Archive for September 2006

As a published author…

25 September 2006
Categories: Rants

This past weekend saw an interesting (and lengthy) discussion on slashdot about Turnitin.com and a group of high school students protesting its use, mostly along the lines of inappropriate use of intellectual property (and some about presumed guilt, which I decline to address).

In 2000 I contributed a chapter to a book on U.S. launch vehicle history. Before I sent my final draft to the editors, I ran it through Turnitin. This I did as a form of self-preservation, because given that the vast portion of my chapter was heavily based on other sources, I wanted to be sure that I had done an adequate job of paraphrasing and attribution. (My scan, by the way, came up clean.)

Now, while I have some concern that a copy of my chapter resides on Turnitin’s servers, I am fairly certain that no more than appropriately-sized excerpts will ever be reprinted there, and then only in cases of likely inappropriate borrowing. Moreover, I am happy that it’s there, for this reason: it establishes a record of prior existence. No one subject to a Turnitin review will be able to crib from me without proper attribution.

None of this, of course, has prevented a substantial case of plagiarism of my chapter by a contributor to the Thor rocket page on Wikipedia.

Holy –

22 September 2006

A trend in television writing: implying use of the word “shit” by an actor saying “holy —” and cutting the scene before they get to the next word. Seen it:

  • in a whole series of Volkswagen ads showing the VWs in accidents, followed by the passengers shown standing beside the wreck, shaken but unharmed
  • in an ad for the Evil Empire Comcast—guy rubs their bullshit fictitious “speed booster” gunk on his hands and does the dishes in a flash, prompting his wife to interject
  • in this week’s season premiere of Boston Legal, from the lips of none other than Candice Bergen.

Whatever. Just another lame attempt at circumventing an increasingly and everlastingly Puritan society and its latest rabid dogs, the FCC.

I hate blogs

22 September 2006
Categories: Self-referential

So just for fun I’m trying a post from my BlackBerry. Not bad so far, although I need practice on this tiny kybard.

I already understand the attraction of weblogs. It’s so easy to get caught up in what’s frankly a form of mental masturbation. The best thing for any weblogger to keep in mind is that no one will or should ever find interest in this. The biggest risk is in thinking that you’re writing for some form of posterity. Keep the filters turned off, don’t pretend you’re writing for anyone but yourself, and you just might come up with something worthy some day.

I recall (perhaps erroneously) that Dave Sim, creator of the epic graphic novel Cerebus, once wrote that if you want to learn to draw well, get a six-foot-tall stack of paper and draw your way through it. Consider this the written equivalent.

I also put a lot of value in an excellent essay written by one of my favourite authors, Samuel R. Delany, that appears in the back of the collection Aye, and Gomorrah: And Other Stories. On the subject of writing well, he says (and I’m paraphrasing horribly) that one must never consider one’s work to be written in stone, that it can always be changed, even after publication. That false impression of staticness is just another form of self-filtering, and good writing almost always benefits from a complete lack of self-filtering. In that sense, a weblog is a good thing—because even after I hit the “Publish” button, there’s always another “Edit” button waiting for me.

The thing is, I hate blogs. More to the point, I hate the word “blog.” What a dumb truncation of a mediocre portmanteau that rolls off the tongue like a flu-ridden loogie. And of course, most weblogs, this one included, are really just what I said before: mental masturbation. Talky, in-jokey, rambling. I’m much amused to find, more than a year after I posted it in a fit of waggish pique, that “blogorrhea” (a portmanteau of “blog” and “logorrhea”, meaning excessive and/or incoherent talkativeness in a weblog) remains in Wikipedia’s list of blogging terms, despite a lot of discussion that implies (but never states directly) that it’s a made-up word that has never been used anywhere other than in that list. Of course it’s a made-up word—I’m trying to create a neologism here. And god knows there’s a lot of blogorrhea out there.

And in here.

Asia Trip imported

21 September 2006
Categories: Self-referential

Well, turns out that getting the cURL extension installed to PHP5 wasn’t all that difficult, although I had to figure it out mostly by myself for no good reason.

It started with this command:

    sudo apt-get install php5-curl --fix-missing

…which failed with several errors about being unable to download certain packages. When I checked the download server I found that it only had version 3.2, while my server was looking for 3.1. Sure enough, there’s a simple command to deal with this:

    sudo apt-get update

…which regenerates the local package list. Then the previous command worked fine and installed it with no issues. It even plugged the curl.so extension into php.ini and restarted the Apache server. No sweat… except of course that this is yet another case of an utterly simple procedure that is glossed over or entirely unmentioned in the existing documentation.

Once this was done, yanking the Asia Trip entry off my old Blogspot account (now unused, but squatting so no one else becomes “Kevin Forsyth”) was a piece of cake.

Well, here it is — my own weblog

20 September 2006
Categories: Self-referential

Finally set one up today. This WordPress installation was pretty simple. What’s surprising is how hard it is to find decent documentation on how to add the cURL extension to my PHP so that it can import my Asia photos off of blogspot. Yet another silly pain in the ass.