Archive for September, 2008

Links of Interest (August 25th 2008 Through September 28th 2008)

Sunday, September 28th, 2008
jQuery and Microsoft
When Microsoft started adding some of the often requested features to their ASP.NET AJAX Client API they realized that jQuery (my personal favorite javascript library) already did what they wanted. Rather than reinvent the wheel Microsoft will be shipping the standard, as-is jQuery with full intellisense support in Visual Studio.

The Creative Process
“For me, ideas stream through my head at a frantic pace. I feel like a bear trying to grab a salmon. If my paw misses its target, that salmon is gone for good. I don’t dwell on it. I just lunge for the next salmon.” Scott Adams (Dilbert) discusses ideas, and how he sometimes forgets he’s already used them.

Tip: Using a background image on an image
Using CSS to create layered images (with a fun animated example). Simple but effective.

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Fresh Out – PDF Version
Free fun little mini-comic from Natalie Metzger. You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll really want some cookies! Ready for printing.

Sizzle: John Resig has a new selector engine
Ajaxian brings word that John Resig is working an a new Javascript selector engine, which is expected to replace the one in jQuery. So far it’s less than 4k (but it doesn’t support IE yet). “4x faster in Firefox 3, 3x faster in Opera 9, 1.5x faster in Safari 3 than the other major JavaScript libraries.”

End of the Amazon Rush?

Friday, September 26th, 2008
The Amazon rush is dead. I don’t think we’ll see authors getting the same kind of lift from it going forward.

Chris Miller1 shared his thoughts on the Amazon Rush2 , and how they’re getting to be old hat.

I’m glad this discussion is happening, because it’s been on my mind, but I haven’t really taken the time to form any coherent thoughts. Other people have, so be sure to go and read the comments, even if you don’t care to read what I have to say.

I think folks who listen to podiobooks may be approaching a saturation point for this type of thing. Amongst the subset of those folks who are on twitter and follow their favorite podcast authors it’s even more likely. If that’s as far as the message is getting, then I think authors have to beware of fan burnout.

As a consumer who primarily listens to audiobooks, the product that I want has already been delivered to me for free. Now I’m exceptionally appreciative of that fact, which has led me to buy many of these book (which I have no intention of reading in print form) to support the authors. In the perfect world I’d be able to buy the audiobook versions, but so far that’s only been possible for Scott Sigler’s Infected3 .

But really I bought the books for selfish reasons. I want to see these authors succeed because I want them to keep producing content4 . I want to know what happens to Perry Dawsey and Keepsie Branson next. So while I can support these authors by spreading the word, writing reviews, or even just giving them money, I want to support their careers as writers, so they’ll keep writing. While I’m sure the love and adoration of their readers keep some of these folks going, I’m not sure it’s sustainable in the long term.

I have more to say about this, but I never intended to go on this long, so I’m going to let my thoughts roll around a bit more.

  1. Didn’t I just say he was everywhere? And note that his post was spawned by a comment from Kris Johnson. I’ve seen this before. These two may be working together in some capacity []
  2. “Amazon Rush” refers to a concerted effort by an author with an established fan-base to get into the Amazon charts by mobilizing said fan-base into purchasing their latest book all on the same day. []
  3. which is finally available from audible.com, although I was impatient and bought the CD version and converted it. []
  4. And being brutally honest there’s an even more selfish (and perhaps self-delusional) reason: If they can make it, maybe I can too. []

T Is for…

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

Last night, after the little ones were in bed my wife pointed to a pile of papers near the mail containing my oldest daughter’s school work (she’s in first grade). For one of the assignments she had to color a picture of something beginning with the letter T.

Kiddo1's Letter T Assignment

Yup, my kid drew a TARDIS. I’m so proud!

Unspecified Error: Learn by Doing

Wednesday, September 17th, 2008

The ever prolific Chris Miller 1 started a new site dedicated to learning by doing. That initial post resonated with me. I’ve felt that rush he’s talking about, and I’m thankful to Chris for allowing me to contribute.

My first contribution covers one of the many ways I use Python to bend iTunes to my will. Check it out2 .

  1. Seriously, Chris is everywhere. He’s just stealthy about it. If he were ninja we’d all be dead by now. I could easily see him becoming some kind of evil genius. []
  2. My posts should also show up in my LifeStream if you’re into that kinda thing. []

Re-Learning How to Think (About Writing)

Tuesday, September 2nd, 2008

Yikes! It’s September and I never posted my “Writing Update” for July. I’ve been busy, and one of the things I’ve been busy doing is taking Holly Lisle‘s new online course: How to Think Sideways. I’m really enjoying the course, and I’m amazed at how well some of the techniques are working for me.

The first section of the course is all about ideas. If you write anything like me, sometimes you get ideas that seem to almost write themselves. In my case a lot of these had themes of objects that seemed to pop up in multiple otherwise unrelated stories. One of the first things I got out of this course was a much fuller understanding of what this means, how to map out the things that set off my imagination, and how to use this understanding to tap into story ideas in a more “on demand” fashion. It’s like finally having the address for that P.O. Box in Schenectady.

One of my biggest problem with ideas is that I do get a lot of them1 . More that I possibly have time to write2 . Sometimes I get pretty far into turning the idea into a story before I realize that it’s not as great as I thought, or it’s just not for me. One of the biggest things I’ve taken away from the course is how to figure these things out quickly, and well in advance. This lesson came with four versions of the proposal for her novel Talyn, three as examples of what not to do, and the version that sold to Tor (that’s about 150 pages of examples for one lesson).

The second section (which I’m getting into now) is about planning. What to plan. What not to plan. How to avoid over-planning. How to plan and still allow things to grow organically. This is something I’ve struggled with over numerous short stories and three novels, and I welcome any help in making sense of my experiences.

Invitation Only Limited Time Offer!

The first run of this course (300 seats) sold out fast. Holly has opened up sign ups between now and September 8th, at 9am EDT on an invitation only basis. If it’s sounds at all interesting, consider yourself invited.

  1. That is too a problem! Trust me. []
  2. Although if someone wants to fund my early retirement I’d be willing to give it a go! []