Archive for March, 2011

On the importance of backups

Word count: 68818 | Since last entry: 4088

Last weekend we spent a lovely four days at a cozy little rustic shack on the Olympic Peninsula in Union, Washington. This place was an amazing McMansion with seven bedrooms, dual ovens, dual microwaves, four refrigerators including a wine fridge, three fireplaces, five gigantic televisions, pool table, foosball, heated tile floors throughout, and more light switches than God. A little overwhelming, perhaps, and yet not completely without taste. If only the owners had not taken down all of the art when they turned it into a rental…

The occasion was the thirtieth wedding anniversary of our friends Paul and Debbie, to which they’d also invited our friends Marc and Patty, John and Ruth, Malinda, and Judy (none of whom, curiously, are on LiveJournal or Twitter). We spent the weekend eating, chatting, playing games (including a variant on Apples to Apples in which you select your noun card before the adjective card you’re trying to match is revealed, then have to explain why it’s a match!), watching videos, and just generally hanging out. Very relaxing. The weather was generally too rainy for outdoor activities but the view of the Olympics was occasionally very impressive.

I only did a few hundred words of writing, but this novel is very very very close to a finished draft. I might even write THE END before the end of March, as I promised myself I would at the beginning of the year.

When we returned home, I found that the TiVo was stuck on “powering up” and I had to pull the power plug a couple of times before I could get it to wake all the way up. Then, while we were watching The Amazing Race (and, by the way, the current season — in which all the teams are returning former contestants — is the best I can recall, with unexpected twists and some truly devious challenges), I noticed that the clock on the music player powered by the server in the attic had stopped. Turns out that the hard drive on the server, a 2006 Mac Mini, had Died The Death. I suspect that there may have been a power fluctuation while we were gone.

After trying all of the usual things to bring the hard disk back from the dead, I decided that the old Mini had accumulated enough hardware problems in recent years that it was better to replace it completely. So off to the Mac Store I went, and by 3:00 the next day the new server was up and running in its place.

Let me take a moment here to reflect on the importance of backups. This is actually the second time this year I’ve suffered a catastrophic hard disk failure, and neither one was more than an expensive inconvenience. New hardware, restore backup, done. Instead of enjoying my music right now I might be cursing and trying to re-create my music library, or still moaning about all of the writing and email and other stuff I’d lost back in January. In this case, the computer actually died in the middle of a backup, causing the backup to be unusable, but because I’m paranoid there was an older backup available as well.

There are a lot of alternatives for backing up your computer. Pick one and use it. (I clone each computer’s hard drive to a bootable external disk on a monthly basis, and use Time Machine for incremental backups on the main computer.) Check your backups every once in a while to be sure they’re good.

You know how they say you should only floss the teeth you want to keep? The same is true for backing up your data.

Hugo nomination deadline approacheth

As you may know, the deadline for Hugo nominations is this Friday. Here are my eligible publications.

Click on a story title to read it online. Click on a publication name to buy it. Enjoy!



Short Stories

Dramatic Presentation

Of all of these, I think “Pupa” is the one that has the best chance of making the ballot.

Life with David and Kate

Word count: 64730 | Since last entry: 1802

D: “Oh boy. I just got my first e-rejection from Asimov’s.”

K: “Rah.”

D: “Some milestones are more fun than others.”

K: “I like the ones made of marzipan.”

D: “…never seen one of them.”

K: “They don’t last long.”

Old people say the darndest things

Word count: 62928 | Since last entry: 1833

I got this email from my square dance friend Bo and just had to share it:

It went like this at my dad’s assisted living complex:

Resident 1: “Can you believe we’ve put men on Mars?”

Resident 2: “Say, that story is about a woman. When did the men go?”

Bo (politely): “Oh, that’s a story about a Mars-like research station. It’s in Utah. My friend David went there.”

Resident 1: “Oh, so David was the man. How come the article wasn’t about him?”

Bo: “Sorry. David went some time ago. He said he learned a good deal. I went to one of his presentations and thought it was very interesting.”

Resident 1: “Seems like it would take too much time to get there and back.” (peers at article). “Must’ve made it up.”

Bo: “Oh, no. I’m quite sure he went. It’s a research station in Utah that is set up to feel like Mars.”

Resident 2: “Why would they name a state on Mars ‘Utah’? Isn’t one of those enough?”

And so it went from there….

Cascade Writers – now with 100% more Ken Scholes

As you may have heard, Jay Lake has had to bow out of Cascade Writers, a three-day workshop held at the Ocean Crest Resort on the Washington coast, July 21-24th. However, he will be replaced by the inestimable Ken Scholes. The other two instructors are still Beth Meacham and my own self. There are still a few spots open at the workshop, and the deadline for application is May 15, so if you’d like to spend a long weekend hanging out at the coast with me and some other cool writer-type people it’s not too late.


Word count: 61095 | Since last entry: 1805

I’m sitting in a coffee shop in San Francisco, nursing a cappuccino and hunched over my laptop like a real San Francisco hipster. We’re here for Fogcon, at the end of a week that started with Potlatch in San Jose.

Potlatch was a lovely, laid-back convention which featured, as it usually does, many fine conversations and meals with old friends. (Armenian Gourmet for the YUM!) Tom Whitmore and I hosted the “Tough Guide to the Post-Apocalypse” discussion as an icebreaker on Friday evening, where I typed up a running transcript of the discussion, including a few snarky asides (e.g. “Darth Alfalfa: ‘I am your fodder!'”), which was projected on a big screen. The panel didn’t go exactly as planned, but it was still a good start to the convention — though now I want to write up an actual “Tough Guide to the Post-Apocalypse.” Maybe for Bento. I also conducted a writers’ workshop session with four fine manuscripts, and ring-led the author readings on Saturday afternoon.

For some reason this particular Potlatch was focused on very long talks with one person at a time, old friends and new. It’s good to go deep sometimes. I also attended sessions on Earth Abides, the convention’s book of honor, and on the future of Potlatch. There will be a Potlatch 21, in Seattle, next year, chaired by Jack Bell.

After the con we piled into our rented Grand Marquis tuna boat, along with friends Kate and Glenn from Seattle, and took off for the coast. The main impetus for this trip was a visit to Hearst Castle, which I’ve long wanted to see but which is just too far from either San Francisco or Los Angeles to be done as a day trip from a convention, but with a whole week between conventions we had time to do the Central Coast in some depth.

We took two of the four available tours of Hearst Castle and also saw the 45-minute IMAX movie about Hearst at the visitor’s center. The movie, with its focus on Hearst and complete absence of information on his wife and girlfriend, reminded me of the L. Ron Hubbard museum (which presented Hubbard as a solo genius with no co-workers or family), an impression which was reinforced by the theatre gift shop stocked with nothing but hundreds of copies of the DVD of the movie we’d just seen. The castle itself is, of course, extraordinary, both architecturally and for the astonishing collection of artifacts housed within it. One room holds four of the five surviving panels of a 10-panel tapestry that may have once hung at Versailles. Copies of these panels hang in the Louvre, and this room was where Hearst’s sons liked to play touch football. Amazing what you can do with way, way too much money.

We also visited Cannery Row, the Monterey Bay aquarium (Otters! Seahorses! Octopus! Flamingos! Diving murres! Jellies! Sardines! Mackerel! And a big-ball-o-fish!), and the National Steinbeck Center (“to which all the regional Steinbeck Centers report”); walked on several very picturesque beaches; and observed elephant seals from a safe distance (“HRWAAANK!”). In between those experiences we ate many fine meals. Especially notable was the Salinas City BBQ, a very modest place where each simple item on the plate was exceptional of its ilk. Probaby not worth the drive from San Francisco but if you should happen to visit the Steinbeck Center I’d highly recommend it for dinner. Go early, they sell out.

I was surprised to find cell phone coverage and free wi-fi nearly everywhere we went. Thanks to which, I discovered that someone from Australia was accusing me on Twitter of impersonating a New Zealand earthquake survivor, and threatening to expose me to the media. WTF? But after a couple of days she apparently realized she had me mixed up with someone else and apologized for the whole incident.

After much driving through lovely and characteristic seaside towns (Cambria was particularly fine), scenic and vertiginous coastlines, rolling hills, spectacular mountains, and verdant farmland — all with excellent sunny weather — we turned inland and headed to San Francisco for Fogcon. Suiting the convention’s name, the weather turned to a heavy mist, then a light drizzle. We dropped off our tuna boat and checked into the convention hotel, where fans are just beginning to trickle in.

This morning we awoke to news of the Japan earthquake and subsequent tsunami. Many of the beaches we walked on this week were probably inundated today, and I’m very glad we decided to depart the coast yesterday rather than today. My thoughts and hopes are with everyone affected by this disaster.

And I’ve done almost no writing this week. Such is life.