Sunday, February 24, 2013

Annoying browser tricks

From Instapundit:
THE BROWSER UPGRADE I’D LIKE TO SEE: One where the tab that’s the source of the autoplay audio flashes or something so I know which one to shut down.
To  which I'd like to add a hearty Amen.  When I open a whole list of bookmarks in tabs, and one of them starts playing an annoying advertisement, I have no alternative but to hit the mute button as fast as humanly possible.  I'd like to avoid that.  Some alternatives:

  1. Mute all tabs except the one in the foreground. While simple and direct, there are situations where you might want to listen to sound in a background tab.  While listening to music from a browser-enabled cloud player.
  2. Mute a tab until a user interacts with it. This would allow a tab to start playing music, but only after you click on it.  Of course, this would be annoying with YouTube's autoplay videos, but I find those annoying anyway.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

What is love?

On a writers' forum that I participate in, the question was asked about how to motivate a character to stick with his first love once he becomes famous and successful, and suddenly finds himself surrounded by willing women.  I found this something of an odd question.  True, in real life, many men abandon their first wives once success gives them more opportunities, but I never would have thought it difficult to figure out a motivation to stay.

I've been married for two years, which is not much in the scheme of things, but I can say with some certainty that the reasons I love my wife don't go away the moment another opportunity comes along. So often what we love about someone is in the small things, the quiet moments when nothing is demanded and we can just be together, and it doesn't matter how rich one is or how successful someone's become. How much do they trust one another? How willing are they to share their secret fears and dreams and doubts without worrying about being judged? What inside jokes do they share? How well do they know each other's failures and weaknesses, and accept one another anyway? What do they talk about when they lie in bed together at night, just talking? How do they argue and make-up, and either compromise or agree to disagree? How do they show support for each other, when no one else in the world does? How do they sacrifice for each other, giving up what they want for what the other needs? How do they make each other feel needed and essential? What beliefs do they share, about what's important and what's not and what's right and what's wrong? These are the things that love is made of.

And though it happens a thousand times a day, you would have to be crazy to give up all that to be with someone beautiful but selfish, duplicitous, and shallow.

Which is pretty much what I said in the thread (though it was more directed to the specific question).

Sunday, February 17, 2013


Kristin and I went to Boskone this weekend, one of the science fiction conventions local to Boston.  It's not as literary as Readercon, or as costume and media centered as Arisia.  However, it is a lot of fun, as it has a good mix of panels, demos (including a lot of sword play), and an art show.  I only ended up going to two panels.  One for Military in Fantasy, and another for Advanced Writing Advice.  The first one wasn't as useful as I had hoped.  I wanted to hear about common military mistakes in fantasy, but they were pretty focused on avoiding deus ex machina, and didn't cover as much other ground as I had hoped.  The Advanced Writing Advice did offer some useful advice, but I don't think there was anything I hadn't heard before.

We went out to dinner with the Brotherhood Without Banners, a fan group for George R.R. Martin's A Song of Fire and Ice, on Saturday night, and by the time we got back the parties were winding down, so we hung out with the BWB and George Martin himself instead.  I also ran into John Murphy at Boskone, who I know through the Codex Writers' Group, though we didn't have much chance to talk.

Kristin will probably have a much more detailed con report,  but it may be a little while before she finishes it.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Ninth blogiversary

Today marks the ninth anniversary  this blog. I  know, it's Valentine's day.  Why did  I start a blog on Valentine's day?  Well, at the time I had nothing better to do.  Being a married man now, that's no longer the case.  Still, nine years is a long time. Hopefully it'll be around for another nine years.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Review of Throne of Bones by Vox Day

Throne of Bones is the first book in Vox Day's Arts of Dark and Light series. It is not the first story in this world, however, and Vox Day has previously written Summa Elvetica (under the name Theodore Beale) and A Magic Broken (which I've previously reviewed at Black Gate). The latest book, more than the first two, centers around Amorr,  a city where the Roman Republic meets the Catholic Church in a world of elves, dwarves, and magic.

I really enjoyed this book, but it needed better copy editing.  There were misspellings and misnumberings (particularly egregious when you identify legions by their numbers), homonyms mixed up, timeline errors, and I lost count of the number of times that the quotation marks were out of place.  None of these things are uncommon mistakes for writers--I make a lot of them myself--but that's why we have copy editors to catch them.  Some are bound to slip by, and I often see them in published books, but rarely this many.  Then there are the editorial decisions that I disagreed with but couldn't tell whether they were intentional.  Chapters from different points of view were out of chronological order, so a character who was dead in one chapter was alive again in the next one, only to die immediately.  Writers and editors sometimes do that sort of thing intentionally, and sometimes it's very effective, but other times it's just annoying (though still not as annoying as it was in Robert Jordan's Towers of Midnight, where Tam al'Thor was in two places at once).  Nor do I really enjoy the George R.R. Martin technique of apparently killing off a character, then having him reappear later without explanation, leaving us to guess at what happened, so I'm annoyed that I still don't know how Lodi and Thorvald escaped the dragon.

Now that I've got the gripes out of the way, what did I like about this book?  A lot.  I loved the use of Roman culture, although the prolific use of Latin to refer to everyday things may pose a challenge to anyone less familiar with Roman daily life than I am.  I like the fact that religion played a prominent role which was mostly positive but also corruptible.  I personally like dwarves, so it was good to see Lodi (an old friend from Summa Elvetica and A Magic Broken) as an important point of view character.  I thought all the characters were great, from noble Corvus to honest Marcus to self-absorbed Severa (who grows a lot in the course of the story). I liked the fact that the Amorran conflict is between two sides which have legitimate interests, both of which will use underhanded tactics to achieve them.  It was refreshing to see the good guys (to the extent that there were good guys) get fed up with the enemy mastermind's betrayals and killings and turn to the simple expedient of assassination.  Where honorable doesn't necessarily mean stupid.

So, for the most part, I forgive the novel for its mistakes.  However, I do hope that the next book has better editing.  And I wouldn't mind a corrected edition to the first book, either.

Wednesday, February 06, 2013

Local 623

My most recent story, "Local 623," is out at Nature Futures. Now all members of the Fraternal Order of Mad Science Assistants, Test Subjects, and Abominations can know their rights.

More of my writings can be found on the Writings page.

Saturday, February 02, 2013

New Review at Black Gate

I've posted another review of a self-published book at Black Gate, this time of Noggle Stones: The Goblin's Apprentice by Wil Radcliffe.  I really liked this book, and I hope that my review will introduce more readers to it.  It's not without it's flaws, but then no book is.