Friday, September 28, 2007

Anyone Get The Number ...

The number of the truck, I mean. The one that ran over the U.S. Women's National soccer team.

It had Brazilian plates and was driven by a speed fiend named Marta.

If you do not have much interest in soccer (or sports) then please forgive this digression from regular programming.

I've never played soccer, never watched it really until the mid/late nineties when the women's team was winning world cups and olympic medals left and right. I still don't get a lot of the rules, and am pretty sure it's much better to see in person. But I did start to follow the women's national team when the big tournaments were held.

My daughter is playing soccer now, and seems to like it. When I realized the Women's World Cup would be going on this month, I got her interested in the tournament. A little bit anyway. Until today.

The Brazilian women are really, really, really fast. Their forward, Marta, can score goals from ridiculous distances with equally ridiculous accuracy. There are some athletes that are just so good that, even knowing nothing about the sport, you can watch them and say "Holy Crap! That was amazing." Marta is like that.

The U.S. women didn't help themselves by, early in the game, deflecting a kick into their own goal. And they could also complain about the officiating. The referee was handing out yellow cards like lemon drops. A U.S. player got a red card (ejection from the game) for having the audacity to get tripped from behind by a Brazilian player.

But the ref didn't score three more goals. The Brazilians played very aggressive, physical soccer. The Americans were more than a little back on their heels in the second half, and were shut-out, 4-0.

[Warning: cute parent/child moment ahead.]

So, while the game is going on, my daughter tells me she doesn't want to watch these soccer women again if they're going to lose. When is the next world cup? I tell her in four years and she thinks that is a good amount of time not to watch them again.

I hope she forgets by next summer. Olympic soccer in Beijing.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Odds and Ends ...

A few unrelated items, just because:

- I received a nice note from Debby Allison, a librarian from the Kiowa County Library thanking me (and indirectly you (Yes, you! You know who youse are.)) for the donation.

- Die Deutsche Zeppelin Reederei, the descendent company of the original Zeppelin manufacturers (no, not that Zeppelin) has a webcam on their airfield. Fun throwback to Web 1.0 as you can move the camera around, zoom, and, well, that's about it. No airship sightings, unfortunately.

- The U.S. Women's Soccer Team will be playing their semi-final match against Brazil in the Women's World Cup. As the tournament is being held in China, the game will be broadcast live at 8am EST, Thursday, September 27th.

You can watch it, if you subscribe to ESPN2. Or, like me, you can catch it on Telefutura (more exciting that way: Goooooooooooool! Gol! Gol! Gol! Gol! Gol!) If neither, a live text Matchcast is available at the FIFA site.


Friday, September 21, 2007

Twist And ...

Welcome to the Friday shout-out edition (yeah, I didn't know I had such a thing either until today).

Kudos to Cheryl Mills for sticking to her guns and not down-submitting her story to a non-paying market.

Congrats to Jonathan Gillespie whose story Eee (which I had the pleasure of critiquing, or as it were, not critiquing since it was written so well) can now be read at Afterburn SF.

A big 'Hey, Cool' to (via SF Signal) of many, many, many SF plot devices to avoid.

And finally, a hearty 'You Go, Grrrl' to DD. Thanks for reading the blog and good luck on your new adventure. As the old, French-Canadian retail saying goes: May your gun never jam, may the box be well organized, and may you never get the taxable order.

Friday, September 14, 2007

Measure Twice ...

To continue on the previous post, I've been trying out a new tool for my craft. yWriter is free software from author Simon Haynes. It was written for Windows, though according to the website it can be run on Linux and presumably, if one is adventurous enough, on OS X and beyond.

yWriter uses text files behind the scenes, a nice feature since if it ever decides to die I can retrieve everything I've written very easily (unless it eats all those .txt files).

It took me a long, long time to get used to the interface. This could be the lack of thorough documentation (what do you want for free). Though for someone who has lived and breathed technology and can learn how to use new software pretty darn quick, I found many things un-intuitive. For example, in the chapter window, depending on where one clicks on a flat area of data, it will bring up the scene window or a list for that data item, or do nothing. Not to mention 'bug-like' behavior when trying to save certain scene settings (it's not a bug, it's a feature). Strike one.

For my next novel, I started with taking notes and jotting down ideas, characters, and scenes. In yWriter the place to put this information is the project notes file. Since it is a text file, no indexing is available, no hyperlinks. After several months of scrolling up and down and up and down I threw in the towel and moved all of it into Word. Strike two.

Recently I got to the stage of outlining. Here yWriter does better than Word, at least for me. Visually, I have a better sense of the chapters and scenes and the characters in each than I could by flagging them at different header levels in Word.

There are different ways to print the outline (though I wish there were ways to include different pieces of data in those formats) and a nice colorful storyline by viewpoint character. Software grounds a weak single on a funny hop past the shortstop.

There is a new version under development which has additional features, but using freeware is risk enough without wading into beta freeware.

yWriter is useful enough that I will put up with data in two places and try using it in November to write the novel. After this, I will likely continue searching for the one perfect tool.

You'd think as a craftsperson, I'd know such things don't exist.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Writing Is Like ...

Writing is not like a box of chocolates. Or maybe it is. But I'm not going to talk about that.

Writing is like programming/coding. I've spent a lot of time the past few weeks on the latter for a website (XHTML and CSS and PHP - oh my!) and there are similarities.
  • Writing/Coding is a craft.

  • Crafts take time to learn, but can be learned and taught. Crafts require mastery of basic principles before more advanced skills can be learned and used. Day one will bring 'Once upon a time'/'Hello world', not 'Call me Ishmael'/recursive array calls.

  • Genres are like computer languages

  • If one can handle the basics of fiction one can write Fantasy. If one knows the logic of loops, one can use them in any language. What matters are the subtleties, the rules within each genre/language that one has to learn or otherwise violate at one's peril.

  • Great writers/programmers are lazy

  • Write once is a common motto. Neither wants to edit/debug what they have created. It is necessary, of course. The goal is to minimize the editing/debugging, learning from mistakes, reusing techniques/code one has used before.

Of course, this comparison won't bear up under intense scrutiny. You all are friends so I know you won't point out details like, oh, that the themes of paranoia and questions about the nature of reality by PKD have nothing to do with the deficiencies of garbage management within C++ code.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

You Are All Winners ...

The Summer Reading Program succeeded far beyond my expectations. I'd bet you all would have read those books anyway. You were good sports to keep submitting those titles, enduring the repeated auto-reply messages, all for a good cause. [sniff] You guys rock!

Eight participants read 52 books over 75 days! That's awesome! As a result, I will cut a check for $52 and send it to the Kiowa County Library in Greensburg, Kansas which was leveled this year by a tornado.

Again, you all rocked!

As determined by a random selection (names in a hat) the winner of the grand prize package for the First Annual Summer Reading Program is:


He knows which Steve he is.

But wait! There's more!

I would be remiss for not mentioning one individual who sacrificed so much for the cause. For reading 14 books, the most by any participant and comprising a whopping 27% of the total, not to mention the only one to have finished that damn Potter book by the deadline, congratulations go to Nathan!

For his efforts, Nathan will get a prize package of a bookmark, pencil, and pen from the wonderful gift shop at the Federal Bureau of Printing and Engraving. Yes, I got a lot out of that trip to D.C.

Thanks again, truly and sincerely. I had a lot of fun.