Will McCarthy and the Screaming Avocados

Tuesday 9 November 2004, 17:11

[Belated Halloween story because of animation festival and urethral surgery. You've heard this plot before, of course, but it's a new telling, anyway.]

The rain was coming down in big sticky globs and the tour bus's back wheels spun for a fraction of a second, sending up a big fan-tail of muddy water, before they caught and the bus lurched out of its illegal parking space behind the shopping mall, onto what passed for a main highway in the little backwater town of Wheaton, Manitoba. It was a bus full of desires and Screaming Avocados.

All you're "based off" are belong 2 us

Saturday 30 October 2010, 21:40

I saw a Web BBS posting recently in which the poster, who was a foreigner learning English as a second language, asked "Which is correct - 'based off' or 'based off of'?" The person asking the question can probably be forgiven because they don't know any better, and at least were smart enough to ask, but if you know me you'll probably be able to guess that the general agreement among the answers, that "based off of" is incorrect and you should say "based off" instead, caused me to consider the merits of a tri-provincial killing spree.

I will not apologize for being a prescriptivist. There are some usages that would be wrong even if all the other native speakers of English used them; and "based off" (with or without an "of") is such a usage. I'm willing to accept "different than" as an issue of formalism, and acceptable in speech or informal writing even though I do not use it myself; I'm willing to (very grudgingly) grant that persons from the United States of America may be allowed to say "anyways" as a regional dialect thing, even though it makes them sound illiterate; but "based off" is just completely unacceptable.

Nonetheless, from a scientific perspective and from the point of view of "know the enemy," it may be interesting to look seriously at the questions of who does say "based off," and when they started.

Fun with text analysis

Tuesday 26 October 2010, 22:33

I wrote before about the writing style analysis toy; at that time I said the "blogosphere" wasn't ready for such technology, and I still believe that, but I recently did something sort of related that might interest you, and the stakes are a little lower, so I'm going to share it here.

The thing is, in my novel draft, there are 45 chapters, and some of them are deliberately written in different styles from others. I thought it'd be interesting to see if I could detect that statistically. I apologize for not posting the actual text here - you'll have to wait until the book is published - but I'll at least give you the raw numbers to play with and walk you through the analysis.

Tripartite division of fiction

Tuesday 26 October 2010, 09:19

I was reading the Wikipedia article on "genre fiction" recently (and it's pretty bad, so I won't link or recommend it), when it occurred to me that maybe we see the same division in fiction that we see in music.

Disabling Ctrl-Shift-Underscore font resize in Konsole

Saturday 23 October 2010, 10:16

Why is it that all my KDE-related postings seem to be about disabling annoying user interface misfeatures?

Today's has to do with the Ctrl-Shift-Underscore (Ctrl-Shift-_) key combination. This is used for "undo" in EMACS-derived text editors, including JOE. In recent KDE versions, Konsole has started trapping this key combination for "reduce font size." So you're merrily editing away, you try to use the undo command, and suddenly your font has become smaller. To make matters worse, it is a known bug that the key combination Ctrl-Shift-+, which is supposed to be "enlarge font size," doesn't work. So not only can you not undo editing changes anymore, but you can't undo the font size change either. Solution below.

Four Web logs about publishing

Thursday 21 October 2010, 12:12

It's very easy to get into believing in "Be the change you want to see in the world." I'd really like to think that that works; I've even preached that world view to others, and today I'm a little bit ashamed of having done so. Make approaches and you will be approached. Link to others' Web logs, and others will link to yours - not the individuals you linked to, in incestuous tit-for-tat, but more generally as part of a positive-sum reputation economy where the law of attraction brings reputation from third parties to those who give it freely. As I've written before, it doesn't work. Thirteen years of my HTTP logs bear out that it doesn't matter how much you give with a Web site, it'll never mean you're allowed to expect anything. Nonetheless, I'm going to post some links here for my favourite Web logs related to books and publishing.

On the agent selection process

Sunday 17 October 2010, 22:47

It will be a while yet before I start querying agents with Shining Path - first I want to see what the test readers think and do some editing accordingly - but in the interests of being ready when I am ready, I got a copy of the Jeff Herman 2010 guide and went through the entire list of agents (a few hundred of them) making a short-list of ones to consider querying. That was 20 agents. Examination of their Web sites (which I haven't finished doing yet) has allowed me to cut three or four, as well as give me some idea of my order of preference among those remaining.

On problems and talking about them

Friday 15 October 2010, 18:05

I don't ever want to care so strongly about my problems that I would - even for a moment - hesitate to accept a solution to them for fear of losing that investment.

I also don't ever want my friends to think "Matt is unhappy!" is the problem, and use that as a comfortable excuse for ignoring the reasons I'm unhappy, and my feelings as an easy target for non-solutions that explicitly ignore or even deny the real issues. That's a pretty good reason never to talk about being unhappy at all.

In which a milestone is reached

Saturday 9 October 2010, 21:46

I have just completed the main writing stage for my novel Shining Path. By that I mean that no more "write more material here" markers remain in my manuscript. All the material that I think needs to be included is now written, in at least draft form. Much of it has in fact been edited to near-final form. I do not really have a complete first draft yet, because I still have to put the chapters in order and fill in a lot of names and dates. But this is, nonetheless, a major milestone and cause for celebration. The next step will be to print it all out for the first time, and figure out the order of chapters.

The manuscript as it currently stands is 411 pages in standard manuscript form, corresponding to 102,750 words the way publishers normally count. The actual word count (measured by really counting words instead of pages, with each numeral counting as one word and hyphenated compounds counting as the number of hyphens) is 95,702. When complete this will be the third novel I've completed, but it's the first one I consider professional quality. I've been working on it since 2003, though only intensely for the last couple of years.

Astrology of Eris

Saturday 9 October 2010, 17:01

A reader sent me this link on "The Astrological Eris" and I thought it was quite interesting both from an astrological and mythological point of view - and it's serious, with not a fnord to be seen. I haven't done much thought or research on the astrological implications of 136199 Eris except to propose the Golden Apple as symbol; as this commentator points out, it has a very long orbit and so will appear in pretty much the same location in the charts of anyone alive today. This is a sign of the times rather than (for most of us) a personal influence. Signs of the times are important too, though, and his thoughts on envy, the connection with Chiron, and allergies, all seem interesting to me. Also, one of the religious groups I'm involved with is planning an event in honour of, among others, Ares the brother of Eris; so it is well to do the homework.

From the article:

One thing, however, that cheers me about Eris is that its difficult associations will force astrologers to take a more cautious view of the new planet's benefits. It's traditional for newly-discovered heavenly bodies to be hailed by the woolier end of the astrological community as symbols of spiritual enlightenment, universal harmony, and other New Age bromides. Even Chiron, who has one of the saddest and most pessimistically pragmatic stories in myth, full of irreversible loss and chronic pain, was seen in some quarters as the astrological poster-boy for 'healing' in the tofu-and-shamanic-drumming sense.

Tell 'em, brother!