Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Enough With the Rain, Already!

It's been two weeks since I wrote to gripe about the weather—and darn it, Jim, I'm going to do it again.  We recovered from the flooded basement, then spent over a week cleaning and drying and throwing things away and putting up new shelves and bleaching the whole basement to kill opportunistic mold.  And how did that end?  More rain!  We just barely got everything we were keeping back under cover before it started in again.  And once more, our basement floor is a not-so-dry river bed.  I spent some hours yesterday digging out the sand hole we laughingly call our sump, so that we could get the portable pump sufficiently immersed.  And good that I did, even though I had to go back and dredge it today, because that made the difference between a lot of water all over the floor and the four inches I was walking in two weeks ago. 

We are now officially a disaster area.  I am aware that it's much, much worse for a lot of other people, so I'll stop complaining now.  (Hm, I wonder how our neighbor is doing who had three feet in his basement last time.)

The first flood interrupted my efforts to get taxes and college financial aid applications finished, so I did manage to get back to that annual love-fest.  Almost done! 

"And rain fell on the earth forty days and forty nights." Genesis 7:12

"Lord?  What's an ark?"  Noah, as reported by Bill Cosby


Monday, March 15, 2010

Rain, Rain, Go Away—Please!

In the eighteen years we've owned our house, the basement has only flooded once.  (I mean really flooded, not just partially wet from a hot water heater going.)  That statement was true last week.  No longer.  We now have about four inches of water in the lower end of the basement, and an inch in the higher end. 

We've had days of nonstop rain here in the Northeast, and flooding is rampant.  Everywhere you walk, you see hoses pumping water out of basements.  I checked last night and found water here and there, but not enough to pump.  So I didn't set up the sump pump, but instead scurried around outside at midnight jury-rigging an extension to the downspout at the worst corner, trying to redirect the water out into the yard.  Today I ventured down to see how effective I'd been—and found a swimming pool. 

Our little pump is now cranking its heart out, trying to lower the water level.  I went to the hardware store for some downspout extensions, and while I was there they sold the last of the 75 sump pumps they had just gotten in this morning. 

Unfortunately, I had to unplug the forced air intake that's hooked to our first-floor rental apartment's boiler.  The wiring for it was under water.  That left our tenant Jill without heat, because of the interlock system between it and the boiler.  (A pretty unnecessary interlock, because there's plenty of drafty air in the basement.)  So I just finished playing bomb squad, figuring out how to bypass the interlock.  Is it the red wire and the white wire?  The green and the white?  The red and the green?  I connected the red and the green, and the boiler kicked on.  Success!  (These were low-voltage wires, not house current, I should add.  I wasn't about to fry myself just to make the boiler come on.) 

I feel a bit like Dr. McCoy.  "By golly, Jim.  I'm beginning to think I can cure a rainy day!"  And so, after a fashion, I did.  :)


Sunborn: a Tor ebook. Finally!

At last, Sunborn has appeared in most of the major ebook stores as an official Tor ebook. It's in the Kindle store, the Sony store, Barnes and Noble, and BooksonBoard. Probably others stores, as well.  I don't mean to snub anyone; I just haven't done a complete survey.  It's not available at Fictionwise, at least not yet. Nor at Webscription.

[EDIT: As of today, it is on Fictionwise, with a rebate.  That seems to be the  best price at the moment.]

[EDIT OF EDIT: It disappeared from Fictionwise, along with a few thousand other books, on the day of the pricing switch to the so-called Agency Model.  No word on when, or if, these books will return to FW.] 

Prices range from $7.99 at Kindle to $9.99 at Barnes & Noble, $11.90 at BooksonBoard, and $12.60 at Sony. I hope to see those prices come down to no higher than the paperback price--and they should, according to pricing statements from Macmillan USA's CEO (Tor is owned by Macmillan).  But I have no direct control over that.  

[EDIT OF PRICE INFO: Macmillan did indeed lower the price to equal the paperback price.  It is now $7.99 everywhere.  Everywhere that it's sold, anyway--Fictionwise is still out of the game.] 

Sorry about the DRM, by the way. I was assured before that efforts were being made to get DRM-free Tor books up--but now I'm told that it was too hard, with all of the distributors geared for DRM. I don't have the complete story on that yet. If you buy it and strip the DRM for your own personal use, such as to put it on your favored reading device, you'll get no argument from me.  (It might be slightly illegal, though, under the DMCA.  I would never encourage anyone to violate even such a stupid law. Let that be on the record.) 

BTW, for some reason B&N is currently selling my other ebooks for $3.21 each, which is the best deal I've seen. I don't know for how long, so if that's a format you use, it's a good time to grab the books.

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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

"Legacy of Light" at Boston's Lyric Stage

We got to the theater today, a rare treat for us, and enjoyed a terrific new play at the Lyric Stage in Boston: Legacy of Light, written by Karen Zacarias and directed by Lois Roach.  Funny and thought provoking, it focused on two women scientists—one the Enlightment figure Emilie du Chatelet, friend and lover of Voltaire, who built on the work of Isaac Newton in understanding light and energy.  The other, a fictional (I think!) astrophysicist of today, tries to make sense of herself as a mother-to-be as well as she thinks she understands the formation of a new planet circling a distant star.  Light and love and energy and collision of masses—they all come together like particles in the Large Hadron Collider, splintering and showering everything around them with new particles and life. 

The theme music is Thomas Dolby's "She Blinded Me with Science." Perfect!

If you're in the Boston area, I highly recommend it.  Legacy of Light shows through March 13 at the Lyric Stage.  If you're outside Boston, maybe it'll come your way soon. 

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Tuesday, March 09, 2010

Read an Ebook Week / Nebula Reading

Guess what! This is Read an E-book Week! Visit the Ebookweek website and check out all the stores, publishers, and authors who are offering deals and freebies of ebooks in celebration of the growing popularity of ebooks. (Yes, you'll see me in the list, along with Cory Doctorow and Steve Jordan and an array of writers from a variety of genres.) If you haven't given ebooks a try yet, this is the perfect time to download some books for free and give it a try. And here's a shoutout to Rita Toews, who put the whole thing together.

This is also the month in which members of SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America) are reading the works on the final ballot for the Nebula Awards, the Andre Norton Award for Young Adult SF, and the Bradbury Award for outstanding screen-writing. Congratulations to all the finalists! I'm hoping to attend the awards ceremony this year, as it's going to be held near the Kennedy Space Center at Cape Canaveral, and the attendees will have a grand time visiting the space complex and—very long shot—maybe even seeing a shuttle launch.

Here's the connection to ebooks: Many of the authors have made their works available to SFWA members for download, so that there'll be a fighting chance for people to actually read the nominated pieces before the voting deadline. I've grabbed all that are available and put them on my Sony Reader, so that I will have a fighting chance of reading them. The free software Calibre even made it easy for me—tagging each piece with the appropriate designation (Nebula 2009 Novella, for example) so that I can see them neatly organized on my reader. This is compared to years past, when I compiled a huge stack of magazines and printouts and books borrowed from the library, and struggled mostly without success to get through them. I still may not get through them, but the odds are a lot better! Read on!

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Spring! Rollerblading! The Future!

The weather has been fantastic here, and we've officially declared it rollerblading and moped weather, back at last!  Allysen and I have been out on our skates two days in a row, and can't wait to get back in shape.  (Aachh—my $%^back*()&!)  Plus, we went tooling on our two-wheeled steeds, Dracos and Buckbeak, the other evening.  Fantastic!  

As Spring gears up, so too do the local journeyman SF/F writers.  Craig Gardner and I are about to crank up our third annual Advanced Writing workshop for graduates of our fall Ultimate SF Writing workshops.  We've got a good crew of students, most from our Fall 2009 group, but a couple from earlier groups, as well.  We start next Sunday.  It'll be fun to see what folks are working on. 

Finally, one of my old Launchpad Astronomy Workshop buddies, Tempest Bradford, invited me to contribute to the inaugural "Burning Question" feature of Laptop Magazine online: Which technology makes you feel like you're living in the future?  Check out my thoughts along with those of John Scalzi, Tobias Bucknell, Eileen Gunn, Charlie Stross, and others. 

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