Agent to the Stars, by John Scalzi

I was reminded that I hadn’t told you about Agent to the
, which I read a few weeks ago, when I read John
Scalzi’s blog entry
this morning.

The blog says that if you’re going to self-publish, please
don’t pay anyone to do it. You can get it online for free, and if
you need hardcopy, he recommends, as do I.

As someone to get advice about self-publishing from, he’s one
of the obvious successes. He wrote Agent to the
when he was a struggling young writer, and published
it online, suggesting that people send him a dollar if they liked
it. He wasn’t expecting to make much money that way, but he
stopped counting when he had $4,000, and the interest in the free
online book made it easier for him to sell his subsequent books to
“real” publishers.

Anyway, if you’re looking for a funny, lightweight science
fiction novel to read, I recommend this one. I can’t tell you
much about the plot, since there would be spoilers, but it’s very
well done. And you can download it for free if you have a way to
read books in html form that you enjoy.

Julie and Julia (the book)

So far I’ve only read the book;
I’ll probably tell you more when the movie comes out on DVD and I
see it next month or so.

I enjoyed it. When I realized how big a pain reading the PDF
from the library was
, I decided that if it wasn’t finished
by the time it expired, with just reading it on the laptop at
lunchtime, I would take the hardcover out of the library. But
then I saw that Fictionwise had a 100%
rebate on it, so I bought it from there.

100% rebates aren’t quite the same thing as getting something
for free. It’s their way of getting people to sometimes send
them money even if they’re mostly shopping on micropay rebates.
So you shouldn’t get the 100% rebate if you aren’t going to use
it to buy something you really want, but if there are several books on your wishlist that
you’re intending to give them money for, you might as well give
them money for something else, and then get the books you really
want for free. So I finished Julie and Julia in the comfort of my normal
reading device.

I discussed it with a friend who
said she’d enjoyed it, but she had several friends who hadn’t
because of the liberal use of the f-word. This could be another
post, but the conclusion of the other post would be that I don’t believe in judging people because of
their use of that diction, but I don’t use it because I’m aware
that there are a lot of people who do.

In any case, it was fun to read about someone tackling all
those recipes hardly anyone does these days. She finishes with
the Pâté de Canard en Croûte,
where you bone the duck and stuff it with pâté and
then bake it inside of a pastry shell. Most food writers
wouldn’t describe their hysterical weeping fits when the pastry
went straight from a too-dry heap to a buttery puddle.

The other impressive thing was actually doing it at all. I’ve
been feeling heroic for just getting a blog entry out there
every day, when I don’t even have a job or a commute. She not
only did a blog post in the morning before work, but put
together a shopping list, then shopped on the way home and
cooked after that. She got some help on the shopping and
cooking from her husband and friends, but really it was a pretty
heroic effort.

I thought that the book was a little long for the
material, but of course that may well make it a better

Borrowed another ebook

This one’s even worse than the
first one
from a usability standpoint.

The problem is that this one’s a PDF file, but instead of
reading it with one of the many excellent PDF readers in the
world (including Adobe’s), I still have to read it with Adobe
Digital Editions.

Adobe Digital Editions, instead of having menus across the top
with helpful items like “rotate screen”, and “go to full screen for
the text”, has buttons scattered around the part of the screen
that isn’t text. With the epub format, two of the buttons
enlarged and reduced the font size, but the PDF’s don’t reflow,
so all you can do is change the size of the text window. The
largest size I managed to get on my 14 inch laptop is readable,
but if I had an “enlarge font” button, I would still push it.
Especially if I were trying to read in bed, which I haven’t
bothered to do with this one.

On reading the epub book last week, I found myself wishing I
had a netbook, but with this one, I doubt that I would be able
to get a readable size of text, so this book would probably be
even less readable with a netbook.

It isn’t clear what the rationale for having some books in epub
format and some in PDF, but they seem to be about half and half,
so if there are only 108 books and half of them are unreadable,
that gives me even less incentive to buy another gadget.

I should mention that my eyes are a lot better than those of
most people my age. When I was younger I was unusually good at
reading fine print. Until I turned 40, I could read the
condensed Oxford English Dictionary without the magnifying
glass. Now I still don’t carry reading glasses
around with me, although in my home, I usually do have a pair
within reach. So if I can’t get a good font, there are a
lot of people in the world who can’t read the book even by squinting.

I think this is our tax dollars at work. It’s sad that people
whose job is to serve the public have so little concept of
how to implement technology to do that.

Today’s the day for the DNS move

I started writing this a while ago, and got hung up on
.htaccess documentation.

In any case, I started by forwarding all the email from the old
ISP to a gmail account, so that the DNS change won’t screw that up.

I’ve also copied all the files over from the old account to the
new account. I think I have most of the links I need.

So soon, I’m going to tell the new ISP that it’s hosting the domain, and tell the registrar that the DNS is now
with the new ISP.

I will then as quickly as possible tell the new ISP where to
look for some of the things that aren’t where it might expect.

I’m sure I’ll eventually get things set up right; if they
disappear for a few minutes, or even a couple of hours, don’t
worry about it.

If there’s something you want that’s been gone for more than a
day, you should let me know.

I have a WIKI

I’m not really sure I want one. I actually like writing html
(with emacs psgml mode)
better than learning new markup languages. The big advantage of
the interface is that if you’re setting up a new site, links to
the pages
that aren’t written yet are in red, and when you click on them you
get put directly into edit mode for them. But all the stuff about
lists and links and blockquotes and sections, which I do effortlessly in html,
I have to learn a whole new bunch of funny punctuation to do in
wikimedia markup.

But the application is a good one for a WIKI. There are three
of us giving a concert in December, and there’s a lot of
information about the playlist and the rehearsal schedule and
where to download the music, and where are the recordings of the
rehearsals and the drafts of the program and the program notes that needs to be kept in a central place.

The last few concerts I’ve done that on an html page, but the
WIKI concept of easily linking in new pages and easily traversing
the tree of linked pages probably will make for better
readability. And of course, the other performers are more likely
by some very small amount to write on a WIKI than on an html

So I’ll let you know how it works out. In combination with my
program, it was pretty easy to put up PDF and MIDI files for a
piece that’s only partially transcribed so I wouldn’t want to put
it up at Serpent
yet. It was more of a pain to put up the list of
performers as a list because I’d never written a mediawiki markup
list before, but maybe the second list will be easier.

Lute tablature

They’re having a discussion at the lilypond
users mailing list
about how and whether to have a lilypond
mode for entering “ancient” lute tablatures.

Some people seemed to like the idea, but not to have much idea
what the place of lute tablature was in music history, so I
contributed a post. Someone else had written:

I am not at all familiar with these old tablatures, but they
look just amazing, so simply for typographic and aesthetical
reasons, these should be made possible with lilypond.

And I replied:

Actually, there are good musical reasons, too. In the 16th and maybe
most of the 17th, and in some places longer than that, the
dominant instrument which could play many notes at a time, at least in
the home, was the
lute, or various other plucked string instruments which could read the
same tablature.

So this means that lots of the kinds of music which would later be
published with keyboard accompaniment, which lilypond transcribes very
well, was published with lute tablature.

My edition
of all the part songs of John Dowland (which
many people think of as lute songs, but most of them are really
accompanied madrigals) is really incomplete, because I’ve
only transcribed the vocal lines, and in general not the lute

For a lot of them, the lute tablature is very little different from
just a transcription of the vocal lines, but in others there’s a lot
of decoration.

I’ve made some efforts to transcribe the tablature, but what I want
ideally is to transcribe what’s there, in an input form that doesn’t
require me to translate the tablature into notes, and then use that
transcription plus the tuning of the strings to produce both a
tablature that looks like the one in the facsimile and standard
notation that a modern keyboard player could deal with.

Lute players should note that I’m aware that tablature has different
information from notation: specifically that the beginning time of the
note is specified, but not the length of the note. However, I believe
that good keyboard players are just as capable as lute players of
making the decision about where to end the note; they just aren’t as
capable as players of 6-course fretted instruments of playing
tablature for 6-course fretted instruments.

There’s a red flag in there that I’ve been meaning to address for
some time — there are eminent musicologists who have studied
the period deeply who would disagree with my statement that “most of them are really
accompanied madrigals”. So I’ll tell you why I think that some other time.

I’m back, and what’s next

I seem to have returned to the land of the living — I woke up
this morning wanting to get out of bed and walk the dog. I then
did a reasonable imitation of my usual morning routine, and still
don’t feel like it’s quite time to go back to bed.

As far as what the diagnosis is, since it’s getting better and
not worse, I don’t see any need to burden the medical care system
with this problem, so you’re going to have to put up with my lay
diagnosis. I was running a fever for a good bit of Saturday and
most of Sunday, so I would normally call it flu, not a cold.

Because people have been worrying about flu lately, I’ve been
just saying it’s a cold. I’m not someone who’s ever had the kind
of cold a lot of people get where it slows them down for a week or
even longer, but they never run a fever or get into a state where
they should clearly be in bed. I suspect that this isn’t because
I’m immune to those viruses; I suspect it’s because the virus that
gives some poeple a stuffed up head but not much else for a week
gives me a fever and a stuffed up head for a couple of days.

But if it is flu, I had the regular flu vaccine 2 weeks ago.
So it’s either a regular flu virus that got in under the wire
before my immunity took hold (or even got a little bit of help
from the virus in the vaccine), or a flu strain that isn’t in the
regular virus. In which case, it’s entirely possible that it’s
H1N1. But if so, I don’t seem to be one of the people that H1N1

What I would have been doing if I hadn’t been in bed

I have to move the site from the old
ISP (hostrocket) to the
new ISP (dreamhost). Note
that this isn’t in any way a criticism of hostrocket as a host if
it meets your needs. I acquired the dreamhost account when I
desperately needed a way to move a bunch of mailman
mailing lists to a new place. They’d been hosted on my home
machine when I had my internet connection from speakeasy, and this wasn’t
going to work when I started connecting with comcast.

Hostrocket doesn’t offer mailman, and while I could probably
have managed to move the mailman lists to what they offer instead,
the non-technical people who’ve been administering some of the
mailman lists would have had a lot of trouble, and I thought that
even for my purposes, mailman was better. So I found a coupon
code that gave me the first year of dreamhost hosting for very
little money. Last Spring I moved the music publishing part of
the site to dreamhost, and now I’m moving the rest of it, before
I owe hostrocket for another year.

Just moving the existing site to a place on dreamhost and
pointing the laymusic dns to the new place would be easy, but what
I’m trying to do is to move the pieces that should be on this site
and that I want to maintain
into the laymusic wordpress installation, and then I’ll just have
a pointer to the old stuff for historical reasons.

The job is a bit less tedious than it might be because of the
program that adds files to the wordpress media library. I may
write a version of that that creates a post from the part of a file between
certain markers. But mostly it’s tedious because it involves
doing minimal updating of a lot of stuff that could use major
rewriting, but that would be major thinking, and that isn’t going
to happen before October 15.