prusik: Newton fractal centered at zero (Default)
I may joke that ReaderCon is a Lit Crit conference masquerading as an SF convention and that, at times, it's really WriterCon, but that doesn't mean they aren't true. I also think that, for me, those are two of ReaderCon's best qualities. I love that people take genre writing seriously enough to debate its merits and to have fun with it.

This year, as usual, there are lots of interesting panel discussions. The ones that I found most interesting were the slipstream panels, the fairy tale panel and the "intimidated by story potential" panel. The latter was especially terrific in that it got into (literally) the Zen of the writing process. This, frankly, is exactly what I need right now. I was glad to hear Elizabeth Bear stress the need for mindful practice. That is, at some point, merely writing isn't enough. You really do have to pay attention to what you're doing to make sure all of the lessons you've learned take.

There was one question that I never got a chance to ask because I could never figure out how to phrase it. The panelists in the two slipstream panels agreed that slipstream describes fiction for which convention reading protocols don't apply. It leaves the reader confused as to the state of world and what actually happened in the story. Now, what's interesting is that some of the qualities we associate with slipstream are also the qualities we associate with poorly written fiction. Now, when I read it, I can distinguish between slipstream and poorly written. However, the provision definitions they came up with don't really articulate what that difference is. So, how do we articulate that difference?

I never asked because I hate being a virtual panelist. i.e., instead of asking the panel interesting questions, virtual panelists pontificate. I'm not saying that people shouldn't do that (although I find them annoy if they simply use to run out the clock bloviating). However, I don't want to be one of those people. I don't see why the audience at large or the panelists should care about my personal reaction to what they said. This pretty much means I'm not asking any question with a paragraph long set up. If I want to ask this question that badly, I'm going to do it by writing so well, they ask me to be on a ReaderCon panel on slipstream. (i.e., if I want to be on a panel so much, I'm going to earn that position. However, this actually isn't an incentive to write well for me.)

Now as for what I actually learned...

A two pound palmtop computing device feels like much more than two pounds by the end of the day. I wonder how the people with actual laptops were dealing with it. (A sub one pound device which fits in my pant pocket would have worked out much better than a two pound device which fits in my jacket pocket. I wasn't always wearing the jacket. If I had been, I don't think I would have noticed the weight as much.)

The handheld computing device so absolutely works in this context. Now, I didn't use it to take notes. But that's mostly because I don't really take notes during these things. (I did jot down the names of some magazines I should be reading and submitting to, but that's about it. That went into my moleskine.) But it was terrific because I got to do some writing and editing during ReaderCon. I think if I deferred handwriting recognition, I so could have taken notes with it during any given panel. (I'd defer recognition because the likelihood that it would recognize "velocipede" without me inserting it into the dictionary ahead of time is about zero.)

No one can define slipstream, but we are willing to spend hours trying. I should point out that I thoroughly enjoyed the slipstream panels. They were fascinating hours. They may be because the working canon of slipstream books one panel came up with looks suspiciously like my list of books that I haven't gotten to yet. I always leave ReaderCon with this urge to write slipstream fiction. The only problem is that one of the properties of slipstream fiction seems to be that no one does it deliberately. Or at least no one has admitted to this during a ReaderCon panel on slipstream.

I discovered that there's a lot about writing that I already know. I just need to focus on keeping all of that in mind when I write so that I can make brand new mistakes rather than the same ones over and over again. I think that's the only way I'm going to learn the lots of things about writing I don't know, and become a better writer at this point. (It was also good to hear Elizabeth Bear say that it's ok, actually necessary, to break your really good ideas in your growth as a writer. She suggested that, in ten years, you could go back and rewrite them.)

If I find going to cons an exhausting experience (and I do), then going to a two hour class on improv right afterwards was perhaps not the smartest thing I could do. (However, this was when the improv course started. Oh well, it's not like anything bad happened. I was just not especially participatory.)

Anyways, I spent a bunch of time with [ profile] avocadovpx and a bunch of other VPers which was lots of fun.

I'm definitely going next year. I should probably volunteer.
prusik: Newton fractal centered at zero (Default)
Like I've said, the portable computing device that I'm currently ogling right now is the OQO Model 02. Doing the web search, there is this very weird dust up over whether it is pocketable or not. Its dimensions are approximately a double thick moleskine pocket notebook. This takes into account that you can't really get two moleskin notebooks flush against each other. The binding expands. The dimensiions are 5.5x3.5x1in more or less

The dust up is weird because there have been several video blogs where the blogger demonstrates putting the device into his pocket. You can see a clear outline, the way you would when someone puts a wallet into his front pocket. (I avoid the thick wallet by using a thin billfold made of spinnaker. However, I also carry a moleskin pocket notebook in the same pocket.) I think it's questionable whether you'd be able to pull it out of your front pocket while you're sitting. However, if you really wanted your computer with you at all times, carrying it in your pocket looks like a possibility, if you're willing to make a couple compromises.

This hasn't stopped people, who have seen the videos, from proclaiming that the OQO Model 02 is not pocketable. One even goes so far as to declare that no UMPC will ever be pocketable. Given that computers used to take up whole rooms, I'm not so quick to discount miniaturization. The people that do this are extremely insistent. They carry the banner at every possible chance (presumably as an antidote for the gulled masses or something.)

This really confused me until I realized that we're dealing with two different definitions of the word "pocketable." I had been reading it as "able to be placed in a pocket." In that case, the video blogs should have settled the dispute. It fits in a pant pocket, albeit snugly. The reason for the dust up is that people actually mean "to be such that one would want to place it in a pocket." So, for example, an unwrapped Hershey's Kiss is not pocketable.

I've run into this before with the word "hummable." That is, the old canard that Stephen Sondheim's music is "unhummable." The traditional retort is "well, if it can be sung, it can be hummed." Of course, people who say that Sondheim's music is "unhummable" do not mean that they are literally unable to hum the music. What they mean is that Sondheim's music is such that they would not want to hum it.

I like the literal definitions better. I mean, is there any other use for the other definitions besides to express your opinions in factual sounding declarative statements? (e.g., "Sondheim's music isn't hummable." Not "I don't find Sondheim's music attractive enough to hum." "The OQO Model 02 is not pocketable." Not "The OQO Model 02 fits too snugly for me to carry in my pocket practically.")

Are flammable objects things that you want to burn? (i.e., if you don't want to burn them, they cease to be flammable.)

So is the OQO Model 02 pocketable? Yes. Would you want to? Well, that's up to you. Would I want to? I have no idea. (Keeping it in pocket may work better in theory than in practice.) I just find how we define -able words interesting.
prusik: Newton fractal centered at zero (Default)
Palm just announced the Foleo. If we take Palm at their word, it's a smart terminal for your smartphone. The flash video at the web site has Jeff Hawkins talking about how it will turn your smartphone into your primary computer. The spin at the website is that it gives your smartphone a full size screen and keyboard. I don't do the smartphone thing, so I have absolutely no interest in the device.

Now, it's possible that the Foleo is really a full-fledged Linux based subnotebook. In that case, $600 is noticeably cheaper than other subnotebooks on the market. (I think one of the Samsung Q1 computers is around $1000.) I think that's too good to be true. So, the Foleo is probably not designed to be usable on its own. (This isn't to say that people won't try or that they won't succeed.)

In any case, I'm not interested in the form factor.

Raon just announced the Everun. Now, this is in the form factor that I am interested in. Actually, it might be a little too large for my pant pocket, but it would be close. It's supposed to be $600-$900 and have 6-7 hours of battery life on the standard battery. This makes it both the cheapest machine in the form factor as well as the one with the longest battery life.

Now, it also has lots and lots of buttons. It's hard to see how to hold it without accidentally hitting a button. The keyboard doesn't look very usable. And, as perhaps the killing stroke, for me, it comes with WinXP Home. Given that, in the crappy keyboard scenario, I'd like decent handwriting recognition, I'm more or less resigned to running some M$ OS. So the problem, oddly, is not that it's WinXP. It's that WinXP Home, of course, doesn't do handwriting recognition. M$ doesn't sell WinXP Tablet separately. The Everun maxes out at 512MB RAM so I'm pretty sure that no one would enjoy running Vista on the thing. (I could install ritePen on it, but I'd also like Chinese HWR.)

Raon's previous product, the Digital Vega, was essentially the Everun without the keyboard. (Yes, someone built a computer which had no way of entering text.) The reviews basically made it sound like a video iPod with better screen resolution and more codecs. The Everun sounds like a kicky video iPod which also does e-mail and web browsing. It's probably nice, but I find it hard to imagine curling up in a corner somewhere and writing with it.

I saw an OQO Model 02 in person today. Wow, it's exactly as small as advertised. The Sony Vaio UX, usually claimed to be about the same size, looks huge next to it. The interpolated 1200x720 display mode is surprisingly good. (The native display resolution is 800x480.) I didn't have any trouble reading 10pt text at that resolution. The thumb board was also surprisingly usable. I can see why reviews point it out as a highlight. The keys are not all where I expect them to be, but the modifier keys are sticky with indicator lights. The joystick on the thumb board is easy to use. Hopefully, there is a control panel somewhere which configures how fast the pointer moves. You can't tap the joystick to left click. That's too bad since that's the intuitive motion. Also, the thumb board layout is biased towards right handed people. (i.e., I'd want the joystick on the LHS, not the RHS.) If I had to, I could probably get used to the layout, not to mention thumb boarding. But sustained writing with it would probably be annoying. (I'd have to do handwriting primarily. It has the same physical size screen as the Newton. So, with ritePen installed, it's feasible. But I couldn't test out HWR. No pen around and I didn't bring mine. Also, I think the store model had XPPro installed anyways.)

The cooling fan does, in fact, have a high pitched whine. It's not bothersome in the middle of a computer store. It might draw attention in a library. This is not a theoretical example for me. Part of writing is research. I'm imagining me in, say, the NYPL for the Performing Arts. I request access to reference material which they have to pull from the closed stacks and is only usable in a special reference room. Even though that room is full of people reading reference material, it is absolutely silent. I may annoy the people around me with this. OTOH, it only comes on when the OQO does something computational intensive. This would not be entering text via the thumb board. I don't know if handwriting recognition would cause the fan to spin. I kind of doubt it since the Newton does HWR and it's pretty wimpy in comparison. (ritePen claims to be a successor to the Newton recognition engine.) So, this may just mean that browsing to YouTube in a library is a bad idea.

The easiest way to get the cooling fan to spin up was to browse to YouTube. Now, I don't know if the store model was misconfigured or if all OQO Model 02 are like this, but to a page with flash video consistently crashed Internet Explorer. It's possible that the machine just isn't beefy enough to deal with YouTube at all (as opposed to just playing back at a really crappy framerate.) However, I'd have thought that someone would have complained about that on the web by now. (The Nokia N800, when it was first released, played flash videos at an extremely poor framerate and that was all over the web.) And I haven't found any such complaints on the web. (I did see some video of the OQO playing video though. Now, if I saw the video of the OQO playing video on the OQO, I could make a video of that and...)

Obviously, I couldn't check if it fit in my pocket.

Based on 5 minutes of playing around with it, I think it's pretty nifty. It certainly could be an electronic moleskine pocket notebook, but that's the one aspect I couldn't check out. If I were a really well paid business person who did lots of travel, I probably would have bought one already. However, I'm not. So, at $1800, I'm still going to wait for Vista issues, if any, to shake themselves out. (Likewise, OQO, itself, may have some quality control issues which need shaking out.)


prusik: Newton fractal centered at zero (Default)

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