365 Days of History …

December 31, 2010

I set myself several projects this year. Some came to fruition – sometimes expensively. Some did not.

But one of the smaller, more enjoyable projects that did come through was reading a chapter a night of 365: Your Date With History, by W.B. Marsh and Bruce Carrick. (I discovered that this book is also known in a compact edition as 365: Great Stories from History for Every Day of the Year).

On December 31, 2009, I began this year learning that Samuel Pepys started his famous diary on January 1, “Lord’s Day,” in 1660. I also read that Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation became law in 1863.

With the exception of a few lapsed weeks in late summer that I quickly caught up on at the beginning of September, I managed to read a bit of history each night — how American Marines landed at Iwo Jima on February 19, 1945, for example, or about the Spartans defying Xerxes’s Persians on August 20 in 480 BC at Thermopylae, or Mozart dying on the 5th of December, 1791.

I read the last entry in the book last night, about today, December 31, New Year’s Eve.

Bonnie Prince Charlie was born on this day in 1720. Determined to restore the Scottish Stuarts to the British throne, but losing a thousand Highlanders and the battle at Culloden, he slipped away from Scotland dressed as a serving maid. For the next several decades he wandered Europe, self-indulgent, drunk, and unapproachable. His wife, 33 years younger than he, said he “rarely missed being drunk twice a day,” and was “the most insupportable man who ever lived, a man who combined the faults and failings of all classes.” Promise, dashed.

Also on this day in 1793, the duc de Biron lost his head to the guillotine in Paris. As he cheerily placed himself below the blade, this enemy of the French Revolution said, “I shall arrive in the other world in time to wish my friends a Happy New Year!”

I’ll miss this little project, although I do have something similar in mind for 2012, the next leap year. I will read a book by the same authors, 366: A Leap Year of Great Stories from History.

At bedtime for the coming year I’ll have in my hand Edwin Way Teale’s A Walk Through the Year, containing a year’s worth of reflections and observations on nature in diary form. It may not be as much pure fun for me, a history buff, but I think I will enjoy it.

I would suggest this project to any history buff — or anyone, really. The hard part isn’t keeping pace every day though. The hard part is only reading a chapter a night, and stopping.

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2010 Hugo Awards ….

September 5, 2010

The 2010 Hugo Awards were presented in Melbourne. I find it especially cool that Frederik Pohl was presented with a ‘best fan writer’ at age 90, for his blog.

* Best Novel: TIE: The City & The City, China Miéville (Del Rey; Macmillan UK); The Windup Girl, Paolo Bacigalupi (Night Shade)

* Best Novella: “Palimpsest”, Charles Stross (Wireless; Ace, Orbit)

* Best Novelette: “The Island”, Peter Watts (The New Space Opera 2; Eos)

* Best Short Story: “Bridesicle”, Will McIntosh (Asimov’s 1/09)

* Best Related Book: This is Me, Jack Vance! (Or, More Properly, This is “I”), Jack Vance (Subterranean)

* Best Graphic Story: Girl Genius, Volume 9: Agatha Heterodyne and the Heirs of the Storm Written by Kaja and Phil Foglio; Art by Phil Foglio; Colours by Cheyenne Wright (Airship Entertainment)

* Best Dramatic Presentation, Long Form: Moon Screenplay by Nathan Parker; Story by Duncan Jones; Directed by Duncan Jones (Liberty Films)

* Best Dramatic Presentation, Short Form: Doctor Who: “The Waters of Mars” Written by Russell T Davies & Phil Ford; Directed by Graeme Harper (BBC Wales)

* Best Editor Short Form: Patrick Nielsen Hayden

* Best Editor Long Form: Ellen Datlow

* Best Professional Artist: Shaun Tan

* Best Semiprozine: Clarkesworld edited by Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace, & Cheryl Morgan

* Best Fan Writer: Frederik Pohl

* Best Fanzine: StarShipSofa edited by Tony C. Smith

* Best Fan Artist: Brad W. Foster

And the John W. Campbell Award for Best New Writer (presented by Dell Magazines): Seanan McGuire

Lost is a science fiction show.

Now, they haven’t wanted that label from the beginning. First, they assured us that everything had a real-world explanation and it was not science fiction or fantasy at all. This is obviously crap at this point, but they continue to insist in multiple interviews that Lost is a character-driven drama and not a genre show at all.

Lost is science fiction or at least it fucking was until this season when we suddenly landed in magical fantasy land and got a Dark Lord and a freaking GLOWCAVE and vague mystical nonsense

[my bold – K. ]

link

As I’ve said numerous times here, I like to waste available productive time by not being productive at all, testing and fiddling with productivity software, sites, and techniques like Getting Things Done and Action Method.  I’ve been staying on target of late, though, not veering off on some new tangent.  I’ve been keeping my focus and most of my data in the cloud but accessible on whatever machine I happen to be on.   Since I use a Windows machine half the day, and a Mac the rest of the time, access to the same synchronized data is an important thing to me.

With the exception of a small notebook and the Mac based word processor, Nisus Writer, I use the Google suite of applications and these 4 main “cloud” tools that I’ve been sticking with for some time.

1. Dropbox for file synchronization and back up.  I would recommend Dropbox to anyone.  Right now I have it synchronizing, and thus backing up, my documents and pictures from my Mac to the cloud.  This gives me access to everything no matter where I am and what machine I might be on via the Dropbox client or their website.  Very handy indeed.  I use the $9.95 premium service, which gives me 50 gig of space vs. the 5 gig with a free account because I have a lot of data.

2. Evernote for data capture.  Another recommendation for everyone.   A simple copy and paste and there you have it.  I capture entire web pages, URLs, photographs, grab quotes, keep lists, manage projects, and have even put some .exe files in Evernote.  This is another service that has clients for both PC and Mac, and allows access to your data via their website.  They even have a Blackberry client.  I could probably replace Toodledo with Evernote, but I’m using them for separate functions and plan on keeping it that way.  Minor bother, some  functional differences between the PC and the Mac clients, like pasting links.  But that’s due to differences in the OS handling of certain functions.  Again, while I probably don’t really need it and could use the free account, I have a premium account for $45 a year.

3. Toodledo for a to do list and project list.  I used this service a year or so ago, then switched to Vitalist, a service I had also used previously.  But I recently came back to Toodledo as you can use subtasks in their premium subscription – $14.95 a year  –  and also lets you paste clickable links in your notes section, something Vitalist would not do. (With Vitalist you had to open the note, copy the link, and then paste into your browser).

4. Jott.  This could be used for my to do list too, and is on occasion, depending on the task.  But I mainly use it to call and leave voice notes for myself.  Jott transcribes the voice mail, puts it into my Jott lists while keeping the VM so you can hear it yourself, shoots the transcript to my Gmail, and if I want, even sends it to Toodledo.  I could use my Blackberry for voice notes, but Jott is far more convenient.  I’ve been with this service since they were free and in beta, but now use the  to Jott Annual plan for $39.50.

Macheist nanoBundle ….

November 8, 2009

In case you’ve not heard, Macheist, who offer pretty nice software now and again at a super premium price, is offering a free “nanoBundle” of several apps including WriteRoom, ShoveBox, Tiny Grab, Twitterific, and Hordes of Orcs. When there are 500,000 downloads of this free bundle, word processor Mariner Write will be unlocked.

The value of this is around $150 or so, but it’s free right now at Macheist.

Go have a download. So to speak.

Hugo Awards 2009 …

August 10, 2009

This year’s results were twittered as they happened, which is kind of cool.

Best Novel –  The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman

Best Novella – “The Erdmann Nexus” by Nancy Kress

Best Novelette – “Shoggoths in Bloom” by Elizabeth Bear

Best Short Story – “Exhalation” by Ted Chiang (Eclipse Two)

Best Related Book – Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded: A Decade of Whatever, 1998-2008 by John Scalzi

For a full list, hit the Twitter link above or Locus Online.

Actor James Whitmore has died.  I always liked him as an actor, but it was his one-man shows as Harry Truman and Will Rogers that I especially loved.  I never saw his portrayal of Teddy Roosevelt that is always mentioned with the other two, but I bet it was just as good.

I recorded the first two one-man shows as audio only from television years and years ago when they were on.

I still have the cassettes of the Harry Truman show, and they’re a hoot to listen to periodically.

I don’t know if the shows are out on DVD, but if they ever do make it to DVD – or if you can get the audio recordings from your library, or purchase them – do so.  They’re fabulous.