Friday, February 28, 2014

Bitcoins and Dated Story Details

For those of you who invested in Bitcoins, this may interest you: “In one of the biggest heists in history, Mt. Gox confirmed on Friday it lost nearly $500 million of Bitcoin due to a ‘system weakness,’ forcing the former leading exchange to file for bankruptcy protection in Tokyo.”

 public domain

I am not advising for or against investing in or dumping Bitcoins; I’m actually giving advice on writing. My favorite television show is Almost Human, starring Karl Urban and Michael Ealy. (Karl Urban is best known as the new Dr. McCoy, and for fighting Bruce Willis in Reds.) It’s a detective story that takes place decades from now, with Urban as a hard-as-nails detective, and Ealy as the android he’s been saddled with.

photo by Eva Rinaldi 

Although the science fictional details are good (mostly information technology) I mainly like the police procedural aspects of it. They do a good job of building a coherent future that still is enough like our own times that we can appreciate it. Except for the Bitcoins.

photo by pop culture geek 

A few times now, they’ve mentioned Bitcoins in their episodes, including the Bitcoin equivalent of an ATM (or ABM, for those of you in Canada). The problem is that Bitcoins are a popular item now, but we don’t know if they’ll be around in the near future. I don’t mean the more distant future when the story takes place; I mean a few years from now. If the series lasts a few years, they’ll look silly to mention Bitcoins as a monetary unit of the future if it all implodes in a few months.

It might seem like a good idea to write about Teslas as the car of the future. Maybe, maybe not.

In other words, it’s not wise to include something that’s currently all the rage. If you get a book accepted by an editor now, it might be two years before it hits the shelves. You don’t want people to laugh at your page 50 and say, “Wow, last year’s fad.”

Sometimes it’s unavoidable. In a novel I’m still trying to get accepted, the main character is tired of being temporary and wants to become permanent. One of his main reasons is to get insurance. But with all the changes going on with the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), I’m having to change the dialog. More than once. But try to avoid including things you know can pan out, no matter how popular they are right now.

Almost Human is on Monday nights at 8:00 in most time zones, on FOX. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Clash of the Titans—Is it Incest?

I watched the last 5 minutes of the 2010 remake of Clash of the Titans. The ending is still stupid. According to the Greek myth, after Perseus saves Andromeda from being sacrificed to a sea monster, they marry. The movie has him taking up with some nymph named Io.

Trouble is, Io and Perseus are distantly related (see details below). Io is the great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmother of Perseus. The moviemakers should have known better than plucking a name from Greek mythology without checking.

I know, eventually everyone is related to everyone. But it would seem more natural for Perseus to get interested in some second or third cousin, not a direct forebear. This just seems weird to get interested in a multiple-great-grandmother.

Does this count as incest? It’s an intergenerational relationship along a direct line of mother to distant son, rather than broadly separated cousins. Another way of looking at it is Perseus is the illegitimate son of Zeus. But Zeus also had a son by way of Io. So Perseus is getting interested in his illegitimate father’s girlfriend. I know Greek mythology can have weird relationships, but this movie made it worse.

Perseus, son of Danae, daughter of Acrisius, son of Abas, son of Lynceus, son of Aegyptus, son of Belus, son of Libya, son of Epaphus, son of Io. 

Monday, February 17, 2014

The Oxford Comma

I’m throwing down the gauntlet. I am in favor of the Oxford comma, and I defy those who think otherwise. What is this divisive comma? Glad you asked. 

Tom, Dick, and Harry

The Oxford comma goes before the conjunction towards the end of a list. In the above example, the comma occurs after Dick. Without that comma, the list is Tom, Dick and Harry.

(We Americans tend to call it the serial comma, which sounds so pedestrian in comparison.)

The Oxford comma has gone in and out of style. But style is a matter for ties, not punctuation. When I grew up, we were drilled on using that final comma, and we would be marked down for not using it.

Things changed. A writing professor in college told us we did not need that final comma. She said the word “and” separated the last two items, so what did we need the comma for? She asked that of the class defiantly.

I think it obvious the word “and” connects the two items together—after all, that is the job of that particular conjunction.

Things changed again while I was an adult. A seminar teacher told us of the legal case of Tom, Dick and Harry.

 Tom, Dick and Harry
A reason to sue

A man specified in his will that his estate should be divided equally among Tom, Dick and Harry. This was taken to mean each would get a third. Tom sued, saying it meant he should get 50%, and the other two would get 50%. Tom won.


Conjunctions do whatever they are supposed to, but commas separate. Period.

So I hope everyone out there is in favor of the Oxford comma. If not, bring an argument.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Ender’s Game Italiano

I plan on renting Ender’s Game this weekend. I like the Italian version of the trailer.

That one word at the end is great. 

Tuesday, February 4, 2014

Zombie Alert on Emergency Alert System

Some local station in Montana got hacked, so its Emergency Alert System went on. The message displayed on the air was, “the bodies of the dead are rising from their graves and attacking the living.”

Because of multiple copyrights involved, and because the video might get yanked off of YouTube at any moment, I won’t embed the video. The link is:

Obviously, this could be an inside job. Or, if the default password for such systems is “password” and nobody changes it, that makes it vulnerable. This was a gag, but what if a terrorist group gave false directions to people that all is well after a terror attack, or instructed people to gather at a certain public building, and then set off a bomb there?

As a nice touch, the last message was, “This station will now cease transmission, so please use your battery-powered radio.” 

Saturday, February 1, 2014

Deport Justin Bieber – Young Adult Authors Cannot Do This

You’ve probably heard the White House website has a petition area where people can post just about any petition, and if it gets enough responses, they have to officially answer it. A funny example was from 2012, when petitioners asked the government to build a Death Star, like from Star Wars. They had to answer it. A more serious one was for the legalization of cell phone unlocking.

public domain 

A current one is for the deportation of Canadian pop star Justin Bieber. I signed it. Unfortunately if you’re a Young Adult author, you can’t afford to do this. Or at least not admit to it online.

You might say, “My audience is too intelligent to scream over Justin Bieber.” Think again. Or suppose that twenty percent of your readership likes the Biebs. You can’t afford to lose that twenty percent.

This reminds me of how a new author was interviewed on TV. He said his novel was like a Michael Crichton novel, only with good characters. I happen to like the characters in the couple of novels by him I’ve read. More to the point, the average viewer would associate Michael Crichton with the Jurassic Park movies, which they like, and not know what this guy’s problem was. So don’t introduce yourself by being negative—to your potential audience.

And don’t introduce your vampire story by saying, “At least my vampires don’t glitter.” Don’t do that. 


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