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Archive for July 2006

One of my favourite jokes

Before I started blogging, my vocabulary was small. Now, it’s big.

I first saw a form of that about a dozen years ago, on a Web site called the Wall o’ Shame. It’s still there – both the site and the joke. NSD covered the Wall o’ Shame on November 1, 1994 (NSD 00.27) and again – to notify fans of the site’s server move – on March 16, 1995.

Good times….

I only have the time and energy to post that joke. I find myself fact-checking an article on what I’ll charitably describe as the paranormal. I know, I know. Believe me, I know. Worse, it’s a 40-page book excerpt. And there are so many mistakes in this thing. Even within its fundamental errors, the text has mistakes – in spelling of names; in definitions; in descriptions.

I’m on page 11, I’ve worked 20 hours, and I have more than 60 sources already. It’s good money, and I’m free to assess this as I feel is correct, but it’s draining. My brain could use a good shave to rid it of the fuzz this crap grows. The loot on this job will buy a lot of razors.

Fun weekend

The wife and I spent one a night out on the town Friday. We started at the jazz festival, or as I think of it, the Montreal International Festival of Women on Display.

Elvi (the aforementioned wife) and I differ in our approaches to the jazzfest. She likes to walk around and find surprises. I like to find a specific performance to attend beforehand. See, I don’t like to listen to jazz – which isn’t as much of a problem as you’d think. The jazzfest encompasses a wide variety of musical genres under the jazz banner. Swing, bluegrass, and zydeco all find a home.

That’s why I like to have a performance as a destination. It helps me avoid the hard-core jazz, which does little for me. Actually, it does do something for me – it annoys me. I prefer mindless repetitive melody in my music (and that explains why I like this little ditzy – er, ditty.). As a musician, Elvi appreciates skill and technique that just pass over my head.

We tried and failed to meet Giz and Marcel, two of Elvi’s DUBB bandmates, at the General Motors stage. We ended up watching a band with impressive technical skill, Elvi tells me. I think the band was called Bomboless√©. It was a big band that played what sounded like improv jazz with rap and some salsa influence. I’m all for salsa influence – it was the rest of it that I didn’t need.

I’m not as much of a cretin as I paint myself here, I want to add. Last year, or maybe two years ago, we stumbled onto a jazzfest band that played a compelling mix of Quebecois folk and traditional Chinese music. That, I liked.

After an eternity, or maybe it was two songs, we abandoned Bomboless√© and headed toward the Downchild Blues Band. It sounded like some good old southern rock blues, but the band ended its set just as we got there. As we wandered, we met Andre, another DUBBer. I’d had enough jazz by that point, so Elvi and I left to go dancing.

We walked to Crescent Street and into Electric Avenue, where we proceeded to dance the night away to songs of the ’80s. We like it there because the music is OK, and the crowd skews older than your typical bar scene. I suspect they water down their booze, however. The rum and diet Cokes had no apparent effect.

When we returned home, I ate a pepperoni stick and an apple turnover. Elvi drove her aunt, the babysitter, home. She got back and we, uh, consummated our night out.

I couldn’t fall asleep. I felt… uncomfortable. I felt like I feel when I have a migraine, only there was no pain. I had stomach cramps and nausea. At 4:00 a.m., I dashed for the bathroom and lost it – first from the bottom and then from the top. At least I flushed between the two. While the bottom remained stable, the top continued to contribute to the city’s ancient and leaky sewer system. I was able to sleep about two hours, then I woke up to coach NDG novice baseball at a tournament across town (in Villeray).

I don’t think it was the alcohol that made me sick. I rarely have hangovers, and this didn’t feel like one. I was perfectly fine the rest of Saturday, except for the smell of vomit inside my nose which is just now wearing off. I’ve had two more pepperoni sticks since Friday night. I’ve had another turnover, too – strictly in the interest of science, as I really should not put pastry into my body (my physiology turns carbohydrate into triglycerides and sets them loose in my blood). I kept both foods down.

If it wasn’t the alcohol or the food that made me so actively ill, that leaves two possible culprits: live jazz or sex. I’ll let you know which it is, next summer.

Bonus naches:

One of the other coaches said of Child Three, “Boy, he can really whack the ball.” Child Three’s not the strongest of the kids on the team, but he’s among the top five hitters and makes perhaps better contact than any of the others.

Site for entertainment news and networking

You may or may not be aware of Jeff Gund’s entertainment industry mailing list. It has blossomed into, a Web site of like information. Eventually, registration will cost you money, but anyone who signs up now will assure themselves perpetually free access.

If you register before the end of July, you may win one of a number of door prizes, including Final Draft or a $1,000 worth of portrait photography.

To register, visit the site, and don’t forget to say I referred you. Paste my e-mail address (nyveen[at] for values of [at] approaching @) in your registration form where it asks who referred you to I might win a copy of the Hollywood Creative Directory, which would make a number of of my tasks easier.

What do you get? A listing of jobs and workshops, generally in the LA area. I’m not sure how much use the site is for out-of-towners like me, but it’s worth a look. If there’s anything I’ve learned, it’s that networking and contacts grease the skids to success. Any small step can help.

Contracts signed

I just got back from signing my Concordia teaching contracts. I’ll be teaching JOUR 202 Tuesdays 12:15-2:30 and JOUR 319 Wednesdays 9:15-11:30. this is the first year in a while that I won’t be teaching on Monday in the fall semester, which will be a pleasant change. Because of holidays, Monday classes end with consecutive sessions on the Monday and Tuesday at the end of the semester. It throws a wrench into assignment scheduling.

All you students ought to sign up for 319 rather than 318. Really, how much QuarkXpress can you swallow?

I’ve spent the last two weeks turning Child Three into one heck of a ball player. He’s hitting ropes off the T-ball tee pretty much every time now. His fielding is smooth and he always had a good arm. His improvement is impressive. Now, if it would only stop raining during practices, he could show off his skills to the entire NDG (our neighbourhood) coaching staff. Looks like those two credit hours of Coaching Baseball with Coach Bubba Bland at Rice have paid off for me.

Speaking of sports, I need to find a new hockey league to play in. Any of you soft, pasty writers have a spot open? Heck, I’ll even play softball, except I can’t throw with this bum shoulder. I never was a good fielder, either. But I can still smack that ball around. I think.

Off to pick up Child “The Hammer” Three from day camp….

Jim Baen

Jim Baen died June 28. Baen intrigued me not only because I once consumed large quantities of science fiction, but because he was an experimental pioneer in the file-sharing arena.

As the publisher of Baen Books, he established the Baen Free Library: full-content texts of Baen Books publications. He established it to test the marketing value of open-content media. This was one of the threads I myself followed for NSD. Here’s what I wrote for NSD 7.01 (January 14, 2001):

Baen Free Library Offers Free Books

One day, SF author Eric Flint got into a virtual brawl with a number of his peers over online piracy of copyrighted works and what to do about it. One school of thought holds that the problem is best handled with the “handcuffs and brass knucks” of tougher law enforcement and technological fixes. Eric, on the other hand, feels that online piracy is at most a nuisance, and that any losses it causes are almost certainly offset by the additional publicity which free book copies usually engender. His publisher, the extremely experienced Jim Baen, told Eric to put his money where his mouth is and make his own books available for free. Eric obliged, and after some reflection so did a number of other prominent authors in the Baen Books stable. And so we are blessed with the Baen Free Library, where Eric Flint, David Drake, David Weber, and other top selling SF authors offer some of their books for free: unabridged, no strings attached, and with the full blessing of their publisher. Visit the library for no other reason than to read Eric’s lucid take on the whole issue of content piracy. While you’re there, download the books in several popular electronic formats. A brave experiment.

I followed up a year later in NSD 8.16 (April 26, 2002):

Free Content Leads to More Sales – A Study

Can giving away intellectual content increase your profits? If the Baen Free Library is any indication, free, unencrypted information leads to dollars, lots of dollars. Jim Baen is a science fiction publisher. One of his authors, Eric Flint, challenged him to put texts of books up on the Web for free download. Baen agreed, as long as Flint’s books would be the ones to go online, and so it happened (see NSD 7.01). Other authors, including Harlan Ellison, claim that pirated texts on the Web cost them royalties – and all of us know about the battles over online music. In this little experiment, Baen and Flint discovered that sales of Flint’s titles increased dramatically once they appeared online, sometimes by over 200%. Flint analyzed the numbers and came up with this essay, linked below. While primarily anecdotal in nature, it provides some healthy support for the notion that free electronic content promotes hard-copy sales. Toward the end of his essay, Flint throws out a bit about textbook publishing – when college presses post free e-textbooks, sales of the hardcover books rise for this genre as well. Information may not only want to be free, it might want to make you money….
NSD 7.01:

David Drake, in his Baen obituary, writes that “while e-publishing has been a costly waste of effort for others, Baen Books quickly began earning more from electronic sales than it did from Canada ($6,000/month). By the time of Jim’s death, the figure had risen to ten times that.”

SF is fine and all, but Baen earned my admiration for putting his financial butt on the line to demonstrate a principle.


Here’s a fun video for all you aviation nuts. The star of the clip is a Sopwith Camel, but about two-thirds of the way through, it flies lead in echelon with a Spitfire (Mk IX, I’m fairly sure).

It’s rare to get a top-down planform view of a warplane in flight, rarer still for that aircraft to be a classic like a Spitfire. It’s a perspective you usually only get in flight sims. Enjoy.

The marketing of “Cars”

I finally saw “Cars”. The name of the movie, and the characters, had led me to understand that the movie was based in the racing world.

Yes, the movie starts and ends on the oval. maybe the people in charge of advertising and marketing the movie aimed to draw the NASCAR crowd to the theatre. I’m not a fan of the continuous left-hand turn, so I took a while to get into a theatre to see the film.

While the main character is a race car, the movie takes place in the American badlands. Not about racing, the film is an homage to the sights we don’t see anymore as we drive interstates from urban center to urban center. (Yes, I prefer to spell the words “theatre” and “center”. Yes, it’s inconsistent. Deal with it.)

The end credits of “Cars” indicate this with long lists of thank-yous to out-of-the-way people, places, and attractions. The folks who made this movie love that land. So do I. The animated vistas enthralled me, reminded me of the times I’ve spent driving across Utah and walking through Montana.

About a week ago, I watched “The World’s Fastest Indian”, which shares the same love of wasteland/badland/desert scrub, the folks who live there, and their – ugh – values. Those values are an American myth – in the sense of a shared story, not a falsehood.

Disney has a series of videos at its “Cars” Web site. Look for the one titled “Kickin’ in on Route 66”. You see the moviemakers beginning to grasp the myth on a personal level.

My favourite in-joke in the movie is unusual for its irrelevance to Pixar (for those, see Wikipedia). It’s the “Serpentine, serpentine!” line borrowed from “The In-Laws” (the 1979 original). I was the only person in the theatre to crack up at that.

The movie’s original title was “Route 66”. See, that worked. “Cars” is too generic, and with a lead character covered in racing stickers, it misleads the potential audience. This isn’t a movie about cars or racing. It’s a movie about the abandoned territories we often now call flyover land.

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