Winter Visitors

We haven’t had much snow this year (so far) but we have had the annual reemergence of the turkey flock aka small velociraptors:

There are a few turkeys how come around all year long, but when it begins to get cold the whole herd emerges from the depths of the woods. There seem to be about 18 of them this year.
The picture is from our dining room window down to our back patio. The feeder usually serves the squirrels and the blue jays. We gave up on the various clever ways of trying to keep the bird food away from the squirrels. They seem to be more clever than human technology at the present time. However, the turkeys quickly show the squirrels just who is the apex animal in the back yard.

Iron Sunrise

Iron Sunrise by Charles Stross is the sequel to Singularity Sky and so is the second book set in the Eschaton universe. It is also most likely the last as Stross decided he had written himself into a corner and besides had some new more interesting ideas. This is a bit of a shame as I quite enjoyed both the characters and the universe of these two books. On the other hand, I’m always in favor of cool, fun new ideas.
Iron Sunrise starts off with the death of the star of the New Moscow system and the results that death has upon one Wednesday–a teenager on a space station in a nearby (to the exploding star) system who is being evacuated to escape the nova wavefront.
The death of the star is caused by a causality violating weapon that has the end result of turning the core of the star into a single crystal of iron a few thousand kilometers in diameter. Stars don’t enjoy this in general and tend to blow up when this happens.
Wednesday happens to have a secret friend named Herman. This is the same Herman from Singularity Sky. Herman is part/representative of the Eschaton and is quite concerned with how the star blew up. You see the Eschaton is supposed to prevent causality violation episodes and the fact that one occurred implies very serious things. Herman has Wednesday hide some documents on the station just prior to leaving.
We rejoin Wednesday a few years later. She is now around 18. She has not been very happy with her resettlement location and has adopted a kind of Goth style–or at least something like that in the future in space. Herman hasn’t spoken to her in the intervening time, but when she gets a message from “him” things begin to heat up.
At roughly the same time Rachael and Martin (from Singularity Sky) are sent as part of an investigation of who might be killing off the remaining diplomats from New Moscow. It turns out they are needed to turn off a set of retaliation missiles that New Moscow’s destruction set loose towards a rival system.
Also we join Frank, a war-blogger journalist aboard an FTL liner. Frank had been held prisoner in an earlier war in the Newpeace system. Involved in that war and also on board the liner are some nasty individuals who seem to be using personality restructuring to some quite unpleasant ends.
Stross takes all these pieces and produces a fun and innovative book. A good fast paced novel that I enjoyed and recommend.

Balmy Minnesota

Here in Rochester it was 47 degrees (F) yesterday. Many spots in MN were warmer (60’s), but the average temperature here is 26 so a 21 degree bump is a fine thing. We had an inch of snow on Friday but that is pretty much gone now and things look clear in the forecast.
Winter 2011–So far so good.

Another year–or thereabout

I was having so much fun writing in November I forgot to notice that I’ve been doing this version of the blog for over a year now. Today also happens to be my birthday so it seems like a good day for a review of the past year.
I think it’s been going along pretty well. I’ve been writing things–that was one of my goals and that has worked out. This will be the 115th post I’ve made, so about 1 every three days.
I’ve had some nice comments and virtually met some interesting people. There have been a couple of thousand views and that seems to be gradually increasing.
On a purely mechanism side, using WordPress as the blogging tool has worked pretty nicely. The spam filters available seem to catch most of the spam and the tools seem to meet the needs of my usage. Before I started I toyed with the idea of doing something from scratch for fun but then I decided I already had enough fun things on my plate. That’s turned out to be a good pick.
So far this year I’ve read 76 books. I used to regularly read over 100 and so at first it seems like there is a fall off, but I also see that the average number of pages is 341 so maybe it really is that books are getting longer in general.
I voted on the Hugo’s for the first time this year. That was quite a bit of fun and I plan on doing that again. Actually, I plan on attending the World Science Fiction convention for the first time this coming year. I’ve always wanted to do that and somehow hadn’t ever gotten around to it.
I’m thinking of doing a detailed re-read of a book sometime this year and posting about it as I go. I haven’t quite decided on the format or frequency but it will be something like they do over at Tor.com.
All in all, 2011 went pretty well. We’ll have to see what all 2012 has in store.

Scrivener

I used Scrivener as my editor for the recent NaNoWriMo. I’ve got to say that I found it very useful. I didn’t use all of the features that it has, but the ones that I did use fit my style very well.
The ability to place text into separate pieces and keep track (or move) them easily within the tool was very nice. For example, you can create a chapter and some scenes in that chapter all as different pieces. You can move the order of the scenes around as you wish.
You can mark the state of each of the separate pieces (first draft, note, …) and whether you want to include it into the actual text right now or not. The “compilation” phase lets you include exactly what you want in the format you want. If two editors demand different formatting, for submission it is easy to create a final version that fits their desires.
For each of the pieces, you can associate notes right with the piece and also keep whatever research you have done in the same project all nicely useable and consolidated.
For creating a new story where you are doing background material and research this makes things amazingly easy to use and keep track of. If you were doing a research document (like say a thesis or tech book) this would be fantastic. (The fantastic is opposed to something like Word where it isn’t easy to organize separate pieces of work into a single document.)
I used the Microsoft version of Scrivener and it did crash twice during the month. I didn’t lose any text as a result of either crash so it does a very good job of making sure things are saved.
For NaNoWriMo I used the free version they provided for the event, but I now plan on purchasing the real version. Since I finished NaNoWriMo, it will be half price but I see on their site that it is only $40 normally. It seems like quite a good deal.
For writing projects, Scrivener is now going to be my tool of choice.