Sunday, December 8, 2013

So Happy December, folks. Glad to see we're all here. What've I been doing, you ask, that I've been silent since October? Well, working on the next novel in the Brass and Steel series, and also polishing up the short fiction I wrote over the summer. So yeah, nothing really new to report there. I've also been building my own computer. No, not like that, with a soldering iron, bare boards, and ICs. It runs CP/M, arguably the very first widespread microcomputer OS. It's different. It's called a Zeta. More info here:

The CP/M world is very different from the PC compatible (clone) and DOS world I lived through. All those machines by and large had a standard set of off-the-shelf hardware, and a compatible BIOS (basic input output system). Not so in CP/M. Every CP/M manufacturer could, potentially, have different hardware for the most basic things, like serial ports (rs232, btw. USB wasn't even a glimmer yet), floppy controllers, and quite a few CP/M machines plugged into 'dumb' terminals like ADM-3as, vt100s, and  so forth, so even displaying text could be different. As far as I can tell, CP/M 2.2 (may be different in later versions) is more like a skeleton of an operating system, a place to start and a bunch of useful tools rather than an OS. Given that software of the day mostly ran against the bare metal of the CPU and memory, that got you quite a ways, but not all the way as we're accustomed to today.

So, other than shining a little light on my current hobby machine, why am I telling you this? Because the more I deal with CP/M, the more I realize how much those mass-produced computers, most especially the IBM PC and its infinite clones, provided the level of computing choice we're accustomed to. My junk-box PC is made of a hodgepodge of parts out of other people's junk boxes, and yet it can run windows 7, runs linux, pretty much out of the box.  I bring it up, because it seems as though that era is coming to an end.

Any iphone/pad/whatever you buy will run an Apple OS, without exception. Unless you jailbreak it, it will run software which has been approved by Apple, built with Apple tools, and sold through the Apple App store. Likewise the Android platform. While it is of more heterogeneous manufacture, each vendor does their best to lock you in to their vision of the platform, or at least to Google Play. We have also seen how these platforms can be suborned by outside interests, from DRM to the NSA, to advertisers big and small, and just about everyone except the person who owns the machine. The cyberpunk ideal of a network cowboy with systems only he/she controls may turn out to be only a fantasy.

I don't know what the answers are. (Though one should probably expect more cyberpunk out of me down the road as this stuff becomes more real.) What I do know is that there are things from the PC era which we'll lose when our PCs become part of the notebook/phone ecology, and of those the big one is control over what our computers are actually doing. I'm pretty sure I don't like it.


Monday, October 14, 2013

MileHiCon Schedule

I will be at MileHiCon at the end of this week, and I have my schedule now:

Saturday at 11:00AM in Grand Mesa 8c: Researching Fiction (my favorite thing) How do you do research for fiction? What are good places too look? How much is too much?

Saturday at Noon in Mesa Verde C: Reading with Stant Litore. If I have the right guy, he's writing zombie horror, so it could get pretty ugly. :) (I might not have the right guy. Ask me some time about the exquisite corpse reading I was in once. The dangers of searching the interwebs.) I'm not sure what I'm going to read yet, but I may polish up one of my unpublished short stories from the Brass and Steel universe. Probably not the 7500 word one.

Saturday at 2:00pm in Wind River B: Future of Biology and Medicine. Where are we now, what do we see becoming science fact, limitations of genetic research, new medical tech.

The rest of the time I'll be wandering around like all the other fans. :)


Friday, September 27, 2013

Progress Report, also MileHiCon

The first draft of Brass and Steel: The City of Glass is proceeding, and it's developing its own feel, which is good - if time consuming. Here's a quick tidbit. Annabel and her sister Josephine are the main characters of this story.

Annabel gets up to look out the window, down at the streets below, at the elevated train as it slides by silently on tracks stories above the street. A brigade of steam melters slowly advance down the street, melting snow with steam, vacuuming up the water, heating it in their specially designed autoboilers into more steam. She looks down casually with her mystical eye, and realizes they’re strictly machines. No human being guides them. They roll along, low slung black boilers with brass fittings gleaming against the snow and muddy water. As she watches, squads of them divide off from the main brigade to pursue side streets. Hundreds of them. Perhaps thousands, and each one apparently controlled by a Dejstrøm engine the size of a wartime Dope brain, without the bound soul to animate it. Probably rectangular, as most are now, to facilitate bolting them to the regular shapes men seem to favor when they build. She looks out further over the city, past more elevated train tracks and ignores the prickle of her scalp.

Also, I will be attending MileHiCon on October 18, 19, and 20, 2013. I have not yet been told what I will be doing there besides being a fan, so watch this space for more information.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Quotable Quote

From David Foster Wallace: “When you write fiction,[…] you are telling a lie. It’s a game, but you must get the facts straight. The reader doesn’t want to be reminded that it’s a lie. It must be convincing, or the story will never take off in the reader’s mind.”

Monday, August 12, 2013


Yeah, City of Glass is about a city, so I have to learn at least a passing familiarity with the architecture of the time. Burnham I can deal with. Sullivan I can at least understand. I think it likely that Frank Lloyd Wright, in my world, was fatally stepped on by a cow before he could produce any significant work. Wright's Prairie Style is /awful/ - and in the real world, ubiquitous. All the faceless, soul-less brick-facade buildings that so typified 1970s Cheyenne, Wyoming were clear examples of it. Unimaginative, boring, unadorned, without any sense of style. And flat roofs, in the midwest and west? Insanity.


Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Scrivener - Important Safety Tip

Okay, just had a bit of a scare. I was tinkering with and re-reading Brass and Steel: Inferno and wanted to see how many words I'd changed, so I clicked on targets, and got 93,000 and some odd. What's the problem, you ask? Inferno is a 118,000 or so word novel. It meant that somewhere a great swath of the novel was just… gone.

Don't panic, I told myself, even though clearly I already was. Check your compile targets and make sure you have the whole novel selected. Er… yes. I did. Okay, NOW go ahead and panic.

Then I happened to notice that some chapters' little icons in the scrivinings list didn't have any text in them. This is how empty chapters are represented. Surely not, I thought, but I clicked on those chapters to make sure the text was there. It was, and as soon as I touched the chapter, Scrivener noticed the text was there and reset the icon accordingly. And my word count jumped. Once I had touched all the empty icons in the list, my wordcount was back to normal.

I was imagining 'sure, one of the agents I was querying will naturally want the full manuscript while I'm figuring out how to recover what's missing, or if I was grossly miscalculating the wordcount before. It always goes that way. It didn't go that way this time.

I'm a little puzzled why this happened, and it doesn't give me warm fuzzies that it did happen, but this file's been through a lot. I have A. Edited the bundle. There was a lot of stuff in there from dropbox syncs gone bad. I had removed them. I have B. Touched the file with scrivener for windows running in Wine on my Linux machine. That failed to work, so I also installed the unsupported Scrivener for Linux on that box, which did.
C. My desktop mac has been showing a little flakiness recently, booting into safe mode rather than normal. The disk checks out, and from the log, I think it's an inexpensive USB hub and constantly switching that hub between the work machine and the play machine. Terrifying moment to think I'd lost a great chunk of the novel and that I wasn't even sure where. Yeah. Better backups in my future, for sure.


Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Separating work from play, update 2.

There's been a lot of discussion in the news lately about the harsh blue light of lcd screens making it hard to sleep, etc etc. How much of that is actually true, I don't know. By way of an experiment, however, I have put a bright daylight beach wallpaper on my work machine, which I use mostly during daylight hours, and a night cityscape on the play machine.

Does it make a difference? I don't know. I do notice that I get the same "ugh! Daystar!" reaction to the day wallpaper at night. Whether it helps or hinders my sleep, I have no idea. I figured it can't hurt.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Separating Work from Play, Update #1

For those who wondered, I'm still using the Linux box for gaming. It's still going well. I've switched from 32 bit Ubuntu to 64 bit Mint/Cinnamon (Olivia, apparently.) and things are remarkably less clumsy. I've also moved my uber-video card to the PC, where it works just fine despite being a mac version. The 5870 is quite a boost from the 9600. Also, when friend Jeff Duntemann sold me this case out of his junk box, he left the dead motherboard, still with a presumed-dead 2.4ghz quadcore in it. On a lark, I tried that presumed-dead CPU in my play machine and it works just fine. While I read over and over that a dual core 3ghz chip with 1333khz frontside bus will always trounce a quad-core with a 1066mhz frontside bus in gaming, I haven't noticed any particular difference. The game I play is so GPU-bound that my processor is seldom saturated either way. When running multiple apps, however, the difference is pronounced, just as one would expect. So now my junk-box PC is roughly the equal of my mac in its gaming heyday - quad-core 2.66ghz, Radeon HD5870 card (pc people feel free to chuckle. It's the best card that would go in my mac, and even then it was sickeningly expensive). Cost? Less than a hundred bucks. And I've missed screwing around with the hardware of my computer.


The Next Big Thing, In Pencil

I've been busy doing something I've never done before: laying out a novel before it's written. One of the things I learned at Taos is the art of storyboarding, which seems much less restrictive than an outline, if only by breaking it up into easily modifiable chunks. With 6 or 8 of us working on it, we storyboarded out one brave member's novel, fixed where the plot hung up, and built the story line all the way out to the end. It took us about 4 hours, as I recall.

I gave myself a month.

In the planning, I've had all the usual plot problems. Things like, "Why is it bad to be a Doppelgänger?" "Is the main character causing this action, or just being dragged into it?" "Does this bring in the themes I want to bring in?" "Argh, the cast is getting too big!" and so on. The advantage is that instead of having thousands of words committed by the time these problems come up, I have one or two pages of hand-written notes, so changing things isn't that painful. I can revise, relocate, and rethink to my heart's content. It lets me lay out plots more complex than I can hold in my head at once. So far, so good.

A word about writing utensils: There's something very comfortable, not to mention focusing (no twitter in a legal pad) about using a jumbo #2 pencil, the same as most folks my age and older used to learn writing in kindergarden; about the smell of the cedar shavings and the moment of thought while I sharpen; the ease of erasure; having a nice big eraser; the joy of twiddling a pencil in my fingers that coaxes the ideas out. Maybe the cedar shaving and graphite smell smells like schoolwork.

Naturally I roll these storyboards into Scrivener when they're done, and have Scrivener give me a dump of all of them in order to move forward. Naturally, I'll have these storyboards at a keystroke when August rolls around and it's time to actually lay down the prose. I'm looking forward to writing this one, even though if anything it's rougher and nastier than Brass and Steel: Inferno. I call this next novel, Brass and Steel II: The City of Glass.


ps: if you find yourself looking for the jumbo #2 pencils of our collective youth, it's surprising to find that they're not in most stores with back-to-school supplies. M found me some at Wallmart after much searching, and I mail-ordered about 48 of them in a batch from Costco, so I'm set for a while. I do go through them quickly though.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Shay locomotives

If, at some point in the future, you should read Prodigal Son/Color of my Blood/whatever it winds up being called and you should wonder what on Earth a Shay locomotive is, it's one of these. Toward the end of the steam era, there were proposed (but never built) much larger Shay locomotives with a 3 cylinder steam engine on both sides, and that's really what I was picturing. They're weird pieces of equipment, originally evolved for use on lumber railways with primitive wood and/or wood and iron strap rails, where a large, powerful rod locomotive would tear the track to bits or derail quickly. I figured these were just about perfect for the precision movement, lots of stops and starts, and so on of combat track laying. Yeah. Combat track laying. Welcome to armored war in the 19th century. :)

Why is the #844 called a rod engine when the Shay is distinctly not? Those long things on the driver wheels that connect them to the steam pistons? Those are called side rods or coupling rods. -JRS

Monday, June 17, 2013

Prodigal Son: Finished

Okay yeah, I started this story back in April, when it was known as The Color of Blood. I put it down a couple times to do other things - write another story whose approach I already understood, spend two weeks in Virginia on family matters, etc etc, but I finally got the dang thing done. It needs tinkering and tightening yet, but all its guts are in place and it breathes on its own. It's a Brass and Steel story. It's very much about race. Normally I try to avoid this topic, mostly by saying "it's 20 years in the future, we're long past /that/. People are people. Deal." I like to challenge myself to do things I haven't done before, and to touch subjects that scare me to work on, but sheesh. Anyway. When it's finally polished out, I think, I hope, it will be a good story that rings right for all concerned.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Obamacare - Cliffs notes version

Ran across this online:Explain Like I'm Five: What exactly is Obamacare and what did it change? And this followon: Obamacare Point by Point I have to say, "Well shit, tell me how this is a bad idea again?" Let's just say if the numbers I'm seeing come to pass, it reduces the insurance cost for 40something self-employed writers quite dramatically.

This is something I've cared about for a long time. One of the LookingGlass World's fundamental tenants: that if you can't pay for your healthcare, they let you die or euthanize you. The LookingGlass world is from 2004. At that time, it looked very much like that's where we were headed, and I modeled the care after what stray animals get. What's that you say? I never made that clear? Well … it figured prominently in what was supposed to be the second novel in the series rather than Irreconcilable Differences, but that novel is unlikely to see the light of day in any recognizable form. It was always so in my world notes, and Kari mentions it briefly in Irreconcilable Differences.

Anyone who's read this blog for long is probably not surprised to find I lean in favor of the Patient Protection Affordable Care Act (aka Obamacare). We, as a nation, have agreed that we aren't willing to let people die on the steps of hospitals for lack of money. This act is basically admitting that emergency room care is suboptimal and we'll save money with proper health care. Also, it is against all of our best interests to allow through unaffordable healthcare a reservoir of disease to exist in our civilization. We are all in one epidemiological boat together, and it behoves everyone to help his or her fellow traveler to stay healthy.


Monday, May 13, 2013

Work vs Play - Photoline 32

I've been a photoshop user since the early 90s, and it's either come with a digital camera of mine or I've paid for it (ouch). Frankly, that time is gone. I've got CS4 on my mac. It barely works on Lion, and I doubt it will work at all on Mountain Lion. What all of these large corporations would like me to do is buy a fairly high performance mac, then rent photoshop for about $50 a month. Really? I have a better idea. I've been migrating away from cs4 for nearly a year, and really most of my photoshop work falls squarely into the 'play' department anyway, and thus, belongs on the linux box. Obviously, GIMP, being free, would be the obvious choice. Except that I /hate/ GIMP. Now I know that some folks love the thing, and I've seen truly dazzling digital art out of it, but for me, GIMP's UI is constantly annoying, and when I do get the software to do something, I find it's missing important features. Like adjustment layers.

Enter PhotoLine 32. Truth be told, back when OS X was new (10.1, to be exact), photoshop didn't run on it at all. Your only option for editing images without going into classic was to buy PL32. As CS4 became more and more flakey, I downloaded the current version of PL32, updated my license (yes, they honored my early-aughties license for an upgrade. Try that with Adobe some time.) and I've been slowly migrating to PL32 over the past year or so. The catch, of course, is that there's no Linux version.

On reading the fine print on the Photoline 32 site (, however, I noticed that they test photoline 32 with wine, the windows emulator for Linux, and make sure everything works properly. So I tried it on the linux box. Lo and behold, it works as advertised. Yeah I bought a new license, even though technically I didn't have to. For 59 Euros (about 77 bucks - 6% of the price of CS6, or about a month and a half of creative cloud last I looked), it was a bargain. Yes, when PL32 does a major revision, they'll charge me to move up - usually about 20 bucks. I'm still ahead.

Not much else newswise. I'm actively seeking an agent, dealing with family matters, and knocking out a third short story in the Brass and Steel universe. Hopefully I'll be getting back to work on Brass and Steel II, whatever it winds up being called, in the next couple weeks. Also, I know how the series ends. Our heroes will be fighting Armageddon. Stay tuned. :)


Saturday, May 4, 2013

Fixed the buy online links

Okay, yeah, I just noticed the other day, nearly 3 months after the fact, that my last big site overhaul broke something important. All the "buy online" links used to point, via an embarrassingly convoluted mechanism, to a page called "Buy". And then, in a fit of brilliance, I decided I didn't need that page anymore. Oops. So I've given the PHP some kicking around, and now the buy links point to Amazon once again. Also, I removed Brass and Steel, the short story, from the "In Print" page since it is no longer in print.

It's becoming abundantly obvious that I need to rethink the guts of how this website works. For 4 titles it takes entirely too much maintenance, and I'm getting tired of the theme.


Friday, May 3, 2013


The most frustrating thing about writing preqel stories to Brass and Steel: Inferno, is that all my favorite antique methods and mechanisms are still anachronisms. Today: carbon-zinc dry cells (invented 1886) and Bowden cables (invented 1896). Previously: bicycles as we know them today - aka Safety Bicycles, that is, a bicycle which has two wheels of about the same size and your feet can touch the ground while riding. (Invented: 1879, but the bike boom didn't happen until the 1890s).

The stories? They Also Serve (Tentatively named, set in 1887) and A Boy's Life (Set in 1883). The technology in The Color of Blood (Set in 1883) is pretty much fantastical anyway, so fewer problems with that. It's just interesting (if frustrating) how sharply the technosphere I'm used to cuts off in the late 19th century. -JRS

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Separating work from play (Also Ubuntu on a PC)

My mac has hit end of life. I can no longer upgrade the OS (thanks, Apple.) Given a lifespan of 6 years, not including upgrades, my mac has cost me about $300 a year, give or take, and I can't replace it for what I spent on it. With upgrades, that figure goes to about $500. The upgradeable mac no longer makes sense. I can buy a mini for $700 and if it lasts me two years, I come out ahead. The minis can do everything my Pro can do, right?

Almost. I play exactly one high powered graphics game. Until now I've been running it on my mac. No mac except the pro has the video oomph and upgradeability to keep up. PCs, by contrast, do it much, much more economically.

To that end, I've put together a junk box pc, literally made up of stuff purchased at very low price from other peoples' junk boxes and slapped together with a new HD and a new power supply. It's noisy, it runs pretty hot, and it smells. (New power supply insulation volatiles cooking out, I hope.) The junkbox PC's video card is a Geforce 9600, running in a pci-express 2.0 slot behind a 3ghz core2duo CPU, running Ubuntu 12.10 (no stupid names here). This, as compared to my mac pro 1,1 with a Radeon 5870, pci-express 1.1 slots, and a 2.6ghz quad-core xeon running OS X 10.7.5

Results: Despite its video card having about 1/4 the graphics horsepower of the one in my mac (according to the specs I've read), the junk box linux machine consistently outperformed the mac, both in terms of out and out framerate, and in graphical options turned on at the same framerate. This, despite the notoriously convoluted Linux graphics stack and the fact that I'm running the geforce drivers from Ubuntu instead of the latest and greatest from Nvidia. (Perhaps on a card as old as this, it doesn't matter so much.) I think, as Adam Savage once said, that's a result.

Will I leave the Apple fold? Not any time soon. Literally all of my paid-for software runs on my mac. My family uses macs, so it behoves me to have at least one of them around so I can see what they're seeing for support purposes. And there's a real question whether I can be comfortable with my computing world slung across two completely different machines with very little software overlap. Right now I'm having a bad case of "it's on the other machine," which is annoying. There is also the usual total lack of polish in Linux. Sorry Linux guys. When you're used to OS X, everything else feels crude and sloppy. Especially if it's based on Xwindows. Especially if it has no safe mode mechanism, and you have to twiddle config files in the USB and Xserver to get your mouse to behave sanely. (One little mistake and you'd better pray you have SSH server running and another machine.) Especially if it takes a separate app to add applications to the Unity launcher. (Unity is pretty, but awful.) Still. For a gaming machine, it might just be enough. We'll see.

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Why Ebooks Need Pages

An interesting retweet from Lightspeed Magazine wandered past my Twitter reader today: yet another pundit demanding that the old paradigm of books and pages be abandoned in favor of ebooks, and their ability to handle text. Specifically, this person wanted to see pages go away. Implicit in that argument is the assumption "Everybody reads like I do, and pageless reading works better for me." My hypothesis is that it ain't so, and pages are the best compromise for different readers.

Like that author, I read in streams. I don't pay much attention to what page I'm on with a given book. I locate myself within a body of text by ideas and phrase sound. I can't tell you what page a given idea is on, but it's right after this other idea and way before that one. By contrast, M, my wife, is very visuo-spatial in general. She does remember where a given thought is pagewise, and where it was on the page. It's on a left side page in the first third of the book, about halfway down the page.

Why is this? Well, an extremely cursory search of the intertubes doesn't turn up much direct research, but in psychology there is a phenomenon called chunking - the units in which we divide up things we need to remember. Why is your phone number broken up into area code, exchange, and number? Partly for historical reasons (the POTS was organized that way much more than the modern one) and partly because it's far, far easier to remember three chunks of three and four numbers than it is to remember ten digits all at once. (719)555-1212 is easier to parse into memory and hold there than 7195551212. I'm going to hypothesize, despite finding no literature to back it up, that the same is true for reading. I'm going to further hypothesize that there are several different styles of chunking going on: by page, by idea/event, and perhaps by sound.

In light of these hypotheses, pages have turned out to be an effective compromise. For those of us who chunk by sub/super-page units like ideas and sound, pages don't get in the way. They're a convenient method to put the words in close proximity. For those who chunk spatially, pages provide a vital division of the text, a third dimension of location (the thickness of the book), and a physical place where a given idea resides.

Ebooks are never going to have useful thickness – that's one of their selling points – but they can and should have pages. Ideally those pages should never reflow, either. This is impractical given the huge variety of screens, so if they can reflow /once/ when the ebook is loaded on a given device, that's probably the best compromise. But for heaven's sake, don't throw out the pages. They're a highly evolved compromise, present even in the era of scrolls (most of which seem to have been read horizontally rather than vertically.) For some people they're absolutely vital.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

mouse setup

Mouse: Rat7 adjustable gaming mouse. Driver: USB Overdrive. Lack of wrist pain: priceless. Rat7 is a great mouse, full stop. You can tailor it to suit /your/ hand, in my case, quite large. The mac drivers that ship with it are an abomination, however. Unstable, poorly documented, idiosynchratic. USB overdrive to the rescue, as usual. :) -JRS

Monday, April 8, 2013

A Curious Lightness of Spirit

I've been thinking about my (late) father a good deal lately. The Brass and Steel novel(s) and short stories are set in the late 19th century, a period about which my father, a former museum director, professional researcher, and historian had considerable expertise. Alas, I hadn't even thought of the series by the time he passed. Most of my regular readers (all three of you) are likely aware of all this.

My father was a nautical buff. He grew up along the Hudson River in New York. The story he told was that when he was in his late teens (I want to say 17), he'd tried to run away to see as an assistant to the engineer on a freighter. Alas, his family found out and was able to drag him back before the ship departed. (As with all his stories, one must take a certain amount of salt - the man had serious memory problems. He believed, in any case, and that's what's important here.)

Instead, when he was old enough, he went to college, he joined the Army and the National Guard, got married, raised children. In the process, life took him further and further inland. He read about the sea, talked about the sea, thought about the sea, all the way up to the last few years of his life. He never got there.

He will.

My father has begun the first leg of his final journey. In a few days he will arrive at the Naval base in Portsmouth, and from there he will board a Navy ship, and somewhere out in the open Atlantic, he'll finally, finally, become one with the sea. The parting of ways that began five years ago when he died reaches its end. He goes the way of the dead, and I, the way of the living.

Bon Voyage, Dad. The wind be at your back.

-JRS The Navy's (free) Bural at Sea program.
Medcure (Final arrangements for the cost of donating your remains to science)
Having a funeral/wake for a loved one for the cost of coffee and cookies: priceless.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

What I meant by 'Ice'

I did some confusing things when I wrote Looking Glass, back in 2004. (Egad.) One of them was I took Ice, as described by William Gibson et al as software, and redefined it to software + a dedicated, powerful, cheap CPU. Your deck, then, became the means by which this was displayed. Deck, tank, pocket computer, all these did the same thing - hosted the ice. That I failed to consider the TV as more than a peripheral to one of these is probably a sign of the times. It was 2004. Dedicated media computers were few and far between, and we still thought bluetooth was cool.

Anyway, I got the idea for this mechanism from Plan9 (From Bell Labs) which treats everything as a resource which can be accessed over IP - including processor resources, display resources, and so on. Having now tried Plan9, the UI shell is a turkey, but the idea still seems sound.

Fast forward nearly ten years (egad, again) to 2013, and we get this: Which is an android or linux stick that plugs in to either your tv or your computer. It lets you execute apps on it, and virtualizes the output for display on your desktop machine, or displays it on your tv, whichever is handiest.

That's pretty much what I had in mind. Now these are expensive (though there are much, much cheaper ones), but suddenly the future I imagined seems to be occurring. When software makers realize that a dedicated CPU with software in ROM and some virtualization will mean their software is functionally copy-proof, things will change and change fast. I predict that when Adobe gets tired of renting photoshop CS6 at exhorbitant prices, they'll start shipping the suite on a stick like this with a cpu and gpu designed for the job, and you can buy the stick, or you can do without.


Saturday, March 2, 2013

To see the future

It's been a while since I've had a clear vision of a future technology. Today, via failblog originally, I've seen one. Nobody seems to get what possible use Polytron's transparent smartphone would have. Consider this: Google Glasses are operating in the same space. Consider what the phone might be with holographic infrared and/or nanometer wave radar and/or sonography. Add GPS, internet access, image recognition and a bit more computing than today's smartphones to drive it all, and what you have is a device you hold up to any given thing and it will tell you what it knows about it /in an overlay/. Extra points if it has a stereoscopic camera so you can pick the depth it scans at with precision. Like a tricorder only better. Remember, you heard it here first. So anyone trying to patent this in five years? I have two words for you. Prior art. -JRS

Friday, February 1, 2013

Site Updates

Now with twitter. Yay? :) Seriously. If you're on my site you're looking at quite a large overhaul of the site, most of which doesn't show. The Buy page no longer exists, because it was ancient, badly out of date, and seriously messed up anyway. I added twitter to the aggregate feeds page on the front because I do talk shop there, HOWEVER, only tweets I originate will show. I know twitter is a conversation, and if you want to see the conversation, there's a link to my one and only twitter account, and you can get the full time line of me arguing with friends. :) Also, in the name of sustainability, I have cleaned up the CSS (hugely) and converted all the pages to HTML5, and verified them, so it /should/ work properly with most modern browsers. Even IE seems to have come around, last I heard. Does it break compatability with Mosaic? Well… yes, but I don't think Mosaic did xhtml anyway, and that's what I was using before. As usual, lots of changes under the hood, but only some polishing on the body work. -JRS

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Brass and Steel: Inferno - Done

It's done. It's done. It's done. Hallelujah, Brass and Steel: Inferno is done. Now to find it a home. -JRS

Monday, January 7, 2013


Just a little snippet of Brass and Steel: Inferno that I'm cutting out in this (hopefully) final polishing pass. It has several nice bits of research - gungee candy, for example - and I hated to see it go, but really most of this scene was repeated in another chapter, and it slowed the pacing down too much. So here it is, completely out of context. All I'm going to say is that the narrator is Dante Blackmore, the hero of Brass and Steel: Inferno, and he's a very powerful cyborg. She is Josephine Li, the heroine of this story. The year? 1895. It's steampunk. :)

The tiny woman sits bolt upright in bed with a stifled whimper, breathing hard. She blinks and fumbles for the covers. Pulls them tight to her chest.
“Bad dreams?”
She stares at me next, her breathing slowing. The eyes squeeze tight. “Marshal. Shit.” The lower lip quivers, tears fill her eyes again, and in a moment she’s sobbing. “Oh my God. ‘M sorry.” she says. “‘I’m so sorry. I shouldn’t have. I. Oh my God.”
Shrug a little bit at her, and get up from my chair, slow as you please. Stretch. My joints crackle. Metallic sound that makes my teeth ache. “Let’s not go through all that again.”
Her brow furrows, and she exhales slowly. Her nose quirks. “I’m drunk.” she says, a little more meekly than last time. She fumbles under the blankets, and her expression goes puzzled. “We didn’t?”
Shake my head at her. “You made an offer. I let it ride.”
She takes a deep breath and nods. “I don’t remember. God. I’m sorry, Marshal.” she says. She looks down. “How bad was I?”
“You were rubbin’ your teat in my ear, and generally carryin’ on to make a man sell his soul for you. We talked a bit after that. Then you went to sleep. Nothin’ too bad.”
She squeezes her eyes shut, and slowly sinks down to the bed, sobbing. “Oh God.” she says. “Oh God. I am a whore. Just like my sister. I’m sorry, Marshal. I’m so sorry.”
“You had a lot to drink. Don’t worry about it.”
“Did I say anythin’ that wasn’ bad?”
“You just asked me to tuck you in.”
“Did you?”
She doesn’t say anything. Just looks down. Closes her eyes, and breathes.
I try not to look at her bare shoulder, the sweep of her bare neck, the angle of her lower jaw, and the smooth skin underneath, and the broad chin that makes her look less Chinese than she might. Try not to look. Try not to picture the bare flesh in my arms, or the bloody furrow and spraying blood. Close my eyes a moment.
“I ain’t gonna be sick.” she says, finally. She takes a slow breath and says it again. “I am not gonna be sick. I can hold my liquor. I used t’drink a lot more’n I do now. I ain’t gonna be sick.”
She repeats it often enough that I nudge the chamber pot her direction. “You ain’t goin’ temperance, are you?” I think of McInnis. Maybe have a joke at his expense.
She looks at me, pupils nearly black in this light, glistening darkness that draws my eyes. “No, no. I got tired of bein’ sick, you know? Annabel likes gungee candy. Sometimes she gives me some. Mostly I drink. Used to drink. Try to move on now before things get so bad …” Her eyes glisten like a newborn fawn’s a moment before she closes them, sobs freely.

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