Archive for February, 2011

E-Book Pricing

Over on Amazon’s forums, and elsewhere, authors/would-be authors endlessly debate the pricing strategies of e-books. Books for the Kindle are the main subject of discussion, especially on Amazon, and people can broadly speaking be divided up into three rough groups:

The $0.99 crowd;

The $2.99 crowd;

The $5.99-and-over crowd.

There’s some degree of logic behind all of these…
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on February 24th, 2011 | No Comments »

A Tale of Two Ebonite Pens

Ebonite is a fancy, semi-genericized trademarked term for what is, basically, hard rubber. Over the years,it’s been used for lots and lots of things, including fountain pens, where it retains a sort of retro cachet for no real good reason.

Usually “cachet” in fountain pens means big money, but there are a couple of companies making $30-or-less ebonite pens, which is (sadly) “entry-level pen” territory for a lot of people. (The Lamy Safari and Waterman Phileas, two injection-moulded plastic pens from Europe with fairly large followings, are right about this price.) The most visible are Noodler’s, better known for making a couple hundred colours of bottled ink, and the Ranga Pen Co in India, who aren’t known for much of anything.

I got one pen from each of them; let’s see how they fare, shall we?
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Published in: Geekiness | on February 21st, 2011 | 3 Comments »

Mystery Graffiti

As you may know, long, long ago, I wrote a series of posts about graffiti and its analysis/interpretation.

From time to time, people send me e-mails asking questions about their local graffiti problems. (The ones from .gov addresses are particularly flattering.) Some of them even include photos, which is helpful… unless the photos are 10MB in size. Ahem. Anyway, 95% of the time, what any given bit of graffiti means is quite clear (to me), and about 4% of the time they give up their secrets to a quick Google search or two.

This week, a local reader from somewhere in the Twin Cities sent me that rarity, that special, memorable sort of thing that makes me shrug and go “no clue” after a few moments’ effort:
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on February 18th, 2011 | 2 Comments »

Authors: Ye Can’t Have it Both Ways

For the last couple weeks, I’ve been periodically hanging out over on Amazon’s forums – specifically the sub-forum for their “breakthrough novel award”, wherein a bunch of irreverent novelists engage in wisecrackery and tomfoolery and even occasionally discuss something related to wrting.

A lot of people have been posting excerpts of their work, asking for feedback. Some people have been complaining that they get “unhelpful” feedback – like anonymous people leaving one-star reviews with the comment “sucks”. Or, indeed, one-star reviews with no comments at all. Many have suggested that the person or persons leaving this feedback is, you know, under-endowed, sexually frustrated, et cetera. Stay classy, children.

The thing is, though, they don’t really want honest and sincere feedback. They don’t want you to review their work, or (horror!) critique it, but to praise it.

Now, some of these same people are complaining because not enough people are leaving comments. “I have 70 views and only three reviews,” one author writes, “Ugh. That sucks.”

You can’t have it both ways, people.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on February 15th, 2011 | 1 Comment »

Laser Death-Ray Countermeasures

When I was a kid, years and years and years ago – we’re talking very early 1990s, here – I played a ‘Buck Rogers’ sci-fi computer RPG for DOS, probably “Countdown to Doomsday”.

One of the few things I still remember about the game was that it featured a huge variety of weapons which you could equip your characters with, including laser weapons, which were relatively effective… unless you were fighting robots or cyborgs or something like that, as they had polished, mirrored surfaces that would reflect your laser fire. (I don’t recall if it went back at you, or in a random direction, but it didn’t damage what you were shooting at, anyway.)

Despite being a sci-fi game, as far as I can tell, the science there seemed pretty good – laser weapon plus a (say) 98% reflectivity surface is probably going to be interesting. There will be substantial heating, but that’s better than being vaporized… and on a large vehicle, possibly much less of a problem.

The real-world applicability of this is probably somewhat lacking, however.
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Published in: Geekiness, General | on February 10th, 2011 | 2 Comments »