: Travel and Me

Reader Request Week 2014 #2: Writerly Self-Doubt, Out Loud

Reader Request Week 2014 #3: How I Stay Happy

Reader Request Week 2014 #4: How I See You, Dear Reader

Reader Request Week 2014 #5: Hitting the Lottery

Reader Request Week 2014 #6: Enjoying Problematic Things

Reader Request Week 2014 #7: Editorial Independence

Reader Request Week 2014 #8: What Writing Lurks In the Shadows?

Reader Request Week 2014 #9: Short Writery Bits

Reader Request Week 2014 #10: Short Bits

Thanks again, everyone who submitted a request!

The Fan Writer Hugo, and Pros

Over at File 770, Mike Glyer takes aim at pro writers who have won the Best Fan Writer Hugo, me included, on grounds that we tend to minimize the Fan Writer Hugo on our professional resumes; as Glyer puts it, “People who are building careers as writers do not want to identify their brands with anything that hints of the amateur.”

I have a direct response to him in the comments there, which basically is, no, actually, I’m really proud of my Fan Writer Hugo, it’s important to me for all sorts of reasons, and I mention it here not infrequently. At the same time I’m careful how I advertise the win in my professional life because I recognize that a fair number of fans would be spiky about me using it there. In my case it’s not about worrying that it’s an amateur award, but trying to respect the context of the award and the community which awards it. Clearly (as in Glyer’s case) the mileage may vary on this sort of thing.

Glyer’s post jostled up a few other thoughts I have about the Fan Writer Hugo, how it relates to pro writers, and a couple of other points. So let me just toss them out now in no particular order.

* I disagree (obviously) with the contention that I don’t mention the award because I’m worried about its “amateur” status, but I will note that it is a strange award to discuss with people outside of sf/f fandom. “Fan Writing” is a phrase that either doesn’t mean anything to them, or, alternately, means fan fiction writing — which is generally not what is meant by “fan writing” in sf/f fandom, although strictly speaking there’s no reason a fan fic writer couldn’t win the fan writing award.

However, outside unfamiliarity with the Fan Writer award also offers an opportunity to talk a little about the dynamics of sf/f fandom, and why, in fact, it honors that amateur and fannish activity with the same awards as it honors professional work. I’ve certainly done that, because I’m not shy in discussing my Hugos with people who ask about them. It’s interesting to see the reactions.

* Now, I’m not gonna lie: As a practical matter, in my professional life as a science fiction writer, the Hugo I have for novel writing is more useful that the one I won for Fan Writing (or for Best Related Book), and there’s no point pretending otherwise. When I’m doing things in a professional context and awards get trotted out, I usually lead with the novel Hugo. But in fact, having the other two Hugos is also useful in a professional sense, because it speaks to the breadth of my writing interest and skill. When I’m selling myself as a nonfiction writer — which still does happen — those work for me.

* I (again obviously) don’t think there’s a problem with a writer who is primarily known as a pro getting the fan writing award, if the writing is fannish (i.e., largely done outside a directly professional context and touching on matters relating to science fiction/fantasy culture and interests). And I think when I won the award, it was a useful win in that I was the first person in nearly two decades to win the award who wasn’t Dave Langford, i.e., it reminded people that spreading the award around was not a bad idea (this is where I note that Dave Langford, in all that I know of him, is a lovely person who deserves recognition for his work). I’m still pleased that since I won, there has not been a repeat winner in the category.

Still: at the center of Glyer’s complaint is a perfectly reasonable and valid point, which is that pro writers nominated in the fan writing category often have one useful advantage over other nominees — they’re better known. The Hugos are a popular award; having a name helps. It doesn’t guarantee a win — I lost a Hugo in the Fan Writer category before I won it, you know — but it can certainly be a factor. It does make it tougher for the other nominees in the field.

And so in this category, as in every other category, it behooves the people voting to make the effort to read the work of the nominees and ask themselves which ones have work which best exemplifies the goals of the award. If it’s nominee best known as a pro writer, fine. But if it’s not, why not vote for the one with the best work that year? Or at least, rank them highly, the Hugo Ballot being an Australian Rules ballot, after all. Awards are given, but awards should also be earned.

* I would be sad if the Fan Writer Hugo became little more than the Pro Writer Compensation Hugo, because there are lots of people writing in the fan community, not generally considered professional science fiction and fantasy writers, who deserve recognition. For example, I think it’s something of a crime that Steven Silver, for one, does not already have a Fan Writer Hugo. This is an error that should be corrected sooner than later. James Nicoll’s LiveJournal is a daily stop for me, even when the commenters there are taking a brickbat to my head; I’d like to see him awarded as well. Abigail Nussbaum is another excellent candidate for a win, in my opinion (I suspect me noting this will surprise her), and this year Natalie Luhrs also makes an excellent argument for consideration in the category. These are just four people off the top of my head; there are many more.

* I don’t think you can stuff the pro writers in the the Fan Writing category back into the bottle, if for no other reason that there have been people who have been nominated in and winning the category who have likewise been pro writers too. When I was nominated for Fan Writer and Best Novel in 2009, I wasn’t even the first person to do that; Piers Anthony had me beat by nearly forty years. But Glyer’s not wrong that the award is worth celebrating as its own unique category, and that it should be given for its own merits, and appreciated as such (particularly by the winners). I am proud to have won the award; I would be happy for the award to be won by people who are not always like me.

The New Phone, March 2014 Edition

Today was the day my two year contract on my last phone ran out, and not a moment too soon, because after two years, the previous phone had seriously begun to chug. That one has now been retired with thanks for its service; here’s the new one, the latest Droid Maxx. Its primary selling point (for me, anyway): A massive battery that theoretically at least can last up for two days. Given how much I travel (a lot), that’s a heck of a selling point. It also has a hands-free thing that allows you to talk to it, and it calls and texts people. That’s pretty nifty.

I also signed up for Verizon’s “Edge” program, which will allow me to upgrade my phone every few months if I want. I am aware that it’s not necessarily the most financially responsible option, but I get annoyed with phones pretty quickly and also I can afford the relatively minor additional expense to avoid annoyance. Plus then I get shiny new technology on an accelerated schedule! Seemed reasonably prudent, all things considered.

So yes: New techno toy. I hope I like it.

Reader Request Week 2014 #10: Short Bits

And now, to close out the Reader Request week, short thoughts on a bunch of topics:

Bruce: “I never see you write about sports. Are there any out there that interest you?”

I very occasionally write about sports, but I have to admit that as a general rule I don’t care much about them; they’re just not where my interests lie. That said, I frequently enjoy reading sports journalism, which I think is often livelier than most other sorts, and more fun to read. I also, interestingly, wrote a sports newsletter for AOL that went out to hundreds of thousands of readers weekly, and it deeply amused me to do it. My highlight with that was the time I called the winners all but one of the college bowls. I should have run a pool. All of this means that I am well-informed about sports, even if I don’t care about it. This comes in handy when meeting people outside my usual circles.

Nagol99: “I’d like your thoughts on Taxidermy & if you’d ever have a “stuffed” woodland creature hanging above your fireplace mantle. If so, then what would you have mounted?”

It’s not my thing, really, and I can’t think of a dead animal I’d want hanging about my house. I don’t find it morally repugnant, however, and I can appreciate when someone does a good job of it. It simply isn’t of interest to me in a general sense.

Anon: “Your thoughts on following in your parents footsteps. How many people do you know who are in the same careers as their parents? Did you ever consider it. Would you want your kid to consider it?”

My parents had jobs, not careers, and in any event I knew very early on that I wanted to be a writer, which neither of them were, so that solved that. I know several people who have the same job/career as at least one of their parents — mostly writers, but some doctors and a couple of lawyers. The amount of concern/pride/worry they have in doing what their parents did varies from person to person; the one advantage I can see is that you have someone close to you who can give you unique insight into the gig. My own daughter happens to be a very good writer, and I would be happy to see her try her hand at it for a career. But what I would rather see is for her to do the things that interest her. If that’s writing, great. If not, great.

Rafe Brox: “We all know of (and celebrate/mock) your love of Coke Zero as caffeine delivery system of choice. How did this come about? Did you experiment in college? Was there something you preferred, back in the day, that went off the market, and this was your next-best thing? Do you occasionally peruse other beverages out of curiosity or a sense of novelty?”

It’s not nearly that interesting. When I was younger I preferred the taste of Coke over Pepsi or other colas, and as I got older I switched over to no sugar versions because the sugared version was making me fat because I drank too much of it. I drink Coke Zero because it’s the actual Coke formula (Diet Coke is the New Coke formula). Soda is my preferred caffeine intake vehicle because I don’t like the taste of coffee and tea doesn’t do much for me either. While Coke Zero is my preferred soda, I’m not horribly dogmatic about it; I’ll drink a Diet Pepsi if I’m at a restaurant that only serves that, and I do drink other (mostly no-calorie) sodas. Currently in my fridge I have Diet Cherry Doctor Pepper, Diet Barq’s Root Beer, and Sprite Zero.

ProfMel: “As a parent of a teen, do you see the generation that’s growing up now approaching the world differently than we did? (Lo, these many years ago) If so, what do you see as positive or negative about it?”

Anecdotally speaking I don’t really notice too much of a difference. The trappings of adolescence are different — my daughter texts her friends constantly rather than doing what I did, which was to talk aimlessly on the phone for hours at a time — and new technologies and changes in the culture have fiddled with the dynamic a bit. But, you know, the basic template of adolescence is the same because the human animal hasn’t changed all that much in the three decades since I was a teen. I don’t see a huge philosophical difference between today’s teens and yesterday’s, either. Teenagers continue to be self-centered (which is not always a bad thing in a developing human, to be clear), highly-sensitive and status-observant, and absolutely certain that today, things are different in a way no one else not in their cohort could possibly understand. In short, yeah, I think they’re a lot like us.

Matthew: “I remember the cool video you showed of Athena seeing a record for the first time. What was she like as a kid growing up in rural Ohio and seeing the Ocean for the first time.”

Actually she was born in Virginia and lived her first two years there, and by her second birthday had been to both oceans the US touches. We also travel regularly, so she’s had numerous opportunities to see them in her life. So I don’t think she sees them as being entirely outside her experience of things. She does like the ocean, though. In a larger sense, one of the nice things about being who we are is that we have the opportunity to show our kid lots of the world. Living in rural Ohio is not as limiting as you might imagine.

ArthurD: “What from the world of today would impress the you of twenty or twenty five years ago?”

I suspect the current state of cell phone technology. There were mobile phones in 1989, but they were bricks, and in any event, for today’s cell phones, the actual “phone” part is almost an afterthought — these days I’m always vaguely surprised when someone calls me on mine. Cell phones are (for anyone over say, 40 years of age) genuinely science fictional — a computer you fit in your pocket that can access unfathomable amounts of information, understand when you speak to it and perform the functions you request, and record any moment you choose with full sound and audio. Honestly, it’s mind-blowing — and we don’t think anything of it. Because you get used to the future very quickly. But 1989 me would probably wet himself with amazement.

Noisegeek: “Is it just me, or has the subject of gender identity gotten super complicated in the last 10-15 years (publicly at least, I realize that for people dealing with the issue personally, it’s probably been complicated for a whole lot longer)?”

Yes, it has gotten more complicated in the last several years, in part because more transfolk and folks who feel some degree of gender fluidity have decided to stand up and stop passively accepting the status quo. And I think that’s as it should be. As I’ve noted before I think it’s a good thing for people to get closer to being who they really ought to be. And personally speaking, you know, I would love to be a person with whom other people can feel they can truly be who they are, when it comes to their gender expression. That takes work on my part, because like everyone else I’ve got a raft of assumptions and prejudices and things to get over. But saying it’s work is not saying it’s an imposition. It’s really not. So yeah: More complicated. But, hopefully as we go along, better, too.

Douglas: “Should we bring back extinct animals through cloning or other scientific breakthroughs?”

I’m not opposed to it in a very general sense, but I would say in all seriousness that I think those animals would be very lonely.

iQ666: “Would you write a short story for Playboy if solicited? Or do you intend to pull someday some strings to make this happen?”

It’s been so long since I’ve read Playboy that I’m not even sure they run fiction anymore, or, really, are still in print. Generally speaking I don’t send out work — I wait to be solicited — so I won’t be contriving to get into its pages, no.

Lawrence LaPointe: “Canada. The 51st state or the next superpower? “

Probably neither. I am deeply fond of Canada, however, and seem to be becoming more so as time goes on. I’m happy to share a continent with it.

Greg: “The Drake Equation. Where the heck is everybody?”

They’re out there having fun without us. Figures.

Malkara: “What’s your opinion on so-called cryptocurrencies (Bitcoin, Litecoin, Dogecoin, etc)? Do you think there’s any future in them, or are they all a load of shit?”

I only vaguely understand how their value is derived, and it seems to me that trusting a store of value that has almost no regulation is a fine way to lose the value you’ve stored there. So for the near-term future, at least, I’ll stick to nation-based currencies.

Hugh57: “Do you think that anyone other than Hillary Clinton has a realistic shot at the Democratic nomination in 2016? Who do you see as the future face of the Democratic Party?”

No, and likely Cory Booker, in that order. I also strongly suspect that the next realistic shot the GOP has at the White House is 2020, and that itself will depend on how Hillary Clinton’s first term goes.

Dusty: “An issue important to me – How do you feel about the skepticism movement? And folks like James Randi, Michael Shermer, and Phil Plait?”

Phil’s a friend of mine; I like him quite a bit. I don’t know either Randi or Shermer. Philosophically I’m aligned with skepticism; as a community as far as I can see it seems to have a number of social parallels to other geek communities, which includes some very real issues with how women are treated. If my knowledge about that is correct, then hopefully that’s being addressed.

Adam: “Profanity! How the fuck does one use it effectively?”

Fuck if I know, man. I just let that shit happen.

Thanks, everyone, for another successful Reader Request Week! I hope you had as much fun with it as I have.