Thursday, November 22, 2012

Happy Thanksgiving, Everyone!

Here's hoping that you all have a wonderful day, and that you have much to be grateful for. If you're outside the U.S., you might not have the day off, but I hope you'll join us in spirit. Think of something to be thankful for, and share it with someone you love!

Oh, and if you happen to run a large retail corporation, and you're thinking of starting "Black Friday" on Thanksgiving Day, how about thinking again? Why not treat your employees (and your customers) with dignity and respect, and let everyone enjoy their holiday before you throw open the doors with your sales? We can wait. Really, we can.

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Monday, November 19, 2012

Cloud Atlas

Last weekend we finally made it to the theater and saw Cloud Atlas, about which I'd seen mixed reviews.* I loved it! The story, as you undoubtedly know by now, is a convoluted intertwining of six different stories, set far apart in time and space, but connected by some cosmic synchronicity that's never made entirely explicit. The main actors play a stunning variety of roles, with virtuoso skill, and sometimes I was only guessing who I was looking at. I was quite satisfied by the ending, despite the many dangling threads. It helps to have not just a tolerance for, but even an appetite for ambiguity and open questions.

Random thoughts:
  • What writer wouldn't love the scene where Tom Hanks, as an affronted author, throws a prominent critic off a balcony?
  • Hugo Weaving makes a great villain, but I do wish he'd been cast as at least one good guy. Or maybe he was, and I just didn't recognize him.
  • Halle Berry is stunningly beautiful. (You probably already knew that.)
Though it's a bladder-busting near-3-hour movie, the time flew by for me. I was never bored, except maybe briefly during chase scenes. (They were perfectly good chase scenes, but you can only watch so many chase scenes in a lifetime and still find them interesting.) I fully intend to see it again in the theater, and will be waiting for a chance to buy the DVD. I might even spring for Blu-ray.

*The two reviews that come closest to matching my own reaction to the movie are this one, from the New York Times, and this, from Roger Ebert


Tuesday, November 13, 2012

There Be Audiobooks!

Quite accidentally, I've discovered that four of my novels recently became available as audiobooks from Audible! News to me! But good news.

I reported earlier that nine of my books have been picked up for audiobook production, and I knew that three of them were in production. I didn’t know any of them were finished, and the fourth was a complete surprise. I had been asked by a producer to record my preferred pronunciations of names and funny words in From a Changeling Star, Down the Stream of Stars, and The Infinity Link. That's how I knew they were in process. Apparently a different producer was in charge of The Rapture Effect, and on that book I guess I'm at the mercy of the narrator.

Check them out and listen to samples at! I notice that three of them have a special offer: Get the audiobook for $1.99 if you buy the Kindle ebook first. That's a great deal! The Kindle ebooks are only $4.39 right now, so that means you'd get ebook and audiobook combined for only $6.38! Makes me want to go get them for myself.

The Infinity Link
Audiobook from Audible | iTunes
Special Audible price $1.99 with purchase of Kindle ebook

The Rapture Effect
Audiobook from Audible | iTunes
Kindle ebook

From a Changeling Star
Audiobook from Audible | iTunes
Special price $1.99 with purchase of Kindle ebook

Down the Stream of Stars
Audiobook from Audible | iTunes
Special price $1.99 with purchase of Kindle ebook

Also Battlestar Galactica, though that one isn't new.
Audiobook from Audible | iTunes
Kindle ebook

And more on the way!

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Monday, November 12, 2012

Doing Our Part to Help the Economy

No, this isn't it. I don't think this one has
electronic controls.
Buying a washing machine. Our Whirlpool Calypso, a lemon of a machine if ever one were built (which I'd brought back from the dead at least three times), finally nutated itself into an inert hunk of metal. Armed with printouts from the latest Consumer Reports online—which we logged into from home, using my public library card, nifty—we headed to Sears. There, we looked at everything, and settled at last on a nice-looking Samsung high-efficiency top loader (our space is awfully tight for a front loader), and awaited delivery. Today, it came.

The minute it was installed, we knew we'd chosen the wrong machine. It's simply too big for our little pantry/laundry-room. I don't think we'd fully realized just how much the average washer had ballooned in size in the last ten or fifteen years. Nevertheless, the Sears guys said we had thirty days to return it, and we could use it in the meantime. So we went ahead and ran a few loads. (After leveling it, which the installers failed to do correctly.)

This was the top-rated machine from Consumer Reports, and yet it was amazing how quickly it revealed annoying design deficiencies. It's all electronic, which you're pretty much stuck with, if you want a high-efficiency machine. But the designers didn't think to add a button for "cancel and drain," so I had to wait out the water-only test run. Once you've pressed Start, you can't change anything, not even the water temperature selection. When it's done, it plays an electronic song that goes on for a surprisingly long time. Irritating the first time, and downhill after that.

And so, tomorrow, we get to go out and do it all over again. This time, with the benefit of experience, I hope. 

Postscript: After looking at a lot of other machines, we (the editorial "we") decided to do some creative carpentry, and make the Samsung fit in our space. We got over the UI design deficiencies pretty quickly, and decided that we liked it after all.  Actually, we all love the glass lid, so we can peer in and watch the clothes go swish, swish. Reminds me of when we had a big aquarium, which served double duty as "cat TV."  We are easily amused.


Tuesday, November 06, 2012

How an Election Is Like a Colonoscopy

I'm being only partly facetious. I participated in the one, earlier today, and I started the prep for the other this evening. (I've just finished drinking my third bottle of generic Drano.* And when did this turn into a three-day ordeal, instead of two-day?) Now I'm waiting to learn how it all turns out, on both counts.
*By which, of course, I mean magnesium citrate.

Most people over the age of 50 in the U.S. know what fun it is to clear out your system in preparation for—as the alien in the movie Paul put it—"probin' time." About as much fun as the twelve months of campaign noise, idiotic commentary, vicious back-and-forth attacks, and robocalls in preparation for a major election.

Probin' time!

So now I'm sitting here feeling queasy from the noxious liquids I just drank, and queasy from watching the election returns, especially as I watch the numbers go up for the candidates I don't like. My daughter, who just voted in her first presidential election, came to me a little while ago, and asked, "How do you get through it? How can you stand waiting to find out?" (There are some candidates she really wants to see win. I'm with her.)

Colonoscopy-wise, I still have to get through tomorrow, on a liquid-only diet, so I can have the completely painless procedure done on Friday. (I've done it before. The probin' itself is nothing, once you’ve gotten through the prep.) By then, I hope, the waiting for the election results will all be over. Unless, of course, it's in the courts.

Just to be serious for a moment, don't anyone think I'm running down the right to vote. I'm not. It's sacred, and I've voted in every election I could vote in, since I turned 21 (I think that was still the voting age, back when the rocks were cooling). I sincerely hope all of you voted today, if you were eligible to. (Also, I hope you get your colonoscopy when your doc tells you to. You know why.)

Just for the record, I'm pulling for Obama to win. And Warren for the Senate in Massachusetts.

Addendum: What do you know! Almost everyone I voted for won. This may be a first! Thanks for voting, everyone!

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Thursday, November 01, 2012

One Term More: a Musical Parody

With apologies to my Republican readers (if I have any left). It is a parody.


In remarking on the political divisiveness and social unrest of an historically polarizing election and in commenting culturally and metaphorically on Victor Hugo's fictional historic struggle at the barricades of freedom, "One Term More", with deep affection and utmost respect, parodies the inimitable "One Day More!" © Published by Alain Boublil Music Ltd. / ℗ 1985 EXALLSHOW LTD. Music by Claude-Michel Schönberg / Lyrics by Herbert Kretzmer from the beloved, internationally acclaimed Cameron Mackintosh Presentation of "Les Misérables" By Alain Boublil and Claude-Michel Schönberg. Based on the novel by Victor Hugo.

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Best Airline Safety Video Ever!

From Air New Zealand and WETA Workshop (makers of effects for The Hobbit movies).

Watch on youtube

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