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17 Dec 2005

This thing that is still not-a-weblog now has an RSS feed. It's the stick-shift model; we haven't got the scratch for an automatic transmission yet.

2 Dec 2005

Thanksgiving leftovers include a paean to urban wastelands, why you shouldn't blame Corbusier for the Paris riots, and the answer to what's in the abandoned mystery tunnel on I-77 in West Virginia.

26 Nov 2005

There's no better way to spend Thanksgiving than at the Bond/Rowe compound in Lexington, Kentucky (with added Livdahl/DeNiro action), helping to concoct and consume a huge amount of great Thai food. Good stuff.

Back here in Oak City, a great log-burning barbecue joint (Murray's) is now closed, while a great tavern lives on.

20 Nov 2005

Toot, toot! Dave Schwartz had the great idea to gather appreciations for stories at the recently terminated SciFiction. Michael Kelly wrote a swell one for "House of the Future."

15 Nov 2005

The Dwell Home is now for sale, the one specifically designed to be "available and affordable." Oops, bidding starts at 550,000 U.S. dollars. So much for affordability.

9 Nov 2005

Interesting post & comments thread at 43Folders about email peeves. I agree with most of these, and I doubt they'll be going away anytime soon.

1 Nov 2005

Back when I wrote the Incredibly Useful Sites column for Internet Life magazine, we called the sites we wrote about "gumball machines." You entered some information, and got back a useful tidbit. Here's a nice list of gumball machines at I Want To.

31 Oct 2005

Some of my closer associates have already heard me spiel about my newfound, ah, enthusiasm for certain things about the renfair. I'll skip further pondering for now and just name-check a few worthy acts that, should you find yourself at a renfair (renfest, faire, whatever), you should go see (also, please note that some of the best folks at the renfair don't have Web sites):

28 Oct 2005

Here's a trove of postcards from the golden age of flight. Poke around a while and you'll find gems like this PanAm in-flight business conference.

27 Oct 2005

What we have here is a failure to imaginate.

24 Oct 2005

More wisdom from Paul Ford for recovering data gluttons.

22 Oct 2005

To be clear: my grammar and usage peeves are just that. Peeves. I am neither high nor mighty when it comes to grammar and usage. I still have to hesitate and scratch my head before deciding between "that" and "which." Having said that, "begs the question" probably doesn't mean what you think it does. Even very very smart people still mis-use this phrase when they should use "raises the question."

20 Oct 2005

Perhaps you're famililar with the penny farthing bicycle symbol from The Prisoner. Now, go check the Davis, California homepage and look in the upper left corner at the city logo. Coincidence? I think not!

18 Oct 2005

Smart, smart Paul Ford on good vs. bad distractions: "And on my deathbed do I want to say, I sipped mightily of Metafilter, and saw many video clips that made fun of Rosie O'Donnell, and I am richer for it?"

17 Oct 2005

A really good, really short, Denise Levertov poem.

14 Oct 2005

And then, back there in the past, we went on to Blowing Rock, NC. If you like old motels then you'll like Alpen Acres: nineteen rooms, heated pool, phone booth. Also highly recommended: Sonny's Grill. Not recommended: Yahoo! Maps or Google Maps, for finding things in the mountains. Both sites were confounded by perfectly normal mountain addresses such as "Old Highway 321." Blowing Rock has some beautiful old houses and churches, some featuring (pre-blight, obviously) American Chestnut bark siding. The millionaire real estate market is in high gear, but there are still plenty of nice folks around: a little old lady in a Subaru stopped and asked us if we needed a ride as we were walking just south of downtown. The Blowing Rock itself didn't work as promised—leaves I tossed over the edge did not come blowing back. But it was scenic as heck, and also had a geodetic benchmark screwed into the top, so it was probably worth the six bucks to get in. What else did we do? We drove down through Tom Dula (Dooley) country, then back over the Brushy Mountains to the Emerald Hollow Mine where we sluiced for colored rocks. The End.

10 Oct 2005

In case it wasn't clear from the last post, I loved Autumn at Oz and will go back if I can. I would also like to travel back in time to 1970s Carowinds (unlike Oz, a place I actually went to as a kid) but that's impossible because Carowinds is still open and completely transformed, instead of dead and half-preserved.

Anyway. You should, immediately, go read the latest Jeff Ford story he's posted to his blog.

9 Oct 2005

Oz, Land of, Trip Report: Barb's covered our trip to Autumn at Oz. Beech Mountain is, supposedly, the highest incorporated town east of the Rockies. What's left of the Land of Oz is now a gated community at the pinnacle. The ski lifts weren't operating, the multicolored Oz bubble lifts are long gone, and the lines for shuttle buses were insane, so we hoofed it up the mountain. I got a terrible gassed pig sandwich that had touched no dip (sauce) during the cooking process. In barista lingo a decaf/skim drink is a "Why Bother?" and I think this is the barbecue equivalent, where neither wood nor sauce figured in the cooking.

Uncle Henry's Barn is now the Oz museum, with artifacts from the park and the 1939 movie, as well as early editions of the books. The farmhouse, complete with Tornado Room, is still there too (or at least, reconstructed). There are folks dressed up as the various characters stationed around the yellow brick road, but they're just there for photos. It'd be nice if the organizers could give more of a flavor, have more information available there, about what the park experience was like in the 1970s. Emerald City, where there used to be a stage and shops and restaurants and balloon gondola ride, is completely gone now—you walk through the gates and you're on the road where the millionaires live. I've heard that the farmhouse is a rental property, which must be extremely weird. Do the rich people in this gated community appreciate the strange little dead theme park? The other 363 days a year, when it's closed to the public, do they wander the yellow brick road?

Even the geodetic benchmark on the peak of the mountain is scratched up. I do not heart vandals.

8 Oct 2005

First, some leftovers from our Asheville trip: I highly recommend staying at the Log Cabin Motor Court, built circa 1930 and well-preserved, definitely a time machine. For food, Salsa in downtown Asheville is tasty and the prices aren't too tourist-y. Before we went up the escarpment, we stopped in Old Fort and started hiking over Old NC 10. The rest of the trip was architecture-related, everything from the well-known Biltmore House to the relatively obscure Weizenblatt House, designed by Marcel Breuer, with lots of Black Mountain College stuff in between.

29 Sep 2005

There's a house near us up for sale, designed and built in the middle of the last century by one of Raleigh's modernist architects. As far as I know it's not on any historical registers, and certainly it's not as striking as the modernist houses that are registered, but it's still important and interesting as one of a handful of modernist residences left in town. A ritzy part of town—so ritzy that crazed developers have offered the sellers half a million dollars for it as a teardown. Half a million dollars for half an acre of land! Five-hundred thousand dollars to destroy something beautiful because a rich (lily-white) neighborhood has grown up around it. Argh of arghs, all is argh. (To their credit, so far the sellers have resisted these offers; the asking price for the house is a bit higher.)

Let's calm down by looking at the nifty Mondrianesque logo of 20th century St. Louis architect Harris Armstrong. And by contemplating the world's oldest family owned businesses. Ahhhhh.

28 Sep 2005

A Lew Shiner interview and a Bruce Sterling interview out on the same day. It's 1986 all over again on the Intarweb!

27 Sep 2005

Back in that ancient age of August, we went to Asheville, NC. Downtown there's an obelisk which brings together the United Daughters of the Confederacy and B'nai B'rith. Next to the obelisk is a marker for the Dixie Highway, no surprise there. At the base of the obelisk is an empty platform with a plaque explaining that something was "Captured November 11 1918 [Armistice Day?!] Woevre Plain near Verdun," and so on. It's funny (and kind of cool) that there's no additional plaque explaining the absence of the German cannon, melted down in World War II. It's been gone longer than it was ever there!

12 Sep 2005

Email's working again, seems like. Remain calm, and resume your repeated viewings of Junebug.

10 Sep 2005

Let's see: email's not working (if you need to reach me, use the telephone) and Katrina hit before I got around to posting about our lovely trip to Asheville. Maybe someday soon I'll talk about the Asheville trip. Right now I want to recommend that you go see the movie Junebug. (Full disclosure: a friend directed it.) It has humor, it has subtlety, it has important things to say about the South and about families. Among many, many other things. Go, and see. I mean it.

25 Aug 2005

Howdy to all the folks coming here from Boing Boing. As the front page says, I write fiction. Also I make a living writing non-fiction, and working with technology, and writing about technology. Plenty of links to all that junk are on the front page. GNAW's Not A Weblog, but you might want to scroll down or browse the archives to find the odd link of interest. Y'all come back, now.

17 Aug 2005

We went to see The Knitters last night, and it was a great show. Everybody on stage looked like they were having fun, the old interplay between Doe and Exene was still there, and they did two well-deserved encores. If they're coming to your town, go see them. Whether they're coming to your town or not, buy their new record. They do a great version of Bill Anderson's "I'll Go Down Swinging." And now that I think about it (even though the song's about something slightly different), those are words to live by: go down swinging. I hereby resolve to go down swinging.

10 Aug 2005

Free videos, y'all! I recommend The Oranges Band, but then again I would recommend The Oranges Band. (Scroll down.)

8 Aug 2005

As long as nothing wonky happens, very soon North Carolina's antiquated beer laws will change and allow for the sale of more tasty treats such as imperial stout and barleywine. Yay. In other local news, Josh Staiger notes that the Triangle area was recently ranked third worst "for urban sprawl." I'd amend that to suburban sprawl. There's nothing urban about endlessly replicating big-box stores and hideous housing developments and strip malls, with not a bit of usable public transportation in sight.

6 Aug 2005

Except, of course, Turkey City wasn't the end of my SF Summer, because of strange serendipity induced by the Air France accident in Toronto. I was in Charlotte on business the same night that Ms. Bond and Col. Rowe were stuck there while waiting for a second shot at getting to Glasgow. It was TrappedInCharlotteCon 2005 at the Wyndham Garden Hotel, and we made the most of it. I am convinced that the local TV news in Charlotte is dumber than most other places I've been. Lingering close-up shots of the ACTUAL ROCK used by a criminal to bludgeon someone, that kind of thing.

5 Aug 2005

I wound up my Sci! Fi! Summer! by attending the Turkey City Writer's Workshop, hosted by Lawrence Person and Chris Nakashima-Brown. Ted Chiang and I were the out-of-towners at this gig, and I was very pleased to get the invitation. The workshop was interesting; amazingly, we critiqued twelve stories in one day. Austin itself was very cool—Chris and I went hunting for modernist residences, and we explored the abandoned airport. On Sunday Ted, Lawrence, Chris and I wandered the capitol mall looking at, well, a bunch of historic stuff. Including the world's first photograph.

20 Jul 2005

And then, another Trinoc-con. As they say, the Premier Research Triangle Speculative Fiction Conference, and I sure don't know of any others. I did a few surprisingly painless panels, and a signing. They must've had close to 500 people there—Barb went Sunday and got badge number 492. No one aspect (literary/gaming/costumes/art) seemed to dominate: there were small to medium sized audiences for everything. My happy discovery this time out was the art of Ursula Vernon.

12 Jul 2005

So, another SycHill. I survived. (Actually, it was a grand success.) We drove up to Little Switzerland for dinner one night, the same night the dining hall featured Astronaut Pie for dessert. (Barb constructed an Astronaut Pie the other day, though. Yum?) In other news, the old state highway up the mountain, 226A, got repaved. I was sad to discover this because prior to repaving it was an old brown composition highway (in perfectly good shape). If it ain't broke, don't fix it, but NCDOT seemed to think otherwise.

7 Jul 2005

If you've been wondering why Horses Blow Up (Dog City or no Dog City), well, here's why. (How full is your stress tank?)

11 Jun 2005

Caught The Oranges Band again the other night, on a bill with Ted Leo & the Pharmacists. Their new record is a change of pace (a little less strum-rock, a lot more sweet songwriting science) but still well worth your rubles. The song "The Mountain" features a clip from Churchill's "Never Give In" speech of 1941, which is a great damn speech:

Never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never—in nothing, great or small, large or petty—never give in except to convictions of honor and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy.

Of course, before you decide to never give in, you need to make absolutely sure that you're in the right, and one of the Good Guys, as opposed to being in the wrong and one of the Bad Guys. (Do the Bad Guys know that they're the Bad Guys? Probably not. Stupid Bad Guys.) Once you're sure that you're right as opposed to self-righteous, then never give in.

9 Jun 2005

A search phrase I've been wasting some time on lately is "oldest continuously operating." I like things that are, or claim to be, the oldest continuously operating thing. Probably the oldest continuously operating mental health facility in North Carolina is Dorothea Dix Hospital aka Dix Hill aka the Lunatic Asylum. The state plans to close down Dorothea Dix Hospital and to build a new psychiatric hospital in Butner. (Yes, Butner.) Good folks like the Friends of Dix are trying to keep historic Dix Hill in the hands of the public (as a park) instead of the hands of greedhead developers. If you live in NC, please write your state Senator about this issue.

3 Jun 2005

Some Wiscon holdovers … Rowe forgot to finish and perform the rap I started for him:

Hey y'all fellers, don't you know?
My name is Christopher (not Chris) Rowe!

On our way up I-90 we stopped for gas and stumbled onto Shireland, an abandoned ye olde theme park near Rockford, Illinois. We didn't have time to trespass explore, though.

If you haven't watched Jim Munroe's Time Management for Anarchists yet, you should.

Carry on.

1 Jun 2005

No report could top David Schwartz's, so go read that. Here all you're gonna find are some disjoint thoughts about that wonderful event. The Colonel and Ms. Bond picked us up at O'Hare, in exchange for which I brought Christopher a pen. An INK PEN! (Also I'd set up a cron script to email live Giro coverage to Gwenda's portable email device, but that's still not much in the way of a trade.) (Oh, and before that, Rowe and I discussed our new band, the Peace-Bonded Caltrops. Look for a triple live album in 2006.) A whole bunch of us ate at Vienthiane Thai, where "mild" is plenty hot, thanks. Carol Emshwiller dazzled everyone with a reading of a work in progress that was both personal and experimental and also perfect. Karen Meisner (one of several folks I was glad to get to know better this time) showed wit and grace after her reading in the face of an impertinent know-it-all question. Readings, that's all the programming I could manage to get to—I blame it on the fact that there were a ton of good readings, and a ton of good parties that lasted late into the night. What else? Folks shouldn't shout out "Five-hundred dollars!" at the Tiptree Auction, even if they are personally convinced that it's a funny funny joke, because it's not (and luckily for the person in question, Klages didn't hear). The Patriarchy, as it turned out, was a rocket-shaped piñata, and it has now been smashed, so we can all move on to other things.

In lieu of a lengthy name-check of my friends and all the folks I got to know better to greater and lesser degress this time out, I'll just say that I was happy to meet Lauren McLaughlin (who read with DeNiro and me and Rowe) and her husband Andrew Woffinden, and very very very glad to see Maureen McHugh and her husband Bob Yeager.

And I was glad to talk more to Jim Munroe. (Hell, I can't avoid the name-check, but there won't be links.) Also David Schwartz. And Ted Chiang, Justine Larbalestier, Scott Westerfeld, Karen Meisner, Craig Gidney, Susan Groppi, Matt Withers, Carol Emshwiller, Jim Minz, Dora Goss, David Moles, Doug Lain, Eileen Gunn, Ellen Klages, Celia Marsh, Simon Owens, Chance Morrison, Hannah Wolf Bowen, Elad Haber, Delia Sherman, Lori Selke. And a bunch more people, whose names I am not worthy to remember just now.

And to chill out with the Perpetual Honor Roll of Christopher, Gavin, Gwenda, Kelly.

There needed to be a lot more time, though, because there were a bunch of other folks I wanted to talk to, but the strange gravity fields of conventions spun me off in other directions. Damn gravity fields, dammit.

23 May 2005

Some of you have heard me babble about my newfound interest in street performers. (Not the street musicians, but rather the folks who do feats of skill and gags.) The best acts transcend the rote schtick and canned patter—it's more about connecting with the audience (or confronting the audience) than about the marvel of juggling this or balancing that. This past weekend I got a healthy dose at Artsplosure, where many of the acts were from Boston. Favorites of mine were: the Yo-Yo People, Daredevil Chicken Club, Stitch, and Thom Sellectomy, Sword Swallower.

20 May 2005

  1. The person (or persons) who passed the baton to you.
  2. Total volume of music files on your computer.
    After the Great Drive Crash of 2004, about 4 gigabytes.
  3. The title and artist of the last CD you bought.
    Joanna Newsom's The Milk-Eyed Mender (birthday present for Jim V.)
  4. Song playing at the moment of writing.
    "Drive, Drive, Drive," Fred Brockman
  5. Five songs you have been listening to of late (or all-time favorites, or particularly personally meaningful songs)
    • "Too Much Junkie Business," Johnny Thunders & the Heartbreakers
    • "The Gunner's Dream," Pink Floyd
    • "A King at Night," Bonnie Prince Billy
    • "Metal Heart," Cat Power
    • "Psycho Mafia," The Fall
  6. The five people to whom you will 'pass the musical baton.'

19 May 2005

I finally sat down the other night to examine the Glenfiddich sampler the lovely Claire gave me for xmas. As happens often, I find myself in agreement with Jim Murray on these: the Aged 12 Years Special Reserve is unremarkable, but the Aged 15 Years Solera Reserve and the Aged 18 Years Ancient Reserve are both top-notch stuff. The 15YO is complex and subtle, while the 18YO is a blast of salty/sweet enormity. As Murray puts it: "another nail in the coffin of those who sniffily insist that Glenfiddich can't make good whisky."

12 May 2005

The Oranges Band is about to go on tour. Go see them, especially if you like boys-with-guitars rock. They are smart, and better than all of those other boys with guitars. (They have some drums, too. Special note to Kentuckians: Friday June 10th at Headliners Music Hall in Louisville.)

6 May 2005

This list of travel offenses is one of the few top-tens where I agree with every entry.

25 Apr 2005

The sign in the lobby of the theater where we saw Lipstick Traces read: "EAT COOKIES NOW! THERE IS NO INTERMISSION." Words to live by.

16 Apr 2005

Prefab modern houses are in the news (or in the blogs) again. I'm glad to see this, but still skeptical. These articles never seem to state a final cost, with land, of this or that modern modular dream home. What good's a house without land? A non-flying house, I mean.

15 Apr 2005

As it turned out (that's one of my favorite phrases, "as it turned out") those weren't transcribed tapes found inside a trombone case, but instead they were a novel, The Orphan, writ by David Wilson. And in Fall 2005 you'll be able to read it in handy dead-tree form as opposed to unwieldy Blogger form.

14 Apr 2005

Unclogging the link pipe: chimeric pirate space animals by Casey Porn … Bucky's car … various appreciations of poet Robert Creeley (1926 - 2005) … the Pan Am Building, skyscraper of the future.

12 Apr 2005

I am now officially not a purist, because I had barbecue at B's Barbecue in Greenville, and it was great. Yeah, they cook with charcoal and not wood, but they do some magical something right, because the taste is anything but run-of-the-mill. Other highlights of a trip to the Pamlico River included biscuits at King Chicken in (Little) Washington, a couple of quick spins through (Historic) Bath, a night sky full of stars, low stakes poker, high stakes tacos, and Kentucky straight bourbon whiskey.

3 Apr 2005

Y'all go read Justine's novel, OK? Magic or Madness. It's good, and it has Fibonacci numbers.

20 Mar 2005

Wow, this is wrongheaded in so many ways: flavored blends of Canadian whisky and bourbon, marketed to people for whom all other whiskies are burning, harsh, and bitter. Have these people never heard of ice? Soda? Ice and soda? "Yea, they have chosen their own ways, and their soul delighteth in their abominations."

14 Mar 2005

Speaking of jazz musicians and sound, here's an explanatory visualization of Coltrane's Giant Steps and here's one that just looks groovy.

9 Mar 2005

Jeb says these are the best non-custom earplugs you can buy. He should know.

7 Mar 2005

It's easy to criticize the greed of legacy pimps and the crassness of someone who'd buy an Eames Chair fountain pen or Frank Lloyd Wright jigsaw puzzle. And rightfully so. But the existence of these objets highlights the fact that while Wright and Eames and plenty of other modernist designers and architects and would-be visionaries talked a good game about affordable design for ordinary people, they rarely delivered on that promise. Ordinary people can't afford the houses or the chairs; they can afford the pointless jigsaw puzzles.

27 Feb 2005

Chivas. Chivas?! Oh well, de gustibus and all that. Not that I'm a whisk(e)y snob, though ... and coincidentally, we've been experimenting with some affordable blended Scotch here at Butnertronix HQ. Specifically, William Grant's Family Reserve, Teacher's Highland Cream, and White Horse. Jim Murray, famed whisk(e)y critic (and also non-snob) gives them all high marks. If you only drink single-malt scotches, or if you only drink Johnnie Walker Black, or for that matter if you only drink Chivas Regal, these whiskies (esp. the Teacher's) are worth investigating.

19 Feb 2005

Sure, the Google Maps site is pretty nifty, but my initial search left me less than impressed. I plugged in my home address and WHOOSH, there's my neighborhood. I entered "coffee" into the search box, and up popped the names and addresses of nearby coffeehouses. What goes with coffee? Pie. So I entered "pie" into the search box and WHOOSH SPLAT the map zooms seven-hundred miles down to the Tampa Bay area in Florida. Why? Because PIE is the three-letter airport code for St. Petersburg-Clearwater International Airport. Bzzzzt, wrong answer.

16 Feb 2005

And the tooting continues: Paul Di Filippo mentions Horses in his book review column in the March 2005 issue of Asimov's Science Fiction magazine. He also mentions worthy stuff such as Say... and LCRW in this column. He says my stories are "wry, caustic, calculated, impulsive, veering unpredictably through the skies of imagination like drunken swallows" and "gems of gorgeous weirdness" and also "these marvelous characters dancing their ridiculous waltzes will break your heart and make you laugh." Aw, shucks. I will plead guilty to those verdicts any day of the week.

13 Feb 2005

Sunday morning leftovers: The Thirty-Eight United States … The "most astonishing building in the world," maybe … condemned to repeat itLiterary DNAthat Lovecraft review you've been looking for.

12 Feb 2005

(A message from the world of publishing.) Remember principles? Some folks still have them.

5 Feb 2005

I'm always surprised when folks have never heard this one: "Fast, Cheap, Good—pick any two."

29 Jan 2005

Where's that horn? Ah, here it is. Toot, toot! In a wrap-up article on 2004, Matt Cheney writes: "Richard Butner's Horses Blow Up Dog City and Theodora Goss's The Rose in Twelve Petals have, it seems to me, the highest percentage of excellent work in them of any of the collections published this year."

22 Jan 2005

Air travel isn't the best example: jet-set amenities existed in the Jet Age when only the well-heeled could afford to fly; nowadays any smelly person with one or two hundred bucks can clamber aboard a plane. Why, they're not even wearing a suit or a dress!

Movie theaters and filling stations are, however, great examples that contradict capitalism's myth of everything getting better and better. The conveyor belt of progress! Except today "full-service gas stations" mean those places in New Jersey where, by law, they have to pump your gas for you. As opposed to a friendly fellow in a tidy coverall pumping your gas, wiping your windshield, checking your oil level and tire pressure. And today's multiplex cinemas, even if they do have stadium seating, ain't got nothin' on early 20th century movie palaces.

20 Jan 2005

Lest we forget... (Via Greg Frost.)

19 Jan 2005

The new Airbus A380 (world's largest commercial passenger jet) has a first-class bar and lounge area. Remember that, in the heyday of jet travel, Boeing 747s had piano lounges on the upper passenger deck; these were later eliminated in favor of plunking more seats up there. Maybe there is hope for humanity, at least the humanity rich enough to buy a first-class ticket.

1 Jan 2005

In lieu of What I Did Last Year or What I'll Do This Year, here's a list of some of the swanky books and CDs folks gave me for xmas: The Annotated Lolita, How Aliens Think, Arne Jacobsen, Naked Airport, Winston-Salem in Vintage Postcards, Freight Train and Other North Carolina Folks Songs and Tunes, Trust Not Those in Whom Without Some Touch of Madness, Nuclear Assembly Hall, Glimpses: The Radio Show. Color me stoked.

P.S.—Because this isn't really a blog (yet), if you want to see more stuff, rewind to last year.