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Saturday 20 April 2002, 21:50 BST
Charlie Stross interviewed by Revolution SF. This interview makes him sound like a cross between Bruce Sterling, Greg Egan, Vernor Vinge and Ken MacLeod. Which is definitely a good thing.

[Via Charlie's Diary]
I'm astonished that the guy in the latest BBC promo segment is doing it all without the assistance of CGI or safety wires. It's a hell of a lot of trouble to go to to remind us that we're watching BBC1...

(I'm also very impressed that judging by this graphic he's apparently dropped in from some higher dimension.)

[BBC story via my 2p, Daily Telegraph graphic via Looka!]
Airline sued for losing passenger.

[Via MetaFilter]
Friday 19 April 2002, 23:55 BST
Patrick Nielsen Hayden points out that The Independent carried an excellent obituary for Damon Knight by John Clute.

[Via Electrolite]
Talking of Patrick Nielsen Hayden, he's one of two members of my "Weblogs Worth Watching" list to have been nominated for a Hugo this year. He's been nominated as Best Professional Editor for his Starlight series of original anthologies, while Charlie Stross has been nominated for Best Novelette for Lobsters, which I haven't seen but will certainly be looking for now. Congratulations are due to both, but especially to Charlie Stross, who's up for his first Hugo. I'm also delighted to see that Ken MacLeod is up for the Best Novel for Cosmonaut Keep, alongside Neil Gaiman (for American Gods). Throw in China Miéville's Best Novel nomination for Perdido Street Station and it turns out that half this year's Best Novel nominees are by British authors.

I haven't read the other Best Novel nominees, but I'd very much like to see Ken MacLeod come out on top. In the space of half a dozen novels he's established himself as the brightest prospect in British SF since Iain M Banks.

(As it happens, my copy of Toast by Charlie Stross, arrived today. Lobsters isn't included, but on the strength of the two stories in the collection which I've read elsewhere I can safely say I'm in for a good read.)
Thursday 18 April 2002, 23:00 BST
"Banzai was covering the Queen Mother's funeral in its own inimitable way. No harm or disrespect was intended."
Science fiction author Eric Flint has empirical evidence that distributing free copies of your work increases sales. There's no way to prove beyond doubt that the sales rises Flint cites were caused solely by free online distribution of his work, but it seems far and away the simplest explanation.

I'm not a fan of Flint's work, or of most of the output of his publisher - Lois Bujold being the major exception to that rule (roll on the release of Diplomatic Immunity) - but I have to applaud Baen's willingness to search for a business model that makes e-publishing work. Like Fictionwise, they're issuing work by professional authors in open, platform-independent formats: what's not to like? (Having said that, Fictionwise have recently announced that they'll be offering some titles in an encrypted format called Mobipocket. The reader is free and available for a range of platforms, but it remains to be seen whether a shift towards a closed format will occur over time. I hope not.)

[Via Boing Boing]
The case for humility. Timothy Garton Ash urges caution in the face of calls for an independent European foreign policy over the Palestinian-Israeli conflict.

[Via Charlie's Diary]
Ally McBeal has been cancelled. About three seasons too late, I'd say.

[Via MetaFilter]
The Italian Job is being remade. With a "more serious" script. With much of the action relocated to Los Angeles. Starring Mark Wahlberg. Need I go on...?
Microsoft will continue to support the Apple Macintosh, even though the formal "technology agreement" between the two companies expires later this year. This article presents the story as good news for Apple, but isn't Apple's continued reliance on the existence of Microsoft Office for the Mac a sign that Microsoft have Apple exactly where they want them?

If Office for the Mac were dropped, could Apple still reasonably claim in adverts that users can easily transfer their day-to-day work between PCs and Macs? HTML documents, sure. GIFs and JPEGs, no problem. Complex word processor documents and spreadsheets? Maybe not, or at least not without some other software firm getting into that whole "let's try to figure out the Microsoft file format" game.
Wednesday 17 April 2002, 23:30 BST
Crikey! Steve "Crocodile Hunter" Irwin, as his compatriots see him.

You can understand why his cartoonish demeanour might be distinctly off-putting to his fellow Australians, but from where I'm sitting I'm too busy wondering where he's going to get his next bite to pay much attention to such subtleties.

[Via web-goddess.co.uk]
Which member of The Endless are you? I'm Destiny, apparently.

(Can I just say how much I adore that cartoon of the baby Endless.)

[Via The Sideshow]
Memorable Quotes from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. I've linked to this before, but I was reminded of it when I read Blogatelle this evening and it cracked me up all over again.
Riley Finn: When I'm around you Buffy, I find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse.
Beware the Body Mouse. I'm glad I wasn't eating when I saw that!

[Via not.so.soft]
Tuesday 16 April 2002, 22:35 BST
How to be a 'web' 'designer.'
HTML is a great language for layout and graphic design (see your copy of HTML for Stupid People). The central concept in HTML is the image, represented by the <img ...> tag. To lay out your site, first sketch out the design on paper as you would with the design of an advertisement or a new airport or something.

Next, fire up Photoshop and create a new image. Obviously, you'll want to make it fill the monitor (why else buy a 21" model?). Draw out your web page as you want it to appear (you might even want to scan the sketch you made earlier, as this will allow you to play with your expensive scanner), but don't worry about any of the irritating techy bits at this stage. Common web browsers are good at understanding pictures. At this stage, you should ignore anyone who mentions things like 'average screen size 800 by 600 pixels', 'modem', 'limited bandwidth', or '256-colour display'. These people are just ignorant techies stuck in the 1970s.
[Via downstairs at vixgirl]
Ant Supercolony spans thousands of miles of European coastline. Amazing. The idea of a colony of ants that size sounds like something out of an Arthur C Clarke short story. Or possibly just a real-life version of Phase IV.

All I can say is, "I, for one, welcome our new insect overlords."

[Via Rebecca's Pocket]
Watch Out Behind You Hunter!

[Via [parallax view]]
Monday 15 April 2002, 22:30 BST
The Fame Audit: Alec Baldwin
Assets: Steely good looks!

Liabilities: Paved the way for a Baldwin brother invasion, from which Hollywood is only now starting to recover
Damon Knight, one of the foremost critics and editors in the science fiction field for well over half a century, as well as a pretty decent author in his own right, Rest In Peace.
Extreme Croquet. Not quite as strange as Extreme Ironing.

[Via MetaFilter]
Late for bus, boy, 8, forms a carpool. Life imitates The Simpsons.
Tina Nonoyama, 27, called the excursion scary and amazing at the same time. "It is pretty impressive that a second-grader would know how to do that and know where he was going," she said. "At least he was going to school."
[Via Inscrutable Exhortations]
Sunday 14 April 2002, 19:00 BST
Dan Bricklin has been riding a Segway and was impressed. I know the Segway isn't exactly hot news, but I like Bricklin's reasoned, analytical take on the products he occasionally tries out. (I must admit to envying his lifestyle: having made his money from VisiCalc, the first "killer app" for the personal computer, he seems to spend a lot of his time getting to talk to pioneers in high tech industries and play with new toys.)
Flak Magazine have been running a series of real-time reviews of 24. It's an interesting gimmick to ask a writer to produce reviews while watching the programme, but sometimes it results in the writer not having time to make all his points within the space of an hour and having to cram further thoughts into the following week's review.

Even so, Sean Weitner still found time to come up with some nice insights into the way the show uses split-screen and the way the writers construct min-arcs across episodes. His reviews can be found in the magazine's TV Archives - scroll down to the "Program Reviews" section, and mind that you resist the temptation to read past the current BBC episode. Reading the reviews of the first six episodes, I was particularly taken with Weitner's last comment in his review of episode 6: "That, by the way, is an example of a good cliffhanger." Amen to that.
Didn't you just know this would happen: American Airlines Sued for $50 Million in WTC Attack.

It seems that it's not enough for the widower that his wife had "substantial" life insurance cover. Now that it's been confirmed that the level of insurance payout means that he doesn't qualify for assistance from the Victims Compensation Fund, he feels the need to sue the airline. According to his lawyer, the fact that the fund's payments are (in effect) means-tested is a "fundamental flaw." Funny, I'd have said that paying money only to those who actually need it is a pretty sensible approach, hence the criticism of the way the American Red Cross handed out money willy-nilly to rich and poor alike a couple of months ago.

[Via MetaFilter]
Tim O'Reilly on inventing the future. As William Gibson famously put it: "The future is here. It's just not evenly distributed yet." Things like Google creating an API so that programmers can mine their database are exactly what O'Reilly is thinking of. Nice.

[Via Electrolite]
Galactic Gasbag. Steven Hart is unimpressed with claims that George Lucas was inspired by the work of Joseph Campbell:
If this is the level of analysis at work, then why should this myth-mongering stop with Lucas? The original "Rocky," released the year before "Star Wars," follows Campbell's mythic template much more closely than "Star Wars": just imagine Burgess Meredith as the wise old sage, Burt Young as the guardian of the threshold and Carl Weathers as Darth Vader. (Pop quiz: Where do the pet turtles fit in?) Campbell's approach can give any adventure story, from "Bulldog Drummond" to "The Perils of Pauline," a place in the pantheon. In fact, his acolytes are hard at work doing just that with such movies as "The Matrix" and "The Wizard of Oz." It adds up to little more than a party game for drunken grad students, or a smoke screen for filmmakers covering their tracks.
It's a pity that Lucas, who used to be so clear that he was making updates of the Saturday morning serials he'd enjoyed as a boy, has allowed so much pseudo-intellectual claptrap to be spouted about his creation. However, for me the most important element in Hart's demolition of the Star Wars mythos is his recognition of the debt Lucas owes to written science fiction. Not just to Edward Elmer "Doc" Smith, the man who pretty much created the "space opera," but to Leigh Brackett, who co-wrote the original script for The Empire Strikes Back.

[Via I Love Everything]

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