Monday, November 30, 2015

NaNoWriMo – Great Concept! Bad Acronym?

When I first saw the acronym, NaNoWriMo, I decided the people who organized the National Novel Writing Month needed some help.  I mean, after all, the best acronyms are, if nothing else, pronounceable.  Just how do you say NaNoWriMo?

Take the business named after its founder (Ingvar Kamprad) who grew up on a farm called Elmtaryd in his hometown of Agunnaryd.  The business, of course, is IKEA, which is a bit easier than saying, ‘I think I’ll pop over to Ingvar Kamprad Elmtaryd Agunnaryd and check out the new kitchen cabinets’.

And then, you can always take the next step and have the acronym reflect something about the product, business, or service it represents.  Time to risk straining my arm to pat myself on the back, because I was part of the team that developed the Adaptive STUdent Tutoring Environment (ASTUTE).  It only took four of us, including two PhDs, a month to come up with that one.  Obviously, time well spent…even if the product never went far.

So, being the generous guy I am, I thought I would give the good folks at NaNoWriMo a hand.  What could they possibly need more than a catchy new abbreviation (money came in second in my mind).  As it turns out, however, I am not generous enough to spend another month of my life fiddling with combinations of the letters of their name.  Fortunately, there are automated acronym builders online waiting to step in and fill this void.  So, I typed in their name, hit the build acronym button, and voila!

Without dropping one of the four words, most of the possibilities the app constructed featured the word “worm”, as in the natIonal Novel WRiting Month or rINgWoRM.  Maybe if they could come up with Bookworm…  Well, it was worth a try.

As for the event itself, I think it is a great concept.  For my non-writing friends, NaNoWriMo is an annual challenge in which the participants try to write a 50,000-word novel in one month (November).  Personally, I had never heard of it until this month, and now that I have…what do you say we all meet there in November 2016?

Happy writing,

Saturday, November 28, 2015

What Are the Chances, Part 1

Did you ever hear that on the day the US tested the first atomic bomb (the fission bomb), known as the Trinity test, scientists warned that there was a slight chance it might start a chain reaction in the atmosphere that would destroy the world?

It some ways, it appears the story is true; in others, it appears a myth…or at least, an exaggeration.

First, you have to consider that scientists would never say there is zero probability of an event, especially one as poorly understood as the atomic bomb was at the time.  Their caution was evidently warranted in this case, as their prediction of yield (between 5 and 10 kilotons of TNT) turned out to be quite different from our modern day estimate (21 kilotons of TNT).

But even with that caveat, are we talking about a 1 in 1,000 chance?  1 in a million?  Even less?  This is where the story gets a bit more murky.

It was the analysis of Edward Teller, known as “the father of the H-bomb” (fusion bomb) that puts the probability of total annihilation due to the fission bomb high enough to create concern.  Teller was, as the name implies, and an advocate of the more powerful fusion bomb, even as the fission bomb was being developed and he was calculating his estimates of doom.  I am not saying he ‘cooked the books’ to support his preferred option, but for an individual generally thought to be one of the inspirations for the character Dr. Strangelove in the movie by the same name, maybe it’s possible.  All we know is that when Oppenheimer asked Hans Berthe to verify Teller’s conclusion, he could not.  He considered total destruction so implausible as to be impossible, which may be as close as a scientist ever gets to saying ‘the probability is zero’.  Oppenheimer agreed and the project went forward.

But good scares do not die easily.  Evidently, on the day of the Trinity test, Enrico Fermi started taking bets on whether the bomb would destroy the world, or only New Mexico.  Who knew scientists had a sense of humor.  He was joking, right?

Now, having drafted this post and in re-reading it, I have to ask:  did I really write that “scientists would never say there is a zero probability of an event”?  What I meant to say was, there is a probability approaching zero that scientists would say there is zero probability.  After all, I have to be true to the scientist in me...

Happy Writing,

Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Book Giveaway (Ends Dec. 1)

With less than a week left, I thought I do some shameless marketing.  So, here is a friendly reminder to enter my book giveaway on Goodreads.

Half A Mind Proof Copy Giveaway

Friday, November 20, 2015

I May Never Buy a $2.99-or-Less Book Again

A few readers who have known me longer than the 3 or 4 months of the life of this blog have asked, when did you developed such varied tastes in literature?  You see, I have been largely a Lee Child, Preston & Child, Michael Crichton, early Tom Clancy, John Sanford type of reader.  Now, they are seeing Vampire romances and kinky Christmas tales on my book reviews.

Actually, I haven’t changed.  What I have done, however, is realize that indie authors, like me, try to help each other out, and writing reviews is one way to do so.

Sounds bad, right?  Big conflict of interest? 

Well, maybe some, but not as much as it might appear.  First, reciprocal reviews are frowned upon.  Too much of a chance to get into a ‘scratch my back, I’ll scratch yours’ situation.  Then, there are credibility issues.  Who listens to anyone who hands out all 5-star ratings.  I don’t.  And finally, I am not sure that all 5’s would be that meaningful anyway.  Sure, all authors have egos, and would like the strokes, but rating activity may be as important, or maybe more important than rating magnitude.  What would an all 5-star book be, anyway?  A fad?  On the other hand, lots of people, giving ratings toward the positive end, with the occasional 1 or 2 (you cannot please everyone) is what I look for.

So, in the Indie world, where rating frequency (mostly positive) is king, we read each other.  In the process, I have found myself way, way outside my normal reading sphere.  But guess what – it is interesting.  I am reading books, and enjoying large parts of them, in realms I never expected. 

Additionally, and importantly, authors offering their usually $2.99 ebooks for free, in exchange for an honest review, is quite common, for other authors and readers alike.  (And there are some more expensive books in there too.)  Just check out Goodreads, if you don’t believe me.  So, some day, when I stop writing (you know, when I am too old to form coherent sentences), I’ll still be looking for my inexpensive book fix from the authors who are more than happy to give me one, if I’ll just share my opinion with the world.  No problem there; I’ve never been short of opinions.

Happy Writing,

Thursday, November 12, 2015


Goodreads Book Giveaway

Half A Mind by Bruce M. Perrin

Half A Mind

by Bruce M. Perrin

Giveaway ends December 01, 2015.
See the giveaway details at Goodreads.
Enter Giveaway

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Book Reviews

In order to take advantage of the automatic feeds from my blog to places such as my Google+, Goodreads Author, and Amazon Author pages, from now on I’ll be posting my book reviews in the main section.  Later, I’ll delete those posts from the main page, and leave a copy in the Book Review tab only, to provide more of a historical record.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

What Came First, the Paperback or the eBook?

No, I do not mean in terms of the technologies.  I mean, in terms of efficiencies, if you are going to write and publish.

When I wrote my first book, I never gave it much thought.  I was hooked on eBooks.  Having travel a lot for work, I could not imagine going with paper.  I could carry a dozen books with me, all on a pound or less eReader or tablet.  About the only argument for paper at the time was that for the 15 minutes during take-off and the corresponding time in landing, “anything with an off-on switch must be in the off position” (yes, I still hear that phrase in my dreams/nightmares).  But even this limitation has changed, or is changing, or is waffling back and forth.  Some airlines seem OK with a tablet being on during take-off, others, not so much.  They will all decide some day and let us poor, paying customers know.

In any case, I could not make an argument for paper.  My two, local indie author/publisher role models (two neighbors) had both done eBooks as well.  And frankly, I did not know there was such a thing as free, on-demand, self-published paperbacks.

Enter CreateSpace.  What a great idea, and now that I have used it, what a great service.  Maybe two weeks after I thought of trying it, I have a published paperback (check my “Books” tab).  All it took was some tinkering with the page layout (page size and margins).  Then, I called in my artist daughter, who adjusted the cover to become a front cover, spine, and back cover…and I was done.  I cannot really speak for the difficulty of the cover adjustments, but since she did it in a couple of evenings, it must not have been too hard.

As I finished up, I noticed one remaining step:  turn your paperback into an eBook.  CreateSpace claimed they could take your paperback documents and adjust them for a Kindle eBook.  How cool is that?  What I do not know, however, is just how far they go in these adjustments.  Is the expanded cover art cut down to just an eBook cover?  Is the page layout returned to eBook settings?  I wonder.
So, for book 2, I am considering putting the paperback before the eBook.  If I do, I will let you know how it goes.  On the other hand, if any reader has tried this sequence, and found it to be a pain, let me know.  I like tinkering, but I do not have to learn everything from the school of hard knocks.

Happy Writing,

Monday, November 2, 2015

They Are Connected

If you are like me, every time you buy a new piece of hardware (new phone, new TV), you stop and ponder for a moment when it asks, ‘will you share information on this device with the manufacturer to improve the product?’

I usually say yes, but I always wondered what they did with all those data. 

Sometimes, the answer seems straightforward.  Our TVs are connected primarily so we can stream content, but occasionally, I also get firmware updates via the same connection.  Presumably, performance data from various sources, including data from connected devices, led to these modifications.

When I started thinking about it, lots of my devices are connected – TVs, phones, thermostats, lights, etc.  And I am not alone.  It is big business, with the supporting technology generally going under the name of the Internet of Things (IoT).  The IoT is the network of physical devices or “things”, capable of receiving and/or transmitting data to the following:

   a) Users in order to inform or receive instructions;
   b) Manufacturers in order to provide performance data or receive updates; and
   c) Other connected devices in order to control or receive inputs from them.

How big of a business is it?  Estimates put the population of the world at about 7.2 billion.  But even if every person in the world was on the Internet at one time, we would still be outnumbered almost 3.5 to 1 by the devices who are also online.

So, the next time your new TV asks to be attached to the Internet, just remember, they are collecting data, and they are connected…

Happy Writing,