Archive for September 2012

In 1914, Henry Ford, when interviewed about his plans to work with Edison to build electric cars, told the New York Times: “the problem so far has been to build a storage battery of light weight which would operate for long distances without recharging.”

Today, nearly a hundred years later, the problem with electric cars is building a storage battery of light weight which would operate for long distances without recharging.

No matter how much people may hype them, no electric car is going to be viable for the majority of drivers until that happens.

Three good articles on the subject:

http://lanediamond.com/2012/09/a-high-commandment-of-effective-writing-show-dont-tell/

Interesting documentary about Skylon:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vZ_a21fPkYM

However, I think it underestimates the fundamental problem with Skylon. It’s very clever, but suffers from what you might call ‘Apollo Syndrome’; it’s very much an all or nothing design which needs huge up-front investment with no guarantee of success. Without that multi-billion dollar investment you have nothing of use, which effectively limits it to a government program as few companies can afford to take that kind of risk.

SpaceX, for example, expects to reduce launch costs to Skylon levels when they have a fully-reusable Falcon, but they don’t need to invest vast amounts of money to do because they can make money from the expendable Falcon first and work toward the low-cost reusable design. The best suggestion I’ve seen for Skylon is to use it as a hypersonic airliner, but that still requires doing most of the work and there’s no proven market.

So will it ever fly? I’d like to think so, but I honestly can’t see how they’ll convince the people who have enough money to give it to them.

Short Covers

Short Backs

On the plus side, the Createspace shorts did arrive, along with the second edition of Tartarus (not shown here since the cover is the same). They are very cool.

Yeah, that’s our kitchen floor. I didn’t have anywhere better to set them up for the pictures :).

Oh, and the QR codes work fine with my Transformer. I presume they’d work with a smartphone but don’t have one to test.

I was glad to discover a ‘come and collect your parcel’ notification in the mail box yesterday but wondered why they hadn’t just left it for me. I discovered the reason when I got to the post office.

If I buy from amazon.com, they pre-collect any Canadian taxes. If I buy from Createspace, they don’t. So I owed a whole $1.24 in taxes.

But DHL charge a ‘fee’ of over $7 for collecting those taxes.

Now, in principle just about anything shipped to Canada is charged GST. So I’ve paid them to ship a parcel to Canada, but then I have to pay them again to pay the tax that will almost inevitably be charged? This is the same BS as airline ‘fuel surcharges’: “your ticket to fly across the Atlantic costs $500, then there’s a ‘surcharge’ of $500 for fuel.” As though I’m going to be flying there without fuel?

But it gets worse. To pay the $8.50 to DHL, Canada Post wanted a fee of $6.50 to accept my cash or credit card. That means, to recap, $1.24 in taxes on about $20 of books, plus $15 in ‘fees’ to collect that money.

Worse, there was nothing on it other than DHL stickers. Was it my books? Or had someone mailed me a box full of junk? Who can tell. I had to take the DHL number home and poke around on their web site to verify that it actually was my parcel from Createspace.

I eventually discovered that I could avoid the extra Canada Post fee if I paid by cheque, which bringing back my chequebook so I could pay them. What a pain in the ass.

In summary: if you’re Canadian and you published PoD books through Createspace, expect a thorough rogering with ‘import fees’. And find a bank that issues free chequebooks.

I’ve never read the book, but I just watched the movie. What a lame version of ‘Battle Royale’; I really didn’t care about any of the characters and it wimped out whenever it could have got interesting and actually required the characters to make hard decisions (a complaint which could justifiably be made about ‘Battle Royale’ too). Worse than that, it took about three hours to get started and then most of the rest of the movie was spent hiding in a tree.

Still, they’ve made a bazillion dollars more than I have, so who am I to judge?

I think there’s something to be said for starting a story early and then removing the beginning. I’ve been struggling to find the right place to start Horror Movie and I think that’s achieved by cutting out the first chapter. The good parts can be put in the story later, while the boring parts aren’t required.

This way, the story starts with things in motion, and the characters are clearly doing things which result from the events of those deleted scenes. This is similar to a problem I’d often see when editing indie movies, where a scene would begin with actors standing there doing nothing. In the real world, they would have been doing something beforehand, but the director hadn’t thought of what that was. Often I’d cut the beginning of a scene and get into it when the action was building up.