Monday, December 31, 2007

Your Substitute Monday Photo Shoot: What's New?

Cross-posted from Outpost Mâvarin: Your Substitute Monday Photo Shoot: What's New?

As you should all know by now, today (Monday, December 31st, 2007) was John Scalzi's last day blogging for AOL on By the Way. A number of people have said they were going to miss John's Monday Photo Shoots, and a few have asked me whether anyone will be picking up the slack, and assigning them in John's stead. MPS addict that I am, I'm willing to give it a shot. How about you?

Here's how this will work: I will post an entry every Monday with that week's subject. (After this week, it will be early Monday AM, not Monday night.) If you want to join in, take your picture, post it to your blog or journal, and leave a link in the comments to the original entry here. On Thursday night, I'll do a follow-up entry just as John did, linking back to everyone who participated. Simple, no? Then let's get started!

Your Substitute Monday Photo Shoot #1: What's New? In honor of the new year, show us something new. It can be a gift you got over the holidays, something you gave yourself, or even something that symbolizes the New Year to you. If it's new, it'll do!

Here's mine:

This is the coolest Christmas present I got this year: the 25th Anniversary Illustrated Collector's Edition of the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. It's one of my favorite books of all time. It's also one of my favorite tv shows and spoken word records, several of my favorite audio tapes, my very favorite radio show and my second favorite towel. It's not remotely my favorite film, but one can't have everything.

I have the text of the first Hitchhiker's book in several editions as it is, but this one is pretty special. It's full of visual reproductions of annotated scripts, behind the scenes photos from the various productions, merchandise, flyers and fan memorabilia. Love it! (And yes, I realize the above photo isn't terribly good from a technical standpoint. The glare off glossy paper gets me every time!)

Your turn! Take a picture of something new, post it to your blog, and come back here and leave your link. You have until midnight Thursday night, when I will compile the roundup of links from both Musings and the Outpost. Remember, your participation or lack thereof will determine whether there's still a Monday Photo Shoot in the weeks ahead. And if someone else wants to take it over, please let me know so we can coordinate. Thanks!


Friday, December 14, 2007

Celebrate Him Home

Cross-posted from Outpost Mâvarin:

As we know, AOL will soon be parting company with John Scalzi, creator of the AOL Journal By the Way, the Weekend Assignments, Monday Photo Shoots, and a handful of nifty Ficlets. This is one of those "by mutual agreement" situations; AOL is contemplating a change in direction, and Scalzi is contemplating how much easier it will be to meet his deadlines for writing books if he's not busy amusing us with news of phosphorescent cats and fun games and pictures out hotel windows.

I already did my main Scalzi tribute entry, so I'm not going to go on and on about him tonight.

That's where you come in.

Are you one of John Scalzi's many fans? Was it because of him that you first learned how to upload a photo or a video, or had at least one thing to write about each weekend? Has By the Way or the Ficlets blog always been a "must read" for you? As time ticks away to the end of the year, when Scalzi's AOL contract runs out, would you like to show your appreciation for his four years of fun and inspiration and community building, and share your favorite Scalzi memes or moments with other readers?

If so, we've got just the journal for you!

It's called


and it just went live Wednesday night. Carly (whose idea this was), Steven and I have put it together on AOL as a centralized place in which we can all thank John Scalzi for all his good work, and leave links to our own tributes, favorite Monday Photo Shoots, Weekend Assignments, Ficlets or other Scalzi-related fun. We've got three entries to get things started, and we'll be adding more over the next three weeks, featuring YOUR links and tributes, plus several surprises. So click on over and see what you think. Let's gather our scattered journaling community one more time, and give our Blogfather a big send-off!


Saturday, May 26, 2007

Pointing at the Past

Because I'm totally insane sometimes in an OCD sort of way, I've spent an hour or two today updating two Musings entries from 2004:

Las Vegas: The Non-Gamblers' Experience
The Sublime and the Ridiculous: LV as a SF/F Destination

Blame John Scalzi and Joe Loong. John Scalzi wrote about people using moblity scooters to get around the Las Vegas Strip, which reminded me how much fun John (Blocher) and I had walking around the place three years ago taking photos. But when I looked at my two postings about it, I saw something Joe warned us about recently: an old AOL You've Got Pictures album was displayed as a Ken Burns style Woohoo slideshow.
I actually hate the old YPG albums (too small and never worked well for me and my dial-up) and love the Ken Burnsy thing. That's not a problem for me at all. I've even put a Ken Burns Woohoo on my church's main web page. But the tiny, grainy photos in that entry, taken three years ago with a Mavica and edited with whatever I had available at the time, are not improved by scrolling lovingly across an extra-large display of the dark, low-res images. So I've deleted one photo that was especially bad, edited full size versions of eight more shots and added them in. And yes, I left it Ken Burns style. Because I don't quite trust you folks to go take a look at the original entry, here is the revised slideshow:
Hmm. It won't display for me in this entry. Stupid dial-up! I'll be interested to know whether it displays for anyone else. It could be a slow connection issue, or it could simply be the way I copied and pasted it in here. (I did get it to display when I loaded the individual entry, so it's probably a connection speed issue. YGP gets impatient with the wait while the Journals product is still loading the other pictures on the page, not to mention the darn ad.)
But all this is a silly thing to do, isn't it? These are extremely obscure journal entries, virtually unknown to the search engines and remembered only by me. When I posted those musings about our Las Vegas trip in May 2004, I only had about two or three readers. Grainy pictures aside, I wrote what I still think is a really good entry about Las Vegas becoming a viable destination for fans of scence fiction and fantasy, but nobody ever saw it or commented. And this entire journal, Musings from Mâvarin, is virtually abandoned now. So why did I bother fixing up a three year old posting in a disused journal? Um, because I could, I think. And three years later, I still hope someone will read it and leave a comment.

Friday, March 16, 2007

Remembrance of Weekend Assignments Past

Cross-posted from Outpost Mâvarin because it seems appropriate:

Stories of the Weekend Assignments

Weekend Assignment #156: Repost your favorite Weekend Assignment from the past three years. Or, if you can't choose, post the first Weekend Assignment you ever participated in.

Extra Credit: Should we keep doing the Weekend Assignments? Or after three years, should we give it a rest? Let me know; I'm curious.

When I first saw this assignment this afternoon, I thought it would be quick and easy. All I needed to do was look up Holiday Picnic with Tom and Abby and Friends, repost it, and I'd been "rolling with puppies," or whatever it is that Willow says in that one Buffy episode. Then I though I ought to actually look and see what else I've written at Scalzi's behest since June 2004. I started with a search for Weekend Assignments on Musings from Mâvarin, and never really got beyond that. After all, between the two blogs, I've written over a hundred of these things. It really wasn't possible for me to read (or even skim) all of them tonight.

But I did read or skim a bunch of them, and I found two contradictory patterns emerging:

  1. Despite the occasional overlap, there really has been a huge variety of subject matter in Scalzi's assignments.
  2. Despite #1, I personally tend to write responses that hook in to my own obsessions. Several times I've worked in some kind of time travel story or premise, relating to The Beatles, Disneyland, Doctor Who and certain early U.S. presidents. I've written about my novels, about books by L'Engle and others, and about friends, teachers and relatives of the past and present. And when the assignment was something that didn't interest me, such as pie, I tended to dispose of it as quickly as possible and find a tangent to carry us someplace more interesting.
That last thing under #2 led to the entry I'll be reposting tonight instead of the picnic with Thomas Jefferson. Oddly enough, it involves the same "Scalzi's clone" photo that Scalzi himself reposted today. I don't like it much, and wasn't terribly interested in captioning it, but that was the assignment that night. So I did it, and then I had an interesting conversation about it with my pirate house guest, Black Rose Katie Specks. Enjoy.

Thursday, November 3, 2005
9:17:00 PM MST

The Clone and the House Guest

Weekend Assignment #84: Take a look at the picture below. Tell us what you think is going on in the picture. You can write as long as you want, or as short as you like -- even a photo caption works. Now, it's a fairly weird picture, but I thought that would just give you more to work with. Ready? Here you go:

John Scalzi is finally forced to admit it was a bad idea to crib
his cloning experiment from a Treehouse of Horror episode of

The Simpsons

Extra Credit: Would you like to see more "explain what's going on in the picture" sort of assignments?

No. Not as such. There's not enough material here for writing one of my patented long entries. Yet somehow I'll manage anyway, especially with my nosy house guest asking questions!

Kate is not amused."Tell me again who John Scalzi is," Black Rose Kate orders.

"He's AOL's designated, professional blogger," I tell her. "He's there to encourage and inspire people to post in their AOL Journals, give tips on how it's done, point the way to interesting or amusing stuff online, and generally entertain us."

"Then by what authority can he assign you to do anything?"

"Oh, it's completely voluntary. But it gives me something to write about that I might not have thought of otherwise."

"Is this something you wanted to write about, now that he's thought of it for you?" she asks pointedly.

"Not really, but I'm proud of the caption I came up with for it."

"I do not understand it. What is a clone?"

"A clone is an exact copy of a person, like a twin, but made by science instead of nature. It's been done with a sheep and other animals. Nobody's ever really cloned a human being yet, as far as we know, and a lot of people say we shouldn't even try it."

"But the monster on the left isn't an exact copy,"
Kate points out.

I decide not to mention that "monster" would not be a politically correct term for a "cloned American," even a wonky-looking  one like Scalzi's. "That's because the premise of the photo is that the cloning experiment didn't quite work out," I explain. "It's supposed to be a joke."

"Well, I fail to see the humour in it," says Kate. "What does your caption mean, about The Simpsons? You have DVDs with that name on them. Are there clones in The Simpsons?"

"Not that I recall," I admit. "But the fake clone in the picture looks a little like the drawings of Homer Simpson in the tv show."

"There are drawings in the tv show?"

"It's nothing but drawings. You can watch some of the DVDs tomorrow if you like."

"And the treehouse of horror? What, pray tell, is that?"

"It's a series of Halloween episodes of The Simpsons, in which horrible things happen. If a cloning experiment went wrong on The Simpsons, it would probably be in a Treehouse of Horror episode."

Black Rose Kate shakes her head. "I think I have done very well so far in understanding your century; but this explanation remains unclear to me."

"It's not important," I tell her. "Nothing kills a joke faster than trying to explain it."

Kate nods thoughtfully. Then she hits me with a question that I should have expected but didn't.
"Am I a clone?"

I look at her. There is no denying that Katie Specks looks enough like me that she could indeed be my clone. It is also true that she still doesn't know how she got here. I can't blame her for wondering whether she might not be who she thinks she is.

"You're not a clone," I tell her.

Karen as "Not Rani," and Kate"Am I  a twin?"

"Not of me, you aren't. Perhaps we're related."

"Aye, perhaps. Were your ancesters from England or Ireland?"

"Some of them. I used to jokingly refer to the Irish ones as Viking Irish royalty, the ones who got tired of returning north and became landed gentry instead."

"Aye, I come from the same hardy stock," says Kate. "Mayhap we are relatives. But stay, I have one more question for ye."

"What's that?"

"Am I fictional? You told people that I was a fictional character."

Uh-oh. "How do you know about that?"

"I read the emails you sent to Paul and Gem."

Poor Kate! I'll have to approach my explanation delicately.
"I didn't think you would learn to use my computer so quickly," I admit.

Kate is amused."I find your keyboard difficult to operate, especially the keys with the letters missing. But even I can point and click with the mouse. What is your explanation, Karen?"

"What would you have me tell everyone, Kate? If I post the truth, that you're really here but we don't know why or how, people will either assume that I'm lying, or that I'm crazy, or that I'm telling a story. As a fiction writer, I'd rather they think I'm writing fiction than that I'm lying or crazy."

"You think people will not believe the plain truth?"

"That's right. People just don't turn up from centuries past, alive and well and asking questions."

Kate chuckles. "Fair enough. All right, then. We can pretend that you're spinning a yarn, an it helps you preserve your reputation."

"Thank you."

"But you should have asked me, Karen."

I nod. "Yes. Sorry."

"Aye, well, 'tis unimportant now. Tell me more about The Simpsons. Do these drawings you mention move, like the images in Buffy?"

I think I'll spare you the rest of that conversation.


Some Fictional and/or Time Travel W.A.'s:
Holiday Picnic with Tom and Abby and Friends
Not Your Usual Subscriptions
With the Beatles

Black Rose Katie Specks
An 18th Century pirate looks at the modern world.