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    Dave’s: Abandoned Towers (belated launch announcement)

    2012 - 02.05

    By now it’s hopefully the case that Karin has announced the launch of AbandonedTowers.com, the website that we’ve been talking about off and on since October when she took it over as managing editor.  In the last 6 weeks (especially) I’ve been working really hard behind the scenes to fix up the site and make it launch ready.  Karin seems to be really happy with the results (which is good considering the effort involved).

    So if you haven’t been yet, you should head over to Abandoned Towers Magazine (www.abandonedtowers.com) and check it out.  If you’re not interested in actually reading any of the content, you should try clicking around a bit and seeing what there is to see.

    As of the moment of writing this (2pm Feb 1st) the official launch announcement has not gone out over the internet, so we’ll see what kind of spike in site visitors we get.  If things go well, we can hopefully significantly increase the $4.89 in ad revenue the site generated in January (which is slightly higher than the $4.57 from December).  We’re optimistic given that during those periods the site hadn’t significantly changed and new content was not being posted.  With the launch, the site is dramatically changed and new content is being posted frequently.  So we’ll see, it’s not going to make enough money that it’ll pay a morgage or anything, but it could get to the point where the amount it brings in is actually meaningful.

    Feel free to promote the site to all your friends, or really just everyone ;-)

    Review: El Mirador by Alex J. Kane

    2011 - 12.12

    I’ve finally managed to get around to reading Mirror Shards, that would be the Anthology in which Karin is published.  Because of that I wanted to do a careful reading of all the works in the anthology, and write reviews of them.  Because of the desire to write reviews it’s been on my “to read” list much longer than I’d like.  Partly because other books were out of the library which puts you on an actual deadline, and partly because I mostly read before bed.  When I read before bed it’s pleasure reading, which isn’t appropriate for something that I want to review.  Not having anything out from the library at the moment (or at least not that I haven’t already finished reading), it made it possible for me to get started.

    So the first story in Mirror Shards: Extending the Edges of Augmented Reality, Edited by Thomas K. Carpenter is El Mirador by Alex J. Kane.

    I was very much caught off guard by the story.  I really didn’t have any idea what to expect based on the title, but I definitely had not expected a second person story, but that’s what I got.  Interesting choice that.  The ideas are good, the pacing is good, the story overall is good, although it left me wanting more.  More depth, more detail, more Tzitzi.  I guess realistically being left wanting more is definitely a better thing than wanting less.  I also expect that it’s something that’s totally common among people who are primarily book readers, and even more so in my case as I primarily read series.  So going from stories which typically are told in hundreds of thousands to millions of words, and instead down to something that’s more appropriately counted in hundreds of words.  Odds are that it’s going to leave you wanting more.  Even stories that very clearly have a completed arc are likely to leave you with questions like: but what happens next?

    Bottom line, I enjoyed the story and would consider reading more work by Alex J. Kane, but at this point I’m not going to go to any particular effort to seek it out.

    The World Illuminated Through a Windshield

    2011 - 11.17

    Regrettably today consisted largely of replacing bulbs, which was way more difficult that in needed to be in my opinion.  Replacing the taillight it was really simple to get it out, more difficult to put back in than it should have been.  Simple four petal design that you turn counterclockwise to remove and turn clockwise to lock back in place.  What they neglect to mention in the manual is that there is one specific petal which needs to match up with one particular gap.  Seems needlessly complex, but is easy enough to deal with once you’re aware that you need to line things up.

    Replacing the two headlights was a much more difficult ordeal, they really leave less than the minimum required amount of space to replace the bulb.  Probably took half an hour to replace both bulbs.  Hopefully it would be faster in the future, but much of it is fiddly rather than “difficult”.  The first main problem was that the manual didn’t actually explain how to release the metal bulb holding clip.  For the record: when you’re facing the car, push on the left hand side of the clip, push towards the front of the vehicle and then down to release the clip.  I don’t know if that’s unique to my car (2003 Pontiac Vibe AWD) or to the bulb type (9003).  With the amount of space available and the lack of visibility into what you’re actually doing, it was way more difficult to do than it felt like it should be, but in the end I was able to do it, despite bouts of doubt and frustration.

    Despite all of that, it wasn’t all bad.  I bought my dual pack of GE 9003 Nighthawk Platinum bulbs at Lordco where they were on sale for $38.99 (seems that regular there is $67.97 according to the invoice; regular price at Canadian Tire is $59.99).  In addition to being on sale, there’s also a $10 mail in rebate on them (at Lordco only) until the end of January, which means I’ll have got them for less than half their regular Canadian Tire price… so pretty pleased with that.  Canadian Tire however was about $4.25 cheaper for the taillight, so that’s where I got those, and installed all the bulbs in their parkade.

    We went out to the mall later to return some clothes and have dinner.  While we were there there was some kind of incident which involved someone being handcuffed.  It happened in the main atrium area while we were eating, Karin took a look.  When we went past later I saw that it was an older guy (rather than a young punk like I assumed it would be).

    Leaving the mall we went to the library to pick up the next half dozen books Karin needs to read in the 100 Book Challenge, some of which are even short.  I picked up Brandon Sanderson’s first book: Elantris.

    Leaving the library we decided to go for a bit of a drive up SFU to test out the new headlights… it’s kind of hard to tell how good the headlights are when you’re driving on streets with headlights.  It was snowing a little bit, but not enough to concern us at all.  Got up to the main intersection and there were some cars essentially blocking the straight through route that takes you to UniverCity that I’d planned to take, so we turned left and headed towards the main campus.  After the first turn we saw a traffic jam which involved a bunch of cars and a couple of buses, none of which were moving forward.  It wasn’t clear what the actual problem (aside from snow) was, so we turned around and headed back the way we came.  Snow 1; Headlight Testing 0.  On the bright side, the all wheel drive and all seasons are still really effective in the snow.

    Tempe vs. Temperance

    2011 - 11.14

    A while back Karin had some books she’d weeded from our shelves as ones that she could part with.  Often times when she does that I don’t even look at the books, after all picking some out of the box is not part of the solution.  This time I did look however.  I took out a couple of books, one was book #6 in the Women’s Murder Club (don’t know if it’s representative of the series or not, but it felt like multiple unconnected stories told in parallel in order to get the appropriate page count; parts were interesting but on the whole disappointing) and Grave Secrets by Kathy Reichs.

    I haven’t finished reading the book yet, but as some of you will be aware Bones is back on (second week of the season), and man was it weird watching Bones after reading part of one of the books.  I haven’t finished the book yet, but Temperance (from the show) is so very different from Tempe (what everyone calls her in the books).  I expected that there would be differences, there’s very few adaptations which don’t contain significant differences from the source material, but realistically in this case the characters personality wise seem to bare almost no resemblance to one another.  Truly a case of “inspired by” and not actually trying to be true to the source material.

    In this particular case it works and was perhaps not a bad decision.  As someone who was previous ignorant of the gulf of differences between the two characters, well it was just very surprising how different they were in core personality.  You expect things to be different, like maybe build, or hair colour, or what have you.  But to have what appears to be a completely different backstory, different mannerisms, a completely different emotional make-up, well beyond the fact they have the same name, the characters only bare a similarity (as far as I’ve been able to tell) in the science.

    So far the book is good too… just surprising to be totally unfamiliar with a character I thought I knew…

    Welcome to Canada @BrandonSanderson #youreoutofexcuses

    2011 - 11.12

    Thanks to Twitter @randomsynapses (that would be Karin for those of you who don’t refer to people by their handles) we found out that Brandon Sanderson was doing a signing today at Chapter’s Metrotown.  We decided to head on up.  There was a brief Q&A, and then a lot of signing, we were in line for about 2 hours, but we got our books signed and met the man.

    There’s more to be told to this story, but I’d like to give Karin the opportunity to tell most of the rest of it.

    For those of you who may not have heard of Brandon Sanderson he’s one of the hosts of Writing Excuses, the author of the Mistborn Trilogy (and the new novel for which the signing was being held is a Mistborn novel, but not part of the trilogy), the Alcatraz novels (which starts with Alcatraz versus the Evil Librarians), oh and he was selected to finish of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time (he didn’t apply, he was chosen).

    He first came to my attention because of the Wheel of Time thing*, subsequently I came across Writing Excuses and we started to listen to that.  Unfortunately, at times they assume that you’re fans and that you’ve read their books.  I hadn’t.  So I had to pause listening to Writing Excuses and go and read both Brandon’s and Dan Wells’ books so as to avoid potential spoilers in the podcasts.

    I’ve now read most of Brandon’s stuff, although none of the Wheel of Time books, as I am waiting until the final book is out and I can just finish the series before I start in on it again.  But what I have read, I quite enjoyed, and I’m looking forward to his future novels and the one’s that he’s written which I haven’t yet read (Elantris and Allow of Law).

    * note: years separated these two events.

    NPR: 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy Books

    2011 - 11.04

    I know that the 100 Book Challenge from last year isn’t over yet, but doesn’t mean you can’t think ahead.  Now strictly speaking this is not actually a list of “books” it’s a list of the top 100 books/series as selected by NPR listener’s (presumably).  So it’s an interesting list, and if you’re looking for recommendations on something to read, it’s probably not a bad place to start.  For those of you who have no interest in click on a link, here’s the top 10:

    1. The Lord of the Rings (series)
    2. The Hitchhiker’s Guide To The Galaxy (bk I)
    3. Ender’s Game
    4. The Dune Chronicles (by which I presume they mean the series of 6 books, now 7+ if you include the prequels written by his son and Kevin J. Anderson)
    5. A Song of Ice and Fire (series: this is the actual series name of George RR Martin’s Game of Thrones epic)
    6. 1984
    7. Fahrenheit 451
    8. The Foundation Trilogy
    9. Brave New World
    10. American Gods

    So I’m only 6/10 out of the top 10, although that 6 represents: 3+1+1+6+4+3= 18 books (which is not counting the affiliated but not explicitly included in the entry books).  So I’m actually 18/23 for the top 10 (I haven’t read the 5th book in the Song of Ice and Fire series yet, which is where the extra 1 comes from).  I just think that 78.3% sounds better than 60%…

    Heat Rises

    2011 - 10.30

    The third and latest Castle tie-in novel.  I think of the three that the second one is the strongest so far.  The books are campy and a little fun, and entertaining at times.  They clearly aren’t intended to be “good”, which is perhaps a little at odds with the show itself.  The show is definitely good, and Castle is quirky, but I’ve never gotten the impression while watching the show that he wasn’t actually a good writer.  So I’d say that the books themselves are below the level of writing and quality that you would have expected from the character themselves, which tarnishes the fiction that we’re trying to maintain as the credit for the novel is ascribed to the fictional character, and not the ghost writer.

    If you enjoy the show, you’ll probably enjoy the occasional reference to things from the series, but they don’t happen frequently enough to make it worth your effort.  Also in this particular book there seemed to be a bunch of jargon for no apparent reason (I don’t recall that from the previous books).

    On the merit of the books, I can’t imagine that someone would actually read the books and decide based on the books that they needed to check out the TV show.  The books just aren’t that good (although again, it seems as though that’s on purpose, although I don’t know why they’d do that intentionally).

    Last Gift?

    2011 - 10.15

    Today Karin got what I think is her last birthday gift this year.  Some of the other gifts she doesn’t get to enjoy yet (as many people contributed to her Surrey International Writers’ Conference fund), but that’s a different matter.

    Karin is now the proud owner of Mary Robinette Kowal‘s debut novel: Shades of Milk and Honey which she is devouring.  I expect that it will be completed by the end of day, and may sneak it’s way into one of the remaining spots of the 100 book challenge too.  Then next weekend Karin gets to actually meet Mary at the SiWC!  She’s a little excited.

    I don’t know if she’ll get the book autographed or not, but the book is definitely easier to autograph than the 6th season of Writing Excuses which Mary is a co-host of.

    The Night Watch

    2011 - 10.12

    Finished The Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko Monday night.  I enjoyed it, and plan to read the other 3 books in the series, but I’m going to take a break first.  The book is interesting, and seems well written, but the way in which it is written I find it really difficult to anticipate at all where things are going.  I don’t know if that’s got anything to do with the fact that I’m reading the book in translation (originally in Russian), or if that’s the preferred style over there, or if it’s just a stylistic choice.  Regardless, I enjoy it while I’m reading it, but there’s nothing pulling me through the story because I mostly have no idea what’s going on.

    It actually creates a weird bubble effect, because I really have no idea what’s going to happen next, and I have no idea if what happened before is really going to be that important to what comes next.  It leaves me really in the “now” of the writing.  But at the same time, although I’m curious what happens next I’m mostly not eager.  So for me, not a book I couldn’t put down.  Still very interesting and worth reading.

    I’ll finish with a thank you to Dan for recommending and lending the entire series.

    More Fiction in Real Life

    2011 - 10.10

    Don’t know that we ever covered weapons much in history in high school, and it hasn’t otherwise been much of an area of study for me.  However when I was reading this article about the Canadian Armed forces melting down some collectible guns, they mention that they were Browning Hi-Power’s.  This stood out for me because that was Anita Blake‘s favourite gun in the beginning of the Anita Blake series.

    Normally the guns in a novel wouldn’t stand out especially, but with Laurell K. Hamilton‘s style, it’s more or less impossible to not have which gun Anita is currently carrying hammered directly into your brain.  Regardless, this is an interesting factoid from the article:

    The John Inglis and Co. factory in Toronto started producing Hi-Powers for all Commonwealth countries in 1944, while the Nazis continued production in Belgium, thus making the Hi-Power the only pistol used on both sides of the war.