Goodreads Technology

I shouldn’t be grumpy about the wonderful technological thing I’ve been able to do… but I am.

I have been posting personal reviews of books I’ve read to Goodreads since 2009. I’ve got hundreds of books up on there. I like being able to share my thoughts with friends both local and distant. I like being able to go back and look at the list of things I’ve read and be able to sort them into various categories or descriptions. Others have tried to tell me there are better systems out there, but I haven’t really felt the need to move.

Much like any other business that wants to remain relevant, Goodreads has an app. I can access my account from my phone to look things up while I am out and about. Excellent. I love having access to the data. They also have a little part of that app that allows users to scan books by the ISBN code on the cover of the book. I can basically let my phone look at a picture of a code and the book in question will come up on my phone. IF the code doesn’t work, I can just let the phone look at the cover of the book and it will likely find the book that way. Amazing.

I needed to clear up some space in the back room. I moved a recently acquired book shelf (thanks mom!) in there and needed to put a stack of books on it so that I could reclaim the various flat surfaces where they’d been living. It was a random collection of stuff. I went into Goodreads, made up new “shelves” so that when I scanned the books I could put them together as actual, physical copies that reside in the house rather than the Kindle variety.

Here’s where I get picky about this little app. Of the 40(ish) books I scanned, 5 of them didn’t work. Some were old and didn’t have the right code but a couple just failed. Not a big deal – I’ve got weird stuff in the collection (I think you’re only allowed to use eccentric if you’re rich…). The problem was the process. First, there are 3 base categories that ALL your collection falls into – want it or not – “want to read”, “currently reading” and “read”. That’s it. No matter what other virtual shelves you create your book automatically falls into one of those, you can’t change it or avoid it. I hear somebody out there saying, “well, yeah – why would you have a book if you don’t actually want to read it or have read it?”. What if it’s an additional version that’s part of a collection? Yes, it’s likely that it falls into the “read” category or why would you have it, but I found the lack of an option there to be really annoying.

I also didn’t really want those books to qualify under the “read” category for other reasons. I have specifically resisted putting all the books I read before I was a Goodreads member up on the site. It seemed disingenuous to post something without a review while claiming to have read it. As I re-read titles I go back and add them. If I’m not re-reading them, I’d like the option to qualify my listing in another way. I don’t want the 40 books I scanned today to be added to my “read” count for the year. That’s bad data. I want it to sort better than that.

Yes, in the end it’s great technology to be able to do what I have done. No, it is not perfect. Hopefully there will continue to be improvements as the site keeps moving forward. I also hope they make it possible to cross post to Amazon reviews – but that’s another post.

MHI Again!

The Monster Hunter Files (Monster Hunters International Book 7)The Monster Hunter Files by Larry Correia
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This was a really fun collection of short stories. I particularly liked the first two stories, even if the one by Jim Butcher was released ahead of the book itself (and I read it long before I actually bought the book). There was a lot of what I would consider “classic” monster hunter stuff in here. I was really amused by the story in the Enchanted Forest. One of my favorites.

Not all the stories were in that vein however. There were a couple of stories that felt like they were forced to fit the world building of the monster hunter universe. These were stories from popular authors that have series of their own that didn’t stretch out past the characters as they’re known in the other series. Those stories were easily the weakest to me.

All in all, I was really happy with this one. IF you like the monster hunter series I suggest you go and grab this book.

View all my reviews

Bad Ball

The football season this year is not exactly making for “must see TV”. I’m struggling to put a finger on exactly why this season totally stinks, but there you have it. It’s dull. I HATE the celebrations. They could be a topic unto themselves, but this is definitely one of those cases where the ‘less is more’ rule applies. I know the “No Fun League” brought them back because people thought outlawing the touchdown celebration was draconian but we were better off without them. It’s difficult enough to get through and average play and not have some idiot showboating that he did his job – frequently to the detriment of actually finishing the play.

Along those lines, here’s the next installment of what I wrote about my time as a Neilsen family. It flashes back to other writing I did about television. It’s almost like that part in Deadpool where there’s a fourth wall break inside a fourth wall break (that’s like 16 walls!), but not actually like that at all.

February 7, 2016

So, the ‘big game’ is on and I’m contributing to the ratings (even if I’m only half watching it). While it’s on I’ve been searching an archive for something I wrote in the past and came across something very interesting. Apparently we’d been given the opportunity to fill out a paper survey for Nielsen way back in 2009. Here’s what I wrote about it at the time:

July 6th, 2009
How average are you?
02:23 pm
We are apparently average (or lucky?) enough to join the ratings system. Yup, that’s right – it’s the Nielsen Ratings system for July Sweeps. Yipee(ish).

I’ve discovered a few things in this process.

First, while the folks at Nielsen DO apparently have electronic devices for monitoring this kind of thing – they still use a little paper booklet for millions of families. Yeah, you read it right – little paper books. Here’s there statement:

“Diaries continue to be a valuable instrument in our measurement toolbox, and are used to collect viewing information from sample homes in almost every television market in the United States. Each year we process approximately 2 million paper diaries from households across the country for the months of November, February, May and July — also known as the “sweeps” rating periods. ”

Second – the depths of my laziness know no bounds. I can honestly say that the simple fact that I’d have to write it down has kept me away from channel clicking when I might have otherwise. Totally not working the way it’s supposed to for ratings, but there you have it. I’m addicted to the TV, but having to do even the tiniest bit of work to get there and I’m completely put off. How’s that for lazy?

My last observation is actually about the amount of TV that actually gets watched at our house. Not much is the short answer (and it’s almost all me). Since we started this last Thursday we’ve totalled approximately 3 hours of TV time, most of that taken up by a movie that lists it’s running time at well over 2 hrs. Don’t get me wrong, the kiddo has watched a movie on DVD and we listen to our 24 hour digital music channel via the cable, but we haven’t really watched anything “on tv”. I looked at the listings over the next couple of days, but really haven’t seen anything world shaking. I’ll probably try to catch the premier of Warehouse 13 (despite the fact that it’s on the syphilis channel) but we might not be home until around the time it comes on. We have lives outside the box – so if we get there, we get there, if we don’t, we don’t.

Have you ever been lucky enough to be picked?
How much TV do you watch on average?

Interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t in those intervening years.

Back To TV

Having the chance over the holiday weekend to sit and relax a little also gave an opportunity to watch some television. I realized that I just don’t watch that many shows on a regular basis and what I do watch is generally inconsistent but heavily influenced by my friends and those in my social circles.

Here’s one of the moments that I’ve been wanting to share since it happened. I really, really wanted to shut the person in question down, but wouldn’t trade influence for showing off.

December 14, 2015

It’s funny to me that I had just about moved past the annoyance phase and not given much thought to the ratings box attached to the TV when it cropped up in conversation someplace else.

I didn’t give up my secret, but it was horribly tempting. I was sitting in a meeting with a relatively large number of folks in attendance. The topic of discussion (that was not directly related to the meeting but that was happening anyway, in the middle of the rest of the meeting) moved to upcoming television programs and when they were scheduled. People began to debate various aspects of these shows and their relative value when one particularly waspish lady declared, “What difference does it make? Nobody here is a Nielssen family…”

I was sorely tempted to shut her down very publicly, but other people jumped on her declaration and gave me time to consider my desire and quash that flame. That is likely for the best because then I’d have to explain myself and I really had no desire to get dragged through the ashes of that discussion.

Assumptions like that in a crowd are not a great idea. You really don’t know – well, at least you don’t if the person in question can actually keep that secret.

Philcon 2017 Review

Taking off for another convention within about 18 hours of departing Philcon this year has delayed my normal post con review. Traveling for about a week straight was tiring and it is taking me a while to recover and get all my things back in order.

I was really happy with Philcon this year. The team managed to get a great guest line up and some really interesting panels. Above and beyond the normal comings and goings of the convention, it was fantastic to be able to reconnect with friends and colleagues that I don’t get to see as often as I’d like.

I got to be the moderator on one of the most entertaining and exciting panels I’ve seen in a while. The future of sports. More than one person looked at me with skepticism when I told them this was a topic for a science fiction convention panel. You shouldn’t be shocked, there are numerous references in movies and other media that tie directly to science fiction. There’s also a ton of actual science behind all this too. It was one of the best panels I’ve had in a long time. I’m actually going to recommend snatching the idea for another con in the spring – I think it’s worth running again.

Next, and most importantly to me, Don Maitz was the artist guest of honor this year. I first encountered his artwork during my very first convention. Balticon 27 he was the artist guest of honor. He’d hung the picture 40 Thieves right in the entry. I walked in and was blown away. That was 25 years ago and this convention was the first time since then that I’ve been a part of the same con where he was attending again. I grabbed my copy of his book and practically ran to meet him. I was NOT disappointed. He brought amazing art, fun stories (jogging with a steer?) and tips on creating artwork! I went to a drawing demonstration he lead in the art show area and got to sit next to him as he created and doled out little things he’s picked up over all the time he’s been working. Words don’t really do it justice. I just sat there and took it all in, desperate to remember as much as I could.

When I got the chance to chat with him later he was at his sale table. I explained about Balticon 27 and just what an impact his art had – and he pulled out one of the samples of that exact painting, signed it and gave it to me. Then, as if that wasn’t nearly enough he graciously signed my copy of his book AND added a sketch. It was awesome.

A sketch and a signature!

For those who recall a little thing that happened a few years ago where a bridesmaid was defending a pizza… sadly there were no shenanigans of that level. I suspect it will be a long time before we see something like that again, but given that brides do show up from time to time…

there’s always the chance there will be another brawl.

Interesting panel topics, great guests and the chance to get up close and chat with folks in the industry – if you’re not signing up to go to your local convention you are missing out. I’m already looking forward to the next Philcon!

2049 – Special Screening

I don’t miss many Watch The Skies meetings. Getting together with my friends, spending time debating a novel we’ve read and dishing on all the latest we’ve found out about our collective interests always makes me feel better.

I was unable to attend the meeting this month. I was disappointed because we were lined up to do something we hadn’t done before, namely discuss a novel AND the movie(s) that accompanied the novel. Blade Runner was a fantastic pick for this – and I wasn’t going to be there.

I reigned in my disappointment when I found a monumental bit of coincidental timing. I was going to be out of state at a conference for work. The software company putting on this conference also happens to be the same company that makes and supports the software that many film makers use for their CG special effects shots. There was going to be a special showing of Blade Runner 2049 with a warm up talk given by the lead special effects director on the exact same night that I would have been at the meeting back home. I may have squeed a little – but it was very manly.

When that night came around I was in line for the “overflow” folks. I couldn’t get one of the few reserved seats much to my dismay. I had to stand in line and hope. Hope can be cruel. I was the next person in line to get in when they cut the line off. I was literally next up and they said “nope”. So I didn’t get to listen to the effects director then watch the show.

What I did get to do was be first in for the second run the next night. The director couldn’t be there to speak again, but I did get to see Blade Runner 2049 in the room they had set up for the showing. Then I got to go to the special “after party” set up the conference had lined up at one of the restaurants where we were staying.

I could see her in that version of LA.

I really enjoyed watching the film. It would have been an awful lot more fun to have had all my friends there to break it down with and discuss all the finer points. The party afterward had some fun aspects. All in all it was a very memorable way to “miss a meeting”. I look forward to sitting down and chatting about the finer points of the whole thing at a later date.

Until then, I will stick with being inspired by peeks behind the scenes.

Ink and Bone

I’m going to start my book review of Ink and Bone by Rachel Caine with the most important part. I finished this book then went and bought the second one and started reading. It has been pointed out to me that is a rare circumstance and speaks more to the quality of the story than anything I could have to say about it. So there’s that ~ there might be spoilery stuff below…

What if we didn’t lose all the works from the great library? What if indeed.

I really enjoyed the pace of this book. The story didn’t slow down for me. Even when the students were studying or working out how they were going to be tested next there were bits and pieces that tied in to the rest of the story. There was a lot more action than you might think for a bunch of librarians. The action was also believable – Jess ends up in the hospital more than once. None of that “I’ll just continue on because I’m so tough…” actually working out. He’s got the attitude for that, but more often than not he wipes himself out with that thought process.

Jess as a character was trying to do the right thing. He was not a whining anti-hero. I enjoy and appreciate that more and more these days. He was anxious, clever and dense in various turns, in love and certainly passionate about what he was doing. He really worked as a character for me. He played well off the others as well.

The rest of the cast of characters developed well. I consider it a well written character when I’m reading and think, “wow that guy is a douche. I wouldn’t get along with him…” and I got those visceral reactions more than once. Well done.

There is one thing that I would quibble with – and it is just a quibble really. The timeline. This book, even with the magic of obscurists, didn’t feel like a “modern” story. Despite having stated someplace in there that this was set in 2025 or something like that it absolutely felt like 1890. The technology, the locations and the general societal attitudes placed it there, but also the “technology” of the books hurts the concept if you move further forward. What I mean by that is this: you’ve got the ability to pass notes from one linked book to another all over the world. You have the ability to transport matter (if you can send books, you can send anything) and people across the planet without appreciable delay… even if it’s a limited ability. IF you take this time line as an “alternate history” those bits of technology change how major developments in our past happen during the 1900s. World War II CAN’T happen the way it did in our world if you have instant communication across distances like that. There’s no accident of timing. There’s no struggle to travel the distances necessary to fight others in a distant land… but why would you send soldiers at all? Just send the bomb and let that do the work for you with none of the danger.

I think there’s a lot of potential for this series and I am already enjoying the next book. I would recommend picking this one up and giving it a shot.

Divine?

City of Stairs (The Divine Cities, #1)City of Stairs by Robert Jackson Bennett
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I’m going to give this one a weak 3 stars. I struggled with this book on a couple of fronts.

Third person current tense? I’m not sure, but it was like a nature show narrator during certain parts and it really bothered me.

I actually liked the characters quite a lot once I got past the author’s style. I think the indestructible secretary was a little much, but I understood why he was there. It’s useful to have that sort of “action” person around if you are not that action person. There were times when Shara didn’t look like a hugely experienced operative, but I was totally willing to roll with that. I also really liked Mulaghesh.

The world building perplexed me a bit. I wasn’t sure how certain parts of technology were or were not supposed to fit. There was no clear definition of what worked and what didn’t, what people were aware of and what they were not aware of. Eventually I put it into the same category as an 80s Batman movie.

There are lots of parts to this book that look like a thinly veiled condemnation of modern religion. I think there’s a lot of potential conversation stuff in here. For that alone, I would say pick it up and give it a shot.

View all my reviews

Secrets and Star Wars

I went back to look at where I’d left off with all the “secrets” posts and found something I’d forgotten. It’s fortuitous timing as well, since I wanted to talk about the Star Wars trailer that was shown very specifically at half time of the Monday night football game.

Is that really the target audience? Who gets the most help from that – the franchise or the NFL and their saggy ratings? This is not the first time they’ve done the “event” trailer thing – did it help last time?

October 20, 2015

The human body has an amazing capacity to care for itself. My sleep patterns are not always the best and I end up somewhere on the sleep deprived scale more often than I would like. When that happens, my body does (eventually) right itself.

Last night during halftime of the Monday Night Football game a trailer was supposed to premier for the new(est) Star Wars movie. I had no real interest in the football game and wasn’t even planning to have the TV on last night, but I DO actually have an interest in Star Wars (even if it’s only nostalgic at this point). I did all the work I could before going out and settling on the couch. Hit the little buttons to make sure all my screen time was counted. Paid some attention when the commercials aired, just to be sure I didn’t miss anything… then my body decided enough was enough with this whole ‘not sleeping’ thing and turned me off – like a light switch. I woke up just as the announcers declared that halftime was over and the third quarter was ready to roll. I missed the whole damn thing. It’s not that I couldn’t go see the trailer on the internet the very next morning. I could (and did) more than once. It was more the idea that I attempted to actually make the advertising thing “work” and just conked out. On the up side – it still counts because even though I wasn’t actually awake to see any of the other commercials before or after, the little buttons were pushed and the lights were on recording that I was “there” for the big halftime ad. One to the good for the ratings?