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VIPublishing January 31, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in VIPub, writing.
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Vertically Integrated Publishing (VIPub) is a term I concocted to describe what authors need to do to survive the rigors of e-publishing. We need to create the work, edit it, find ways of publishing it and then even more ways of advertising and selling it. That we would have control of the entire process is both a benefit and a huge weight crushing us down. Most of us would prefer to sit in a room lit only by the glow from out monitors and…write. Nothing else.

The world has changed. Publishing has changed. The recent furor over Amazon delisting Macmillan (for our purposes read: Tor Books) from their sales lists. As to why this happened is something we probably haven’t learned yet. Obvious reason is a spat between Macmillan and Amazon over pricing. Macmillan wants to pursue the impossible dream of charging the same for an ebook that they do for a hardcover. Or so close it doesn’t matter. Amazon wants to cap ebook prices at $9.99.

That’s the story so far. But there are rumblings it may go deeper. Amazon is punishing Macmillan for courting Apple to get into its iBook store and to sell for the iPad. Amazon obviously wants to quash competition for its Kindle reader. Good luck. A new revolution as profound as the Industrial Revolution is taking place all around us. The Digital Revolution makes everything available and one or two bottlenecks aren’t going to regulate the flow.

Macmillan ought to charge whatever it likes. If Amazon doesn’t agree, it shouldn’t have to. Amazon and Walmart got into a pissing match over who could peddle bestsellers the cheapest. The winner? The reader. But Amazon isn’t going to drive competition out of business, not when it is now selling 6 ebooks for very 10 print. Rumor has it Christmas sales of ebooks were greater than for print. It takes a lot of open a bookstore, have inventory and go through the idiot business model publishing has followed since the Depression.

Setting up an ebook store? Not so much. Mostly what is needed is to draw eyes to the store–from anywhere in the world. Foot traffic isn’t necessary. Cost of maintaining inventory isn’t there. What is? Content, content and content. The online store with the best content wins.

Check out Legends with content for the iPhone and iPod Touch. Right now we’re working on getting all our books into EPub format to broaden the number of readers you can use. Won’t be long.

VIPub. Live it, love it, enjoy it.

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All the Colors of A … January 30, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in dinosaurs, science.
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dinosaur.

This is amazing stuff. By looking at the melanosomes scientists have figured out this particular dino had a ring tail with alternating dark and reddish-orange bands. A ginger boy dinosaur? Wonder if it could quaff a pint of Guinness and sing bawdy ballads while doing a river dance? Or, considering the location of this dino, whatever it is they dance in the Gobi? The idea that speculation is possible without having found the actual colored tail fascinates me.

How much of this is guesswork and how much is actual? How do you ever do an experiment to know? Biology stuff is mostly a mystery to me when it comes to DNA and figuring out what’s what is less visible than dark matter. Considering that it has hardly been 60 years since Watson & Crick, progress has been astounding. Some of that has to be attributed to computers, of course, but the migration of talent from the physical sciences is probably a bigger factor.

I also saw but can’t find now an article that feathers developed before flight, probably as a mating gimmick rather than for insulation or flapping about.

What a pillow that would make. A dinosaur feather pillow. And it would have to have stripes in dark and reddish-orange, of course.

Better to try and die… January 29, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in inventions, movies & TV, space.
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…than never to try at all. It was on this day in 1986 when the Challenger exploded 73 seconds after launch.

And it was a couple days ago when the manned space program, specifically the return to the Moon, was killed. There are good reasons for returning to the Moon and establishing a base there. Earth’s gravity well is hard to climb out of and the Moon (especially a Moon base where the women all had purple hair and tight silver lame outfits ) would have given a small gravity to work in along with a permanent structure possibly furnishing supplies for the trip to Mars.

So much for that dream.

From all this, I am hoping for reality to come to some of those 1950s stories where a high school kid builds an ftl engine in his attic. Or somebody–obviously this is too serious and complicated for the gummint to deal with–figures out a cheap way to orbit and then to the planets. I don’t care if there aren’t showers of diamonds on Uranus or carbon seas on Neptune floating with diamond icebergs or even hydrocarbon seas on Titan. I certainly don’t care if Mars looks like your driveway back home. I just want to see it. Firsthand. Or somebody gets to see it soon.

Maybe the dream is alive in China or India. In a post-American world, it might be up to the new leaders to return to space. At least we were there for the first steps. Now is it time for us to use our walkers (made in China), go off to the old folks home and die, warmed by fading memories of decades old glory?

Me, I’m still waiting for that first launch at Spaceport America next year. Go, Virgin Galactic, go! Sign me up for Mars. A decent engine will get us there faster.

Science All Around January 28, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in science, space.
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This is the next to last day of Nuclear Science Week and I bet you didn’t even know. Shame on you. Take an isotope to lunch (just not my cat Isotope–or the local minor league farm team for the Dodgers–both the team and my cat eat like there’s no tomorrow).

Yesterday Pat Rogers called and told me about a NASA exhibit down at the Natural History Museum. Long way across town for me but she said I could get my picture taken in any of 9 backdrops, making it look as if I were spacesuited up and on Mars or the Moon or the ISS or deep space or…other out of the world places. I was in the middle of editing on Golden Reflections but decided this was a do-it-now event, so I went. Alas, the picture came out awful. I had wanted one with a nebula behind me since the Mars shot had some goofy air foil thingie disgracing it (the Spirit was turned off the day before to rove no more). However, the camera was set for a kid about 3 ft tall. I had to stand back too far and perspective made it look like I had a pointy head. And a pin-sized head, as well. Truth in photography, I know but…)

I’d seen a Moon rock at the Air & Space Museum but had never gotten a chance to touch one. Did. And they had it under a clear plastic shield and embedded so cleverly that there was no way to pry it loose. Damn. (Thinking about it, I saw a Moon rock even earlier at UNM’s Meteoritics Institute display when Klaus Keil put his on display back in ’74 or so–so this is actually sighting #3 but touch #1)

Lots of stuff about the Ares rocket and how stupid NASA is letting the manned program lapse for 5 years. And I keep hearing rumors but nothing definite that Obama decided to do a Nixon and cancel all manned programs getting us back to the Moon (been there, done that) and to Mars (what! Treason!) I asked the NASA guy about plans to de-orbit the ISS and he danced around giving a real answer. If we’re not able to supply it and the Russkies find themselves in hard times, give the keys to the Chinese, Indians and Japanese, I say. Or even the Nigerians (I got a 419 letter years ago begging for money because a Nigerian astronaut had been sent to orbit and revolution in his country stranded him–he’d been in orbit 14 yrs and they wanted money to bring him back. The most unusual Nigerian letter I ever got)

Now go forth and be radioactive for Nuclear Science Week.

When In Rome… January 27, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in movies.
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…don’t get drunk and stand in fountains. But if you followed this advice, the plot of the movie When In Rome would fall apart. I generally don’t like rom-coms. One of the few I ever have liked and I have no idea why, is Sleepless in Seattle and that is weird because the two main characters have almost no screen time together.

Not so in When in Rome. Kristen Bell is marvelous to look at and Josh Duhamel has a kind of goofy likability that makes their scenes together fun. This isn’t the best movie ever but it certainly qualifies (for me) as a guilty pleasure. The supporting cast is quite good. Anjelica Huston, Danny DiVito (how he can be so obnoxious and likable at the same time is the secret to his screen presence. Throw Mama From the Train has one of the best scenes ever when he is showing Billy Crystal his coin collection. I almost cried. And Other People’s Money works on so many levels that it is a minor classic), Jon Heder as the nutso magician (and “Pedro” as his assistant–from Napoleon Dynamite) and the others all add to the goofiness.

The plot is transparent but it’s a rom-com, fer pete’s sake. They actually put some thought into the gimmick and made it work, which was nice.

Costuming gets an A and Kristen Bell gets an A+ for making it all look so elegant.

Harmless fun. And yeah, I’d probably watch it again when it comes on cable. As I said, a guilty pleasure.

It’s A Bird, It’s A Plane, No, It’s… January 27, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in inventions, sense of wonder.
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Ekranoplan Thanks to Moshe Feder for bringing this to my attention.  It looks like a nightmare of a seaplane, sort of the Spruce Goose designed on a Russian Five-Year Plan.  The amphibian car I mentioned earlier (go look–it’s only a couple blogs down) is obviously meant for a consumer market.  This one is meant for…invasion?

Jim Young also mentioned a ground effects machine used in an Orbitz commercial.  GEM are old hat and I can’t imagine riding around atop a leaf blower.  I certainly couldn’t imagine the noise this puppy would kick out, but then turbine engines were seriously discussed twenty years ago.  Want to toast your toes?  And knees and everything below the waist?  Walk behind a turbine-powered car exhaust.  The metallurgy for such a turbine was dicey at best and probably needed to be ceramic, which causes different problems.  But people were thinking–and still are, I suspect.  Flex car engines are a step in the right direction, but if Ford in Brazil can make and sell them, why not here?  (We all know the answer to that, of course.)

Other items.  God of War has been approved.  Yea!  Talks in progress about other projects.  Yea!

And hip hip hooray!  The iPad is being introduced as I write this.  Very interested in this.  Anyone out there interested in subscribing to an iPad magazine?  Is this where you’d want to read a newspaper?  I’m still waiting to see what the MS Courier is like but this is exciting stuff to me.

Another movie tonight and back to editing on Golden Reflections now.

Edge of Darkness January 26, 2010

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Saw this tonight in a not-all-that-well attended sneak preview.  Got to admit Mel Gibson may be crazy as a loon but he can still put together a taut performance.  Scene by scene this was gripping and satisfying, especially since the bad guys got theirs.  Mostly Mel looks like an action hero rather than some androgynous blob trying to look tough.  I mean, come on, Orlando Bloom is probably a better actor but Keira Knightly was obviously the macho lead in the Pirates movies.

That said, the plot is basically the type I hate to hell and back.  Conspiracy is piled on top of conspiracy (I think) until there is no telling what’s being done by whom or even why.  The best I can tell DARPA is a terrorist organization building A-bombs in the US for distribution to unnamed terrorists abroad.  Only the company doing this is a private company (and there was a fantasy element–the bad guy is a Republican senator from Massachusetts).  Ray Winstone plays his usual smarmy bad guy but too many threads get knotted up here.  They try to kill Mel by thallium poisoning, which is somehow radioactive, so he’s dying and they still decide to taser him and take him to a lab to be experimented on, only they try to shoot him and run him over and frame him for murder along the way.  And this isn’t even mentioning the shadowy Brit assassin who is dying of something but we don’t know what who was supposed to kill him and didn’t or his partner who sells him out, but it doesn’t matter anyway since…you get the idea.

I can say this is as consistent logically as Signs.  That’s an insult, btw.

Nice action scenes, Mel shoots his way through the film in good form, only there’s no telling what it all means.

Don’t cringe.  Tomorrow is When in Rome.  But it’s got Kristen Bell in it so I might take earplugs and just watch…

Not Exactly a flying car but… January 26, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in inventions, sense of wonder.
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…it’s getting close. I always thought the underwater car sequence in, ulp brain fart–the one with Caroline Munro– The Spy Who Loved Me was pretty lame. But this amphibian car looks pretty sprightly, even if it doesn’t submerge and fire torpedoes and all that James Bondy stuff. But one variety apparently does come with a bikini’d blonde on the hood

I can’t help but think such omni-vehicles are curiosities rather than useful devices, unless you lived on an island where ferry service was spotty. Even then, would you want to take out the Gator is a choppy sea? I don’t think so. Capsize this and you give new meaning to the ancient term “turning turtle.” There might be more utility in an air/land car but with drunk drivers and simply bad drivers out there sexting behind the wheel, do we really want them in the air, too?

Now a car that could drive through walls–that would be special. Set the force field in such a way and it could end collisions entirely. You’d simply go through the offending car. No more need for a trafficator, such as Dilbert used in the lamentably short animated series TV run. Gridlock? Turn on the field and drive through. If everyone had such a device, there wouldn’t be traffic jams at all. Of course, the problem might come in field failure while you and another mass occupied the same space, but hey, there are problems and there are problems to be solved. What’s a total conversion of the mass of a car (and driver) into energy compared to convenience?

The wonderful world of editing awaits.

Glub glub and full speed ahead, skipper!

Internet Immortality January 25, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in web & computers, writing.
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Kristine Kathryn Rusch passed this along about the website outlasting the owner. The article brings out some interesting points about digital legacy and how some online services act as safety deposit boxes with passwords and the like for the benefit of estate executors (or representatives, depending on what state you call home–in NM it’s representative) but the part that gets me thinking is the virtual immortality the Web offers.

Don Ivan Punchatz was one of the premier graphics artists who unfortunately died a few months ago. I still get nudges on Facebook about “reconnecting with him.” His FB page is up and continues, probably because his son never thought about it with the press of other things dealing with Don’s death. How long will the FB page be around? I have never heard of one being purged for non-activity.

Is it the same on MySpace? As long as those social networks exist, they’ll pump out “we recommend … as your friend” missives. Even if … is long deceased.

How about a social network for ghosts or kami spirits or other animistic beings? I suppose you could make a case for everyone on FB being nothing more than a ghost in the machine since we’re not really *there* there. Or what if somebody hijacks your avatar in Second Life? Who would know? Especially if you’re dead. After all, Everquest and WoW have people working characters up the ranks only to sell them so others with more money and less time can pick up at the exciting levels.

Internet presence might be omnipresent but what about the born loser who has no footprint at all in virtual space? Or the hermit who wants none?

Then there are the publicity seeking clowns like me who strive ever harder to expand notice of my work and me.

Noteworthy achievement of the day: the spring is resprung on my garage door. It broke Saturday and my car has been held prisoner for about 48 hrs since I couldn’t lift the 200+ lb door without the techno-boost of that powerful spring. The guy fixing it took about an hr and then I was freeeeee! Or at least inexpensive.

Watch the sky! January 24, 2010

Posted by bobv451 in sense of wonder, space.
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One thing I miss in the city is going outside and simply staring at the stars. Light pollution kills all but the brightest stars, which I suppose, is a good way to get back into identifying what’s up there. But I remember when I was a kid and simply staring up and wondering what was out there. This is a chicken or the egg problem–did I read sf because I stared at the funny lights in the sky or did I do that because I read sf? Both, perhaps.

There was a thrill when I first spotted Echo. This was a communications balloon put into orbit. You of a younger generation think I goofed on that–nope, it was a mylar balloon intended to bounce radio signals. When Echo began to deflate and tumble, it would flash on and off like a weird orbiting beacon. The first comet I saw was the Arend-Roland and, other than Hale-Bopp, is probably the best I’ve seen. I didn’t even have a small telescope and it wasn’t needed.

Spotting comets is something of an amateur’s job since the big scopes are used for deep space work. A lot of photos have to be matched and tiny discrepancies noted. This is a job best left to people who have a love of staring outward and wondering if that tiny speck moved just a teeny bit the past couple days. I wonder if the joy of comet hunting might be dashed by hunting for potential planet killer asteroids.

After all, a rock aimed at the earth and a comet swinging around the Sun would look the same far enough out. And cometary collision with the earth could be just as devastating. See Lucifer’s Hammer for a nice description of that.

The excitement and even awe that pictures from the Hubble are greeted tell me we still want to look at the stars. It’s just done secondhand now. And that’s a loss, personal and for society as a whole.