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30 minutes until the 100th episode of Smallville

Half an hour to go until what might be the best episode of the best season yet of Smallville. Season five has blown away the other seasons (which in themselves were good). Now, I’m just 30 minutes away from the highly anticipated 100th episode, “Reckoning”. Four things are supposed to happen:

1. Clark tells Lana his secret
2. Clark proposes to Lana
3. We find out who wins the senate election
4. A major character dies; some “who Clark loves”.

There can only be two possibilities: Clark’s dad or Lana. My bet is on Lana.

In a recent interview, Tom Welling said that after this episode, we will really start to see the characters learn who they are and move in their destined directions. I’m excited…

Twenty-five minutes to go!

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Twenty years!

This coming Saturday, January 28, 2006, will be twenty years since the space shuttle Challenger exploded during its launch, killing all of the crew onboard.

Twenty years!

While I can’t remember that day as clearly as I used to, I can remember aspects of it pretty clearly. I was in junior high school at the time. I don’t remember exactly how we heard about the disaster, but I recall being able to listen to radio reports in home room and in my biology class. In fact, I can recall my biology teacher crying over the loss.

Before we knew too much detail, I remember talking with friends during a morning recess, telling them that if the shuttle got up high enough, it has the ability to attempt a return-to-earth manuever, which it does, and which I knew about at the time, although I don’t recall where I learned that. I remember we debated the possibility of sending up another space shuttle to rescue the crew of the first, if they’d ended up making it into space.

It’s a little eerie that twenty years have passed. That’s an entire generation. I imagine this is a similar feeling that people of an earlier generation have about they day Kennedy was killed (now 43 years ago) or the day we set foot on the moon (now 37 years ago). I imagine that as one gets older, this phenomenon begins to happen with greater frequency, save for the fact that the details become fuzzier and fuzzier.

I can still, for instance, remember the day of the very first space shuttle launch. I was attending grade school in Warwick, Rhode Island, and we were sent to another classroom, which had a television, so that we could all watch the launch of this new space vehicle. (I learned later that particular mission was piloted by non other than John Young, who ten years earlier had been one of a dozen men to walk on the moon, and who just recently retire from the astronaut corps.)

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Story rejected by STRANGE HORIZONS

My story, “The Last S.F. Writer,” was rejected by STRANGE HORIZONS today. It was a form letter rejection this time (or form email, I should say), but it seemed to come back faster than the last time I submitted something to that magazine. Ah well. I got praise on the story when it was submitted to (and rejected from) F&SF. It’s a recursive story and there is a tendency to avoid self-reflexive fiction unless it is unique or extremely well-written. I doubt this was either. It’s an older story of mine–at least 4 years old at this point. Probably time to retire it.

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Coldest morning so far

This morning felt the like the coldest morning so far this winter. It’s crystal clear out, but there is a howling wind that blew through the night. My ears got so cold waiting for the train this morning that they started to hurt (I didn’t have a hat). That is an indication of just how cold it was. There was no ice on the car this morning, mainly because the air is so dry due to the wind.

Surprisingly, however, the Potomic river has still not frozen over yet this winter. It first froze over last winter on December 28, but it was a roiling and stormy last night and relatively placid this morning.

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My favorite type of book

On the train home this evening, I got to thinking about my favorite type of book. I’m not talking about genre: science fiction mystery; or fiction vs. non-fiction. Instead, I’m talking about book binding.

To anyone who has ever walked into a bookstore, the most blantant book types you see are hardcover books. Hardcover books are great. For anyone who likes books, a hardcover book is like the first class of book types. They have a heft to them. I love it when they have unevenly cut page edges. The are appealing to the eye. You can feel the content in your hand. Invariably, when I want to buy a book as soon as it comes out, I buy the hardcover edition. I’ll also buy the hardcover edition when it’s a book that I want to keep for a long, long time. Most hard cover books these days are printed on high, quality, acid-free paper and will not turn yellow after sitting on your bookshelf gathering sunlight and collecting dust.

There are some downsides to hardcover books, however. For one thing, they are expensive. Most hard cover books coming out these days start at very close to $30.00. The smaller the print run, the more expensive the book. As someone who like to read obsucre books now and then, that occasionally means I’ll pay in excess of $35 for a hardcover book. On the otherhand, hardcover books for “bestsellers” are usually offered at pretty good discounts, sometimes as much as 40% off. Another downside to hardcover books is their weight. They are heavy. One hardcover book adds noticiable heft to my backpack. When I carry two, it’s like lugging a ton of bricks! Finally, most hardcover books come with “dust jackets” which I find annoying and useless. They don’t actually keep the dust off the book. They interfere with reading the book and I always take them off and leave them at home when I am reading a hardcover book. However, the dust jackets curl easily in the sunlight when they are not formed around the book and become warped and out-of-shape. I’d prefer if hardcover books did away with the dust jackets entirely.

Another type of book is the paperback book. These are much smaller, much cheaper versions of books, that often are released in “mass market” form, roughly a year after the hardcover edition. Paperbacks are great because they are versatile. Toss two or three paperbacks in your backpack and you hardly notice it. Sometimes, you can even put a paperback book in your back pocket. There are some downsides, however. For one thing, if you are like me, and want to read new books as soon as they come out, paperbacks don’t fit the bill. For another thing, if you are like me and prefer keeping all of your books in the best possible condition, then paperbacks have to be “handled” much more carefully than hardcover books. Their spines can “crack” easily if you open them up too widely, and the pages yellow and tear easily.

“Trade” editions are a kind of happy medium. These are special editions of books that are halfway between hardcover and paperback books. They are larger than your normal paperbacks, and printed on better (acid-free) paper, yet they are still soft-covered. Whereas a paperback book might run you $7 and a hardcover book $30, a trade edition can usually be had for between $12-15. One drawback is that not all books are released in trade editions. Often times, trade editions are re-releases or special editions of books that have already come out in both hardcover and paperback.

So which of these is my favorite type of book? As it turns out, none of them.

My favorite type of book is a very specific type: a well-used paperback.

Well-used paperback books can usually only be found in used bookstores, garage sales, or library sales. In particular, I love well-used paperbacks from the 1960s and 1970s. I have a lot of science fiction novels that are of this type of book. In the 60s anda 70s, lots of science fiction novels were published straight to paperback without ever having a hardcover edition. These books have a well-worn look to them. They bend easily, they are pliable, the spines are worn and cracked, they pages are so yellow as to be almost orange.

And the smell!

There is nothing like the smell of a well-worn paperback book, one that’s sat nestled in among its brothers and sisters on the shevles of wonderful used bookstores, collected the dusty and sweet, musty odor that is unique to these objects. You can flip the pages and sniff, and be instantly transported into wonderful places, like the late Dangerous Visions bookstore in Sherman Oaks, CA. Or the Iliad Bookshop in North Hollywood. Well-worn paperbacks feel like they’ve been read by a million people. You can often see some of that history, a name scribbled on the inside cover, highlights or underlines in pencil or pen an various pages, an occasional comment in the margin. The book has been used again and again and again. A well-worn paperback book has always been well read. You can stuff the book in your back pocket without worrying about damaging it. It’s beyond that. A book that has lasted that long is indestructable. You toss it onto your bed before going to sleep and squeeze it into your backpack in the morning.

I don’t beleive there will ever be anything as versatile, entertaining, and mysterious as the well-worn, used paperback book. I buy them on purpose whenever I am in a used bookstore to be sure that I don’t run out.

In some respects, it makes me sad. More and more stuff is being published online and there is always the debate as to whether or not books will one day be completely replaced by electronic media.

No way!

It is a completely different mechanical experience reading something on screen than it is reading a book. There is a brightness to the screen that you don’t have in a book, that interfers with the reading process. With a book, the subtlest flick of the thumb flips to the next page. With a something on-screen, there are no “pages”. You have to scroll or click or do some other type of obnoxious motion that interfers with the process. Most of all, however, nothing will ever be as portable as the book. Even when the day comes were we are always “online” no matter where we are, we will still rely on a power source to power the devices we use to read things online. With a good, used paperback (or even a brand new hardcover book for that matter), the only power source you need is enough sunlight to read by, and enough food in your system to keep you alert.

The book that I’m currently reading, Robert A. Heinlein’s, The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress happens to be one of these well-worn used paperbacks. In fact, this particular edition was printed in 1968. It’s 38 years old. There is a much newer trade paper edition that I considered buying instead of reading this edition. But you know what? I can’t quite say why, but I am certain that the book would have been less enjoyable if I read it in a trade paper edition, then it is reading it in this beat-up, 38-year old paperback edition. Go figure.

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My first trip to Las Vegas is on the calendar

Norm and Vicky were planning a weekend trip to Las Vegas March 3-6 and invited a bunch of us to come along. Eric is going, and now I am too. I just got my plane tickets. Norm got us rooms in the Aladdin Hotel/Casino.

Aside from passing through Las Vegas on the way to or from Utah (once by car and once by train) this will be my first time in that town. I’m not really sure what I am going to do yet, as I don’t (and won’t gamble. It will be nice to hang out with the pals, however, and maybe we can even convince Andy, Mandy, and Lisa to come out too. There is supposed to be lots of good restaurants and I’ll probably end up spending at least some of my time trying them out.

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I have a terrible secret.

For reasons I can simply not explain, I really like that song “Tessie” by Dropkick Murphy.

This song was most recently featured in the movie Fever Pitch and it is probably better known in the Boston area as the theme song of the Boston Red Sox. The Boston-Fracking-Red Sox! This is my secret shame.

To be honest, I think I enjoy the song because of it’s pacing and it is one of those rare rock-songs about baseball–and you gotta love rock songs about baseball, Boston or not. It’s also got a great chorus. I just downloaded it from the Apple Music Store. Listening to it now makes me forget, for a moment, that I’ve been sick for the last couple of days and makes me feel like it’s the beginning of baseball, spring has sprung, and summer is just around the corner.

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Finally out of bed

I finally got out of bed at around 4 PM, which has to be nearly a record for me. I can think of only one other time in the last 10 years that I stayed in bed nearly all day–and that was also when I was very sick, sometime between 1996 and early 1998.

I did a few hours worth of work from home, outlining two dozen “use cases” for an application I’m developing. I also finished up reading Foundation’s Triumph. Perhaps because I was sick this time around, it didn’t seem quite as good as the first time I read it, seven years ago. Even the spectacular ending was tainted somewhat, perhaps because I knew it was coming.

Next up is Robert Heinlein’s The Moon Is a Harsh Mistress. I’ve started the book once before but never got very far. Jason read it, however, and said it was really good, so I’m giving it another shot. I’m still on a science fiction kick anyway, although I think I’ll need a dose of nonfiction in the not-too-distant future. I’m also trying to catch up on half a year’s worth of SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN articles. Slowly, but surely.

I don’t think I mentioned that I did a little bit of writing on “The Graveyard Shift” yesterday. It’s giving me some trouble because the scope of the stroy is expanding beyond the type of thing that I normally deal with. Conceivably, this could grown in excess of 50,000 words if I wanted it to. I’ve never wanted to write something that long. I much prefer writing short fiction, but I’m hesitant to limit the story because of that. I may just need to allow it to find it’s natural length. If nothing else, it’s good practice.

I’m going to eat something now; I can’t wait any longer. I’m starving.

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When will this fever break?

I can tell that it’s going to break soon because about an hour ago I started getting chills, so I wrapped myself up in blankets in order to sweat this thing out. I also took a couple more Advil. I’ve felt a little better since then, but not much. Enough, however, to arise from my stupor and actually check email. Keep in mind, it’s 1:15 PM out here and I’m still in bed!! Here I am getting started on checking email. You can also see Zeke curled up at the foot of my bed, resting as peacefully as I wish I could.

I’ve been drinking fluids but haven’t eaten anything yet today. The reason for this is the whole “starve a fever” theory. I was always certain that was an old wives tale, but this month’s SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN has a short column on why it’s better to starve a fever. Fine, but I’m getting hungry and sooner or later my urge to eat something will outweigh by desire to starve this fever.

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“Miserable” is one way to describe it

As I think I’ve said before, this can’t be the flu that I have. It can’t be the flu because I paid good money to get a flu shot to protect me from getting the flu, which I will continue to insist I don’t have from now to the end of time. What I do have is: a congested head, fever (complete with burning eyes, lavish fever dreams, etc.), various aches and pains, a sore, scratchy throat. All of which are classic symptoms of something that I clearly don’t have. I need a name for what I have.

I have decided to call it the “fluke”.

The fluke is like the flu in every way, except for the fact that it is not the flu, cannot be the flu, because if it were the flu, it would mean that the flu shot that I got was bad, didn’t work, was a dud. When one gets a flu shot, getting the flu thereafter would be the greatest of coincidences. It would, in fact, be a “fluke”. Thus the name.

Miserable is one way to describe it.

Annoying is another way to describe it. In any event, I’ve decided to stay home from work today, mainly because, well, I feel like crap and if I were to go into work, I’d feel like crap at work and more than likely make other people feel like crap by passing along this fluke to other fellow flu-shot recipients.

Has anyone ever noticed that the fever dreams are worse than the fever itself? Does anyone know why the brain behaves this way when the body temperature is slightly elevated? Do dreams get weirder as body temperature increases? Is the converse true? If my body temperature were to steadily drop below normal, does this mean by dreams would grow increasingly mundane? If so, then at some point the dreams should grow so normal as to be indistunguishable from reality. I wonder what that temperature would be? Am I the only one who thinks of these things? (You probably think that I have a fever right now, and you’d be right, but I assure you the fever has no impact on my thought process. This is the way I think, even fluke-free.)

It’s been a little over 5 hours since I last took NyQuil. Technically, you are supposed to take it every 6 hours, but what with the fever and the congestion, etc., I am going to bump it up a little and take it now. If it helps rid me of the fever dreams (which are far too elaborate to even attempt to describe) then it will be worth it for that reason alone.

Oh, and by the way, it’s been raining all night long.

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DirectTV and XM radio

DirectTV now has XM radio for it’s music channels way up in the 800 range. I discovered this little fact when I was at Eric and Ryane’s last weekend and I tried it out here at home yesterday and sure enough, it’s true.

So I’ve been listening to channel 804, which the 40s music station–continuous commercial-free music from the 1940s. I don’t know why I like that music so much, but I do. It puts me into a good moon

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