November 2008

Asterix yn y Gymraeg

by Suw on November 26, 2008

Dw i newydd darganfod bod ‘na fersiwns Asterix The Gaul yn y Gymraeg. Mae ‘na wyth o deitlau:

  • Asterix y Galiad (1976)
  • Asterix ym Mhrydain (1976)
  • Asterix a Cleopatra (1976)
  • Asterix Gladiator (1977)
  • Asterix ym myddin Cesar (1978)
  • Asterix yn y gemau Olympaidd (1979)
  • Asterix a’r ornest fawr (1980)
  • Asterix ac anrheg Cesar (1981)

Dyma’r blurb:

Y flwyddyn yw 50 cyn Crist. Mae Gâl i gyd yn nwylo’r Rhufeiniaid… I gyd? Nage! Erys o hyd un pentref o Galiaid anorchfygol sy’n llwyddo i ddal eu tir yn erbyn yr imperialwyr. Ac nid yw bywyd yn hawdd i’r llengfilwyr Rhufeinig sy’n gorfod gwarchod gwersylloedd milwrol Bagiatrum, Ariola, Cloclarum a Bolatenae…

A, hefyd:

In the BBC archives we found the following explanations: “The Druid is Crycymalix a reference to ‘Cryman’/’Sickle’ which of course he carries with him at all times. The Bard (or should I say ‘Bardd’!) is called Odlgymix a reference to ‘Odl Gymysg’/’Mixed Rhyme’ – a very appropriate name! The chief is Einharweinix – ‘Our Leader’. With no book to hand I’m not exactly sure of the spellings they chose, or of the other character’s names. Oddly, though, I can remember the Roman camps around the village – Bolatenae/Thinbelly, Cloclarwm/Alarm Clock, Bagiautrwm/Heavy bags and Ariole/After Him. “

Well, dw i ddim yn siwr am yr esboniad yngly^n â “Crycymalix” (Getafix yn y Saesneg). Dw i’n meddwl fod o’n dod o “cruc cymalau” (neu “cricamala” according to Anweledig!) sy’n meddwl “arthritis” – bardd oedrannus yw Crycymalix.

Eniwe, dw i eisiau! Ond dw i ddim yn gwybod os maen nhw’n ar gael y ddyddiau ‘ma. Dw i wedi methu ffeindio nhw arlein. Piti.

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It’s coming up to Thanksgiving here in the US, and a thin layer of snow still sparkles on the ground in the winter sun. On Friday, (that’s the day after Thanksgiving for any of you not steeped in American tradition) we shall drive to Milwaukee for a spot of Christmas shopping and, in the case of the young ‘uns, some serious scoping out of items to be put on a list for Santa.

All of which is a long winded way of saying that it is again that time of year when lists are made, checked twice and, in the case of Now Public’s MostPublic Index, found to be rather wanting in the sense department. Yes, we have another meaningless ranking of the internet’s glitterati into top 20s for New York, Los Angeles, Silicon Valley, Vancouver and London. And yes, I’m listed on the London list, at number 11.

There was a time when I would have cared about this, especially coming from Now Public. I was one of the first people to write about Now Public, back in March 2005, and I’ve had a soft spot for them ever since, even if I never did get as involved in the community there as perhaps I would have liked. But that, I’m afraid, is not enough to make the list they’ve drawn up relevant in any way.

The list has been derived thusly:

NowPublic’s formula gauges influence and “publicness” across four categories, including:

* Online Visibility
* Presence on User-Generated Content and Social Networking Sites
* Interactivity and Accessibility
* The “R” Factor: Presence on Microblogging Platforms (Flickr, Twitter, Tumblr, etc.)

But what does that actually say about someone? Nothing more than that they will readily adopt and use social tools. In some ways, it’s just the top 20 Chatty Cathys in London (guilty as charged), but in other ways it’s not even that.

What amuses me, though, is the reaction to the list. As usual, many are doing the whole “Who they hell are these people?” thing, particularly in the comments on Iain Dale’s blog. Now I wouldn’t begin to claim to know all the UK’s political bloggers, because that’s not really my bag. But Iain’s commenters are only too happy to dismiss any names they don’t recognise on the basis that they don’t recognise them, as if somehow it’s possible to know everyone on the internet including those outside of your sphere of interest and expertise.

Many people have commented on preponderance of journalists in the list – six from the BBC, four from The Guardian, and a few independents. (Two more listees are genuinely famous outside of the internets, and two of us are social media consultants.) Given this list is more about verbosity or GoogleJuice than influence or contribution to the tech community, it should be no surprise to see a lot of (tech) journalists there. For one, it’s their job to be on top of new tools so they sign up to everything going, and secondly, loquaciousness is a prerequisite for being a journalist. If you’re not good with words and happy to talk, then you’re not likely to take a job that relies on just that.

Jess McCabe notes that there’s only one woman on the list (me). Is this a function of the manner in which the list was compiled, or a reflection of the underlying dominance of men in social media? Well, it’s impossible to tell for sure from this distance, but if you look at the Los Angeles list there are nine women in the top 20, so there doesn’t seem to be an inherent bias in the list-making process.

It is, of course, disappointing to see such a male-dominated list. And many have made suggestions as to who else “should” have been on it, but unless there was bias in the list compilation process, then “should” has no part to play in the discussion. Maybe women in the UK aren’t as digitally noisy as men. Certainly there aren’t as many of them in leading positions. But that’s a discussion separate from this one – unless there’s proof that the list compilation process is inherently biased, I’m going to give them the benefit of the doubt and say that they’re just reflecting an existing trend.

Some people are dissociating themselves from the list, with weary sighs and more than a little perplexity. Those of us who’ve been kicking around the blogosphere since well before the invention of the podcast have seen lists like these come and go, and every single one of them was pointless.

Yet we’re all human, and there’s no shame in feeling a little fillip to see your own name listed, even if the manner by which your name was chosen seems rather arbitrary. Despite my intellectual self understanding that the list is a waste of time, my emotional self can’t help but be at least a little happy to have been named.

But ultimately, the list has done exactly what it set out to do. It’s caused a few big name bloggers (predominantly the ones listed…) to write about NowPublic, link to them, and regardless of what is said pass some traffic their way. That is all that this list – and every other that has come before – set out to do. It’s PR. Bizarre and shallow PR perhaps, but nevertheless, the aim of the list is not to teach us something about ourselves, nor to reveal something interesting about the communities of which we are a part, but to provoke us into making some sort of comment, good or bad.

Still, to save you a click, here’s the list, republished in all its daftness:

1. Rory Cellan-Jones
2. Darren Waters
3. Iain Dale
4. Paul Bradshaw
5. Erik Huggers
6. Tom Coates
7. Ewan McIntosh
8. Stephen Fry
9. Nick Robinson
10. Neil McIntosh
11. Suw Charman-Anderson
12. Alan Connor
13. Kevin Anderson
14. Andy Murray
15. Ian Betteridge
16. Robert Peston
17. Jon Kossman
18. Euan Semple
19. Jack Schofield
20. Charles Arthur

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Craters on the moon driving me quietly mad

by Suw on November 17, 2008

Years ago, possibly during the late 90s or early 2000s, there was a project to identify craters on the Moon. There was a website that displayed a fairly good photo and you drew a red circle around each crater you could see. When you saved the image, you were served another. It was, in fact, remarkably like Galaxy Zoo is now.

I can’t remember much more about it, other than that it seemed to complete very quickly. Does anyone else remember this project and know who ran it? I had been assuming it was NASA, but it could have been anyone. I’ve been trying to find information about this project, for curiosity’s sake, for most of the last couple of years and my epic fail is driving me nuts. Now I need to know for work, and it’s still driving me nuts.


UPDATE: Thanks to Rob Myers, I have discovered that it was Mars, not the Moon, and that it was the Mars Clickworkers project, now available only on the Internet Archive.

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How to get published

by Suw on November 17, 2008

Last week, Kev and I went to a quiet little event at One Alfred Place with publisher Alan Samson and author Mark Billingham, which was timely in more ways than one. Both Alan and Mark were interesting speakers and I could have quite happily sat down with them and grilled them at length, particularly Alan as it’s not often one gets to talk to a real, live publisher.

Obviously verbatim transcripts are still verboten for me (even though the physio today was pretty happy with my progress overall since the steroid injections), but I did scribble down a few notes, the first two of which should be of particular interest to those of you who write.

  • Write for all five senses, not just sound and vision.
  • Never start with the weather.
  • When you approach an agent or publisher, have a one page synopsis and at least one sample chapter ready, along with a 20 page proposal. [There was a little debate about the proposal – I’d guess that’s more relevant for non-fiction.]
  • There are 300 agents in London, but only ten get Alan’s attention. [i.e. get a good agent!]
  • Most new authors get a two book deal, so if you don’t make it with one of them, you’re screwed
  • Be disciplined: Deliver on time.
  • Quote of the evening: “Writing is work: you sit down and you make shit up.”
  • Be prepared to do all the stuff that supports the book, such as festivals, signings, bookshop visits.
  • When deciding who to send your work to, find out which publisher/agent works with your favourite authors and approach them first.
  • Reviews don’t count anymore, but prizes, awards, and Richard and Judy do.
  • Talking of Richard and Judy, fictions moving much more towards a ‘culture of feelings’, and books focused on families.
  • Short stories never were hugely popular and are even less so now. A collection of short stories will sell 30% of what the same author would sell when releasing a novel. It’s not about the number of words, it’s about the associated feelings and emotions. [Is this because people’s emotional reactions to novels are stronger than to short stories?]
  • Think about your synopsis, tagline, etc.
  • The whole schtick about sending your work to just one agent/publisher at a time is a con. Everyone knows that you’ll send stuff out simultaneously and it won’t affect their opinion. Just don’t send it to too many at once else you might lose track of who’s replied – pick six at a time.

One of the things that Mr Neil said the other week, when asked if it was a good idea for unpublished authors to put their work up online, was that the main problem new authors face is obscurity, not piracy (in a nice hat-tip to Mr Tim). In other words, get your stuff out there, get it read, start building up a community around your writing.

Given my history with the idea of open, I just had to ask Alan if he would be put off by an author putting their unpublished manuscript up online. Mark seemed to be a little bit freaked by the suggestion, and started to talk about how one had to keep certain things off the internet otherwise one would be putting one’s work at risk. After I restated the question more clearly, Alan answered with an emphatic “No”.

That was good to hear. I really would have loved to have had a more in-depth discussion about the internet and the way that it’s changing things for authors, agents and publishers alike. We know it’s game-changing, but the devil’s in the details and I think that there are few authors, let alone agents and publishers, who are really getting their hands dirty and taking some risks. Still, that’s another discussion for another day.

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by Suw on November 11, 2008

I’ve just installed reCAPTCHA and disabled comment approval on CnV to see firstly if this is a more effective way to ensure that spam comments don’t get through to the site, and also to see what you think of reCAPTCHA.

I’m really interested to know your opinions.

  • Have you not commented here before, because of my insistence on registration?
  • Do you prefer reCAPTCHA to registration?
  • Do you dislike reCAPTCHA? Why?
  • Do you think that reCAPTCHA is flawed? How?

I do have Akismet enabled and it’s relatively effective, although not perfect, but I’d like to stop the spam hitting the database at all, rather than have to clean it up afterwards.

So far, reactions to reCAPTCHA on Twitter have been mixed, but with many people more anti-reCAPTCHA than I would have expected. Several people have said that reCAPTCHA is an additional burden and that you, as commenters, shouldn’t have to pay for any tech issues, i.e. anti-spam measures, with the blog. There are also complaints that it’s inaccessible, and that the audio option doesn’t solve the problem because the has to be garbled to prevent it being automatically solved by bots. Someone else said that captcha (in general) is flawed, but hasn’t yet elaborated on what that flaw is, so if you think it’s flawed, please tell me why.

On the other hand, some people have said that they have refused to comment here because I have been tougher regarding registration than I used to be and that they would absolutely prefer to have reCAPTCHA than registration.

I’d like to have your opinion, and yes, you’re going to have to use the reCAPTCHA for now!

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Side effects come as standard

by Suw on November 8, 2008

My physio warned me that the steroid injections would come with side effects, and he wasn’t wrong. To start with, a strange sense of tension in my wrists (that’ll be the extra fluid within the carpal tunnel, then) and then very faint pins and needles in my hands (that’ll be the extra fluid aggravating the nerve, then). My advisory information sheet suggested that I “rest the area for at least 24 hours” and that I “not undertake prolonged, vigorous activities for 48 hours”.

That’s all well and good, but how do you define “rest” for your wrists? Luckily for me, there was the small matter of the American election to provide me with a little distraction, and so that evening I went off to west London to a friend’s house for an Election party. I Twittered a little bit, but mainly was just clicking between various different news outlets’ election maps to see how things were going. And I gave up even that when my wrists started to get a bit antsy.

Wednesday, the aching started for real. Although not what you could consider pain, I really didn’t want to make things any worse than they already are so decided to err on the side of caution. I’d been up until 3.30am, and had only had four hour’s sleep, so a nap helped both restore a little functionality to my brain and give me an opportunity to truly rest my wrists.

Now, four days later, my wrists are very much improved and, although there is still a little discomfort, I don’t feel that I need to rest them as much as I have been doing. This means, hopefully, that I can now resume pre-injection levels of typing and writing, although I’m not going to go back to pre-CTS levels of typing until I am sure that everything is ok. Which means that Kits and Mortar is still on ice for the moment.

The other side effect of all this is that it means I haven’t touched The Revenge of the Books of Hay since Monday. In a way that’s disappointing, because it’s rather interrupted the momentum that I had built up, but in another way it’s given me a chance to think about a small problem that was turning into a bit of a roadbloke. Hopefully I can have a good run at it tonight and tomorrow and, perhaps, the climax might hove into view, and then it’ll be all downhill next week.

Of course, once the handwritten version is done, I need to type it all up, and I already know that the second draft is going to be substantially different to the first. But then, you know what they say: Writing is rewriting. It’ll be nice to be at that stage, though.

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Steroid injections

by Suw on November 4, 2008

I had my injections this afternoon. Let’s hope this is the end of things!

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The Graveyard Pumpkin

by Suw on November 2, 2008

Since I met Kev, Hallowe’en has become much more important than it ever used to be. Out in the wild depths of Dorset we didn’t make Jack o’ Lanterns. In fact, I’d never made one until 2005, when we killed Kenny. This year I did the pumpkin carving on my own, which rather took some of the fun out of it, but I’m pretty happy with how it came out. Photos are a little fuzzy – Kev’s got the good camera with him – but so it goes.

The tools

Pumpkin and tools

The Pattern
Nicked, shamelessly, from the cover of Neil’s Graveyard Book.

From the cover of Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book

Transferring the pattern

Transferring the design

Starting the carve

Puncturing the pumpkin

The finished thing… with the lights on

The Graveyard Pumpkin

And with the lights off

The Graveyard Pumpkin

And, if you’re still unsure wtf it is:

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Two types of progress: wrists and writing

by Suw on November 2, 2008

First, the wrists
After nine days of no serious pins and needles overnight at all, which I thought was terrific progress, the last three nights have been very disappointing. I’ve had very bad bouts of pins and needles, and last night’s just seemed to go on forever. I’m trying to figure out if it’s something I’ve done during the day that has affected what happens overnight, but I really can’t pinpoint a possible cause. Indeed, I’ve done less typing over the last few days than normal, so am totally perplexed. Next physio appointment is on Tuesday, so I’m hoping that the next two nights see an improvement so that I can avoid the steroid injection.

Second, the writing
Over the last seven days, there’s only been one evening where I haven’t written something, and that was spent carving pumpkins instead (will post photos shortly). I’m now up to nearly 40 handwritten pages, which I estimate comes to about 7000 words. I suspect that the finished first draft is going to come in at about 10,000 words, which will likely increase when I type it up as I keep thinking of additional scenes and descriptions that I want to add in. I wouldn’t be surprised if it ended up coming in somewhere under 15,000 words, which will put it firmly in that very awkward category of novellette, according to Fiction Factor.

Not that it matters. I’ve already decided that if after a couple of redrafts I think it passes muster I’m just going to chuck it up here under a CC license and whatever happens to it happens to it. If you like it, that’s all to the good. But either way, I’ll just get on with the next one. (Not that I’m sure what the next one will be. Maybe a children’s story about a cat called Llew and his Magic Catflap. I really just want an excuse to write the counterrotating sheep scene…)

The funny thing about writing a short story instead of a novel is that you go through all the stages of writing a novel, only faster. The first six days were the I’m So Excited I’m Writing A New Story phase. Friday was the I’m Too Knackered To Think stage. Saturday I got through the Oh Dear, This Is Shit And No One Is Going To Want To Read It stage in about an hour. Now that I’ve roughly plotted out how I’m going to get from where I am to the end, I feel like I’m about to enter the Last Downhill Push To The Finish stage. Mind you, yesterday I intended to write a lot more than I did, but ended up honing my procrastination skills instead, which I’m happy to say haven’t waned in the years it’s been since I last did any creative writing.

Of course, one stage that I’ve never been through before is the Typing Up Your Hand Written First Draft stage, because I’ve either written stuff directly on the computer, or I’ve not entirely reached the end of whatever it was that I’d written. I already know that I have dashed through some of my scenes far too quickly. I am still slightly surprised that I wrote a one in the grounds of the castle without ever actually describing the castle itself. A travesty!

I think I’m still on target to finish this within my four week deadline, which means finishing the first draft before 22nd November (which also happens to be the day that Kev and I go on holiday to the US for Thanksgiving). Then it’ll go out to various friends for comment, and hopefully I’ll get the final thing up here before Christmas.

I’ve noticed a couple of my friends are doing NaNoWriMo: Nat and Danny. Danny’s even posting his draft up in public, which I think is incredibly brave. I considered doing NaNoWriMo. I never have before, but this year it seemed like maybe it might be a good idea. Then I had a chat with a couple of friends, who independently pointed out that unless one has a novel-length story already in mind it can get a little bit stressful, and I decided that rather than trying to think up a novel on the fly I’d just work with what I’ve got, which definitely doesn’t have enough flesh on its bones to produce 50,000 words.

I’m enjoying myself immensely though. As I mentioned to Vince yesterday, the story continues to surprise me. I didn’t think the cats would have such a big role to play. And I wasn’t expecting a flashback to 1588. Didn’t see that one coming! I have also had to wrestle with my McGuffin, but I think I’ve beaten it into submission now. In fact, I’ve just realised that it might not be a McGuffin at all, but could in fact be a character in its own right. Hm, that’s an interesting thought.

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by Suw on November 1, 2008

Mae’r holl stori ar y BBC.

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