The Old Man and the Ocean

An Original Story

The fisherman went out on his boat one morning. He wanted to catch fish. He brought his fish catching apparatus and bread. He caught fish with the apparatus and then put the fish in the bread and sold fish sandwiches to the other fishermen. They were happy that they didn’t have to catch their own fish until they ran out of money. Then they went fishing and got money. Through the sale of fish, not straight from the ocean.

One day, Bob, one of the other fishermen, decided he had had enough. Quite enough. He rolled up his sleeves, and then changed into a short-sleeved shirt because that was annoying. Then he went to meet his destiny.

Meanwhile, Bob’s destiny was walking along. His destiny was a girl that he was going to marry, but I won’t talk about that here; spoilers. Her name was Jill. She met Bob and they got married, after a sufficient courtship.

But let’s return to our hero. He is a great hero, even though he is only a fisherman (not that that isn’t a great carrier) and an old man to boot. Not that you should boot him, he might fall out of his boat. And he only sells fish sandwiches, which he may or may not clean the fish of. I didn’t say. I remember this tale from when I was a kid. I am the narrator.

But anyway, the old fisherman. He was the hero, yet he did nothing heroic. He thought about settling for being a protagonist, but I told him that I would be a narrator, and that he shouldn’t sell himself short. I told him he was the hero of the story, so he had jolly well better hop to.

That was when he began to be a hero.

Chapter 2

It started simple. I agreed to help him be the hero. I agreed to be the villain so he could be the hero. I went up to Bob and Jill and pushed Bob in the water. The old fisherman jumped in and saved him. That was heroic. I got in trouble, but it was worth it, because now he is a hero.

The next event was when a dragon landed on the village and started to terrorize the populace. I didn’t need to help the old man to be the hero because he was autonomous, like great heroes are. He swung to the rescue from the mast of his ship, and kicked the dragon, and threw one of the sandwiches of which the fish had not been properly cleaned down its throat, which grossed it out. It left and did not return for at least 40 minutes. That was a great victory.

In the new village, he began being a hero again. The old fisherman, not the dragon. The dragon was a right old jerkface right up until the end. But I won’t spoil that either. The old man crashed his boat into him though, it was pretty sweet.

Meanwhile, the old man defeated the enemies and saved the day. We wished he had saved the village instead, but the day was good too.

In the next village, we had a strict “no enemies” policy. Unfortunately, the enemies didn’t respect that, so we decided that we were the enemies of our enemies. We had to leave the town.

In the next town, we declared a malleable “no enemies” policy, where we could bend the rules and not leave our homes. The old man was still there. With us. The village was a new one though. He was heroic, let me tell you.

Then one day I decided to go for a walk. I walked up into the hills, and smelled the flowers and sunshine and trees. It was very beautiful. It made me think. I thought it was time for lunch. I went home.

Once upon a time, I think, is a good way to start a story. This is not the beginning, but like the wind in Wheel of Time books, it is a beginning. So I can say that.

Once upon a time, the old fisherman decided to sail out to catch fish and return home to sell them. It was a good plan. He did it every day.

Authors Really Exist

One of my favorite activities is going to author signings. I have always loved books, and it seems incredible that the amazing people who make them can actually be interacted with in person. Well, obviously they can talk and stuff; what I mean is: their minds are the very same minds that came up with the dialogue for all the characters in their book, so it’s kind of like meeting the characters, as well as the creators of the worlds in which the stories happen (I read fantasy, not reality fanfics like non-genre stuff). So anyway, meeting authors is cool, because the world and characters and everything you come to love in a book, began in their heads.

When I was a wee lad, I had a couple authors come to my school and talk to us students. We had Bill Martin, Jr. come and read us his book, Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See?, which I thought was interesting. It was the first time I realized that authors had corporeal form. Then, Steven M. Newman, a guy who walked around the world and then wrote a book about it called Worldwalk came and signed a copy of his book for me. I then proceeded to draw in it with a yellow highlighter, since I was very young and stupid (I am no longer very young).

My next encounter with a real author happened by accident. I was at Barnes and Noble one day, and saw Marc Brown, the guy who did the Arthur the aardvark books, signing. I didn’t get in line because I didn’t want to wait in line and was high school age anyway, so I was not really interested in those books anymore. Still, it was neat to see him.

I really became interested in signings when my local library hosted Ray Bradbury and I got to meet him and get a book signed. That was an awesome experience. He gave a talk, in which he talked about his life and writing and things. He had an amazing presence, like he rolled an 18 for his charisma, and I was blown away by how awesome he was.

A couple years later, when I was in grad school, the LA Times Festival of Books had a panel of science fiction writers with Joe Haldeman, Robert Silverberg, and Harry Harrison. I had read books by Silverberg and Harrison, so I was excited to see them and get books signed by them. I also got The Forever War signed by Haldeman, since it’s a classic. I still haven’t read it, but the same is true of many of the books I have collected, before and since.

Sometime after this, I realized that you can follow authors’ blogs. This is useful when you want to read things they write but have finished all their books already. I started with Orson Scott Card’s blog, where I learned about an up and coming author named Brandon Sanderson. I began following his blog, where I learned he was going to come to Los Angeles to sign his latest book. I wanted to see him since I had just read all his books and loved them. It was a good signing, and it made me realize that if you pay attention, you can find more signings.

Brandon Sanderson is less blurry than me

The next signing I went to was for Brandon’s friend, Dan Wells, who writes awesome YA horror, humor, and science fiction novels. I brought the sequel to the book he was touring for, having ordered it from the UK where it was already published.

Then I moved to Seattle for the summer, during an internship at Intel Labs (RIP) in the U district. I quickly discovered that near my office was the greatest bookstore in the world, University Book Store, located just west of the UW campus. It stocks new, used, and signed books together on the shelves, so you can get discount, new, or collectible versions of the books. And they have a lot of signed books, since Duane, the guy who manages the science fiction and fantasy section, gets all the authors in the area and from elsewhere to do signings whenever they release a new book. Once I discovered the awesomeness of this awesome store, I went to signings for several authors, even those I had heard of but whose books I still haven’t read. Terry Brooks and Brent Weeks signed books for me, which I have yet to read since my to-read list is staggeringly huge. I also went to my second Brandon Sanderson signing. I was sad to leave Seattle, as the store had many other exciting events after I left.

Back in LA, I didn’t go to any signings until March, when Patrick Rothfuss’s new book came out. That was the most difficult signing I ever went to. I had to drive all the way down to Long Beach through LA traffic (note to readers who have made it this far: never live in LA, it’s rubbish). Then, when I arrived 30 minutes early, the chairs were filled and the line had gone across the bookstore and through the shelves. So while Pat spoke I was stuck out in the travel section, listening to his voice float over the shelves. Still, it was fun.

My next signing was a month later, with Patrick Rothfuss at another bookstore in LA. My friend, who had not been able to make it to the first signing, wanted to go, and it was much closer. Amber Benson, who plays a witch in the TV show Buffy the Vampire Slayer, was also there signing her urban fantasy book. I wasn’t interested in those kind of books though, so I just got Pat to sign the rest of my books, since there had been a two-book limit at the previous signing.

The following month, I met John Scalzi at a signing on his Fuzzy Nation tour. I got his most famous book, Old Man’s War signed.

Then I got to go back to Seattle! This was exciting for two reasons; the first of which was University Book Store of course. The other reason was that the Locus awards were in Seattle, and LOADS of authors went to that. I went too. It was amazing. You couldn’t throw a brick without hitting a famous author (and thus, I refrained from flinging masonry about). On Friday night, there was a reading and signing with Terry Bisson (who wrote the classic funny short story They’re Made Out of Meat) and Connie Willis, whose I had recently discovered. I was super excited to meet her, since she wrote the Oxford Time Travel books, which are the best books I’ve read in over a year. They are amazing. I rarely give books five stars, but three of the four books in that series got them. So anyway, I was really excited to meet her and get my books signed. I also got Terry to sign a book of his stories. The next day was incredible. There were author panels, and a giant signing with tons of authors, and a dinner where I sat next to an author and had other professionals at my table, including a publisher of some well-known books. At the signing, I got to meet Mary Robinette Kowal, who recognized my name from the feedback I’d given on a rough draft she had posted on her site. I also met Nancy Kress, whose book I still haven’t read but since I’d downloaded a promotional e-book of hers, I thought I’d get the dead tree version signed. I also got a book signed by Paul Park, and he told me to let him know how I enjoyed it. I still haven’t read it yet; oops (remember that long to-read list I mentioned?). I saw some famous anthology editors, Gardner Dozois and Ellen Datlow, but since they didn’t actually write so much as choose stories I decided not to buy the heavy anthologies to get signed. I later regretted not getting a books signed by Bruce Taylor, since he subsequently sat next to me during the lunch and awards. He is a cool guy. I also saw other authors like Jay Lake and J.A. Pitts but did not get anything signed since I didn’t know much about them or didn’t think their books were my type of book. Ted Chiang was there; he didn’t sign books but he was there. Someone at my table explained how great he was. Having since read one of his stories, I concur with her (and the general) high opinion of his work. Another highlight was Connie Willis pinning a badge of shame on me (it said “I didn’t wear a Hawaiian shirt to the Locus Awards!”) because I hadn’t worn a Hawaiian shirt (obviously). I had a plaid shirt on, and told her that the stripes were the stems of the flowers on everyone else’s Hawaiian shirt. She said that excuse was pretty lame, but not the lamest one she had heard. After the signing we went in to the lunch. All the big shot authors sat together, so I sat in the back. Fortunately, cool people joined me, as I mentioned earlier. And while I was at the buffet table, Neil Gaiman walked in. I was excited to see him, since I really liked his young adult books and his Doctor Who episode, The Doctor’s Wife. Later on, I managed to get a picture with him right before he left. He had given the talk to induct Harlan Ellison into the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, and since Ellison wrote what many consider the best Star Trek episode ever (The City on the Edge of Forever) I thanked him for having performed a similar service for Doctor Who. He said he was also glad that the episode turned out well, and that when he wrote it he didn’t know if it would end up like Spock’s Brain (one of the least favorite Star Trek episodes) or The City on the Edge of Forever. I later realized that the woman who had taken the picture for me was Maria Dahvana Headley, who has written a historical fantasy about Cleopatra that I haven’t read. I will say that she has the distinction of being the only person ever to take a non-horribly blurry picture of me and an author. Well done!

Me and Neil Gaiman

Later that summer, I went to a signing with Kat Richardson, the author of the Greywalker series, which I love because it takes place in Seattle. I had previously purchased a book she had signed from a bookstore in downtown Seattle, the Seattle Mystery Bookshop, that she mentions in the books (which is why I knew about the store). She had written the date in the book, so when she personalized it for me at the signing, she wrote about how she had gone back in time to sign the book for me.

At the next signing I went to, my third with Brandon Sanderson, I asked him to personalize the book with the entire text of A Memory of Light (the final volume in The Wheel of Time, which comes out next year). He did:

Just what I asked for…

Most recently, I got to meet one of my favorite authors, Orson Scott Card. He was friendly and when he learned I work in computers, he talked about how back in the day he was programming with registers and stuff. I got to thank him for introducing me to Brandon Sanderson’s work, and he was happy to have done so. He told us an alternate version of Ender’s Game that addresses his longstanding dissatisfaction with some details of the finale of the book It’s not a huge change and doesn’t affect the plot, it just explains how Ender does part of the thing that he does (I’m trying not to spoil anything). It may appear in a later version, and is cool.

Blurry picture with Orson Scott Card

I will update this post as I meet more authors. Next up should be Robin Hobb if I have time to make it down to Redondo Beach for the signing.

New MMORPG announced!

Today, Canard Games announced their upcoming massively-multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG), Middle Earth Histories. Bringing the rich world and lore of J. R. R. Tolkien’s fantasy world from The Lord of the Rings to player’s PCs, it is set to take on Blizzard’s World of Warcraft (WoW), the current most popular MMORPG. In the press release, Canard Games spokesman Richard Wally said: “Middle Earth Histories will have all the excitement that current MMORPGs offer while also letting players explore the world from Tolkien’s seminal work. We have painstakingly recreated the author’s vision of Middle Earth in a fully 3D environment. With such a rich world to explore, full of danger and memorable characters, Middle Earth Histories will be the next big MMO. Players are going to find MEH much more exciting than WoW.”

An architectural mystery

One of the main attractions in Paris is the famous Basilique du Sacré-Coeur (Basilisk of the Sacred Heart). A basilisk, as everyone knows from Harry Potter, is a mythological reptile that turns people to stone. I have never seen the one in Paris do this. In fact, it doesn’t look much like a reptile at all. However, it is common in nature for animals to disguise themselves to fit in with their surroundings, and Paris is chock full of large stone edifices. The basilisk has remained dormant so far, and many wonder when it will wake up and terrorize the Parisians and tourists. Others argue that it really is a large stone building, and is in fact named after the beast that turned it to stone in the first place, the original building having been made from wood or straw. Of course, there are always those skeptics that dig up contrived evidence (i.e., the dictionary) and say that the proper English translation is “basilica”, but that’s just nitpicking, since I am fairly certain that “basilica” is Spanish for “basilisk”. Is it building or beast? Perhaps this mystery will be forever lost in time.

Were books always this difficult to use?

I have used the Kindle for over three years now, and hardly ever use paper books anymore. I still buy them, but they have several disadvantages that get in the way of me actually getting though them:
  • They are heavy. I read 200-300K-word books most of the time, and they can get pretty big. It’s hard to hold them comfortably.
  • They don’t save your place.
  • You need to keep the physical object with you; you can’t put it down at home and then resume on your iPhone while waiting in line at school.
  • They are two-sided. You have to keep shifting how you hold it, and rolling over in bed, as you move from one page to the next.
  • They don’t have lights built into the cover. Since I do almost all my reading at night before I sleep, this is a serious problem.

This is why I still haven’t finished the latest Alcatraz book despite Brandon Sanderson being my favorite living author. It’s just so hard to read physical books! I wonder how I did it all these years. Recently I won a book from a Goodreads giveaway and after trying to read it, I gave up and bought a Kindle version. I still love paper books. They look nice lined up on my shelves. They smell good. They have pretty covers. I really like looking at them and collecting them. But if I actually want to read a book, I’ll go with the Kindle every time.

Four Boys and the Golden Treasure


This is a story that I wrote when I was about ten years old. I’ll have you know I won finalist in the local contest for it. I reproduce it here exactly as it was originally printed, and then give the all-new author’s commentary version.


 

There were four of us, Jack, Tim, myself, and Bill. We were our fishing one day in a sailboat when Tim felt a tug on his line. He reeled in a large Chinook salmon. “Well I guess that’s our dinner,” said Bill.

“Don’t look now but it might not be,” I replied looking at our pail as the salmon flopped it over.

As the salmon flopped toward the edge of the boat, Jack, the oldest and strongest leaped to grab it. Unfortunately, when he landed he lost his balance and fell into the river. He sunk down into the deep and landed with a bump on the river bed. When he gathered up enough courage to open his eyes, he saw a dark opening that looked like a cave. “I wonder if an octopus lives in there,” Jack thought as he swam towards the cave. When he reached the cave entrance he looked in cautiously. In the dim light he could barely make out five burlap sacks. One of the sacks had fallen over and a few nuggets of gold were scattered on the ground. “Oh boy! I’m rich,” thought Jack. He quickly grabbed a bag of gold and swam towards the surface.

I was startled when Jack’s head popped out of the water and nearly fell in the river myself. Bill and Tim were relieved that a shark hadn’t eaten him. Jack brought the other bags up to the boat one at a time because the bags were heavy. We sailed to shore and headed home.

On our way home we talked about our gold. “I’m giving one nugget of gold to Mom and Dad, you three get one nugget among yourselves. I will keep the rest!” said Jack.

Just the Mrs. Sanders walked by. “Whatcha got in them bags, you guys?” Mrs. Sanders scowled.

“The fishes we just caught,” lied Tim, the youngest.

“In burlap sacks?” questioned Mrs. Sanders.

“You betcha,” replied Bill. “You boys are sure strange to do that,” she said with a small chuckle as she walked away.

“I think that we had better get home before someone stops us again,” I said to Jack.

“Good idea, they might ask to see inside the bags.” We ran the rest of the way home. Jack went and hid his treasure in his wall safe and hung his dinosaur picture of a Velociraptor over it.

That night I couldn’t get to sleep so I go out of my bed and turned on the late night eyewitness news. When I turned it on it said something about a car accident. Then it said “Mrs. Sanders saw four boys carrying burlap sacks today. The boys claimed that the sacks contained the fish they had caught. She told the police about it when she heard that five sacks of gold had been stolen from the St. Petersburg Museum. She identified the boys as Bill, Jack, Tim and Lemme Carter.”

“Holy Cow!” I yelled waking up my brothers.

“What’s all the noise for, Lemme?” asked Jack.

“The treasure you found was stolen from the museum.” I said. “Mrs. Sanders has gotten the police after us.!”

“Are you sure?” asked Tim.

“It was on the news,” I replied.

“Let’s go back to bed now,” said Billy sleepily.

“Good idea,” we agreed. Then we climbed into bed and went to sleep.

The next day a police officer came to our door. “Do you have any treasure?” asked the policeman.

“Yes,” I said nervously.

“How much?”

“Five bags full,” Jack said joining me with Bill and Tim.

“Then you’re under arrest for stealing five bags of gold,” said the policeman.

Hearing this, Tim dodged past the policeman and ran into the street.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but now it’s gotten into me too,” said Bill as he raced past the policeman and into the street.

“Those two sure can be strange sometimes,” said Jack with a sigh.

“I can be strange sometimes too,” I said racing past the policeman.

“Come in and sit down,” said Jack. As the policeman stepped into the house Jack ran through the open door.

“Quick! Into the storm drain!” yelled Jack loudly. We climbed into the storm drain and started running as fast as we could. Aften ten minutes or so we stopped and looked around. Seven feet off the ground was a pipe we could climb into and hide. We climbed up into the pipe and started crawling as fast as we could. All of a sudden we heard shuffles behind us. The policeman was after us! We began to crawl faster. The policeman was faster than us and was coming closer…closer when we saw a light up ahead. We crawled for all we were worth towards the light. Finally we came to the end of the tunnel. We looked out and saw the river below. We leaped into the river and sunk down to the bottom.

When we opened our eyes we saw two dark shadowy figures swimming towards a cave. “Hey, that’s the cave I found the treasure in,” thought Jack. “And those people must be the thieves who stole the treasure.” Jack motioned to us to go up to the surface.

“I’ll tell the policeman,” thought Bill as we swam upwards. “Hey, mister, get down here!” yelled Bill, “We found the real thieves!” The policeman jumped into the river and followed us to the shadowy figures. He handcuffed and took the thieves up to the surface and out of the river.

“These guys are the Buddy Brothers, the police have been after them for years,” he told us.

Later we returned the gold and were given a reward for catching the Buddy Brothers and recovering the gold to grateful proprietors of the St. Petersburg Museum.





And now, here is the version with author’s commentary!


 

There were four of us, Jack, Tim, myself, and Bill. Yes, that was stolen from the beginning of Three Men in a Boat by Jerome K. Jerome. We were our fishing one day in a sailboat when Tim felt a tug on his line. He reeled in a large Chinook salmon. “Well I guess that’s our dinner,” said Bill.

“Don’t look now but it might not be,” I replied looking at our pail as the salmon flopped it over.

As the salmon flopped toward the edge of the boat, Jack, the oldest and strongest leaped to grab it. Unfortunately, when he landed he lost his balance and fell into the river. He sunk down into the deep and landed with a bump on the river bed. I hadn’t learned about the whole buoyancy thing yet. When he gathered up enough courage to open his eyes (What was he scared of? Not running out of oxygen apparently. I suspect this was a reflection of my childhood fear of getting water in my eyes), he saw a dark opening that looked like a cave. “I wonder if an octopus lives in there,” Jack thought (the first of many logical thoughts in this narrative. Oh, and holy POV fail, Batman! This POV is called “first-person psychic”) as he swam towards the cave. When he reached the cave entrance he looked in cautiously (still more concerned about an octopus than oxygen deficiency). In the dim light he could barely make out five burlap sacks. One of the sacks had fallen over and a few nuggets of gold were scattered on the ground. “Oh boy! I’m rich,” thought Jack. He quickly grabbed a bag of gold and swam towards the surface (buoyancy making up for lost time).

I was startled when Jack’s head popped out of the water and nearly fell in the river myself. Bill and Tim were relieved that a shark hadn’t eaten him. Wikipedia says there are indeed freshwater sharks. These are sharp kids to know that. Jack brought the other bags up to the boat one at a time because the bags were heavy. We sailed to shore and headed home.

On our way home we talked about our gold. “I’m giving one nugget of gold to Mom and Dad, you three get one nugget among yourselves. I will keep the rest!” said Jack. And that was OK with the rest of them.

Just the Mrs. Sanders walked by. “Whatcha got in them bags, you guys?” Mrs. Sanders scowled. Old people talk funny, obviously.

“The fishes we just caught,” lied Tim, the youngest.

“In burlap sacks?” questioned Mrs. Sanders. Burlap?! For fish?! Apparently I knew about some unwritten rule of fishing back then that I have since forgotten.

“You betcha,” replied Bill. Oh no, now the old person slang has got Bill. “You boys are sure strange to do that,” she said with a small chuckle as she walked away. Another realistic line of dialogue.

“I think that we had better get home before someone stops us again,” I said to Jack.

“Good idea, they might ask to see inside the bags.” We ran the rest of the way home. Jack went and hid his treasure in his wall safe and hung his dinosaur picture of a Velociraptor over it. I had that picture. This was right after Jurassic Park came out. I was a fan.

That night I couldn’t get to sleep so I go out of my bed and turned on the late night eyewitness news. When I turned it on it said something about a car accident. Then it said “Mrs. Sanders saw four boys carrying burlap sacks today. Mrs. Sanders, as usual, requires no introduction. The boys claimed that the sacks contained the fish they had caught. This is action news, folks! She told the police about it when she heard that five sacks of gold had been stolen from the St. Petersburg Museum. Fact: museums always display gold in burlap sacks. By the way, when I wrote this, I did not know that St. Petersburg was in Russia. She identified the boys as Bill, Jack, Tim and Lemme Carter.” I love how the police went to the news and compromised their identities, and didn’t actually come get the treasure. Good thing thieves don’t watch the news.

“Holy Cow!” I yelled waking up my brothers.

“What’s all the noise for, Lemme?” asked Jack.

“The treasure you found was stolen from the museum.” I said. “Mrs. Sanders has gotten the police after us.!”

“Are you sure?” asked Tim.

“It was on the news,” I replied. I was naïve and thought this statement answered the question.

“Let’s go back to bed now,” said Billy sleepily. Bill temporarily had a nickname.

“Good idea,” we agreed. In unison, apparently. Then we climbed into bed and went to sleep.

The next day a police officer came to our door. “Do you have any treasure?” asked the policeman. Ah, he approaches the matter casually. Wouldn’t want to be too specific.

“Yes,” I said nervously.

“How much?” He prepares his clever trap.

“Five bags full,” Jack said joining me with Bill and Tim. And they jump right in.

“Then you’re under arrest for stealing five bags of gold,” said the policeman. Rats! Four bags of gold is only a misdemeanor.

Hearing this, Tim dodged past the policeman and ran into the street. Not the pride of the academy, this guy.

“I don’t know what’s gotten into him, but now it’s gotten into me too,” said Bill as he raced past the policeman and into the street.

“Those two sure can be strange sometimes,” said Jack with a sigh.

“I can be strange sometimes too,” I said racing past the policeman.

“Come in and sit down,” said Jack. As the policeman stepped into the house Jack ran through the open door.

“Quick! Into the storm drain!” yelled Jack loudly. I was small when I wrote this. This made sense to me because I could have fit into the opening in the side of the curb into the storm drain. We climbed into the storm drain and started running as fast as we could. Aften ten minutes or so we stopped and looked around. Seven feet off the ground was a pipe we could climb into and hide. We climbed up into the pipe and started crawling as fast as we could. All of a sudden we heard shuffles behind us. The policeman was after us! We began to crawl faster. The policeman was faster than us and was coming closer…closer when we saw a light up ahead. We crawled for all we were worth towards the light. Finally we came to the end of the tunnel. We looked out and saw the river below. We leaped into the river and sunk down to the bottom. There goes buoyancy again.

When we opened our eyes we saw two dark shadowy figures swimming towards a cave. “Hey, that’s the cave I found the treasure in,” thought Jack. OK, why isn’t Jack the protagonist? “And those people must be the thieves who stole the treasure.” Jack motioned to us to go up to the surface.

“I’ll tell the policeman,” thought Bill (Oh good, I can’t keep the POV on the same wrong character) as we swam upwards. “Hey, mister, get down here!” yelled Bill, “We found the real thieves!” The policeman jumped into the river and followed us (because of that great relationship of trust we built earlier) to the shadowy figures. He handcuffed and took the thieves up to the surface and out of the river. He is a very strong swimmer, and does not require oxygen to survive or read Miranda rights.

“These guys are the Buddy Brothers, the police have been after them for years,” he told us. They should have tried to arrest them underwater earlier; it’s the only place where the police are competent.

Later we returned the gold and were given a reward for catching the Buddy Brothers and recovering the gold to grateful proprietors of the St. Petersburg Museum. Ah, falling action and resolution in one sentence. I was done writing I guess.

Wut

While going through some old papers, I found this story entitled How it Exploded, which I wrote back in middle school. Here it is:

How it Exploded

It exploded.

The End

 

I also found the sequel, which I had written on the same page. It’s called How it Didn’t Explode. I don’t think I need to transcribe that one.

I love audible.com

I commute over two hours per day, so it doesn’t take me long to go through all the books I want to read at local libraries. After I became frustrated with missing books in series I was trying to listen to, I decided to check out audible.com, which I had heard of, I think from Orson Scott Card’s blog. Audiobooks on CD are insanely expensive, but somehow Audible makes a profit with prices just above the cost of a paperback. Of course, to get that price, you need an annual subscription with 12 or 24 audiobooks. This is no problem for me; in fact, I renew my “annual” subscription with 24 credits multiple times per year because I go through well over 24 books. So I end up paying under $10 for new audiobooks, when the CDs actually cost upwards of $50.

At first, however, I was not a fan. Audible uses DRM (Digital Rights Management, or more accurately, Dastardly and Rude Mistreatment-of-customers) to “protect” their content. This makes it so you can’t listen to your audiobooks on your devices unless Audible supports them. Also, you have to use their software (or iTunes for applicable devices) to transfer books to devices. Copying an audiobook from one Kindle to another in windows explorer with USB mode will mean they are unplayable on the other device. You have to use Audible manager to load the audiobooks onto each device. Why the hassle? Like I said, it’s to “protect” the audiobooks from piracy. The only problem with this idea is that the books are already on all the torrent sites, so it doesn’t actually stop piracy. Also, pirates will have nice, DRM-free versions of the audiobook, so only those who pay have the headache of dealing with DRM. Brilliant, huh?

DRM lets Audible restrict burning of CDs to one copy. However, they needn’t bother. Burning an Audible audiobook (done with iTunes) is not an experience that is even worth the effort. It will forget to burn some of the CDs, and there is no good way to burn a disc that was skipped. You have to listen to the surrounding discs (and hear all sorts of spoilers) to figure out where the missing section is, and write down the times and then burn the disc again. This is way too much of a hassle to even bother. If you use must CDs to listen to audiobooks, stick to the library; Audible is not for you. I luckily had an iPhone and was able to abandon CDs, which ended up being cool since I could keep listening as I walked to my lab, and not just in the car. However, before I switched to using my iPhone, I almost cancelled my Audible account in frustration. Fortunately, Audible offered me a free audiobook as I was cancelling, and convinced me to stay. I’m glad I did.

Audible works pretty well if you want to listen to Audiobooks on a Kindle 3 or an iPod. It integrates with iTunes, which has a nice interface for audiobook management. You can also download books directly via the Audible app (which is also available for Android). Kindle 3, when connected with Wi-Fi, will see your Audible books and let you download them directly to the device without using a computer, as long as you have your Audible account connected to your Kindle’s Amazon account. This is easy since Amazon bought Audible.

With Apple encouraging publishers to shoot themselves in the foot with the Agency model, many new e-books are expensive at release and Audible has become the cheapest way to get the latest books. It’s an interesting turnaround since audiobooks are usually more expensive.

Audible also lets you download your books as many times as you want, unlike iTunes, where you are doomed if you lose your files.

In conclusion, here are some bullet points. Bullet points are cool.

Pros:

    • Ridiculously cheap. The ridiculosity depends on how often you buy audiobooks.
    • Convenient. If and only if you have a compatible device.
    • High quality audio for a download. Get the enhanced quality version of the files and they sound quite nice.
    • Great website. The interface is very convenient and intuitive.

Cons:

    • Trying to burn an Audible book longer than a few CDs is a torture that even the Spanish Inquisition would have balked at
    • If you manage to survive the process and then lose the CDs, you can’t ever burn them again. See next bullet point.
    • DRM is always there to get in your way and remind you how publishers love pirates, not their paying customers.