Books, Writing, Etc.

Three notes from the writing life.

1. The Book of the Dumb is done. I finished it up in the wee hours of Sunday morning as I pulled in the last of the quotes on stupidity from famous people, which we’ll use to fill out pages where the main text is a little short. There is technically a little bit of writing left (the acknowledgments and dedication, as well as a brief intro), and of course there’s some editing to be done. But these are nitpicks. I’m done! Yay! Not that I have any time to rest, since I have another book deadline in a month. But even so. Done is done, and done is good.

2. A lovely review of The Rough Guide to the Universe from the Budapest Sun. Don’t worry, the review is in English. I find it mildly ironic I can get a review in a Hungarian newspaper but not one in Ohio. But what are you going to do. And it’s not every day my writing is called “clear, yet intelligently poetic.” Ooooh. Me like good.

3. In addition to participating in two panels at Torcon, I’ve been informed that I will also be giving a half-hour reading on Sunday at 3:30. I found this mildly surprising since I didn’t actually sign up to give a reading, and since I don’t actually have a novel out and have had exactly one science fiction short story published (and it less than 2,000 words long), I wouldn’t expect I’d be anyone’s first choice for a reading to attend. So it makes me wonder what sort of meds were skipped in the process of penciling me in for this reading.

Nevertheless, far be it from me to pass up an opportunity for shameless self promotion. So I will indeed be giving a reading, and my selection will be a specially prepared version of the first chapter of The Android’s Dream, the novel which I am currently writing. I chose this because the chapter is pretty much self-contained: It’s very close to being its own short story. And also, it’s action-packed, with tense diplomatic negotiations, insults of honor between sentient species, revenge, betrayal, government seizure of property, the seeds of planetary rebellion and pandas. And get this: I haven’t even mentioned the most interesting plot device.

I won’t be serializing this novel online, so the only way to experience this chapter before its official publication in (good lord!) 2005 is to come to the reading. Which for most of you will mean a trip to Toronto. But you know you’ve wanted to visit Toronto for years. Here’s your excuse.

Pluses and Minuses of Wireless

A good test of the success of a technology is whether after you have it you wonder how the hell you lived without it. I’m definitely beginning to feel this way about wireless technology. At the moment, I’m writing this in Athena’s room, on the floor the computer propped up on my lap; Athena is behind me on her bed making up a Powerpuff adventure. Three weeks ago I would have to be in my office to type this and Athena would be coming in about every six seconds to ask me something or to ask me to do something or whatever, which means I would actually have a difficult time getting work done when she was around; now she’s happy to let me work because I have proximity to her. She still asks me questions and such, but once I’ve answered she’s off on her own thing.

Interestingly, this also works with Krissy; she’s more content to let me do work if I’m in line of sight. There’s a real psychological difference between being in the office all the time, away from the family while I’m doing work, and being in the room, doing work while the family is doing stuff around me. It’s useful for me (especially when I’m on deadline, like I am right now), and it’s better for the family.

The drawbacks: I’m having to retrain myself to be able to work while stuff is happening around me. I’ve had my own home office for years, and I’m used to having some imitation of quietness while I work. Being able to roam around the house while I work is nice, but the ambient distraction level is much higher, and as you may know, I’m very easily distracted.

So I’m re-learning how to “tune out” background noise to some extent — a skill I had in college and also when I worked in a newspaper, where people are talking and making noise all around you. At the moment, Athena’s helping me by providing a non-stop stream of noise, which I’m tuning out varying levels of success. To describe Athena as a talker is understating the issue. As her grandfather, who is a fairly quiet man asked after bringing her home after a visit: “Does she ever stop talking?” Well, no, not while she’s awake.

The other issue is that I’m used to writing at a desk, and writing on laptop presents its own set of ergonomic challenges. Everybody likes the theoretical idea of being able to write from the couch, but in the real world, the couch cushions get in the way and your elbow gets all jammed up and you end up just being really uncomfortable. Having a tablet PC makes it easier to do some things (I do a lot of Web browsing from bed now), but when it comes time for actual work, it’s a very mixed bag.

Ironically, however, I do find one thing easier to do on my laptop than my desktop: type. My hands are relatively small (because as most of you know I am a relatively not big man), and the “travel” between keys on my new laptop is a lot more comfortable than on my desktop keyboard. So I end up typing faster, at the very least. This is good because typing with a computer on your lap causes me to hunch my shoulders and there’s only so long before I can do that before I get such a cramp.

On balance, however, the wirelessness is a very good thing. Try it. And then type from the floor of your daughter’s room! You know you want to.

It’s Official

Starting today I’m officially blogging for AOL. The blog is called By The Way… and is viewable here. This is a permanent link, so feel free to bookmark it.

To recap what this means:

1. Yes, most of the time I’ll be writing over there, at least through the length of my AOL contract. Because, after all, they are paying me. And as it happens, I am contractually obligated to provide at least five entries a day over there, so I’ll be writing a fair amount. You’ll enjoy the quantity.

2. No, the Whatever is not going to be abandoned. By The Way… is meant to do certain things, and my I figure my job there is not alienate and confuse the readers. So you will see me be (somewhat) more moderate there. That’s my decision, by the way, not one imposed on me by AOL. The Whatever will serve as my heat sink, and I will continue to rant and rave at least a couple times a week.

So as to make sure there’s no assumed or presumed connection between what I do there and what I do here, I’m not even linking to myself from there to here. So ironically of all the online writers who will be missing out on the deluge of AOL members, one will be me. At least here.

I hope you will, however, visit both sites. This should be a lot of fun.


People have got to be getting stupider, which is the only explanation I can come up with for the sharp increase of virus-laden e-mails in my in-boxes today. What amazes me is that most of these e-mails are from people I don’t know, but since these viruses suck out addresses from people e-mail address files and web page caches, my reach on the Web is apparently mighty. Still, I don’t know if I cotton to be read by morons who don’t know enough not to spooge a virus all over their computer. You can tell I’m irritated, can’t you.

However, I am pleased to note that no one I know has sent me any viruses, even those who I know had been infected with viruses last week (they weren’t morons, but somone on their network was). So score one for People I Know.

Fun! Fun! Quiz! Time!

Just to keep y’all in the loop with what I’m doing, I’m, like, this close to wrapping up Book of the Dumb, which is good. The main chunk of the articles is done, and now I’m just doing interesting little “series” articles, which are recurring bits interspersed between stand-alone articles. These categories are Tips For Stupid Criminals, Dumb Movie Festivals, Historical Dumbosity and Really Stupid Quizzes. I’m particularly having fun with the Really Stupid Quizzes, since I’m taking one actual news story and then making up two fake news stories, and then making people guess which actually happened.

Want to try it? Sure you do. Here’s one of the quizzes. Remember, one of these is true, the other two are false. Guess which is which. I’ll put the answer in the comment thread.

1. A German criminal who had escaped from a city jail in Hamburg, was re-arrested after he posted an online personal admitting he was an escaped felon. The criminal posted on the German version of Yahoo! Personals, and noted: “In the spirit of openness, I have to say I have a criminal past and I am hiding from police as I have escaped from jail. But I am looking forward to turning over a new leaf with the right woman.” Yahoo Personals staff notified police, who posed as a woman looking to meet. Our criminal was arrested as he waited for his date at a caf in Bremen.

2. An escapee from a Sao Paulo, Brazil prison was rearrested on his first day at his new job, as a bus driver taking friends and relatives to visit prisoners at another Sao Paulo prison. How the escaped prisoner got the job in the first place is still open to question, but he was taken into custody after a routine inspection disclosed his true identity. Said a police spokesperson: “How dumb can you be? You escape prison and then get a job where you drive inside another prison every week?”

3. A prisoner serving time for arson who escaped a state penitentiary in Nevada attempted to hitch a ride on a highway by displaying a sign that read “Just Escaped From Prision [sic] — Give a Guy a Break!” And in fact it worked, up to a point: A truck driver stopped and drove the escapee to the next truck stop on the highway, where he bought the escapee breakfast and encouraged him to take a shower. While our escapee was doing so, the trucker had the waitress contact the police, who rearrested the escapee as he was coming out of the truck stop shower.

Which is Really Stupid?

(The answer is in the comment thread)

I Speak

Hey, a shout-out to all my science fiction geek homeys: In addition to simply loitering at Torcon 3 (i.e., The 61st World Science Fiction Convention), I’m also going to be on two panels. Yes, I’m managed to make them think I’m an author. Ah ha ha ha ha ha! The fools.

Anyway, here are the panels, their descriptions (someone else wrote them) and who else are on them with me.

Day Jobs for Writers — Journalist, Freelance Technical/Science Writer or Professor Track?

Remember the good old days when you had to hide your SF/Fantasy from your English teacher? English teachers are now writing the stuff. Is all that respectability squeezing the life out of SF? Is becoming a professor to support your SF habit like cutting your hair in the early 70’s after coming down from that great rush of we’re-all-gonna-change-the-world rock and roll?

Panelists: Bridget Coila, Jonathan Cowie, William Dietz, John Scalzi, Edward Willett


Writing Your First Novel

Are you starting to think about writing a novel? Are you stuck in the middle of one? Are you struggling to make the jump from writing short stories to writing novels? Are you wondering if you have what it takes to finish your first novel … or how to fix that problem-ridden draft thats sitting on your hard drive? Come hear what established novelists have to say about the challenges that face first time novelists and veterans alike. This is the place to bring your questions!

Panelists: Nick Sagan, John Scalzi, Amy Thomson, James Van Pelt, Michael Z. Williamson

Nick Sagan, incidentally, son of Carl, and whose novel Idlewild just came out this last week. I’m looking forward to meeting him.

I think these should be interesting panels, although just from the description alone, it seems like whoever thought up the “Day Job” panel seems to think they’re something to be mildly defensive about. And of course, I don’t think that at all.

Not entirely incidentally, I’ll be blogging for AOL from the convention, so if you’re there and you see me geeking out, by all means drop by. I’ve requested a high-speed Internet access-ready room, and my computer is WiFi capable, so I’m guessing that I’ll see a lot of people parked outside my room with laptops, sipping off my feed. Fine, people, be that way. Just slip me a buck under the door. That high-speed feed is $12.95 a day Canadian. I take loonies.

Also —

I’ve been beta blogging for AOL the last couple of days. You can see it here. Be aware that the title of the blog is not permanent, nor is the URL: We’ll be switching both when it goes live. So don’t bookmark. But if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been most of the last week, this is what I’ve been up to. I’ll also be mostly updating here for at least the next few days.

Teeth. Tablet. Blog. Teeth.

I am nothing if not efficient. I was at the dentist this morning to get not one, not two, but three cavities filled. How does this make me efficient? Well, they were all on the same tooth. “You’ve got one on the front, one on the side, and one on the back,” my dentist explained, which leads to an interesting mental image of the tooth barely hanging on by one side, yelling “a little help here” to the other teeth.

Well, it’s been helped now, and my mouth feel like it’s been used like a freeway onramp. My dentist had me open my mouth so wide that I swear he was going to climb right in; I’m going to have a sore mouth for about a week. Try not to fall all over yourselves to give me sympathy.

But enough about my pain. I’m here to talk about my new toy, my Tablet PC, which is more fun than a computer ought to be because I’m a big fat smelly dork. A friend asked me what I thought about it and I replied. “It’s the shizznit. It’s the mad bomb.” To which he said “You know you sound like an ass when you use that sort of slang.” And of course, he’s correct. There are laws about using slang after you’re 30. But, damn it, it is the mad bomb. Really, there’s no other way to put it, and that’s fo’ shizzle.

As promised I’m using it to do work on the new AOL blog (you can see it at the bottom of that screen there), and it’s coming along nicely, I have to say. Right now I’m putting in the “background” articles, which include bio information, suggestions for how to start writing AOL Journal entries, a mini-“help” doc, and two “Blog Jogs” — basically lists of interesting blogs and journals that new AOL Journal writers can look at for inspiration and personal interest. For now, at least, these Blog Jogs are filled with the usual suspects (Instapundit, for example), because there’s a reason they’re the usual suspects. And of course, if you’re new to it all, they’re new to you. But as time goes by I’ll be dropping more quirky stuff into the mix. After these “background” pieces are done I’ll be doing actual entries. That’s going to be in a few days since it’s supposed to go live next week. It’s fun.

All right, now my mouth is really starting to hurt. Time for aspirin.

Forever September

So, I’ve been reading the various commentary around my announcement about being hired by AOL, and it seems generally positive, so that’s nice. But I’ve noticed that people have some some reservations about the AOL Journal concept in a larger sense; they’re worried about another “September That Never Ends.” So let’s talk about that for a minute.

For those of you who aren’t up on your Internet lore, “The September That Never Ends” refers to an event in 1993 when America Online, previously a self-contained online service, allowed it members to connect with the larger Internet, which in 1993 primarily consisted of the USENET newsgroups. At the time the USENET was used primarily by academic types who knew that every September a new crop of college students would invade the various newgroups and act cluelessly for a few weeks until the old-timers could slap them into shape. But this time there were too many AOLers who were too set in their ways for the academics to handle and train; they fought a continual battle to reimpose some sort of order to the newsgroups.

Thus “The September That Never Ends.” it’s also the event that branded AOL users as clueless newbies by the academics and those who more or less roll their own access, a reputation that they’ve been hard-pressed to shake, considering it’s now ten years later and some of folks are still going on about it. I think that this reputation is merely residual at this point and that AOL members as a class have the same sort of clueful-to-clueless ratio as the users of any commerical ISP, but let’s not get into that now.

What I do think is important to get into is the fact that 2003 is not 1993, and the situation in hand with AOL starting up AOL Journals is not directly analogous with AOL hooking up with the ‘Net for the first time. Some of the differences:

1. AOL as an institution is aware of the “September” effect and is making the effort to be a good neighbor to the communities that currently exist. Part of that is the idea of a proactive attempt to help AOLers understand blogs and journals as they already exist to aid in the integration of AOL Journal writers in the larger “blogosphere”; i.e., why they hired me.

2. Unlike in 1993, AOL members are already connected to the Internet and are familiar with how it works and how to behave in it. Also, many AOL members already read blogs and interact in their message board and comment threads; they’re not the same set of “clueless newbies” that AOL members were accused of being a deacde ago.

3. The nature of the USENET was/is largely collaborative; the nature of blogs and journals is largely individual (there are group blogs, like the Volokh Conspiracy or Metafilter, but they’re the exception rather than the rule). Because the individual sets the tone and format of his or her own blog or journal, the potential for “newbie” disruption is significantly lower. There is a group aspect of sorts in the ability for readers to post comments on individual blogs, but since the blog/journal usually retains the ability to edit/delete messages or ban particularly annoying people, there’s substantially more individual control than newsgroup habitues had a decade ago.

4. Likewise, the dynamic of the blogosphere is substantially different than the dynamic of the USENET. USENET newsgroups were (and are, since they still exist) like clubs, in which a relatively small group focused on a relatively small subject; the Blogosphere is a network, in which associations are far more general and made with an ever-shifting collection of links. Networks are more scalable than clubs and more able to both absorb large numbers of new users and (critically) ignore elements of the network that don’t contribute positively (they don’t get linked).

This isn’t to say a “September” effect isn’t possible. I just think it’s unlikely; the blogosphere by its nature self-corrects to optimize the signal-to-noise ratio. I suspect we’ll find that AOL Journals integrates into the online writing world pretty well. Part of that will be because AOL is itself making the effort to make it happen. But most of it will be because the online writing world itself is designed to make it happen.


So, I’m sitting here on my porch, playing with my new computer, watching an Amish horse and buggy go by. It’s just me, but there’s something resonant about that, not in the least because the guy using the new technology is sitting still, while the ones using traditional tools are on the move. Does it mean anything? Probably not. But it’s a nice contrast on a warm summer night.

I’m Kinda Boring at the Moment

In the comments thread of the last entry, Ed Thibideau asks:

A fascinating post. But why don’t you ever write about political and social issues any more? That’s what brought me here. But Whatever is rapidly falling to the bottom of my daily surf list.

Gore made a great speech yesterday. What did you think of it?

Dean just might be the nominee. Will he be a disaster or a savior in the general election?

Are recall elections anti-democratic? Hiram Johnson was a hero in the history books of my childhood but what has he wrought?

Excellent question.

Well, Ed I’ll tell you. I sit down every day to write about these things, but the moment I do, a crushing wave of ennui slams into me and I can’t imagine anything worse than reading myself drivel on about this stuff, and if I don’t want to subject myself to myself, I can’t see why I would want to subject any of you to me writing boringly about it.

Then, there’s the tangential but related fact that for the moment at least I’ve pretty much lost all sense of humor about politics, so when I do write something, it comes out all screedy and whiny and like I’m standing here stamping my feet because people just won’t listen. Again, why would I want to subject any of you to that? I’ve just got this funny thing about quality control; also I don’t want to look like a humorless ass.

Also also, there’s the fact that thinks to the books and other things, I’m not wallowing in, say, the California recall or Dean or what Gore’s been saying. I’m cognizant of it all, sure; I like keeping up. But I’m not really thinking about any of it. I realize that thinking about a subject is not a perquisite of writing about it, otherwise the blog world would simply implode. But on the other hand I like to have an actual, gut-driven opinion about something before I bloviate. After I’m done with my books and setting up my AOL Blog space, I’m pretty sure I’ll emerge out of the mental cocoon, but for the moment, I’m focused on ramming through the last hundred pages I owe on The Book of The Dumb. This leaves correspondingly less mental space for the stupidity of politicians, I’m afraid.

Right now, I kinda feel like writing about pointless, inconsequential things, like my new computer and my friends’ books and my cute, gender-switching cat. I have absolutely no doubt that at some point in the reasonably near future I’ll take more interest in consequential things (or more accurately, in things of greater consequence than my own personal deadlines), but right now, I just don’t, and I’m not going to force myself to do so. I’ve got enough going on. Until I get all riled up again, if you feel like not dropping by so often, I’ll totally understand.

Just remember that the title of this little area is literal; it’s about whatever’s on my mind at the moment. And at this moment, this is the stuff that’s on my mind. Not very dramatic, but at least it’s truth in advertising.

Fun With Tablets!

Hey, everybody! I’m entering this with the pen of my new tablet pc! Whee! I’m like a performing monkey!

Okay, enough of that. Pecking out words with your pen is fun and all, but it’s also really inefficient. I was using the little onscreen keyboard that comes with the tablet PC; I tried doing the actual writing and having the computer try to figure out what I was scribbling, but any of you who have seen my handwriting know what a lost cause THAT is. But suffice to say that the new computer is here and I’m going to spend a fair amount of the day playing with it in all its technologically snazziness. So far it works as advertised — it even found my recently-created home wireless network without a fuss. To which I say — cool. That’s why I bought the damn thing (well, that and because I wanted it. Never underestimate the pointless but compelling power of just wanting something).

I do have a legitimate use for it, however, which is to be the primary computer from which I do the AOL Blog. So why do I need a whole new computer to blog from? What an excellent question! Let’s move on.

I should note that this computer is not the computer I ordered a week ago. I cancelled that order earlier in the week because it became abundantly clear that the company from which I was ordering was staffed with atavistic genetic throwbacks who hadn’t quite figured out what an opposable thumb was for. I also suspect they didn’t actually have the computer on hand and were stringing me along to buy time until the computer showed up in the warehouse; at one point I asked for a tracking number for the computer and they gave me the tracking number for some guy in Queens. It showed that his stuff arrived on time, which was nice for him, but really, like I care.

So I cancelled that order and went with someone else. So instead of a refurbished computer, I have one that’s new out of the box with all the various bells and whistles and whatnot, including the built in Wi-Fi and Bluetooth capability. I don’t think I’ll be doing much with the Bluetooth (never trust a technology named after a medieval Danish king!), but I guess it’s nice to have. I ended up spending a couple hundred dollars more, but I still got it for rather less than I would down there at Best Buy. Thank you, eBay.

Now that I have this mobility, I hardly know what to do with myself, except to say this is my new superspecial travelling buddy who will go with me everywhere I go because it’s so pretty and nice. If you’re in Toronto at the end of the month and you’re wondering who the geek with the tablet PC, that’d be me. Especially if you see him writing a blog entry.

Off to check the mail. The real mail. You know, made out of paper and stuff. In the meantime, here’s some fun for you: Name my new laptop. Right now it’s going by the name of “Parker2” (my other laptop, which is now Krissy’s laptop, is named “Dorothy Parker”), but I think the name needs some more zing. Any suggestions?

Now It Can Be Told

I’ve been playing coy about some big news, but now I’ve signed the contracts so I can spill. Here it is:

In a couple of weeks, I start blogging for AOL.

To expand: As many of you know, America Online has built a new blogging tool and area, which it is calling AOL Journals. Jeff Jarvis and other selected bloggers got a peek at the tool a little while back (here Jeff’s entry on it, as well as his AOL beta blog); and the buzz was pretty good — the general consensus was that AOL was making a pretty good attempt to provide a useful and usable tool for its members.

Well, to that end, consider me an extension of that attempt for the usefulness and usability of AOL Journals; broadly speaking, my job will be to show AOL members how blogging and journaling is done, both by example (i.e., by blogging and opining myself) and by acting as a sort of tutor/instigator/spotlight operator for AOL Journals. I’ll also be doing time as a general cheerleader for the concept of writing online in all its forms.

So, for example, during the day I’ll link to some interesting thing out there, ask a few thought-provoking questions about the subject, invite people to write about the subject in their AOL Journals (and outside blogs) and send me the links, which I would then post as an update. I’ll also be doing the time-honored stomp through the AOL Journals and the rest of the blog world to find other worthy linkables. And on top of all that I’ll be doing some other stuff too, which I won’t talk about now but which will hopefully be neat.

So basically, my job:

1. Demystify the journaling and blogging process for AOL members so they can jump in and start doing it.

2. Encourage the writing, reading, and linking of blogs and journals on AOL and in the blogoverse.

3. Write a kick-ass blog worth reading.

Why me? Well, why not? Also, as many of you know, I have a long and involved history with America Online, both as an employee and as a contractor, and I also have a long and involved history with writing online, having been a participant in both the early (journaling) and later (blogging) waves of online writing. And of course I’m a professional writer. So I know more than a little about AOL, online writing, and writing in general. I’m qualified. I’m biased toward myself, of course, but I think I could be good for what AOL wants to do with this thing, and as helper for AOL members, and also as a bridge between AOLers and the blogoverse. We’ll see how it goes from here.

Let’s go to the questions:

So you’re a corporate tool now?

You betcha. And I’m getting paid to be a corporate tool, too. And as we all know, a paid corporate tool is the best kind of corporate tool there is.

Does this mean you’ll have the awesome power of AOL at your command?

Yes! Fear me!

No, no, no. I mean, yes, the idea is to be something of a guide to the blogoverse and beyond for AOL members, so they have an easy entry into the concept of writing online. I’ll be doing a lot of linking out into the world, which means that (presumably) some of you will get some more AOLers coming your way to sample your wares (and hopefully vice-versa: That you’ll be coming in to read the new blog and to check out the people who blog and journal on AOL).

Will they be life changing, Instapundit-esque numbers of visitors? I don’t know. What’s more, I’m not really going to worry about that. My job is to make a useful, fun blog. Whether it gets read is a factor of how successfully I pull off that particular job.

So, yeah, no pressure there.

Also, another reason for me not to get delusions of grandeur: My contract’s fairly short. I view this as a intro gig to help AOL Journals and AOL Journals writers get going. If it goes longer than the current contract, groovy. We’ll see where it goes from here.

So you’ll be blogging using AOL Journals?

Yup. That’s the idea. The first step in encouraging AOLers to have fun with AOL Journals is to have fun with it myself.

So what happens to the Whatever?

I’ll still be writing here; my gig for AOL entails blogging of the “many short entries” variety, and as you know I do enjoy going on about things. So I expect the Whatever will continue to be the repository for the longer sort of blatherings you’ve all come to know and love. So keep dropping by from time to time.

Having said that, don’t expect tons here in August and September. In addition to building out my space on AOL, I’m cramming through Book of the Dumb and also plugging away at The Android’s Dream. Dumb is due September 1, and Android October 1, so between those two and my AOL duties, I’ll be a bit busy.

But it’s not as if you won’t be getting a lot of me over at my AOL gig. Trust me, kids, I’m planning to have more fun with this than you might think is humanly possible.

More details as they come.

Sharon Short

I’m giving a quick shoutout and mad props to my literary homey Sharon Short, whose first novel Death of a Domestic Diva just came out. Sharon’s a fellow Dayton Daily News freelancer; she writes a weekly humor column for them (as do I, except it’s cleverly disguised as DVD reviews). Diva’s a mystery novel that takes place in small-town Ohio and features as its protagonatrix a laundromat owner who may have the best stain-removing powers in the entire of the United States. To which I say, yeah? Come down and tackle my carpet after Rex has done his daily yakk all over it. Be that as it may, you can be assured of lots of murder, skullduggery and cleaning tips, and really, I don’t know how much more you can ask out of a novel. Here’s a link to the sample chapter excerpt.

It occurs to me as I’m giving Sharon a shout-out that all the novelists for whom I’ve done a logroll recently have been female: Sharon, Pamie and Naomi Kritzer. I don’t have anything against male novelists, I guess I just don’t know any personally. So, male novelists: Who wants to be my new pal? Anyone? Anyone? Hmph.

Note to Music Industry

Hey, guys:

Now that the favorite type of music theivery involves downloading albums from the Internet — and indeed this sort of theft is several mega multiples of a problem than physical in-store theft — can we please, please, please lose the stupid sticky plastic strip you place across the top of every CD? I can download an entire album in less time than it takes to open up a CD.

That’s a threat, incidentally.

Slaking My Techno Thirst

Yesterday someone asked me if the creation of the wireless network at the house meant that I had gone off and bought one of the toys I was thinking about getting in the “I Want” entry a couple of weeks ago. The answer to this, yesterday, was no: I had just decided I wanted a wireless network at home so I could do work without having to schlep discs around and also cruise the Web with a broadband connection and not tie up the phone.

However, today, in fact about six minutes ago, I did buy one of the toys: The tablet PC. Sometime tomorrow, my new toy will arrive, all shiny and new: A Toshiba 3500, with a 1.3 Ghz PIII processor, 40GB hard drive, 512 RAM, and a 12.1-inch screen and of course, built-in wi-fi, and other bells and whistles. I’m giddy like a school girl. Here are the gory tech details, if you’re interested. I got a good deal because I went the refurbished route, which is to say it was a probably a review loaner that was eventually returned to Toshiba, who then tricked it out (its specs are like those of the slightly more advanced 3505 model) and pumped it back out onto the market. Since the fact that someone else typed on it for a while means that I save several hundred dollars off the asking price while still having the same warranty as a new model, I don’t mind the pre-typing.

Hyper-observant readers will note that my purchasing said tablet was contingent on me hearing about a thing I was waiting to hear about. Well, I’ve heard, and barring an act of God or upper management, it’s a go. I can’t tell you what it is, however, until I sign the contract. Suffice to say it could be pretty damn cool. Sorry to tease you like this, but it’s one of those things where if I announced what I was doing before it happened, and it didn’t happen due to the aforementioned acts of God or upper management, I’d look pretty sad. So no point in jinxing it. You’ll know when I do (or more accurately, after I do and then have told a few other people by phone, e-mail and IM).

Okay, off to work for me — got some CD and DVD reviews to do. And soon, I’ll do them sitting on the couch! With my new toy! Bwa ha ha ha ha! Ahem.

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