Free Book Contest

… elsewhere. New SF/F review and news site The Ranting Dragon is giving away a copy each of The Adamantine Palace, Warbreaker and Hunger Games. Check it out over here.


Not done applying yet

I’m quickly coming to the realization that I’m never going to finish applying. High school applications are a long time ago now. Then came college applications, job applications, etc. And there are more to come. Here’s the application I just wrote for Harvey Mudd’s Summer Institute. It seems funny to me at the moment, but that could be because I should really just go to sleep. Hopefully whoever reads it will understand. The gist of it is that I was supposed to write a page long explanation of why I should be among the 40 students selected for Summer Institute, a program which nominally caters especially to those who are ‘underrepresented’ in the fields of science, mathematics, engineering, and technology (STEM).

Looking at my heritage alone, it is difficult to see why I ought to be chosen for a program with an emphasis on students underrepresented in STEM fields. After all, I’m a WASP insofar as religious ambivalence can be considered ‘protestant,’ particularly considering that protesting against the Catholic clergy seems to be very much in vogue at the moment. The fact that I was raised by a single mother does little to distinguish me- there is no box for ‘single mother’ or ‘blended family’ on any application for jobs or schools that I have ever read. The only diversity I can claim is diversity of thought- in my mind, the only kind that truly matters.
So how do I think differently? Perhaps my background is different. I’ve worked in a variety of capacities since the age of fourteen as everything from a landscaper to a small business CIO, a programmer to a tutor. During my freshman year I had the unforgettable schedule of getting up at five am to run to the gym, work out, shower, walk to school, class until three thirty, cross country or track until five thirty, run or walk to work, leave at nine or nine thirty, then look after my dying grandmother until she fell asleep. Somewhere in there were rehearsals for shows and a little practice on the viola, but looking back I don’t know where or when any of that got done.
But let’s say you’ve got forty-one such people.- but that’s too optimistic. There will be women, and people of every conceivable race and creed, all people who are clearly ‘underrepresented.’ In what way do I think so differently from any of these seemingly obvious choices that I, and not they, should be permitted to participate?
Well, I’ve written a novel. How many novelists are found in STEM fields? Isaac Asimov is the obvious nominee, and while others may have degrees in one or more scientific fields, very few others were working scientists during their writing careers. I have a strong interest in creative writing that cannot be explained in rational or scientific terms. Therefore I won’t. QED.
If that horrendous usage of the phrase quod erat demonstrandum made you flinch, I like you better already.
Since I’ve decided to set provable arguments aside, let’s move into speculation. I will get more out of Summer Institute than any heretofore mentioned hypothetical person. They’re hypothetical; I invented them and I can tell you with the utmost candor that set up against me they’re lazy bums, every last one of them. I would be very surprised if, by the end of Summer Institute, I haven’t already scoped out what research I would like to pursue during the school year. Check back to my original application if you want my thoughts on the importance of research. I’ll know every inch of Claremont from my daily runs, as well as which business owners are friendly enough to let a sweaty stranger use their bathrooms without buying anything. The question: does SoCal possess Southern hospitality? I can’t imagine it being worse than here in Maryland. This state is too far south to be properly elite and too far north to be hospitable.
So I’ve said that I’ll work hard, fully exploiting the opportunity granted me. At the very least I can give historical evidence to back that up. I’ve taken more courses than my high school actually allows, even if my transcript only shows one extra course, I’ve audited them every other year whether officially or by special arrangement. This past year, I wrote an eight page long optional paper for Perspectives on American Government. As an auditor, the paper wasn’t graded, but let’s just say that my teacher had a sense of humor and circled one of the vowels in his comment, then drew an arrow labeled ‘what your grade would be.’ But that doesn’t matter, if it hadn’t been amusing I wouldn’t have mentioned it. The key lies in the comment itself, where he suggested that I forget the whole science thing and go to law school.
Sorry, Mr. Steinbach. No can do.
Hopefully that’s proof enough that, given an opportunity, I will not only take it, but steal it, run away with it, then rebuild it using whatever I have lying around into a product that is greater than the sum of its parts.
If that isn’t enough, I can only hope you’ll take pity on me. My poor mother encouraged me to apply, saying “with the amount you eat, you can’t afford to turn down two and a half weeks of free food.”
So forget those hypothetical individuals. Select me, and up to thirty nine other students who are nothing at all like myself, the hypothetical examples, or whatever type of student might be overrepresented in STEM fields. Students who realize there is more to science than doing science, because cold fusion is only useful if you can convince someone to use it, not to mention getting the funding first.
Perhaps that’s how I should have begun.
Step 1. Choose me (and the correct assortment of other, thoroughly non-hypothetical, students)
Step 2. ???
Step 3. Receive funding and PROFIT.

Cleaning an (iTunes) Library

For the first time ever, I’m finding that I need to organize my iTunes library. For the longest time merely having a couple of play lists varying by activity, genre, mood and sheer awesomeness was sufficient. Then I began needing to set some songs, particularly musicals, to not play while shuffling. Fine. Basic stuff.

But I’m about to run up against the 16 GB limit on my iPod touch. I never imagined this happening. My imagination was limited because I thought songs were from three to five minutes each and that an iTouch could hold around 3500 of them. I’m not a big movie watcher- the videos on my iPod are primarily lectures from schools like Yale and MIT that make online courses available to the public. These get deleted as I watch them and are thus not a long term factor.

Of course, then I downloaded a collection of Karajan conducted Symphonies. That pushed the average ‘song’ length on my iPod to over ten minutes, or thereabouts. Then there are other classical pieces that are anywhere from half an hour to over an hour long. The other thing about classical music is that there is so much of it. There are currently 1800 odd ‘songs’ in my iTunes library, but my iPod can’t take much more. Certainly not another collection of over 30 CD’s.

So here’s the question: how do I systematically go about removing songs from my iPod and/or iTunes library? With so much music it is difficult to recall “You know, I never liked that Fallout Boy/Panic at the Disco song with the long irrelevant name all that much” or “Beethoven’s Second simply lacks the energy of the Fifth and the Ninth, I don’t think it makes the cut.”

To complicate things, new music is being added all the time. My most recent addition is the soundtrack for Alice in Wonderland, which I’ve already listened to several times over despite not having seen the movie yet. It has about five reprises on the main theme. Do I cut them all out of hand? Do I spend the time to carefully decide which one is the best? There’s always the “don’t cut up the album” argument. I highly recommend the album, by the way, but if you only get one song, definitely the first track, “Alice’s Theme.”

So, given that I’m sure there are others of you who have had this problem, I ask: how do you recommend I tackle this task?


If you’re in the DC area, you may have heard about the Intersections festival going on at the Atlas. If you haven’t, or for some reason haven’t gone by, you’re missing out. Thus far I’ve attended two ‘cafe concerts,’ a performance of Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha by the Washington Savoyards, Christyles Bacon’s autobiographical “hip-opera” entitled ‘In Pursuit of Me,’ and a dance concert by DCypher- followed by a dance party with the performers.
Quick review of the various events I’ve seen:

Cafe Concert #1, Og Ceol:
The musicians may be young, but they clearly know what they’re doing. Og Ceol is an Irish Flute and fiddle duet that, when I came to listen, was accompanied by a guitarist and drummer. Not only did they have an excellent program, but they took requests. I had them play my personal favorite tune, Morisson’s Jig, but they also played My Darling Asleep and a few others by request. They played John Ryan’s, also known as the ‘Dum Dum’ polka on their own initiative, and it was the hit of the evening.

Cafe Concert #2, Lulu Fall:
While a solid vocal performer (accompanied by an acoustic guitar), Lulu came second to Og Ceol in my mind. Then again, I may be biased- I prefer Irish tunes to… well, a great number of things. None the less, Lulu’s rendition of India Arie’s ‘Good Man’ tugged at my heart strings. That may have been more due to the content of the song, which I had never heard before but have since acquired, than the merits of the performance, but there’s no way to be sure and I’m more than happy to give Lulu the credit.

I certainly would like to see both sets of performers at more gigs around town. If I learn that either of them is performing at an even halfway decent restaurant, I’ll probably try to make my way there for dinner. Hint, hint, restaurateurs.

The performance was solid. This is to be expected. I’ve seen the Washington Savoyards in other productions, most notably Pirates of Penzance, and they’ve been impressive to say the least.
The script of Treemonisha, however, was about as subtle as an operatic brick to the head. Scott Joplin had to pay for it to be published, and there was never a performance of it during his lifetime. Well, there was a reason for that. The best summary of the dialogue is this verbatim quote, “Do not do wrong, because it is wrong.” Opera is rarely subtle, but Treemonisha crosses the line. No troupe can do much with that material.

I only saw half of “In Pursuit of Me” due to embarrassing personal mishaps such as my physical inability to herald a cab. What I saw was impressive. More impressive than the show itself, however, was the fact that when the crowd began singing ‘happy birthday’ to Christyles after the show, he came back out for an encore that was so brilliantly improvised that I have my doubts that it was improvised at all. But how could he have known that the crowd would start singing? In any case, it tied up a loose end from the show and was brilliant in all ways. If it was actually improvised, my mind is blown. If it wasn’t improvised, it was brilliantly staged, and my mind is blown in any case.

DCypher Concert:
Anyone who follows me on Twitter (@lucidlunatic) knows that I’ve recently become enamored of this video of the Korean-Chinese pop group Super Junior-M performing their hit song, ‘Supergirl.’ The choreography is impressive. Or so I thought right up until I watched DCypher, who put the Asiatic boy band to shame. There were a number of pieces performed during the concert, including some guest artists. Some of them were less engaging than others, and one was fascinating and downright weird (but made me look up ‘Agent Zero Comes for Logan’ when I got home), but the best was when all the members of DCypher just came out on stage and got down.

At the end of the concert they invited the audience to come out and dance with them. So I did, thoroughly embarrassing those in the audience who knew me. That segue took us right into the dance party that was, if anything, better than the performance. There’s nothing quite like watching performers show off for each other. I witnessed at least one standing back flip.

Forget Youtube, I’m spending more time watching live performances. The nearly five million viewers of ‘Super Girl’ clearly don’t know what they’re missing. Well, except for this one. Then again, most of them are probably on the wrong continent.

For those of you who reside in or near D.C., Intersections isn’t over yet! There is more to see all today and tomorrow. I might stop by Sunday to see another Joy of Motion (DCypher is associated with them) group perform. Or Tom Chapin. Whatever hits me.

Author Response Speed Record

I just e-mailed a well known author and got a personal response- so not from an assistant or a bot, in under half an hour. The author is Joe Abercrombie and he is clearly not getting enough fan mail. Of course, I wasn’t precisely sending fan mail. After all, I haven’t actually finished any of his books yet. The first hundred pages or so of The Blade Itself was good though.

Here are the e-mails, for the curious. Timestamps are shifted to EST and, as I am not a public figure, my name and e-mail address are blocked out.


I’m nudging as hard as I can, man, don’t worry.

Joe Abercrombie

—–Original Message—–
From: Me [mailto: Me@mywebsite]
Sent: 14 January 2010 4:07
Subject: Kindle Publication

I picked up The Blade Itself in a bookstore the other day and read
through the first hundred pages. The person who was interviewing me at
the time was somehow still impressed which I attribute solely to the
mind numbing power of your writing.

Interview finished, I did the most mind numbingly arrogant thing it is
possible to do in a bookstore. I pulled out my Kindle to look up your
book. The sheer audacity of this action must be increased exponentially
because this was a Barnes & Noble. I later went to the Nook booth and
did a side by side comparison of the devices. Your book was available
for purchase on neither.

Now I realize that the fact I prefer to read my books in a digital
format makes me a robotic monstrosity with very little pocket change,
but is there anything you could do to try and make The First Law trilogy
available on Kindle? I understand that this is largely the publisher’s
decision, but I noticed that Best Served Cold is available for Kindle,
so perhaps they just need a little reminding.

Now, I’ve done my part. There’s a little link you can click on the
Amazon website “I’d like to read this book on Kindle” that is supposed
to notify the publisher that you would like their book to be available
digitally. Well, I clicked it for all three books. However, on the off
chance that your publisher is unaware of the fact that the satisfaction
of my every whim is vital to the future of the world at large, I thought
it best to see if you couldn’t nudge things along.

P.S. Thank you for contributing to the Worldbuilder’s Fundraiser. It’s a
great cause, and your’s was a good interview.

Auction: PRS Tremonti guitar; signed by Creed 2009

Rothfuss: PRS Tremonti guitar; signed by Creed 2009 – eBay item 130357558479 end time Jan-15-10 07:38:48 PST.

I posted about the Worldbuilders charity raffle, run by author Patrick Rothfuss a little while back. One thing I didn’t mention is that he’s also auctioning off a few items. One of those is a Mark Tremonti Signature Guitar, signed by Creed. Frankly, I consider that to be several different kinds of awesome. If any of you would be interested in this, I’d recommend heading over to the auction. It’s starting at only $150.