Archive for May 2012

Is installed on my laptop. Hopefully it won’t take too much time away from writing over the next year.

Am I the only one who’s noticed that when you open a web page in Firefox 12, it jumps down to display the first button on the page, regardless of where it may be? This makes many web forums useless because they have buttons at the bottom of the page, so you have to scroll all the way back up to read the damn page you wanted to read.

I don’t know what idiot came up with this idea, but I do know have to fix it.

  1. Go to about:config using the address bar. WordPress won’t let me put a link to about:config here.
  2. Search for browser.autofocus.
  3. Set it to false.
  4. Return to sane browser behaviour.

Firefox developers seem to have gone full metal retard since Firefox 3.6. I’m not sure how much longer I can continue to use it before I have to switch to something else.

Apparently a gene has been found that controls regeneration of chromosomes:

e! Science News

Let’s hope this brings immortality another step closer.

Neat picture of the Dragon over Namibia before docking with ISS:

And another of the inside of the Dragon docked at ISS:

Delayed by someone else posting on my day :), my review of Glowgems For Profit by Bruce Davis is now up:

Next up is Saucerers and Gondoliers by Dominic Green.

Great PDF on why the old publisher slush pile system was such a disaster:

On the Survival of Rats in the Slush Pile

It’s an old one but I only just came across it.

I just read the opening of The One That Got Away on Amazon using the ‘look inside’ feature and realised that the tiny sample size there means that you can’t read much of the story in the ‘look inside’ sample; a story which doesn’t get to the point quickly isn’t going to sell well because readers need to be enticed by what is available.

Which isn’t so bad as stories should open with a bang and keep the reader’s interest. I’m going to try an experiment; I’ve rewritten the opening of The One That Got Away on Amazon to cut it down and enter the real story faster while leaving the original, slower, opening on Smashwords. Let’s see which of them sells better.

The Dragon is safely in space, so let’s hope it gets to the space station and proves it’s a viable means of supply.

I’ve done enough submitting to magazines, so I now have a preliminary cover for the story. I’ll upload it shortly and see how it does.

Now up at Smashwords.

And Amazon.

We did try to see the eclipse here, but most of the time the sun was behind a cloud and when it was visible we didn’t have anything dark enough to look through without diffusing the image so much that we couldn’t see the sun anyway.

I’ll have to make do with a couple of pictures I took of the near-total eclipse in England a few years ago.



Actually, here’s the lunar eclipse we had here a couple of years back:

Lunar Eclipse

All three of these are stills from my camcorders, which explains some of the image artifacts.

This is an edited version of a comment I originally posted on the Passive Voice blog.

Writers get far less respect in the movie world than written fiction. Yet many are happy to work for free to get any kind of credit, and hope they actually do get their credit at the end.

There’s a big difference between novel writing and screen writing. If you have an unpublished novel, you can at least show it to your family and friends, whereas if you have an unproduced screenplay they probably won’t even know how to read it. The only way for a writer to prove they can write a movie is to write a movie that’s actually produced.

The other issue is that the screenplay is only the beginning of the work. Once it leaves the writer’s hands, the actors will improvise and the director will change lines or rewrite whole scenes. When the shoot is complete and the movie is just a bunch of files on a computer, the editor will cut lines, move shots around or even cut entire scenes which don’t work. The director may record new off-screen dialogue or some extra shots to fill in plot holes.

So by the end of the movie, it may bear little resemblance to the original screenplay. After many other people have interpreted it and revised it, the writer may justifiably be unable to take much credit for what finally reached the screen. In my case I take no credit for the ending of the one feature-length movie I wrote which was actually produced because the director threw out my wonderful ending and replaced it with his own.

By the time the premiere rolls around the writer thinks the director is a dick for rewriting their screenplay, the director thinks the writer is a hack because they had to change so much to make it work and the editor thinks the writer is self-indulgent because he had to cut out half the dialogue and the director is clueless because he had to spend six hours looking for any two shots he could cut together to make the final scene work.

Which has given me a good idea for Horror Movie. Damn, got to rewrite part of it again.

I have a couple of thousand free e-books that I’ve ‘bought’ from Amazon over the last year and after my Kindle for PC installation committed suicide I’ve had to wipe the original install and download them again.

As I do so I’ve been trying to categorise them, and one thing I’ve noticed is how hard that is based on the covers and titles. Is it a thriller, SF, both?

I’m going to have to think more in future about my own e-books to ensure they don’t suffer from the same problem.

But this also relates to another problem with the Kindle. On Amazon all books are categorised, yet that information is thrown away when they’re downloaded. Why don’t the same categories automatically appear as a means of finding the books you want to read?

Got up this morning hoping to see the Dragon in orbit, but there was a last-minute abort due to unexpected readings from the engine. When you’re making a test flight it’s better to abort than risk the entire mission, hopefully the delay will only be a few days.

SpaceX are finally preparing for their first Dragon flight to ISS in a few hours; hopefully it will all go well, I don’t think I can stay up late enough to watch.

It may not be as impressive as a space shuttle launch, but right now they’re the best hope for cheap access to space in the next couple of decades.

Some people like to turn every minor problem into a major drama, presumably because they’re bored and want something to get excited about. Personally I’ve found that 90% of problems solve themselves if you just ignore them, and the exceptions are usually obvious. For example, if you’re late for a meeting most people will have forgotten in a few weeks, but if you car tires are worn out they’re not going to magically fix themselves. Trashing your tires trying to get to the meeting faster will just turn a minor problem into a major one.

At the KSC VIP site

I missed it, but apparently the Endeavour space shuttle was powered down on Friday, marking the absolute end of the shuttle program:

Endeavour Unplugged – Last Picture Show from the Flight Deck of a Living Space Shuttle Orbiter

I’ve seen several shuttle launches, many of them from the VIP site at the Kennedy Space Centre, including Endeavour’s first flight. It’s well past time that they were retired for a cheaper and more reliable replacement, but seeing the last of them turned off is still a sad day.

Oh, here’s the view from said VIP site:

Space Shuttle Launch

I looked at KDP recently and noticed that I’ve had my first refund from someone who bought one of my short stories. Which was an interesting coincidence because I also requested my first refund; I clicked to buy a book that was on a free e-book list and then realised it was no longer free, so I had to request the money back.

This is one reason why I don’t like the whole KDP ‘free day’ idea; before KDP Select if a book went free it usually stayed that way for some time because it was due to price-matching the book at another site and if the price increased at that site the change took a while to filter back. Now, though, a book can be for sale one day, free the next and back to the original price on the third… so by the time we read a post saying that it’s free and go to buy it we have to check that it really is still free first.

Fred Reed has a great post about schooling:


There are two things I remember about school. First, sitting in a classroom being lectured on things I really couldn’t care about while wishing I could get out and start doing something useful with my life. Second, in the classes that did interest me, having to put up with the kids who had no great academic leaning and didn’t want to be there; life was much better in the last few years when those kids all left.

The peculiar part is that many of the teachers had a dazzling ability to take subjects which were inherently interesting and make them boring as heck. I hated Shakespeare in school, but since leaving I’ve seen many of his plays performed. Studying the Registration of Births, Marriages and Deaths Act of 18-who-knows-what bored the hell out of me, but I have entire book shelves full of history books here. Kids enter school curious and eager to learn, and one of the greatest successes of the school system is the way they beat that curiosity out of them.

What particularly bugged me about history was that recent history, within about fifty years of the time we were at school, was considered beyond the pale. We were taught much about the Romans, but nothing about recent events in our own country. I can understand that historians may not be able to thoroughly analyse historical events until those involved have had the time and inclination to record their experiences, but we weren’t even taught about the recent history of our own Empire, the last vestiges of which were collapsing on TV news.

I certainly learned some useful things at school, but so much of it was just a huge waste of time that I could have put to better use myself. One of the reasons I don’t have kids is that I wouldn’t want to unless I had the time to home-school them so they wouldn’t have to go through the same experience themselves.