Archive for July, 2010

Hugo Voting Deadline Approaches

Friday, July 30th, 2010

If you haven’t already turned in your Hugo ballot, you might want to go ahead and do that before Midnight on July 31. PDT.

(Hat tip: Missions Unknown.)

Your Blood is Too Rich for My Blood

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

Least people think I’m the craziest bibliophile in the world, The Wall Street Journal brings us word of a $75,000 limited edition of ten books about an Indian cricket star, the signature pages of which actually incorporate his blood. Think I’m going to pass on that one. I’m also going to pass on the $50,000 Christo book mentioned in the same article.

I have been known to pick up the occasional ultra-limited (in fact, I just got one of 26 lettered copies of John Berylane’s massive Tim Powers bibliography from PS Publishing, the edition that includes the a volume replicating the original holographic manuscript for The Anubis Gates in full color), but it’s not the focus of my collecting. I generally only pick them up if they have material not in any other edition, they’re by an author I’m interested in, and I can get them at a decent pre-publication price. So I don’t have that many in my collection. I do, however, regret not picking up the famous Charnel House lettered edition of Powers’ Last Call (though I’m pretty sure I couldn’t have afforded it, and it was probably sold out pre-publication by the time I heard about it…)

On the other hand, I don’t regret passing on the $1,000 Joe Haldeman poetry chapbook Henry Wessells published. You’ve got to draw the line somewhere…

(Hat tip: Mike Berro.)

Books Read: Clark Ashton Smith’s Out of Space and Time

Monday, July 26th, 2010

Clark Ashton Smith
Out of Space and Time
Original Edition: Arkham House, 1942
Current Edition: Free online at The Eldritch Dark

Believe it or not, there are a few important SF/F/H first editions I don’t own (yet), and Clark Ashton Smith’s Out of Space and Time (the third book published by Arkham House) is one of them. But since all of the stories in it are available online at The Eldritch Dark (a site dedicated to Smith’s work), I’ve been reading them one at a time between other things. This collection both confirms why I love Smith (either you like Smith’s ultraviolet prose style, or you don’t), and illustrates why you can’t really make a steady diet of him (a certain sameness of tone, overly passive protagonists, and very similar plots and outcomes (if you’re the protagonist in a CAS story, your chances of not being consumed by something horrible are pretty slim)). The best stories in here are extremely good. “The City of the Singing Flame” provides a great sense of wonder with its transport to an alien city centered around the mysterious singing flame of the title. “The Vaults of Yoh-Vombis” is a very effective story of an archeological expedition on Mars gone wrong. And the Averoigne stories, which I already read in A Rendezvous in Averoigne, are all quite good.

But not everything in here is great. For example, “The Monster of Prophecy” is a deeply tedious story of a man transported to another world to act as a pawn in fulfilling an ancient prophecy; far too much time is spent on the setup and transition.

But overall Smith is still great fun to read, and I doubt he ever gave a moment’s thought to the possibility of “going too far” to establish a mood. Just look at the full-bore mood piece of ”From the Crypts of Memory”, with its final line “We knew the years as a passing of shadows, and death itself as the yielding of twilight unto night.”

If you like H. P. Lovecraft, Jack Vance, or Michael Shea (to name three obvious points of comparison), you should probably give Clark Ashton Smith a try.

Gmail Phishing Spam to My Gmail Account that the Gmail Filter Didn’t Catch

Sunday, July 25th, 2010

Well, this is quite worrisome: A phishing scam purported to be from Google, sent to my Gmail account, that Gmail didn’t flag as spam.

Warning!
Reply
Gmail Alert

Google Inc.
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

The Gmail Team is working on total security on all accounts and because of this security upgrade, we require all Gmail members to verify their account with Google. To prevent your account from disability you will have to update your information by clicking the reply button and filling the space below.

User name:
Date of Birth:
Country:
Pass Word:

NOTE: Account owner that refuses to update his or her account within Seven days of receiving this warning will lose his or her account permanently.
Thank you for using Gmail!
The Gmail Team
Your Intellectual Property Rights
Google does not claim any ownership in any of the content, including any text, data, information, images, photographs, music, sound, video, or other material, that you upload, transmit or store in your Gmail account. We will not use any of your content for any purpose except to provide you with the Service. The provision of the Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync functionality to you does not grant, and you do not receive, any rights under any Microsoft intellectual property with respect to any device or software that you use to access such Microsoft Exchange ActiveSync functionality. ©2010 Google

Gmail is usually very good at catch spam and phishing scams. But given it’s purported to be from them, this is the sort of thing you think Google would be able to catch.

Timewaster: Bru

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Here’s Bru, a casual online game that can waste lots of your time. (I know, just what you needed.) You flip marbles from one track to another to make them disappear, sort of like Zuma, but not timed and a lot more free-form (and thus less frustrating). Strangely addictive.

“I find your lack of cash disturbing. Put the money in the bag or get Force-choked!”

Saturday, July 24th, 2010

Darth Vader robs a bank on Long island.

Now we know the real reason George Lucas banned David Prowse from Star Wars conventions

Awesomely Wrong Watchmen

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Stumbled across this image at this story on Alan Moore passing on getting the rights to Watchmen back if he would write sequels:

Wish I could tell you who the artist is.

And as long as I’m stealing awesome wrong Watchman images…

And if you haven’t seen it already, this Saturday Morning version is so many kinds of wrong:

Finally, please note that many of the above can be found at this site dedicated to Watchmen parodies.

Generation Eloi Passes on the H. G. Wells Story Competition

Thursday, July 22nd, 2010

Contest Judge: Here’s an H. G. Wells writing contest that will pay you £1,000 if you win.

Writers: All right! Sign me up!

Contest Judge: But there’s a catch.

Writers: What?

Contest Judge: You have to write your story out by hand.

Writers: Pass.

No way could I enter this contest; their attempts to judge my entry would no doubt come out something like this:

(Hat tip: Michael Walsh’s Facebook feed. The “Generation Eloi” tag comes from the afterword to Steven R. Boyett’s Elegey Beach, which I hope to have a review of sometime in the near future.)

Preliminary Proceedings of The Institute of Excessively Dangerous Research’s Biannual Symposium on The Study of Things That Blow Up Real Good (July 4, 2010)

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010

Abstract

Proceedings of the Biannual Symposium on The Study of Things That Blow Up Real Good, including a brief history of pyrotechnics, notes toward preliminary aesthetics, comparative analysis of the pyrotechnics included in this year’s symposium, and a summation.

Layman’s Abstract

Fireworks are fun, so we blew lots of stuff up. Here’s a report on the stuff we blew up.

Test Material Used in the Symposium

See Exhibit A for a visual breakdown of test material.

Boooooooom!

Exhibit A: Stuff To Blow Up

Something something something: A History of Pyrotechnic Appeal

Ancient China, blah blah blah (boilerplate paragraph omitted due to researcher boredom)

Preliminary Groundwork for a “Bang for Buck” Scale of Firework Aesthetics

The research team preferred impressive aerial displays to loud noises, so we looled for things that explode high overhead rather than big firecrackers or strings of smaller ones.

Data Gathered at the Symposium: A Breakdown

  • “Helicopter” type spinners (the ones with the green plastic helicopter-type blades): At six for just a few dollars, this is probably the best bang for the buck item on the list. Getting any spinners smaller then this and you’re likely to be disappointed.

  • Paper airplane type spinners: These were less effective than the helicopter-type spinners; they didn’t go as high, and were more likely to be duds.
  • “Suppositories With Fan Blades” (well, that’s what they look like, anyway): Testing inconclusive. In the dark we didn’t get the orientation on any of them right. We’ll try to retest come New Year’s Eve.
  • Blue Lagoon: Fountain type firework. A decent bang for buck item.
  • Finned Rockets: New this year, and much more effective than the stick-mounted kind we had bought in previous years.
  • Branding Iron: 20 shot aerial barrage type. This offers a good display, and a decent bang for the buck.
  • Stars and Stripes: 20 shot aerial barrage type, pretty much identical with Branding Iron. Buy whichever is cheaper.
  • Warrior in Fire: A long multi-shot array. This is definitely an excellent “bang for buck” item, and next time we’ll probably pick up two or three.
  • Crackling Colored Palms: This used to be one of my favorites, and I used it as the climatic piece
  • Gamma Glow: A big, 16-shot. climatic “crowd pleaser” finale piece. It was pretty impressive, but maybe not $45 impressive. Come New Years, I think I’m going to try a different finale piece.

Important Safety Tip

Don’t try lighting Thermite without your welder’s gloves.

Summation: How To Buy Fireworks

A few pointers:

  • In Texas, Fireworks are only available from June 24-July 4, and from December 20-January 1, and only in municipalities that don’t ban them.

  • It’s always best to buy early rather than late; usually they’ll put things on sale near the beginning of the sales period, and come July 4th or New Year’s Eve, they’re pretty picked over.
  • If possible, buy from one of the dedicated fireworks buildings (such as the ones near Elgin and Bastrop) rather than the portable stands, as the selection is much more extensive.
  • Do pick up some sparklers; they’re a lot more effective than punks or lights and lighting fuses, especially in high winds. (And, in our experience, there are always high winds.)
  • Don’t buy one of the assortment packs; they’re mostly low-yield crap.

Bookshelf Porn

Tuesday, July 20th, 2010

That is, in fact, the name of the site..

Includes some amazing pictures:

(Hat tip: Bookfinder Insider mailing list.)