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On pronouns and UIs

Sunday 20 May 2012, 17:33

Here is an actual quotation that I did not make up, from Microsoft's recommendations on how software should communicate with users:

Use the second person (you, your) to tell users what to do.

Here's one of my own:

Don't tell users what to do.

Manitoba Writers' Guild opposes fair dealing

Thursday 17 November 2011, 16:42

I just got a message on the Manitoba Writers' Guild mailing list that disappointed me; it was forwarded from the Association of Manitoba Book Publishers, and opposed Bill C-11's expansions to fair dealing. Here's the original message (I think that's a publicly available posting, but if not, let me know and I'll post a mirror); my response is below. I don't know that anyone over there will read it - I'm not sure who reads the mailbox that is the "From:" on these mailing list messages - but maybe readers here would like to see it.

Chessudoku (much) cheaper

Monday 17 October 2011, 17:25

Without my permission, Lulu.com changed the downloadable version of my book Chessudoku from a "download" to an "eBook." It'd still be a PDF-format file; the only practical difference is that they'd pay me a lower royalty. So in other words, they just told me (except they didn't really tell me, I had to find out when I logged in just now) "Hello, we are going to pay you less than we promised, thanks!" I think that's a violation of the spirit of their contract with me, even if they might technically have been within the letter of fine-print terms reserving the right to change their pricing structure.

I've removed the "eBook" version from their system. I've also lowered the price on the hardcopy version a little bit, to US$12.50. I'm considering removing that from their system too and terminating all business dealings with Lulu, but at the moment I don't have a suitable replacement and it'd be a shame to take the hardcopy version out of print entirely.

I'm posting the PDF version here on Ansuz for free. It is Creative Commons licensed. If you like it, please share it.


Sunday 24 April 2011, 15:02

Here are a few notes on the current state of my life.

Again with the stamps

Friday 1 April 2011, 22:26

After all the nonsense I went through to get US stamps for my agent-query self-addressed stamped envelopes, it turns out that the US Postal Service is raising their prices effective April 17; the relevant price goes from 75 to 80 cents. I'd built in a safety margin by buying 78-cent stamps, but they jumped right past that. So any agents who currently have SASEs from me had just better use them soon, and I can't really send out any more (including the packages I just prepared and sealed tonight before discovering this, intending to drop them in the mail tomorrow morning) until I go through another round of silliness to get some 2-cent stamps. I hate playing this game, and I'm angry about the US Postal Service's online store refusing to sell to me in Canada, and over the fact that although they claim they announced this upcoming change in January, they didn't do that anywhere I could see it (for instance, on their Web site) so that this came as a surprise to me when it shouldn't have.

Like something out of a Thurber story

Friday 25 February 2011, 18:14

I will soon be ready to start sending out agent queries for my novel. My plan is to send the queries on paper to agents that allow that (some require it); and it is standard practice to send a self-addressed stamped envelope with the query, and inasmuch as agents are generally located in New York City, that means I have to source some US stamps.

Zazzle offers a service where you can upload an image and they'll create stamps - real, legally valid US postage stamps - with your image. They have some kind of deal with the US Postal Service to do this. So I figured I'd use that, and get the bonus benefit of being able to design an appropriate thematic image for my SASEs.

On bible-ophilia, and a call for better pagan book design

Friday 18 February 2011, 16:56

I hope to push the first release of Tsukurimashou out the door tomorrow, and as part of that, I was looking at the possibility of adding optical sizes to it. That won't happen in tomorrow's release, but it will happen eventually, and the train of thought led from there to a thing I once saw in an historical mail-order catalog: an entire multi-page selection of Christian Bibles, organized by different optional features, such as type size, paper and binding quality, and so on. It occurred to me to look on the Net for the current state of the art in such things, and that led me to this site, which is fascinating. It's an entire Web log about the design of Bibles.

Tsukurimashou typeface demo

Sunday 28 November 2010, 08:08

I added the Latin alphabet, so far only the uppercase letters, to Tsukurimashou, and this brings it to a point where I feel okay about releasing a demo PDF file, so y'all can download it and take a closer look at my handiwork.

Some things to remember:

  • The main purpose of this typeface family is as a pedagogical exercise. It's the process of creation that is more important than the finished product. Hence the name.
  • It's designed for the Japanese language. Typesetting modern Japanese requires having the glyphs for English too, but that doesn't mean the fonts are usable for general English-language typesetting. In particular, this is a monospace font with a choice of typesetting one character per perfectly square box, or two. That'll make it look unnaturally extended or compressed if you use it to typeset English text of more than a word or two at a time.
  • All five styles shown are generated from the same source code by tweaking a few parameters, and many other styles not shown in the demo can easily be generated with very little extra work.


Monday 22 November 2010, 20:46

Here's a little something I've been working on:

[Tsukurimashou typeface demo image]

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.

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.

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.

For great justice

Saturday 18 September 2010, 11:37

I'm not planning to post further continuous updates on my move to the new computer, but at least one correspondent commented that she hadn't seen any further updates in a while and hoped the new machine was working, so I thought I'd better wrap up some loose ends.

The new machine works. It will be a long time before I'm fully "settled in" on it, and a lot of software that used to work, doesn't work now because of the change. I will be fixing things as they come up, one at a time. But I've moved over my home directory, email is flowing in both directions, and a snapshot of the old machine at the time of the crash is now archived to DVDs, independent of my other backup measures. I'm basically back in business. A few loose ends and other comments, below.

A note on similarity search

Monday 19 July 2010, 19:26

Hi! I'm a scientific researcher. I have a PhD in computer science. My doctoral dissertation is mostly about the mathematical background of "similarity search." That means looking at things to find other things they are similar to. I've travelled the world to present my work on similarity search at scientific conferences - and some very smart people with very limited funds chose to use those funds to pay for me to do that.

Argument from authority has its limitations, but I would like to make very clear: I am an expert in the specific area of how computers can answer questions of the form "Which thing does this thing most resemble?" Gee, why would I mention this right now?

Judging covers by the book

Friday 9 July 2010, 09:32

Here are the covers of two different editions of the book Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon. One of them is horribly offensive - "like the ugly, stupid, festering toad that you just can't squash no matter how many times you hit it with a shovel" - and the Web logger on whose site I found the pictures and quote thinks it's obvious which one that is.

Writing update

Tuesday 22 June 2010, 19:43

Ever since 2002, when I wrote The Fickle Finger of Fate as a NaNoWriMo project, I've had it in mind to write another book set in that universe but done properly, at publication quality. The NaNoWriMo word-count constraint is interesting as a personal growth exercise, but not really conducive to the output being a good book, and its effects show in the output. Over the years since Fickle Finger I was gradually collecting material for the next book, and as of when I finished my PhD in mid-2008, my plan was that I would work at the University of Toronto for the calendar year 2009 (details are private and beyond the scope, but I was in a position to make them an offer I didn't think they could refuse), and I'd move to Toronto four months early and spend September to December 2008 writing the book at about a third of NaNoWriMo pace.

Status update

Monday 10 May 2010, 17:11

I'm withdrawing from Facebook, and I'm probably not going to renew my paid account on Dreamwidth. This leaves Twitter as the only social-network type of site I expect to use regularly, though I'll continue lurking on several others. If you want to keep up with my doings you really should read my own Web site; of course, if you see this note that means you're already doing so. On my side, I'm going to make a little more effort to actually put updates here so there'll be something interesting to read. Some of that effort below the cut.

How much does a sheet of paper weigh?

Monday 29 March 2010, 15:25

A standard sheet of laser-printer paper of the usual thickness, either US "letter" size or international "A4" size, weighs 4.5 grams. That means 100 sheets weighs almost exactly one pound.

Letter names

Wednesday 31 March 2010, 15:20

(First posted in January 2003) From time to time I want spellings for the names of the letters in the Latin alphabet. Some, like "aitch" are fairly well known; others aren't. These are not standardized, and if you look around the Web you can find multiple choices for some of them. Often, the spellings people list aren't really suitable because, for instance, they may consist of just using the letter itself (no good if the point is to disambiguate between letters that look similar). Here's a list I've compiled from several sources that meets my needs and might be helpful to you, too.