it's where the hearth is
I have seen the future, and it is squishy.

Now & Then (a Log)

Thursday, March 27, 2003

No, this post won't be about Bruges, a promised in the last post. I've decided to wait until I get the digital pics from my dear sis so I'll have some "show" with the "tell."

Speaking of the dear sis (and she is quite dear), I was mistaken when I said she refused to keep a TV in her flat. I'd made that assumption based on her distaste and all but abandonment of American TV prior to her move overseas. In reality, she wrote to say, she has more important things to spend money on right now than the license required to view programs -- and she'd be more than happy to have a TV if it weren't so expensive, if only to put a Graham Norton fix within reach.

Further, as she helpfully pointed out, I could have easily bought a newspaper to fill the info vacuum. Indeed, I have only myself to blame for the pathetically ignorant state in which I returned to my home country... and the only slightly less ignorant state I'm currently in.

At least I can take comfort in the fact that my baggage has finally returned.

Tuesday, March 25, 2003
Are They in Paris?

So my lost bags still haven't arrived, and US Air can't even confirm that they've been found at Gatwick, whence I departed on Sunday. Of course I'm not supposed to refer to the bags as "lost" -- I've been chastised for this verbal faux pas by more than one US Air rep, who like to insist that "lost" is too strong a word -- but instead describe the situation as a "baggage irregularity." Uh huh. I'm already composing a mental tally of items and their respective values in the increasingly likely case that they won't ever be found. Perhaps I'm being a bit melodramatic, but I do want my bags.

In a happier (or at least much more interesting) vein, go read "Rich and Pam Go to Fermilab and Later See a Dead Man" over at Strange Horizons. A masterful speculative poem.

Must we attempt to count even the dolphins as members of the U.S.-led coalition? (Thanks for the link, Mr. Staszel.) Because I'm only beginning to emerge from the information vacuum caused by my sister's refusal to keep a TV in her flat, I didn't learn until yesterday that the war is being called Operation Iraqi Freedom. How embarrassing it is to be an American these days. I will say that I didn't encounter any anti-American sentiment overseas, but that's probably because I had substantive conversations with only a few foreigners. The proprietor of the Indian restaurant my sister and I visited on my last night in London was quite sweet to us, and we managed to convince him that only some Americans carry guns with them wherever they go. (He was under the impression that we're all gun-toting crazies willing to shoot each other at the slightest provocation.)

Next post will recount a bit of my trip to Bruges.

Monday, March 24, 2003
A Happy Return

Made it back from London but unfortunately my checked baggage didn't. Hoping it arrives today. I'll write more about the trip at some point; right now I'm trying to catch up from having missed a very deadline-driven week at work.

It seems a poem of mine that appeared in Strange Horizons has been nominated for a Rhysling Award in the Long Poem category. I'm a bit shocked and quite pleased, and wish I knew who liked it well enough to nominate it. (In case you missed it, that's a gentle hint to said nominator to get in touch, should s/he be one who reads this log.)

Anyway, this makes a couple recent rejections from mags I greatly respect easier to take. Both rejections were of the positive, "want to see more work but don't have the space to publish this piece" variety, which is encouraging, if not the type of response I'd most like to receive. I'm having a tough time identifying potential markets for my newer stuff. It isn't as overtly speculative as the poetry I used to write, but I don't see it as an ideal fit for the purely literary markets, either. Ah... well.

Thursday, March 20, 2003

So the plan to post while in London didn't work out as well as I'd hoped; my sister doesn't have a broadband connection yet (alas, no pics till I return) and their current ISP charges per-minute fees.

Briefly, I'll say that I'm really enjoying my time here, it's been sunny every day of my visit, and I finally went to a pub last night (a lovely one, too!). Today we're flying to Brussels and then taking the train to Bruges, a well-preserved medieval city where I will drink some authentic Belgian beer.

I'll post more upon my return...

Monday, March 10, 2003
Anticipating London

OK, so I've been a little busy lately with work and stuff... and I spent my day off this weekend (Saturday) walking around Squirrel Hill, checking out some mom-and-pop shops, and playing Myst III: Exile instead of tending to this here log. Sorry.

I leave for London on Friday. Anybody have suggestions for Things I (Absolutely!) Must Do during my stay there? Any creepy castles with histories of beheadings I should visit? Particularly jolly pubs? Offbeat stores featuring oddities I've only seen in dreams? Please email me at the address in the sidebar, should a suggestion occur to you.

I do plan to post to the log while there, but I have much to do this week before I leave. Which means it's unlikely (but not completely out of the question) that I'll post again before the weekend.

Tuesday, March 04, 2003
Marriage of the Future

Oh, this quiz is just too clever (via Making Light, from which I seem to filch all of my good links). For some reason it says I'm going to marry Neil Gaiman, who's OK, but given the choice I'd certainly rather wed Ted Chiang or China Mieville. Not that I'd have much to say to China; Perdido Street Station has been waiting patiently on the bookshelf for my attention for longer than I care to say. And my grasp of Marxist theory is tenuous at best.

Monday, March 03, 2003

Grrr... I've lost the log archives again. No idea what's happening, but hopefully I'll figure it out soon. Annoying, this.

And while we're on the subject of annoying, I'm beginning to tire of my role as negotiator between the visual designers ("let's make it pretty") and the developers ("let's make it functional," or "don't make me redo this page again") at work. As a project lead I am forced to live between two diametrically opposed mindsets, and it's wearing on me. We get site design approved early in the process, do the development work, and then inevitably the designers come back and want to tweak. This isn't in itself a big problem; I'm a believer that if the budget is there one should make improvements, but oftentimes the requested changes aren't real improvements -- they make the UI prettier but less usable.

Because I approach things from a user-centric perspective, this raises my ire. And it raises the ire of the developers even more, since they end up doing lots of rework. So I try to "push back." But this doesn't often work. And once you've lost enough battles, you lose the will to fight. That's what's happening to me, and I feel like I'm doing a disservice to potential users of the systems we're designing. I will say that the designers have often made suggestions that make the interface more usable, but that's the exception, not the rule.

Corridors and Walls

sidereality, an online speculative/experimental poetry mag (hey, they'll be publishing one of mine in April!), has a new companion blog. Editor Clayton Couch says he created the blog "with the idea that it would help to generate more discussion and conversation on the website." I'm not sure whether his "on the website" statement refers to discussion about the website or that he's hoping to feed content from the blog to the website proper, but it'll be interesting to see how this little experiment unfolds.

So far the blog doesn't appear to be taking advantage of the tools that would be most useful to it; there's no comments feature yet and the posts aren't categorized. From the two posts currently up I gather that the flow will be loose and free-form -- a sort of mish mash of call and response driven by the linearity of page's chronological orientation. That's where some categorization would come in handy, as well as a comments feature to allow for easy discussion within a topic.

Online mags like Strange Horizons, which has an uncategorized (read: simple chronologically ordered list of comments) message board -- used mainly for commenting on specific pieces -- could benefit from a bloggier format. It would be nice to see a link to "create/view the blog entry for this piece" at the end of a story or poem, or at least an easy way to navigate to posts related to specific piece on the site.

Certain publisher message boards (notably the one over at Night Shade Books) show that discussion isn't always limited to literature published in-house but tends to branch off into musings on the theory and practice of writing, among other topics. Blogs aren't necessarily tailor-made for this tangential, interwoven stuff (not that they couldn't be, but they aren't quite there yet -- I'd imagine such a scheme would involve non-linear categorization and the requisite UI to handle that, with the option to view posts in traditional and nontraditional ways) -- but the ability to use trackback and other mechanisms to expand and evolve the discussion could be quite useful. I've seen plenty of conversations in the SF community that would benefit from the cross-linkage.

'Course who am I to talk? I haven't implemented any of these features. But I'm a lone fish in a big sea, and have a hard time believing many people would link to or comment on my posts, so I haven't moved to Movable Type because I dread seeing "0" next to the goodies at the end of a post. Maybe one day...

This is the work of Abbi Ball, and is licensed under a Creative Commons License.