Joe Weisenthal vs. the 24-Hour News Cycle - NYTimes.com

I love writing, but this profile of a financial blogger just sounds awful. Working all day in the text mines, looking for Fool's Gold:

Some of what he writes is air and sugar. Some of it is wrong or incomplete or misleading. But he delivers jolts of sharp, original insight often enough to hold the attention of a high-powered audience that includes economists like The Times columnist Paul Krugman and Wall Street heavies like the hedge-fund manager Douglas Kass and the bond investor Jeff Gundlach.

Dreaming of a better Kindle Fire - TechHive Beta Blog

It is no secret that I'm a fan of Amazon, and of their Kindles more specifically. It is often assumed, for one reason or another, that if you like a company that means you can't be critical of anything that company does. This is probably most commonly seen amongst Apple aficionados (and I think that some of the Apple press do give the company a pretty wide berth on many, many issues) but the same can be said for any company.

Just because I like the Kindle Fire (I wrote a bestselling book about it too which you should totally buy) doesn't mean the product can't stand some improvement. My internet pal, and yours, Jason Snell makes some great points on Techhive:

The Kindle Fire is definitely a first effort. I’m reminded of the original Kindle, which was intriguing and yet horribly flawed. After a couple of iterations, Amazon got the Kindle in shape. It can do the same with the Kindle Fire, especially if it emphasizes its two strongest points: a small size and a low price. With some tweaks to the hardware (volume buttons!) and continued software refinements, including better support for multiple Amazon accounts, the Kindle Fire’s future can still be bright.

The Kindle Fire's biggest flaw, if you ask me, involves physical buttons but I don't miss the volume buttons as much as Jason does. The location of the power button, however, is just plain dumb. I long for a sliding button like Amazon had on the second and third generation e-ink Kindles (though the 4th gen Kindles switched to a normal pushy button, which I am not a fan of). Turning on/off or putting a device to sleep shouldn't be something you can do accidentally.


Hugo Awards 2012

Hugos2012covers

Ever since the Hugo Award nominees for 2012 were announced I can't tell you how many people have asked my opinion about them. Ok, I can tell you: zero. However, I won't let a silly number like that stop me from sharing with you, my Internet friends.

This is one of the first years I've read a majority of the Hugo nominated novels before they were announced (3 out of the 5 beforehand) mostly because of my participation in the Incomparable book club (listen to the episode where we discuss 2011's nominated novels). Since the nominations have been announced I've managed to read the other two novels (I owned one and the library provided the other).

Now, last year I read almost all of the nominated novels, with the exception of Connie Willis' Blackout/All Clear (two novels that were considered as one for some reason). I bet my hat that The Dervish House was destined to win since it was the best novel I had read in a long time (I was also fairly certain that Feed's inclusion was some sort of clerical error).

I tell you all of this so you can get a feel for my track record. Last year not only did Connie Willis walk away with the award (she's a great writer, and since I haven't read her novels as of yet I can't say with certainty that The Dervish House was a better book, but I'm pretty sure it was) but Feed, which I hated, managed to garner more votes than The Dervish House.

That ain't right folks.

With all of that in mind, here are my thoughts about the nominated novels this year (here's the full list of Hugo nominees this year):


  • Among Others, Jo Walton (Tor): This year's The Dervish House. A great book that is basically about a young girl who loves reading and happens to see fairies. Jo Walton is an amazingly talented writer and if she doesn't win the Hugo this year I'll think the thing has been fixed. The only problem I see with Among Others' chances is that while the book is about science fiction (check out this Pinterest board that lists all the novels mentioned) it's really a fantasy book. Sure, some fantasy novels have won but the Hugo is, at the core, a science fiction award. Plus, I want it to win and that is the kiss of death for any nominated novel.

  • A Dance with Dragons, George R. R. Martin (Bantam Spectra): Here's the deal, this book is fine. It isn't the best installment of the series, but it is satisfying for those who keep plugging along with the books. If you were to start reading The Song of Ice and Fire (a.k.a The Game of Thrones) series with this book you'd have no idea what the hell was going on, and I doubt you would care. That being said Mr. Martin has two things going for him this year: The Game of Thrones is a legitimate cultural phenomenon. It has emerged from the ghetto of genre and has been embraced by the mainstream (I was at a birthday party for twin toddlers the other and one of the parents of an attending child told me her mother has read the whole series). That's some powerful stuff. Second: Martin has been nominated 4 times before in this category (3 out of those 4 times for previous installments in the Song of Ice and Fire) and he hasn't won once. The voters might decide it is time for George to get the award based not on this novel, but on the series as a whole thus far. I won't be too upset if George wins, but it'll be a shame since Jo Walton deserves the little rocket ship.

  • Deadline, Mira Grant (Orbit): This was the last novel on the list I read (I just finished it a few hours ago) because I hated (really hated) the previous book in this series, Feed. Deadline is slightly better than Feed, but it is still a bad book. I honestly have no idea how Deadline ended up on the ballot, but clearly lots of people are into it. I found the first 100 pages to be awful, the rest of the book is just meh, and the "surprise" ending is both incredibly predictable and really undercuts a very powerful part of the first book.

  • Embassytown, China Miéville (Macmillan / Del Rey): Oh, China Miéville. He's an inventive writer, and Embassytown is a fantastic novel (in that it is full of flights of fancy). I thought it a very interesting rumination on the nature of truth and language, but as a novel it was a little thin. The writing is spectacular, but the plot is pretty run of the mill. I enjoyed reading it, and I would recommend it to other fans of China Miéville, but I don't think it should take the prize this year.

  • Leviathan Wakes, James S. A. Corey (Orbit): Funny thing about this book, which I read after it was nominated: I bought it many months ago and attempted to start reading it over the summer but stopped after the first 10 or so pages. Oddly, the big twist that makes you want to keep reading happens about 15 pages in, so I really should have stuck it out on the first go-a-round. This is the most traditional science fiction novel of the bunch, and it is a fun read. I'm a little puzzled as to why it was nominated since I don't think it does much to expand the genre but sometimes a novel just needs to be a good read and Leviathan Wakes certainly has that in spades (and I love the minor plot point involving Mormons).


Generally, I'm a novel kind of guy but John Scalzi rounded up links to all the nominated short stories this year so I decided to read them. They are all worth your time to read, especially since you can read them for free, but there was one that really stood out to me.

Here are my thoughts, and my pick:


  • “The Cartographer Wasps and the Anarchist Bees”, E. Lily Yu (Clarkesworld): This lovely, and beautifully written, story about some warmongering wasps expanding their empire gets my vote. Great writing which feels like it belongs in a literary fiction magazine which might turn some people off but worked for me. I choose not to linger on the fact that Yu is a recent college graduate (damned talented young people) and won't let that make me spiral into a depression about my own (nonexistent) fiction output.

  • “The Homecoming”, Mike Resnick (Asimov’s): A great story about a young man visiting his ailing mother and estranged father and experiencing that wonderful tension that you get when visiting parents. Oh, and the son has voluntarily had his consciousness transplanted into an alien body which complicates things just a bit.

  • “Movement”, Nancy Fulda (Asimov’s): This one didn't do too much for me, though I can see how other folks would really like it. The main character is a autistic girl who only becomes truly functional when she is dancing.

  • “The Paper Menagerie”, Ken Liu (The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction): This story came in a close second for me, just edged out by those darned cartographer wasps! A story about cultural assimilation, a parent's unconditional love, and how awful kids can be without even knowing it. Add in some animated paper animals and a wonderful story is born. How can you go wrong?

  • “Shadow War of the Night Dragons: Book One: The Dead City: Prologue”, John Scalzi (Tor.com): This is a parody of fantasy novels, and it is funny though I have a hard time believing there wasn't another non-jokey short story out there that could have been nominated. That said, it is fun.


eBook covers

3 Kindles walk into a bar...

This article on The Atlantic and Chip Kidd's TED Talk about the importance of book covers got me to thinking about, of all things, eReaders.

Specifically the fact that every eReader I've used (and I've used many) displays some sort of image when it is "sleeping." Amazon even sells Kindles that show ads when the device isn't being used.

Why not display the cover of the book currently being read on the device when it is sleeping? I love book covers, and I miss seeing them when I'm reading something, so why display them?

This would have to be an optional setting, though, because one of the great things about eReaders is that you can read super trashy novels in public and no one ever knows (not that I would do such a thing).


Write about books

Hey there Blankbaby readers (reader?), I have a question for you. I've been doing lots of reading the last couple years (20 books so far this year) and not so much blogging (obviously).

To rectify this situation (and attempt to make some sweet, sweet Amazon affiliate money) I'm going to write about the books I'm reading. The question is: should I do that here on Blankbaby or on the reading blog I started long ago called Scott's Reading List (which you probably didn't even know about)?

Sound off in the comments!

Also, how do you like the snazzy new design? Pretty sweet, huh?


iPad 3 review

People who say they iPad doesn't get uncomfortably hot are living in denial.

via hello.typepad.com

I've had a simliar experience with my iPad 3 so far. The heat isn't really an issue, but it is noticable. Perhaps some units have some misappiled thermal paste or something (I don't even know if there is any thermal paste on the processor in the iPad, that's just a complete guess).

Anyway, I like my iPad 3 but I still like my Mac (and Kindle) more.


10 Cool Things You Can Do with Your Kindle Fire

My dear, dear publisher, Peachpit, asked me if I would be interested in writing an article for their website about the Kindle Fire. I, of course, was interested and wrote 10 Cool Things You Can Do with Your Kindle Fire:

Did you know that you can email documents, load your own content, and sideload apps with the Kindle Fire? Scott McNulty, author of The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide, offers a list of ten cool things he loves about the Kindle Fire.

Go ahead and read it, dude!


The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide is now available

Hey cats and kittens, the day you've been waiting for is upon us (well, it actually happened yesterday but I was busy taking the day off): my latest book, The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide, is officially available for sale in hardcopy!

To celebrate I thought I would give away some copies of the book to Blankbaby readers/followers. I have 15 copies of the book to give away, so leave a comment on this post by January 24th to enter. If more than 15 people comment then I will randomly select the winner, and if less than 15 people comment everyone wins (if exactly 15 people comment the universe will implode).

The book covers the basics from using the web browser, buying media from Amazon, and more advanced topics like side loading apps and filling your Kindle Fire up with non-Amazon purchased content (you can do it!).

All that I ask from the handsome/lovely people who win a copy is that you leave a review on Amazon after you've read the book. Just share how you felt about the book: good or bad (though I think this book will be a boon to any Fire owner).


It is really hard to feel bad for a billionaire

But George Lucas strikes me as a little sad in this great NY Times article about his retirement (of his own choosing). For example:

“Why would I make any more,” Lucas says of the “Star Wars” movies, “when everybody yells at you all the time and says what a terrible person you are?”

I know people give Lucas crap for endless fiddling with his movies, but I admire him for sticking to his vision (good or bad) and self-funding it.

Good on ya, George!


Steve Ballmer, straight shooter

I can't imagine anyone at Apple saying something similar in any circumstances, but Steve Ballmer cuts to the point: "At present, Microsoft has 14 retail stores and plans to open up to 75 more over the next three years, usually placing them as close as possible to Apple outlets. “Well, the traffic is going to be there, and we’ve got to beat them anyway,” Ballmer says with a shrug."


I want to be a super-villian

I've always wanted to live either in a lighthouse or a former missile silo. Scouting NY (one of my favorite blogs) checks out a missile silo home.

Neat, huh? I think so, though it is probably for the best if I don't spend too much time thinking about why living in such remote/extreme locations appeal to me (but I would totally turn the missile silo into a huge library. How awesome would that be?).


The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide

Kindlefirepocket 1Have you been wondering what I've been up to these last few months? Shockingly, I've been writing a book. Actually, most of the book was written during a 3 week span in November with editing and tweaking done the following weeks. All that work by myself, and the fine folks at PeachPit, translates into The Kindle Fire Pocket Guide (available in paperback
[out January 22nd, but you can pre-order now] or Kindle
[You can buy it now! Heck, you can even buy it before you get your Kindle Fire from Amazon and it'll be waiting for you when you turn on your Fire]. If Barnes and Noble is your thang you can pre-order it there too.).

I think this book turned out very well, and I hope folks who purchase it find it useful.


The "war on religion"


I'm not a political guy, but Rick Perry's latest campaign ad has really got my dander up (who knew I had dander?).

I've embedded it above, but I'll post the transcript here (taken from here):

I’m not ashamed to admit that I’m a Christian, but you don’t need to be in the pew every Sunday to know there’s something wrong in this country when gays can serve openly in the military but our kids can’t openly celebrate Christmas or pray in school.

As president, I’ll end Obama’s war on religion. And I’ll fight against liberal attacks on our religious heritage.

Faith made America strong. It can make her strong again.

I’m Rick Perry and I approve this message.

I had no idea that the President (a self identified Christian) was waging a war on religion, but I figured he must have some help from the folks in Congress. What with the whole design of our government and all being set up with a system of checks and balances to prevent a crazy president from doing something like waging a war on religion.

That got me thinking, I wonder what the religions of all the people in the Congress and Senate are. Surely, given our country's continuing war on religion, both Houses must be populated with hateful non-believers.

I was shocked to find out that atheists had invaded Congress! Well, atheist. That's right, one congressmen identified himself as an atheist (Pete Stark, who is a Democrat from California… so maybe he doesn't count).

Two other members of Congress don't list an affiliation, so I suppose that could mean they're atheists but they won't come out and say it.

That leaves 432 members of Congress who self identify as being a member of one religion or another (see the full list here).

Damn those religious representatives! Maybe the war on religion is being waged in the Senate. According to Wikipedia 2 members of Senate don't list their religions. That leaves 98 who are members of one religion or another (85 Senators are some flavor of Christian).

It would seem that war on religion is failing.

I'm an atheist myself, but I'm all for protecting the rights of others to practice whatever religion they want. Who cares, as long as you aren't hurting anyone (which is how I feel about a person's sexuality as well) and you don't try too hard to convert me. I wonder if Rick Perry would be as supportive of my rights as an atheist to not say "under God" during the Pledge of Allegiance (not that I often recite the Pledge of Allegiance, though when I was growing up I said it in school every day after prayers. Yep, I went to 13 years of Catholic school).

So, to my Christian friends who must hide your religions away in the many churches, Christian charity organizations, and many Christmas displays and celebrations I offer my support. Though you are represented by an overwhelming majority in the House and Senate, I am sure it is tough. I hope you aren't suffering too much for your religion.


The Kindle Fire

Amazon's latest gadget, the Kindle Fire, and the mixed reaction from tech bloggers (Andy likes it, Glenn likes it, David not so much, Josh kind of liked it, and Marco and Ben both hated it… really hated it) got me thinking about my struggles with weight loss.

I'm a fat guy. I used to be fatter. I used to be thinner. At the moment I'm trying to get back to that thinner place. One thing I've been doing to achieve this is cutting carbs almost entirely out of my diet.

One of my favorite low carb dishes is often called Kindlefirefauxtatoes: pureed cauliflower with some stock and cheese mixed it. While it does kind of look like mashed potatoes, if you eat a pile of pureed cauliflower expecting it to taste like mashed potatoes you're going to be disappointed. There's no way around it, even though pureed cauliflower is just as tasty as mashed potatoes (honestly, it is really good).

They look a like on the surface, but they are very different vegetables.

That's the way I think of the Kindle Fire vs. the iPad. If you look at it as an iPad the Fire just doesn't measure up. If you think of it as a fancy Kindle (which is what Marisa calls it) well it is pretty damned fantastic.

What do I think of it? I really like it. I haven't seen any of the super slow response times others complained about. When I tap on things they respond. Video is great on it.

I love, as always, that when I enter my Amazon account info into the Fire all my stuff is just there. It streams my 17,000 songs on my Cloud Drive without a problem, and books and magazines are fine on it (though I still hate reading on a backlit screen, which is why I also bought the Kindle Touch and the Kindle… though Marisa is getting one of those to replace her Kindle 3). The app selection isn't great, but honestly the Fire isn't about apps it is about buying and consuming stuff from Amazon.

I should mention that I am writing a book about the Kindle Fire (pre-order it now!) so take from that what you will.


Steve Jobs 1955 - 2011

Steve

Oddly enough, I don't think I would be married to Marisa if it hadn't been for Steve Jobs.

Allow me to explain: the first time Marisa and I ever hung out for more than a few minutes alone with one another was when I helped her diagnosis an iBook with a failing hard drive. I spent hours sitting at the dining room table (which is now our dining room table) running diagnostics and what have you. That is where our friend began, over that piece of silicon and plastic which wouldn't have existed without Steve. Over time (ok, a long time) our friendship deepened into love and eventually we figured out that we should be together.

Thanks for that, Steve.

I don't really have anything profound to say about his death, other than 56 is too young for anyone to die: world changer or not.


Buying books from old jews

Building book sale haul

You may not know this about me, but I live in a building where a lot of older Jewish people live. I don't have a problem with this. They are very quiet, the elevators are easy to get late at night, and they can be quite entertaining.

My building has a little library in the community room, which I have never been to. However, the library had a book sale last week to raise some money.

Given the key demographic in my building, I didn't think there would be many books of interest to me but at a buck a book I figured I could take 15 minutes to check out the wares.

I'm glad I did because I ended up spending $5 on the following:

  • Mr. Vertigo: I like Auster a lot, so this was an easy choice.
  • Third Class Superhero : I enjoyed Yu's second novel How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe so why not give his first work a go?
  • Bonk's Bar : This one is the wild card. I picked it up mostly because it is set in Philadelphia.
  • The Law of Nines : Oh Terry Goodkind. I expect this book to be pretty bad, but I went through a Goodkind phase in high school and I thought I would give him a chance now.
  • Jpod : I was an English major in college, which means most of my classes were discussions. As any of you who have met me in real life (or have listened to any of The Incomparable podcasts in which I appear) know I am a man of few words. I remained generally quiet in class except for two notable occasions: in a creative writing class discussion on Hemingway and the "Iceberg theory" (90% of an iceberg is underwater as a metaphor for how much is concealed in Hemingway's spare prose) I suggested that he wrote so simply because he wasn't a very good writer (the TA of the class didn't agree with me). The other time, in a postmodern literature class, I argued reading Generation X, Coupland's most well known work, was a waste of time because all the characters did was whine about nothing (the Prof. didn't agree with me). Given that background it might seem odd to pick this up, but I did enjoy Microserfs.

When I went to pay for my five books the little old lady looked at them and said, "Great! We don't get many people with such esoteric taste."

Not sure what she meant by that, but I'll take it as a compliment.


Win a copy of The Mac OS X Lion Project Book

You all know that I'm a big fancy pants author, right?

Did you know that big fancy pants authors get author copies of their books? It is true! It is also true that I have no use for 25 copies of my latest opus: The Mac OS X Lion Project Book
(though I do recommend you purchase at least 3 copies, in case of disaster).

However, two lucky people will win a copy of my book just by commenting on this post by end of day Saturday, September 3rd.

That's right, just leave a comment and you'll be entered to win! I'll pick two lucky people, autograph the book (if requested to) and mail it off to them.

All I ask of the winners is this: read the book and leave a review of it on Amazon/BN.com/iBookstore… wherever you do your shopping. The review should be honest (good, bad, or indifferent) of course.

Alright, why are you still reading this? Leave a comment already!


My Lion ebooks are now available

When Cliff, my editor at Peachpit, asked me to write The Mac OS X Lion Project Book, I jumped at the chance. I wrote, and wrote, and wrote… well, I wrote too damn much!

I only had 240 pages, which seems like a lot when you’re staring at the blank page in Scrivener, but they fill up fast.

I wrote so much additional information that we had enough stuff to six (6!) additional ebooks, which are now available on the iBook Store and the Kindle store (I say buy both formats… cross platform!):

SecureSecure Your Mac with Mac OS X Lion (iBooks | Kindle): Out of the box, Lion is pretty darned secure… but it could be even more secure (people are out to get you). This ebook covers how to use Lion’s Firewall, FileVault, and change some default settings to thwart the criminal element (just like a superhero!).

ChildproofChildproof your Mac with Mac OS X Lion (iBooks | Kindle): Kids have sticky fingers and they want to prod and poke your Mac, launch apps they shouldn’t, and spend all your money on the Mac App Store. This ebook will show you how to enable Parental Controls on your Mac and put those ankle-biters in their place (you will even learn how to limit their computer usage using a Lion feature).

ManagepasswordManage passwords with 1Password (iBooks | Kindle) Ok, this book isn’t Lion specific but 1Password is a great app worthy of an ebook unto itself. Thanks to 1Password I am of the opinion that the best password is a password that even you don’t know. 1Password creates, manages, and fills in passwords for you. Brilliant! I have no idea what any of my password are anymore, and I love it!

ItunesSpruce up iTunes (iBooks | Kindle): iTunes is kind of a beast, and this ebook shows you how to keep it in line. Learn how to add album art, edit meta-data, dedup your iTunes Library (and even more your Library to another disk). Rock on, you crazy diamond.

VidconfVideo conferencing with Mac OS X Lion (iBooks | Kindle): There are lots of ways to video conference with Lion, but this ebook covers one you might not think of first: Skype. I know, I know: what about iChat or FaceTime? Well, I thought it made the most sense to go with the app that people have heard of, and that non-Mac users can actually use (madness!).

HometheaterPowering your home theater from your Mac (iBooks | Kindle): You’re made your iTunes library all pretty, but no iTunes library is an island! How do you get all that sweet, sweet media from your Mac onto the screen of your giant HDTV or stream Jefferson Starship to your kickin’ audio system? This ebook tells you how (and you just have to buy a couple things).