Monday, December 27, 2010

How to get published, from Making Light

Here's another iteration of some guidelines for how to get published; these are fairly simple ones.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Neat art blog....Gorey-style drawings, on post-its

Check this one out. I'm not being very imaginative calling this Edwin Gorey-like, as I got that from Boing Boing, but the black ink drawings do have that style, somewhat reminding me of a woodcut. I like the monsters.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Rubberhose, a defense-in-depth crypto program

Reading about the Julian Assange/Wikileaks thing, specifically Sterling's article, let me to this piece of software: Rubberhose. It's a crypto program that encrypts a whole chunk of your drive...and nestles mutliple sets of encrypted text in the same region. It also initializes the chunk by writing random bytes to it. So your real info is hidden among chunks of similar-looking noise. This mirrors an idea I had years ago...I always wondered why people didn't hide crypto in large batches of random bytes. This program does that. But it also allows you to have separate sets of data that use different keys. So, you can actually give up part of the data, and keep the rest. There's no way to tell how many different sets of data are in the encrypted chunk. It's really quite interesting.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Pac-Man ghost behavior

This article explaining how pac-man's ghosts work was pretty interesting. Their complex behavior emerges from a few simple rules. I suppose my interest stems from my status as a programmer wannabe more than anything...I'm not super likely to sit down and make a Pac-Man clone, but maybe I'll try to make a working arcade-style game again one of these days.

Sterling on Assange

Here's a thoughtful exploration of Wikileaks and Assange, from the ever-insightful Bruce Sterling.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Tiny dioramas photographed to life

Here's a slideshow of an artist who created detailed tiny dioramas of a dystopian world...then photographed them in way that makes them startlingly real.

"Zookrollers Winkelden Ook"

The story "Zookrollers Winkelden Ook," by Tracy Canfield, published earlier this week on Strange Horizons, does all those things I want from a sci fi takes a look at the ways technology can go wrong, and melds it with a deeply emotional and resonant character. In this case, it takes the idea of copying or uploading a personality onto a computer, and mixes it with internet culture: if someone copies you, what happens if that copy gets loose on the wild nets? Now, what if that happens to someone you love? The story didn't go where I expected; I think you'll enjoy the trip.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Two better games of tic-tac-toe

I've been interested in simple paper & pencil games for a while now. Few things are as handy with post-toddler kids as ways to entertain them in a pinch. Here, then, are two games I've found on the net that are riffs on tic-tac-toe.

Now, tic-tac-toe becomes stupid after your first four games. But these games will keep your interest a lot longer:

Abs-trac-toe is a game of occupying space. You apply some simple rules to draw a board with irregularly-shaped regions, and then you take turns marking regions. The player who ends the game with the most adjacent regions wins. That is, you count the borders where two of your regions adjoin to get your score.

Quantum tic-tac-toe was designed as a teaching game about quantum mechanics. You make two moves per turn, but you're marking the possible locations of a move. Only one of those will end up being the actual location of your move, when a measurement is made, later in the game.

Play each of these games a couple of times and you'll have them memorized...and then you'll have two new items in your kidtainment toolkit.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Law and the multiverse

Law and the Multiverse is a blog that addresses important issues of how superheroes and their powers might fit, or fail to fit, into our legal system.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Word count bookmarklet

So, if you're exactly like me, you'll find this useful. :)  Ok, so I'm currently reading tons of short stories online, and they rarely list their wordcount. When I read a story and I like it, I want to know how long it was, in words, usually so that I can be amazed at what the author did in a few words. ;)

This bookmarklet tells you the wordcount of the text you have selected. So it's a quick way to get that info. Before, I would copy the text to a file and then run a command-line wordcount command (the Cygwin version of wc) against it.

UPDATED 12/14/10: I realized after I wrote this that the real story here is not "there exists a bookmarklet for wordcount" but rather, "when you know about the existence of things like bookmarklets, you can search for them, and odds are someone has made something you can use already." Once this idea occurred to me, it was literally one minute before I had this solution in place. Thank you, Google!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Tiffin food deliveries in India

I've been fascinated for a while with the Indian practice called tiffin: the delivery of home-cooked meals to schoolkids and office workers. The practice is famous for being assigned six sigma levels of quality by Forbes. The delivery service is incredibly accurate and vast numbers of meals are delivered in a FedEx-style routing where meals are biked to train stations, sorted by destination, loaded onto trains, and then delivered the rest of the way by bike again.

This article is my favorite on the topic so far.

I figure this cultural practice has to rest on a value that isn't shared here in the this case, a very high value placed on home-cooked meals. The article I cite seems to validate this idea. It's not an absolute: it's not like office workers won't eat food at nearby restaurants ever. But there's a strong contingent of people who put a lot of value on these home cooked meals, and who feel that "outside food" is unhealthy.

Now, this makes me wonder what U.S. practices could be similar: things that we do here, perhaps applying great effort to them, that seem unnecessary to other countries. Because that's my reaction to the tiffin thing: it sounds great, but I can't imagine anyone putting the effort into it here.

The only thing that springs to mind are electric clothes dryers, because I read that appliance companies have trouble selling those in Europe, where folks don't see a need for them. It would never occur to me to view a clothes dryer as optional.

But that's not too satisfying because it's not a big effort involving a huge organization. Or at least, though it takes a big org to build a dryer, it's tied right into manufacturing other appliances so it doesn't feel like its own thing.

I suppose the tongue scraper is another good example. I think of that as a Vietnamese thing, but Wikipedia says it originated in India and China. It's something mostly unknown in the U.S. and regarded as essential hygiene elsewhere.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

"Ghost" costume

I don't even care what this costume is supposed to represent. I just wish I had the figure for it myself. Big gun, small pieces of armor, spandex, and the retro touch of goggles. Awesome.

Daily Science Fiction

I only recently found this site, which offers new sci-fi and fantasy stories every day...looks like a lot of flash fiction. They also offer the rate of $.08/word, and they publish to web, email, and iphone. It's good to find another venue for flash fiction.

Think about eating, reduce appetite

That's one of the findings in a study described in this NPR article, "Just Thinking Harder May Help You Lose Weight" They're not saying that a new diet plan is in the offing...but that they're learning new things about how the mind and appetite interrelate. I wonder if this will play into new models of discipline. It's awful hard to think about avoiding something: try actively not thinking about snacking. Maybe substituting an imaginary meal will help.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Saki's Short Stories

I've become interested recently in the short stories of Saki, an Edwardian writer (b. 1870, d 1916) whose works strike me as alternately weird and hilarious. Call it upper-crust drawing-room stuff with a hint of fantasy.

The story Sredni Vashtar (about a boy and the ferret he loves, only not about that at all) is my favorite so far, but there are lots worth reading. A nice archive is here.

The site also serves as an example of an interesting bit of web work: most of the story texts are taken from Project Gutenberg, but the site dresses them up quite a bit. Gutenberg is like a dusty giant tomb of stacks compared to this. So if you've discovered an out-of-copyright author whom you love, there's nothing to stop you from taking texts from Gutenberg and making a nice homage site of your own. Get started, and send me the link. :)

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut, from Strange Horizons

I am really not getting tired of prose stories about superheroes. Here's one by Cat Rambo, from Strange Horizons, that I liked. I'm not sure why the ending works, but I think it does.

Ms. Liberty Gets a Haircut, by Cat Rambo

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Still enjoying _Machine of Death_

I've read at least ten of the stories in this anthology now. There's only one that fell short of greatness. I've read a lot of short story collections, and I usually like about half of the stories in a collection, not almost all of them. I'm impressed with this thing.