Storage

I’ve been thinking about storage capacity lately. I had a couple of IO errors on my aging Synology NAS drive that caused a minor panic at the thought of losing all of my redundancy and archived media. At 6TB of RAID5 backing up all our photos, ripped DVDs and iTunes libraries, it’s a daunting prospect to imagine replacing it all.

For the curious, I upgraded to a Synology DS416 and 4x4TB Seagate NAS drives, rated for 3 years of warranty. After RAIDing, that’s 10-12TB of effective storage which can theoretically survive a drive failure, if not an all-out zombie apocalypse. This should serve as personal cloud storage for the next 6-10 years.

It’s been nearly 10 years since I last looked at how much storage I’m carrying when going nomad – something I’m going to have to deal with very soon. Back in 2007, I was toting around 338GB of capacity. That’s almost 4 times what Johnny Mnemonic was working with in the 1995 movie based on the William Gibson short story. That much seems decidedly lotek these days and that movie was set in a fictional 2021. (still no monomolecular filament whips either)

Let’s add it up!

  • 2012 Macbook Pro (I’m writing this on it!): 512GB (SSD)
  • 1TB Thunderbolt/USB3 drive, camera+video backup
  • 160GB iPod classic
  • 16GB Nexus 5
  • 64GB iPad Air
  • 64GB SD Card for my OM-D E-M1
  • 2x32GB SD Card backup
  • 64GB flash drive

The total: 1968GB.

2TB. Two. That’s not including any of the RAM in each of these devices, which probably adds up to another 20-30GB.  Nor does it include the many terabytes of cloud storage I have access to in varying drip-sized portions.

Also notable is how much of that is in purely solid state memory. Half of it – the slow half – is a spinning platter. There’s a tiny spinning harddrive in the iPod classic too. The rest, nearly 1TB of it is in solid state flash memory.

That’s roughly the amount of storage you’d need for a complete academic research library. It fits in my backpack. It’s amazing how fast you can fill it up with GoPro and HD video footage and stills from my camera, and I’m not even trying to deal with 4K. If VR takes off in any meaningful way, the storage requirements are going to be monstrous.

Trajectory Book 2 Update: Almost There

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Yesterday, I dropped a little teaser tweet:

That tasty morsel means that last Friday I finished the major rewrites (aka PROJECT INFILL) and some tidying up around the edges. It was a bigger project than I expected and ended up introducing something I hadn’t planned originally but turned out to be a pretty important piece of the story. I’m taking a few days off to recuperate before commencing my final read-through and doing things like working on a cover and getting everything ready for publication. Y’know. Easy stuff.

I hope to have a Kindle preorder up by the end of this week with the release date set for sometime in May. I say “sometime” because we’re moving East this month and that’s going to play havoc with any sort of well-intentioned planning. What I can say is that I’ll have some extra time for reading (hopefully) and that should turn into some book-bug-fixes. I need an intern.

In the meantime, if you haven’t rated Trajectory Book 1 on Amazon (US, Can) or Smashwords or wherever you bought it, please put some honest stars on it. Goodreads too, if you can. If you haven’t read it yet, because you were waiting for the second book, now’s a good time to grab it.

Now I’m off to the store for some more harddrives…

Wattpad Demographics and Readers

104-notificationsA couple of weeks ago my book got featured in the Science Fiction category on Wattpad. Since then, my phone’s homescreen has basically looked like the above image and the little notification blinky has been solid orange. No, I don’t want to turn those off, leave me alone.

Before being featured, I thought my book was pretty popular for a new work from an unknown writer, yo-yoing between the mid 400s to falling off the ratings entirely. I had maybe between 5-8 unique readers on any given day. A new reader plowing through 20 chapters could bump my book up 200 positions in the rankings, telling me something about how many books are in those lower echelons in the science fiction category. Lots of books and comparatively few readers.

Also, when you’re far down the listings, you’ll see updates in rank 2-3 times per day. They shuffle the deck more frequently. Once you’re in the top 100, it takes way more eyeballs to move you around in the list and updates drop to 1x per day. Usually around noon for me in the eastern timezone.

How do I know this? Wattpad has some pretty neat charts and graphs available for writers. The Unique Readers graph now looks something like this:

uniquereaders

This is still a day behind: Wattpad generates these every day against the previous day’s data. The high point on April 12th was 95 unique readers. You can see the jump from March 31st to April 1st when I landed on the Featured list.

Another neat tool is Wattpad’s Demographics chart. Before getting featured, I took a snapshot of what my readers looked like up until that point, on April 1st.

demographics-0401

In case you can’t read my scribbles, the bulk of my readers were male, aged 35 and up. About what you’d expect for something in the “hard science fiction” category. Most of them from North America, split between the US and Canada. Countries in Africa, South America and Asia accounted for the remaining 50% scattered around in little 3-4% blobs.

Now let’s see what the map looks like today (April 15th):

demo-0415

The US is still the bulkiest part of the population, but Canada’s dropped to a mere 4.7%. Nearly 50% of readers are in SE Asia, Africa and South America. The UK has most of the readers in Europe as you might expect.

The gender distribution’s a little more even too, with 30% of readers listed as female and 20% undisclosed.

Female readers are far more likely to comment than male readers.

For the most part, I’d say 80% of all readers are silent. They find a book, they read it and they move on. Many readers have no contacts and no activity on their feed. Most don’t vote and I’m seeing that reflected in the number of views vs. votes on my book. Votes are near 20-25% of total reads. Comments are even rarer with most people never saying a peep. This may be in part because of the category I’m in. Other types of fiction get chattier. I’m OK with this honestly, I find the concept of “commenting on a chapter” a little weird as a reader, but I like it when it happens.

So what does all this mean if you’re a writer putting your book out there? Well, getting featured makes a HUGE difference in visibility on Wattpad. If you’re in North America, your book will travel around the world, so be prepared to debate the relative strengths of “aluminum” vs. “aluminium”. You may make some new friends. You will likely meet other writers trying to get noticed. It’s ok, they’re nice.

Bottom line: 2 weeks in and I’m sitting at #11 in the Science Fiction category with 13k reads and 2k votes from people all over the planet. That is pretty cool.

Don’t worry though, I haven’t been entirely distracted by Wattpad. I am still working hard on Book 2 and coming to the end of this batch of rewrites. More on that next week…

 

Banana Loaf

banana loaf

When I was a kid, there was nothing better than banana loaf. Or banana bread if you prefer. I like the word loaf, so that’s what I call it. I think it’s funny.

My mom would make it, not very often, and the whole house would have that special delicious smell all through it. Warm banana bread right out of the oven with some butter melted on it is one of life’s simple pleasures. If it lasts long enough to get a little dry, popping it in the toaster for a few minutes and covering it in peanut butter is a great way to finish it off. Some have even said you can make french toast out of it, but that’s ludicrous.

Warmed up with some maple syrup and cream in a bowl and you’ve got yourself a monstrous dessert.

I gave up waiting for other people to make me banana loaf. I studied the black arts of simple bread making extensively and perfected my craft over many years. This recipe is the culmination of decades of research and painstaking experimentation. I don’t want to talk about the unfinished loaves that spewed forth their uncooked innards in a sticky gooey mess all over the counter. Or the blackened crispy stuck-to-the-pan loaves that carbonized themselves into inedibility.

If you follow this, and know your oven, this will give you a perfect warm banana loaf just like mom used to make. The smell of banana loaf in the oven still takes me back to when I was a kid licking the spoon clean in mom’s kitchen.

Ingredients

  • 2c all purpose flour
  • 1tsp baking soda
  • ¼tsp salt
  • 2 eggs
  • ¾c brown sugar
  • ½c butter
  • 1tsp vanilla extract (opt.) or 1 vanilla bean
  • 3 ripe bananas

Instructions

Preheat oven to 350-360ºF. Grease a 9″x5″ bread pan with butter.

Combine the dry ingredients in a bowl. Sift or whisk them up to get them mixed. Don’t spill the flour because that shit gets on everything.

In A WHOLE OTHER BOWL cream the butter and brown sugar with a wooden spoon. You’ll need a heavy wooden spoon because creaming brown sugar and butter is hard work. I’ve broken so many spoons doing this. Get a good one. Cream it for 10 minutes. I’m not joking. Cristina Tosi of the Milkbar at Momofuku says this is the most important part. Believe her if you don’t believe me. I’m serious.

In the same bowl as the butter and sugar, add in the eggs, beaten. I guess they were in a third bowl. Then add your bananas. These bananas need to be seriously ripe. They should be black. They should be so ripe, you should fear them and wonder if they’re poison. If you want to ripen them faster, you can freeze them, but I find if you leave them frozen for too long, even in a bag, they lose their flavor. For the best results, you want your bananas ripe and fresh if that makes even a bit of sense.

Swoosh the eggs and butter and sugar and bananas around, mixing them up but don’t be afraid about banana lumps: They are flavor lumps. You can add the vanilla here if you want to. Vanilla beans are magical and add an extra mysterious crunch to the loaf. Use’em if you got’em.

Combine the buttery, sugary, bananaey, eggy goop to the flour. Mix it up so everything’s moist but again, don’t worry too much about lumps.

Pour the batter into your bread pan. Bake on a middle rack for 60-65 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

When it’s done, take it out and leave it in the pan for 5-10 minutes. After that, flop it out onto a baking rack for another 10-15 minutes to cool down. If you cut into it too soon it’ll disentegrate and break apart. I know you’re impatient, but trust me, you don’t want to ruin your loaf (oh what the hell, it’s still delicious even if it’s in chunks).

enjoy!


A word about ovens: Unless you’ve got a super modern, digitally-controlled oven, your heat is variable. I think mine runs a little on the low side so I heat it up to 360º and cook for about 65 minutes. Nothing like baking to really fine-tune your oven calibration.

Trajectory Book 1 v1.5, and a Book 2 status report

Screen Shot 2015-12-14 at 08.25.42

Just a quick note: I’ve just updated Trajectory Book 1 on Amazon (US, Can) and Smashwords to v1.5. This contains all the most-recent edits (aka “bugfixes”) and should be propagating out on all platforms over the course of the day. If you’ve just bought a copy, I recommend poking your reading device to get the latest version, just in time for the weekend.

(edit: to verify you have the latest version, check the copyright page for the version of the book. Yours should say “v1.5” with an optional (ePub) tag if you downloaded from one of the Smashwords pubbed versions, e.g., iTunes, Kobo, etc.)

Status report on Book 2: Work is progressing again. I’m ⅔ of the way through this pass. I’ve removed 8 chapters, added 3 new ones and expect at least 1 more addition during Project INfill. 120k Words in total and I’m trying to keep it close to that for final copy. The restructuring is working out better than expected and I think it’s going to be good. I expect to be through this current series of edits and rewrites in a couple of weeks, followed by one quick edit pass to catch any glaring language problems, then we’re off to the virtual presses.

Trajectory Book 1 featured on Wattpad

trajectory in wattpad's science fiction category, featured list.

Trajectory Book 1 hit a pretty big milestone yesterday on Wattpad. It is now a featured story in their highly-competitive Science Fiction category.

I love charts and graphs, and it’s still too early to know what this will mean for mine, but I’ve already seen a bunch of new faces adding me to their reading lists. What I do know is that I’m reaching a different set of readers than I am in my usual channels and that’s fun and a little scary. They have a strong and enthusiastic bunch of community members, but it’s hard to get noticed because of the incredible mass of material being written there. It is a unique little microcosm on the internet.

I thought this was worth mentioning. I still have a book to edit and I’ve been distracted by houses and linux servers and funny tooth problems. I’ll have more to say about Wattpad in a future post where I’ll break down some of the tools they have for authors.

While you’re waiting for book 2, why not treat yourself and buy one of Deb’s prints?

New Theme!

cappuccino
Why should Deb have all the fun with her shiny new blog?

I wasn’t really happy with my previous theme so I splurged and dressed the site up in this hot little number. Ain’t she fine? So fine.

The state of WordPress themes continues to be a sore spot. Commercial themes are either spewed from Theme Farms where a few PHP coders churn out many different variants of the same thing over and over, or lonely devs slaving away at adsense integration in their painstakingly, handcrafted, bespoke themes. WordPress itself is showing its age. I’d say bad things about PHP being the root of all evil, but after a day of wrestling with ssl certs and dns fiddling, I haven’t got the strength.

Trajectory Book 2, delayed

cygnus, lyra and the milky way at 24mm

March has been a fairly turbulent month for me. This is painful because I was really hoping to have Book 2 ready to go, but we’re 7 days away from the end of the month and I have many pages to get through.

First excuse: We’re selling our house! I’ll talk a bit more about that when it’s all wrapped up, but there’s been a lot of prep to get everything ready. This is not a surprise or anything, we’ve been planning this for over a year and deliberately kept a lid on it. There’s little as disruptive and stressful as real estate, so take my word for it, my productivity’s been cut into a tiny sliver.

(example: I was working in my car yesterday while the house was being shown.)

Second excuse bordering on oversharing: tooth pain. I cracked a tooth sometime last month and had a bout of pretty severe pain. I have a new appreciation for people who can deal with this kind of torture. It’s quite excruciating. I’m going in for my third appointment to hopefully get it repaired this afternoon.

(Funny side note: 26 years ago I got slammed by my anthropology prof for claiming that human teeth were no good past the age of 35. She asked for a citation. I guess I was off by ten years. HERE’S YOUR CITATION, JUTTA!)

ahem, sorry, Dr. Dayle.

Anyway, yes, excuses.

Now some notes on progress. Book 2 consists of 114 chapters, about 8 were culled and I’m adding in 2 more. 114k words in 314 manuscript pages. It’s bigger and more complicated than the first book. I noticed a major timeline problem during my first pass in January and I’ve had to rework it so everything made sense. Would anyone have noticed? I wonder, but if they had, it would have been glaring. And it bugged me enough to fix it, shuffling many chapters and rewriting many more to make sure everything was consistent and everyone was where they needed to be. I have charts and graphs that tell me this is how it should be.

So, I’m not going to make any promises I can’t keep this time. We still have some house stuff to deal with and assuming it sells, a move to do. You’ll have to hang in there.

If you’ve read Trajectory Book 1 (CAN, US), please drop some stars or a review on the book page in the country you bought it from. Reviews help! Thank you.

Pancakes

It’s Shrove Tuesday, or, as I prefer to call it, Pancake Tuesday.

Now, unfortunately, I didn’t get to make pancakes this morning, but there’s no reason you shouldn’t. I have a failproof, top notch recipe for delicious, light and fluffy pancakes that are excellent receptacles for butter, maple syrup and whatever fruit or toppings you want to put on them.

Fluffy Pancakes

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup milk
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (optional, use the good stuff, vanilla bean if you have it)
  • 1 cup all purpose flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1-2 tbsp white sugar (I usually use 1.5)
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 cup of melted butter

Step 1: Heat yo griddle! You want it hot when you’re ready to put the batter on it. Make sure a splash of water dances on the surface. Like, 275-300ºF if you have that kind of control. (yeah, I cook in Fahrenheit and use imperial weights and measures. Suck it, Metric System!).

While the griddle’s heating, put a metal bowl in the freezer. Don’t ask questions!

Step 2: Whisk up the milk and egg yolks. If you don’t know how to separate an egg, watch my helpful youtube video which doesn’t exist. I’m sure there’s one out there somewhere. Add the vanilla if using it, and when it’s cooled a bit (you don’t want to poach your eggs), add the melted butter.

Step 3: Mix the dry ingredients together. I use a (dry) whisk for this. You could use a sifter if you’re from the fifties.

Have a shot of bourbon. You’ve earned it and will need your strength for the next phase. Oh, and you should probably check to make sure your griddle isn’t smoking. Maybe turn that heat down a bit.

Step 4: Combine the milky yolks and the dry ingredients. Mix ’em up, but don’t be too concerned about lumps.

Step 5: Take the metal bowl out of the freezer and add the egg whites to it. WHISK THEM WITH ALL YOUR MIGHT. Really. You can use an egg beater or mixer for this, but I won’t let you. USE YOUR ARM. Whisk them until they form peaks, just short of meringue. I don’t care if it hurts. Shut up. Takes about 4-5 minutes. My record is 3m 47s.

Step 6: Carefully, gently fold the egg whites into the batter. Get it all through the mixture, but don’t break the bubbles. REPEAT: DON’T BREAK THE BUBBLES.

this is harder than I thought. Another shot of bourbon.

Step 7: put a teaspoon of butter onto the griddle. Watch it sizzle. Then ladle out a scoop of batter onto the smokey hot surface. The pancake’s ready for flipping when you start to see the bubbles popping along the edge forming little holes and the side firming up. Not before! I can’t stress this enough. Only flip the flapjack when it’s time.

Step 8: Enjoy.

This recipe adapted and improved upon Bittman’s How to Cook Everything fluffy pancake recipe. He’s got some great variants, and really, you should just own this book.

Twitter Algorithms

Did you like this?

This week’s tempest in a tweetpot is bubbling over because Twitter has announced they’re going to replace the current chronological stream we all know and love with a Facebook-like “algorithm-based timeline”. Naturally, people being people, the standard reaction is “OMG NO! CHANGE WE FEAR IT WTF!!!” followed by a stream of eggplant and hotdog emojis hitting a monkey in the face.

Speculation ensues.

There is some validity to this concern. Journos rely on Twitter for up-to-date information for breaking news. This becomes problematic if the timeline isn’t accessible directly, and it would be a strong move if they made that available by subscription to everyone. It used to be possible for news organizations to pay for high speed access to their datastream, though I’m not sure if they still offer that. Certainly not for mortal humans. Then again, if most of Twitter continues to work the way it does now, and searches are visible via the current livestream mechanism, this concern won’t be a big deal because you’ll find the hashtag in your “Breaking” or “Trending” section, click on it and see the full stream.

Using Twitter as a mechanism for social activism is problematic. The 140 character limit isn’t enough to write anything meaningful and the kernel gets reduced to a hashtag. If it becomes popular, that hashtag soon gets flooded, sometimes obscuring the original message. At least you can save it for later. Obscuring the timeline behind an algorithm could have a chilling effect on Twitter as an activism tool and the conspiracy-minded might be wondering if that’s one of the real reasons behind it.

I think this is the crux of the problem: If you don’t know how the algorithm works and how it can be tuned by the people running it, then you have no guarantees you’re seeing what you want to see. Remember when Google started tailoring search results for people based on their “preferences”? There was a brief outcry against that but now it’s no big deal that your search results and mine don’t show the same thing when we search for “local preowned medical instruments”.

Some have recommended switching to using Lists to view the timeline as it is now. It’s a feature most people don’t use, myself included, but may end up being a sneaky way around the new algorithmic features. Still others are advocating for the creation of a distributed, publicly-controlled Twitter alternative. (Remember identi.ca? App.net? No?) These services tend not to do very well, get sparsely populated by whatever self-selecting subgroups find them first and then die slow lingering deaths of irrelevancy. Maybe they were ahead of their time and we’re ready for something like that, but good luck moving a jillion people to a new service.

Maybe it won’t be horrible! Maybe everybody’s just getting freaked-out for no reason! It’s just Twitter, people. The vast majority of it is completely uninteresting to the vast majority of the population. It’s for marketing and funny pictures and vines (ha) and occasionally for tracking breaking news. Will I miss individuals’ late night, can’t sleep tweets or today’s sandwich? Maybe, maybe not. Twitter is a forgettable service 99% of the time. When I take time off to disconnect, one of the things I always realize is just how much I don’t miss it.

#RIPTwitter

Update! Twitter CEO Jack Dorsey loves the livestream and wants everyone to know of course they’ll be keeping it. There’s even a Verge article.

A little more transparency goes a long way, sometimes.