I told you recently about a new print edition for Sunborn. Now I’ve got an audiobook you just have to have! This fourth volume of The Chaos Chronicles is billowing into the stores, with narration by the incomparable Stefan Rudnicki.
My Asus laptop has died, this time the true death, I think. Two years ago (seems like yesterday), it died in a similar fashion, just going poof, bye when my back was turned. That time it was the motherboard, and I suspect the same is true this time. That time it expired on the last day of the warranty, and Asus (after considerable prodding) did the right thing and fixed it. This time it’s three years old. And I just two weeks ago got the latest Windows update to work on it. This is so depressing. A computer should last longer than this! They’re just like the replicants from Bladerunner, with a built-in expiration date.
“I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion. I watched C-beams glitter in the dark near the Tannhäuser Gate. All those moments will be lost in time, like tears in rain…”
This weekend, Boston’s long-running Boskone science fiction convention, will be running in the Westin Hotel on the waterfront—same location as Arisia, a month ago. Where Arisia was somewhat media oriented, Boskone is more focused on the literary end of science fiction. It also usually boasts one of the best art shows among SF cons.
I’ll be there Friday evening, Saturday, and for a little while on Sunday. If you see me, stop and say hello! I’ll also be selling autographed books during the Boskone Book Party, Saturday evening. Come buy some books! (Or just say hello.)
Sunborn, the fourth book in The Chaos Chronicles, has blazed forth in a new treebook edition, a solid trade paperback designed to go nicely with Reefs and Crucible and all the others! The complete set will look great on any shelf! It’s available right now from Ingram, Barnes & Noble, and Amazon, which means you can ask your local bookstore (or library) to order it, or you can buy it online. (As of this moment, it’s discounted at B&N. I don’t know why, or how long it will last.)
With this, all the published books in The Chaos Chronicles are available in print as well as ebook. (Still planned: a reformatting of Neptune Crossing, which is in a larger trim size than the others. It was the first one I put back into print, at 6×9 inches, and I later decided to go with the 5.5×8.5 inch size for the new books.)
Coming soon: an all-new audiobook of Sunborn! It’s already recorded and uploaded. It might take a couple of weeks to become available. Don’t change that dial!
Stars are dying. Bandicut and his friends must learn what threatens the Starmaker Nebula—and confront a billion-year-old adversary of life as they know it…
Screwdrivers, really? Yes, really. This is one of most interesting short videos I’ve seen in a long time. The History Guy takes on “Robertson, Phillips, and the History of the Screwdriver,” and if that sounds like a snoozer, trust me, it’s a fascinating take on invention, powerful personalities, world history, and why the heck most of us have Phillips-head screwdrivers (and screws) instead of the easier-to-use square-socket (Robertson) screwdriver that apparently is common in Canada. Those darn Canadians have beaten us again!
Both my laptop and my desktop computers have finally run the gauntlet of last year’s major Windows 10 update to ver. 1909, without getting borked by the update! Why is this a miracle? Let me count the ways, or rather the times both computers have—all on their own—tried to do this, each time ending in disaster. Windows tech support, including Level Three (high) support, invested hours in trying to solve this with me, all ending in failure. This time it succeeded, but only because of other Windows users to the rescue.
What went wrong was that the update program each time created a new user profile—[username].000—and moved all of my files into it, text, music, photos, everything. That’s what it left me with, plus the nearly empty shell of the old profile [username]. What’s wrong with this (besides offending my sensibilities)? Everything! All my software is set up to look for files in a particular location. This changed the paths to all the files. Dropbox failed. Onedrive failed. iTunes failed, Word and Scrivener failed….
What brought about the miracle? Some user’s discovery, posted on a Microsoft support board, that if he uninstalled his Zune software and removed all traces of it before the update, everything worked the way it was supposed to. Please note: Zune software is a Microsoft product. I use it to support my Zune music player, which I still use, and love. Don’t you think Microsoft should have designed their update to take their own legacy software into account? Failing that, don’t you think they should have informed all support personnel of the workaround, especially since the information has been posted on a Microsoft support board since last summer? I kind of do.
It took me a while to find the time and determination, but I finally did the same thing: ran a full backup, uninstalled Zune, tried the update. And it worked! It worked! No more do I live under the Sword of Damocles of unplanned update/borks! (For now, anyway.) And I reinstalled Zune, and all is well.
In celebration, I present you with a picture of my 20-year-old lava lamp! It doesn’t exactly work right anymore, but it’s still trying.
Because we haven’t had enough noise in our lives… this is the week that New England Ductless arrived to begin installing our upgrade to mini-split ductless heat/AC, as part of our participation in Arlington’s HeatSmart program.
Essentially it’s a town-wide, group discount on energy-conservation installations, similar to the Solarize Arlington program that helped us get solar-electric panels on our roof some years ago. The solar panels have nearly earned back their cost at this point. The ductless heat pump installation probably won’t earn back so quickly, but it will reduce our fossil-fuel usage, increase our comfort, and save me from breaking my back twice a year putting in window-rattling AC units and taking them out. Let’s hear it for that! Oh, and the 0% interest loan through MassSave was pretty nice, too.
The terrifically polite and efficient crew of Renalto and David got to work here yesterday, at stupid-o’clock in the morning, going through the house installing head units like the one shown above, in our living room. Today they were out there in the subfreezing cold, working on the first part of the outside installation. They’re going to be at it for about two weeks, I think.
To calm us all down, I herewith provide some pictures Allysen took, one of our blooming Christmas cactus…
and one of a quirky art installation found on our bike path…
Another shudder-thumper, a 6.0 quake, struck on the morning of our last day in Puerto Rico. It shook the house alarmingly, as we were engaged in a frantic race to finish final repair projects, clean up, get everything put away, and get on the road for a two-hour drive to San Juan for our flight back to Boston. It was scary, but everything seemed okay where we were, and we got right back to work. We didn’t get any action photos, but picture me up on the house roof here, securing the acrylic skylight in the wooden structure to the right, where it was booming every time the wind got under it.
Our last two days had been spent in the traditional way: working to frayed nerves to get painting projects done (Allysen and Jayce), feverishly finishing various small repairs (me), and with mutters of resignation transfering to the list for next year the things we didn’t get done this year. Most of that final push was done without power in most of the house, because of a blown transformer that knocked out our part of town. Our little generator-that-could was reserved for the fridge and microwave and phone chargers. Fixing things by flashlight! That’s the ticket! Do, or do not. There is no try. Hope it all looks good in daylight.
From the various quakes, we suffered some minor (we hope) cracks in extremities of the house. But after that final one in the morning, Frances next door reported seeing a building collapse downtown, from her terrace vantage point. Many damaged older structures will probably have to be knocked down. I don’t know how many people lost their homes, but thousands were sleeping out of doors, for fear of quakes in the night bringing their houses down on them. Still another hit that evening, but we were already winging our way northward at 530 mph, and heard about it later.
Throughout this ordeal, our personal suffering was largely limited to sleepless nights and repeatedly having the bejesus scared out of us as our concrete and cinder-block house (built by Allysen’s dad to exacting standards) shook and shuddered and swayed around us. But for others nearby, the costs were physical and dire. Folks still getting back on their feet from Hurricane Maria got slammed once more by nature. Unlike hurricanes, earthquakes are not a part of the normal life of Puerto Rico. It is a cruel irony that the area hardest hit by Maria was also at the center of the quake activity. This beautiful island needs help. It’s part of the United States, and it deserves to be treated that way.
Coming home from a trip, especially a work trip, is always a great relief to me. But never have I been so eager to get home as from this one. I woke up this morning, earlier than I wanted, and couldn’t get back to sleep even in the comfort of my own bed. With every quiver of our three-story wood-frame house, I thought, It’s just the wind, just the wind. Is it an earthquake? No, no, it’s just the wind.
Time for an animal report! Never mind the iguana. He’s an interloper and was chased off. No, I mean dogs. We’d gotten a complaint from one paying weekend guest about dogs running loose on the property. Really? we thought. Sometimes Toby from next door would come over. But he’s just one dog, and he’s sweet but shy. We were mystified.
Well, a couple of nights ago I was sitting at my laptop enjoying the view, when I saw a brown dog run down the steps and veer off down a side path. At first I thought it was Toby, but he didn’t respond when I called, and I didn’t get a good look. Then a second dog followed: a brief glance at me, and then down the path after the first. And then a third… and then a fourth. I got up and followed. These were no doubt strays, though they looked healthy and well fed. They showed no interest in me; they were busy making their rounds, posse on patrol, nothing happening here, folks, go back to what you were doing.
They moved with expeditious speed, doing a circuit of the house, and then past the pool and up the hill and gone. Gone where? Was there an opening in the fence?
A check the next day confirmed that—surprise!—there indeed was a place where the iron bars had worked loose enough for dogs to slip through. The Ho Chi Dog Trail! And it passed through our property. It took me an hour or two to secure the opening. I haven’t seen any dogs come through since.
But the stray cat count is up to five now. And they’ve started serenading us at night with mournful yowls. I glanced down from the deck last night to make sure there wasn’t a critter in actual distress, and I discovered an orange sort-of-tiger cat sitting on a brick wall gazing around placidly. When he saw me looking at him, his expression clearly said, “Who you lookin’ at, buddy?” Miffed at my intrusion, he ran off.
I turned and did likewise, except for the running part.