[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As part of my continuing effort to justify the Adobe Creative Cloud subscription I have, I’ve been playing with my Audition audio software and learning how to use it. Today I learned how to make a multitrack file! Go me. I also played with the various filters in the software to distort and shape sounds.

All of which is to say I recorded a song today and it is very very noisy indeed. It’s “Here Comes the Rain Again,” which is my favorite song from the Eurythmics. Here it is (and no, it’s not actually nine minutes long, I don’t know why the media player says that. It’s, like, five):

Yes, that’s me singing. No, Annie Lennox doesn’t have a thing to worry about.

In case you’re curious, every noise on that track either comes out of me, or out of an acoustic tenor guitar. Audio filters are fun! Let’s just say I let my Thurston out to play, and if you get that reference, congratulations, you’re old too.

No, I’m not giving up my day job. Relax. But I do enjoy playing with sounds. This is fun for me.

In any event: Enjoy the noise.


[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

A British man and his young daughter have gained international attention for being fined 150 pounds ($195) for selling lemonade without a license near their home in London
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https://www.instagram.com/p/BW2mkkYlSmR/?taken-by=popvinyl

Previewed during Funko Funday event at SDCC, the new wave includes Faith, Giles, Dark Willow, Prophecy Girl Buffy, Xander and Xander with eyepatch.

Blacklight Sunset

Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:44 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Because sometimes it’s fun to play with Photoshop’s sliders and see what you come up with. This is what happens (in part) when you push the “dehaze” slider all the way to the right. The real sunset didn’t look like this (it looked like this), but I think it might be cool to live on a planet where the sunset did look like that, every once in a while.

Enjoy the weekend, folks.


New Books and ARCs, 7/21/17

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:53 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

As we ease on into another summer weekend, here are the new books and ARCs that have come to the Scalzi Compound this week. What do you like here? Share your feelings in the comments!


[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

Here’s Sugar curling up with a good book, in this case the ARC of Don’t Live For Your Obituary, my upcoming collection of essays about writing and the writing life, which comes out in December from Subterranean Press. And you can win it! Here’s how:

Tell me in the comments which Beatles song I am thinking of right now.

That’s it!

The person who correctly guesses which Beatles song I am thinking of wins. In the case where more than one person correctly guesses, I will number the correct guesses in order of appearance and then use a random number generator to select the winner among them.

“Beatles song” in this case means a song recorded by the Beatles, and includes both original songs by the band, and the cover songs they recorded. Solo work does not count. Here’s a list of songs recorded by the Beatles, if you need it. The song I’m thinking of is on it.

Guess only one song. Posts with more than one guess will have only the first song considered. Posts not related to guessing a song will be deleted. Also, only one post per person — additional posts will be deleted.

This contest is open to everyone everywhere in the world, and runs until the comments here automatically shut off (which will be around 3:50pm Eastern time, Sunday, July 23rd). When you post a comment, leave a legit email address in the “email” field so I can contact you. I’ll also announce the winner here on Monday, July 24. I’ll mail the ARC to you, signed (and personalized, if so requested).

Kitten not included.

Also remember you can pre-order the hardcover edition of Obit from Subterranean Press. This is a signed, limited edition — there are only 1,000 being made — and they’ve already had a healthy number of pre-orders. So don’t wait if you want one.

Now: Guess which Beatles song I am thinking of! And good luck!


New Phone, 2 Weeks On

Jul. 21st, 2017 02:21 pm
lil_m_moses: (phone)
[personal profile] lil_m_moses
Liking the new phone!

Good Stuff:
- Having a reliable GPS when playing Pokemon Go is a revelation! No more auto-wandering of the neighborhood while at home with my wifi off, though, shucks.
- I like some of the new little features in Nougat, including split-screen dual app use, and native call blocking (had it in my LG phone on Lollipop, didn't realize it wasn't a stock Android feature).
- The extra horsepower is a boon to Pokemon Go, along with everything else.
- The rounded edges and lack of magnetic charge port make it more comfortable to hold and easier to slip in/out of my pocket.
- I like not having glass on the back as well as the front (and it consequently doesn't try to slither off horizontal surfaces, either).
- I LOVE my new LoveHandle, which is firmly stuck to the back of my phone and lets me loop a finger through an elastic strap and keep the phone attached to my hand while I'm fumbling other stuff or just walking about and randomly klutzing. Should have gotten that years ago, though it wouldn't have helped in the ultimate demise of the previous phone (fell on it while it was in my pocket), and wouldn't have stuck to that glass back anyway. I still don't have a case, but I think the LoveHandle will preclude the need for one and I don't especially want one.
- Getting a new device inspired me to reevaluate and revamp my home screens' layouts for the better.
- I haven't yet had opportunity to take advantage of the additional LTE band (maybe this weekend?), but I'm sure that'll be primo.
- The built-in calculator knows order of operations now! But I still don't use it because I prefer/need a scientific calculator (I use the one in Android Army Knife, or a Graphing Calculator Pro app if I want something even more robust). EDIT: Oh hey, stock now has a little slide-out panel with some extra operations on it! Still pretty minimal, though.

The Less Good Stuff:
- The USB-C port means I'm having to get new adapters and cables, and those have some other minor issues, but it'll be fine.
- The wifi doesn't seem as capable all over my office buliding, but there could be a local router not working right.
- The lowest screen brightness is an irritating amount higher than the old phone, particularly in a dark room. (I'm also trying out the adaptive brightness again, but it's not reactive enough - too dim in bright sun, too bright in dim rooms.)
- The new version of the preloaded AccuWeather app sucks - it doesn't include the (omnipresent in Houston) heat index (except randomly sometimes), no longer shows me the expected weather for the current day/night in its widget view, and its background pictures aren't even useful for that either.
- They took away the jump-to-letter navigation in Contacts (though scrolling is better now) and the long-press save phone number option in Phone, both of which I used a lot.
- All the icons are a little bit smaller than they used to be. Somehow restoring my old profile made the folders go to a square shape instead of the default round shape, at least. No idea how to deliberately change that if I want to, but I'm sure the internet knows.

Agent to the Stars, 20 Years On

Jul. 21st, 2017 06:10 pm
[syndicated profile] scalziwhatever_feed

Posted by John Scalzi

So, on July 21, 1997, which was a Monday, I posted the following on the alt.society.generation-x newsgroup:

Thought y’all might like to know. I’m happy, pleased, tired.

96,098 words, cranked out in a little under three months, working
mostly on weekends, grinding out 5,000 words at a sitting.

Learned two things:

a) I *can* carry a story over such a long stretch;

b) like most things on the planet, thinking about doing it is a lot
worse than simply sitting down and doing it. The writing wasn’t hard
to do, you just need to plant ass in seat and go from there.

I did find it helped not to make my first novel a gut-wrenching
personal story, if you know what I mean. Instead I just tried to write
the sort of science fiction story I would like to read. It was fun.

Now I go in to tinker and fine tune. Will soon have it ready for beta
testing. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

That novel? Agent to the Stars. Which means that today is the 20th anniversary of me being a novelist. Being a published novelist would have to wait — I date that to January 1, 2005, the official publication date of Old Man’s War — but in terms of having written a full, complete (and as it eventually turned out, publishable) novel: Today’s the day.

I’ve recounted the story of Agent before but it’s fun to tell, because I think it’s a nice antidote to the “I just had to share the story I’d been dreaming of my whole life” angle first novels often take. The gist of the story was that my 10-year high school reunion was on the horizon, and having been “the writer dude” in my class, I knew I would be asked if I had ever gotten around to writing a novel, and I wanted to be able to say “yes.” Also, I was then in my late 20s and it was time to find out whether I could actually write one or not.

Having decided I was going to write one, I decided to make it easy for myself, mostly by not trying to do all things at once. The goal was simply: Write a novel-length story. The story itself was going to be pretty simple and not personally consequential; it wasn’t going to be a thinly-disguised roman a clef, or something with a serious and/or personal theme. It would involve Hollywood in some way, because I had spent years as a film critic and knew that world well enough to write about it. And as for genre, I was most familiar with mystery/crime fiction and science fiction/fantasy, so I flipped a coin to decide which to do. It come up heads, so science fiction it was, and the story I had for that was: Aliens come and decide to get Hollywood representation.

(I don’t remember the story I was thinking for the mystery version. I’m sure death was involved. And for those about to say “well, you didn’t have to stick with science fiction for your second book,” that’s technically correct, but once I’d written one science fiction novel, I knew I could write science fiction. It was easier to stick with what I knew. And anyway I write murder mysteries now — Lock In and the upcoming Head On. They also happen to be science fiction.)

I remember the writing of Agent being pretty easy, in no small part, I’m sure, because of everything noted above — it wasn’t meant to be weighty or serious or even good, merely novel-length. When I finished it, I do remember thinking something along the lines of “Huh. That wasn’t so bad. Maybe I should have done this earlier.” In the fullness of time, I’ve realized that I probably couldn’t have done it any earlier, I wasn’t focused enough and it helped me to have some sort of external motivation, in this case, my high school reunion.

Once finished, I asked two friends and co-workers at America Online to read the book: Regan Avery and Stephen Bennett, both of whom I knew loved science fiction, and both of whom I knew I could trust to tell me if what I’d written was crap. They both gave it a thumbs up. Then I showed it to Krissy, my wife, who was apprehensive about reading it, since if she hated it she would have to tell me, and would still have to be married to me afterward. When she finished it, the first thing she said to me about it was “Thank Christ it’s good.” Domestic felicity lived for another day.

And then, having written it… I did nothing with it for two years. Because, again, it wasn’t written for any other reason than to see if I could write a novel. It was practice. People other than Regan and Stephen and Krissy finally saw it in 1999 when I decided that the then brand-new Scalzi.com site could use some content, so I put it up here as a “shareware” novel, meaning that if people liked it they could send me a dollar for it through the mail. And people did! Which was nice.

It was finally physically published in 2005, when Bill Schafer of Subterranean Press published a limited hardcover edition. I was jazzed about that, since I wanted a version of the book I could put on my shelf. The cover was done by Penny Arcade’s Mike Krahulik, who among other things knew of the book because I was one of Penny Arcade’s very first advertisers way back in the day, advertising the Web version of the book (those guys have done okay since then). Then came the Tor paperback edition, and the various foreign editions, and the audiobook, and here we are today.

When I wrote the novel, of course, I had no idea that writing it was the first step toward where I am now. I was working at America Online — and enjoying it! It was a cool place to be in the 90s! — and to the extent I thought I would be writing novels at all, I thought that they would be sideline to my overall writing career, rather than (as it turned out) the main thrust of it. This should be your first indication that science fiction writers in fact cannot predict the future with any accuracy.

I’m very fond of Agent, and think it reads pretty well. I’m also aware that it’s first effort, and also because it was written to be in present time in the 90s, just about out of time in terms of feeling at all contemporary (there are fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors remaining, to pick just one obvious example in the book). At this point I suggest people consider it as part of an alternate history which branched off from our timeline in 1998 or thereabouts. Occasionally it gets talked about for being picked for TV/film. If that ever happens, expect some extensive plot revisions. Otherwise, it is what it is.

One thing I do like about Agent is that I still have people tell me that it’s their favorite of mine. I like that because I think it’s nice to know that even this very early effort, done simply for the purpose of finding out if I could write a novel, does what I think a novel should: Entertains people and makes them glad they spent their time with it.

I’m also happy it’s the novel that told me I could do this thing, this novel-writing thing, and that I listened to it. The last couple of decades have turned out pretty well for me. I’m excited to see where things go from here.


[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Dan MacGuill

Scientists at Finnish universities are targeting a strand of viruses linked to Type 1 diabetes, and human trials for a vaccine will begin in 2018.
[syndicated profile] snopes_feed

Posted by Associated Press

A Belgian artists' collective installed a very real-looking, life-size whale sculpture alongside the Seine River on 21 July 2017.

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