Friday 22 April 2011

Cave Johnson, Lemon Arsonist Extraordinaire.

Anyone who's a gamer out there probably knows that Portal 2 is out - and that it looks like it was worth the hype and is a worthy successor to Portal. 

But did you know that the founder of Aperture Science, the enthusiastic and slightly crazy Cave Johnson, features in it? Well... his voice does, anyway, as his recorded voice gives instructions (and colourful commentary) to Chell through the first test chambers.

To CJ. A guy who never took lemons from life. Who is responsible for me never being able to look a lemon in the eye again without thinking about arson.

You can find a full list of Cave Johnson quotes here and a list of Portal & Portal 2 memes here.

Wednesday 20 April 2011

Portal 2 - The New Cake-less Game From Valve

Portal 2: The Official Guide
Portal 2: The Official Guide
Portal 2 has FINALLY been released! Sadly, I can't play it yet, as I have a huge assignment due tomorrow (and technically it's still only available in the US until the 22nd). I think I actually want to replay the original Portal first.

But I got nearly a thousand visitors to my Portal 2 lens yesterday, and have been having great fun collecting Portal 2 Quotes! There are many awesome quotes from the various very funny trailers, the main single player storyline featuring Chell, and from the Robot duo co-op option.

Basically, Chell has been in stasis (check out the prequel/sequel comic linking Portal and Portal 2) and now there are two AI's - Wheatley and GLaDOS. There's also personality named Caroline who is downloaded into GLaDOS, a boss battle very similar to the ending of Portal, and a clash of the AI titans over Chell.

Otherwise, lots of trap-puzzle rooms, some new toys, and a lot more talking! And turrets and the beloved Weighted Companion Cube of course. GLaDOS steals the show again, naturally (or is that 'mechanically'?), and there's a new credits song from Jonathon Coulton ("Want You Gone") which is definitely growing on me, although it's not as funny as "Still Alive".

Because Portal was actually a test game, it was mainly designed to be purely functional. And short. Portal 2 is longer and prettier - Chell went through some dramatic redesigns in the concept art stage, but is back in her orange jumpsuit, and similar features (with better graphics).

Oh, and they did mention cake... but the mention was a lie.

Total gameplay is around nine hours for the single player Chell campaign and about five hours for the co-op campaign. Like the original Portal, the replayability factor isn't quite as high as it could be, once you know the answers to the puzzles. It's available for PC, Mac, Xbox 360 and Playstation 3.

Monday 18 April 2011

The Top Five Things A Cat Owner Should Have

Partly through semi-expensive trial and error, partly through the forbearance of my ex-pet shop worker flatmate, I've collected a variety of cat products through the years, and found a few that work wonderfully for my cat.

I should point out first, that I adore my cat, but refuse to spend loads of money unless absolutely warranted, and that I am highly aware of how fickle she can be.

The five products I recommend for looking after your cat with are:

  1. FURminator deShedding Tool for Cats
  2. Advantage Flea Treatment
  3. Bergan Turbo Scratcher Cat Toy
  4. A heating pad for cats
  5. A claw clipper


There's not a lot of point buying toys for my cat. Her favourite toy in the whole world is toilet paper - she goes mad for it! Shop-bought mice are occasionally played with, especially if they are catnip-y, but not really better or worse than anything else.

Bergan Turbo Scratcher Cat Toy, Colors May Vary
Bergan Turbo Scratcher Cat Toy
My parent's cat loves chasing small balls and marbles, my cat prefers to ravage something she can actually sink her teeth into. Kittens love everything. The only toy that was actually completely worth the money was the GREEN - Turboscratcher Interactive Cat Toy. And frankly, that's mostly valuable for the fact that it's now her favourite scratchpad.

She also will chase the ball, and has great fun fishing out treats dropped in the ball run, and enjoys sitting on it. But its main function is to preserve the couches!


A heating pad is ideal for cats - and on the right, you can see she agrees with me!

The one in the photo is a pet shop cast-off, so it's old, has no on-off button and I have no idea what the wattage or brand is. But it works fine and gets hot, but not too hot to touch. I gave it to her a few hours ago... she hasn't moved since!

My cat has arthritis, and has had it for years - she can't jump in winter, and is in a lot of pain. She's also thirteen and starting to show her age a little, so I'm getting extra-protective. Cats love warm spots anyway!

Encouraging a cat to stay on one spot is also very useful, as it stops them a) ignoring the expensive cat bed you may have bought them, that is taking up space somewhere and b) spreading fur all over everything, then moving on to fur up another spot!

There are a lot of different heating pads on Amazon, almost all highly rated. Basically, they're low power heaters, similar to an electric blanket, that is usually covered in some kind of fleece covering to protect the cat and provide comfort. Most of the choices are highly rated, so it usually comes down to size, price and appearance. Some of them are designed for outdoors, and some have some kind of heat-level control.


The FURminator Cat Brush is my absolute, all-time favourite pick. I recommend it unreservedly for any kind of overly-furry cat.

My cat sheds a lot and I've been through a variety of brushes, steadily moving upwards in price, from old hairbrushes, basic brushes with hard spikes, soft brushes of different kinds, and lastly a handheld rubber comb (that last one worked best). But I still had to brush her every day for them to be much good, and they didn't get the underfur.

I finally found some reviews about the FURminator, and bought it, and after an initial 'I hate new brushes' period (in which the only real way forward is to brush the head and neck until they decide this is an awesome toy of awesomeness... or just too blissed out to resist), the cat now tolerates it. Actually, she's now at the point of running over to say hi, headbutting it, and then flopping over for half an hour to be de-furred!

And golly, gosh, blimey, does it ever work. I never knew my cat could pack so much fur onto her back (well, I did know, because she kept sharing it - but it was hard to conceptualise!). And better, it pulls out all the loose fur, but not the rest of her fur, doesn't hurt her, and gets all the under-fur (the under-fur normally goes untouched, only to continue working its way out the next day).

I actually wrote an entire page praising the FURminator! And you can see how much fur it removed last spring, when it suddenly turned warm and the cat decided it was time to shed.


Apart from the scratchpad mentioned above, I also clip my cat's claws. She's getting old, so her claws get too long - apart from her accidentally gouging me, she also gets tangled up in cloth and needs me to separate her. When a cat can no longer retract its claws all the way, they're too long.

A basic claw clipper, like this one, is cheap and versatile. You can use it for any small dog or cat - or bird! I actually borrow the one my flatmate uses for their parrot.

If you hold the paw and push gently on the back, the toes will spread slightly and the claws come out. As long as you stay away from the quick - the dark centre which holds the blood and nerves, and is easily visible against the white, somewhat translucent, 'dead' part of the nail - the cat will be fine.

The cat won't approve, of course, and you might need two people to hold the cat and clip the claws, but it is fairly straight forward, and doesn't have to be done all in one go.

Advantage Topical Solution Flea Treatment for Cats Over 9 Pounds, 6 ApplicationsSadly, fleas are an unfortunate reality of pets. The best flea stuff I've found is the Advantage brand - both Moss and my parents' cat have shown allergic reactions to fleas, and my parents' cat reacted very badly to the cheap Spotton brand that is the only option in NZ supermarkets (we have to get the Advantage stuff from the vet or pet store).

 It costs more, unfortunately, but each little dose lasts a month, and it tends not to have nasty side effects (like a skin rash and fur loss!)

I also recommend growing some catnip... in a cage, of course! Water it regularly and it's pretty easy .

Saturday 16 April 2011

My Squidoo Earnings and Number of Lenses Over Time

When you first started Squidooing, you generally make very little money, and until you have around 20 lenses, you're unlikely to see any kind of steady payout. At least, a steadily worthwhile one!

So it can be dispiriting, and when there's no money coming in, it's hard to sit back and wait a few months for a lens to grow up.

There's also the quality vs. quantity issue - should you pour all your efforts into a set number a week? Dedicate time to a single lens? How many lenses should you make per month? Per year?

I started in October 2008, with five lenses, then sat back to see what would happen. After getting a surprise payment while overseas, from one lens reaching tier 1, I came back home with renewed interest and started making more.

This graph comes courtesy of the SquidUtils advanced dashboard, which allows you to sort your lenses by creation date.
See how little I did the first few months? That's where I either forgot about Squidoo, or sat and tweaked the same lenses over and over. I actually went overseas in January 2009 and March 2010, which is why I made no lenses at all in those periods.

On average I made around 7 lenses a month. In the last year, it has ranged from 0 to 19.

See those huge peaks around Oct-Nov in 2009 and 2010? That's right after my university exams finished and my summer holidays began! The first peak is when I suddenly reached Giant (I officially became a Giant at the end of December/beginning of Jan 2010)

So how do my earnings from Squidoo correlate to the number of lenses? Below you can see my payouts for each month over my years on Squidoo.
My Squidoo payments (minus charity donations) over time
NB: Payout is two months later, but this is tracked against the month that I earnt it, not that I received it 
As you can see, it tracks my activity fairly closely!

There are two peaks for the Christmas season in 2009 and 2010, and the fact that it didn't drop off again for 2011 is something I'm very happy about, and it's partly because once I started selling regularly in November and December, I managed to keep that up - and because I managed to double the number of Tier 1 lenses I have, on average. And that was simply by making a few more, better, lenses, which stayed up on their own. (It's also partly apparently a site-wide thing, that a lot of people are seeing - but I don't have the data for that.)

The latter half of the year is also when all those lenses I made at the end of 2009 started to mature - without me having to do much with them.

Do more lenses make more money?
Yes. It's not a perfect correlation, and your payout will vary a lot from month to month, but the more lenses you have, the more they'll cancel each other out (a lens that makes more sales, suddenly, will confound the effect of a lens dropping out of Tier 1, for example).

You'll also pick up more random and targetted sales, be able to funnel more traffic into specific lenses through other lenses and have them provide solid backlinks to each other (if you have niches of lenses; this may boost the 'main' lens into a higher pay tier), and finally... you'll just get better at it overall.

How long before a lens repays my time and effort?
How long is a piece of string? Some lenses will never really earn enough to be 'worth' it, trickling in a couple of dollars over three years. Others may pay you dozens of dollars in the first couple of months. You won't know until afterwards.

Equally, some lenses may earn steadily, others be incredibly erratic! Seasonal lenses are the worst of the lot for this, of course, but any lens can jump or drop. And I do mean any. Current earnings are only a general guideline to future performance.

How many lenses before I see steady income?
Based on my experiences (and I sold nothing in the first year, and didn't even try to, really, so this is solely based on lensrank. A friend I referred did far, far better than me sales-wise, with about ten lenses, largely due to the niche they were in and the fact that they had a lot more traffic across those few lenses than I did at that point)
1-5 lenses will give you $0-10 a month
5-20 lenses generally averages out to $15, and is less variable
>50 lenses = $50 on average

So how many lenses should I make per month?
As many as you want. My 'output' reflects my interest and motivation, my level of burnout, and the amount of free time I actually have. If I haven't made a lens for a couple of weeks, I start to feel unproductive, but that just means I'm fresher, have more ideas, and will probably make a few in a row.

If you need a schedule, aim for two a week, going higher if you want to, and dropping to one if you are struggling. If you don't need a schedule, just make them when you feel like it, keep going, and it will even out in the end!

Why do the payouts keep dropping again?
There are several reasons that payouts flux, and are higher when I am more actively making lenses.

  1. Seasonality; some lenses just do better overall at certain times of year, like Christmas - which is also when I have free time to be creating lenses
  2. Lenses doing well encourages me onto Squidoo, so I'm more likely to make more, or split up very successful ones.
  3. Simply the fact that I'm active and making a lot of lenses means I'm more likely to have fresh lenses overall, and am probably doing other things to drive traffic. This means I have more of my lenses in paying tiers. These days I'm generally a lot more active on existing lenses - I used to wander off for up to a month at a time, now I always have enough to look at or do, that I rarely do that.
  4. I just didn't have enough steady earners to cancel out the natural shifts in lensrank and sales. In 2011, I've watched lenses moving up and down, and not cared, because they've always been replaced by others. A year ago, each 'lost' lens would have meant a loss overall.
In the last half a year or so, I have been steadily active, better at making lenses, better at making lenses that sell, and simply have more lenses to counter variations in lensrank (including seasonal lenses from the year before) and be more likely to pick up sales. I've also made a higher number of lenses that jump up into the higher tiers and tweaked a few very old ones successfully (plus some that vanish into the depths, of course!).

Terry Pratchett Quotes About Lying

This is just a little round up of quotes about liars and lying, by Terry Pratchett, who first taught me the art of being a creative and outrageous liar - which is, of course, the greatest and first prequisite to having fun at other people's expense.

So many of his books feature outrageous liars and creative headology - but Going Postal revolves around a conman living a lie, forced to live a new lie and turn it into truth - and explores the art of telling ridiculous untruths that end up being believed a bit more.

"Oh, all right. Of course I accept as a natural born criminal, habitual liar, fraudster and totally untrustworthy perverted genius."

"Capital! Welcome to government service!" said Lord Vetinari, "I pride myself on being able to pick the right man."

"Sometimes the truth is arrived at by adding all the little lies together and deducting them from the totality of what is known."

And the sequel, The Truth, throws in a variation on the quote commonly attributed to Mark Twain:
""A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on""

And scattered through various other books:

"Anyone stupid enough to expect us to trust him in these circumstances must be trustworthy. He'd be too stupid to be deceitful."
Small Gods

"'I'm a world-famous liar.'
 'Is that true?'
Witches Abroad

"The point is that descriptive writing is very rarely entirely accurate and during the reign of Olaf Quimby II as Patrician of Ankh some legislation was passed in a determined attempt to put a stop to this sort of thing and introduce some honesty into reporting. Thus, if a legend said of a notable here that "all men spoke of his prowess" any bard who valued his life would add hastily "except for a couple of people in his home village who thought he was a liar, and quite a lot of other people who had never really heard of him."
 The Light Fantastic)

Thursday 14 April 2011

Excerpt From Snuff by Terry Pratchett -Transcript Part 2

This is an excerpt from Terry Pratchett's upcoming book, Snuff, read by his assistant Rob, at the Auckland talk he gave in April 2011. 
Time up to 23:35/1:31:38

Pterry: I just need to say a few things. For reasons you'll easily guess at, Commander Vimes of the City Watch has been propelled into the countryside by his wife. And we all know what happens to policemen, detectives, if they go for a quiet time in the country. And Vimes is wandering around, kicking his heels, because he doesn't get the whole countryside bit. He thinks that trees are just stiff weeds and people make far too much fuss about them. And that's why he falls prey to the little anecdote, as it were, that Rob will be reading.

Rob: From the top. So Sam Vimes has gone into a little country pub, where he learns about a fascinating local hobby and meets an old adversary. 

Vimes was becoming aware that the pub was filling up. Mostly with other sons of the soil, but also with people who, whether they were gentlemen or not, would be expected to be called so. They wore colourful caps and white trousers and spoke continuously. Outside, horses and carriages were filling the lane. Hammering was going on somewhere, and June's(?) wife was manning, or more correctly, womanning, the bar, while her husband ran back and forth with his tray.

 Vimes could look out of the front pub windows. Regrettably, the pub was that most terrifying of things - it was picturesque. Which meant that windows consisted of small round panes, fixed into place with lead. They were for letting light in, not looking out of, since the light was bent so erratically that it nearly broke. One pane showed what was probably a sheep, but which actually looked quite like a whale, until it moved, then it became a mushroom. A man walked past with no head - until he reached another pane, and then the head had one enormous eyeball. Young Sam would have loved it, but his father decided to give eventual blindness a miss, and stepped out into the sunshine.

Ah, he thought, it's some kind of game. Oh well. Vimes wasn't keen on games because they led to crowds, and crowds led to work for coppers. But here in fact, he wasn't a copper, was he? It was a strange feeling, so he left the pub and became an innocent bystander. He couldn't remember when he'd last been one before. It felt... vulnerable. He strolled over to the nearest man, who was hammering some stakes into the ground, and asked 
"Wot's going on 'ere, then?" Realising quickly that he'd spoken in Copper rather than in ordinary citizen, he added "...oh, if you don't mind me asking." The man straightened up. He was one of those with the colourful caps. 

"Have you seen a game of Crocket, sir? It's the Game of Games!" Civilian Vimes did his best to look like a man eager for more delicious information. Judging by this young man's enthusiastic grin, he was about to learn the rules of Crocket, whether he wanted to or not. Well, he thought, I did ask.
"At first glance, sir, Crocket might seem like just another ball game, wherein two sides strive against one another by endeavouring to propel a ball by hand, or bat, or other device, into the opponent's goal of some sort. Crocket, however, was invented during a game of croquet at St. Otan's(?) Theological College at Ham on Rye, when the boy's [something] on the Jackson(?) field there, now the Bishop of Quirm, took his mallet in both hands, and instead of giving the ball a gentle tap..."

After that, Vimes gave up. Not only because the rules of the game were incomprehensible in their own right, but also because the extremely enthusiastic young man allowed his enthusiasm to take precedence over any consideration of the need for his explanation to take things in some sensible order. Which meant that the flood of information was continually punctuated by apologetic comments along the lines of "Oh, I am sorry but I should have explained earlier, the second cone is not allowed on the ones below exchange, and in all play there's only one tong - uh, unless of course you're talking about Royal Crocket..."

Vimes died. The sun dropped out of the sky, giant lizards took over the world, and the stars exploded and went out, and all hope vanished and gurgled into the sinktrap of oblivion. And gas filled the firmanent and combusted, and behold! There was a new heaven - or possibly not. And Disc, and Io, and and possibly verily, life crawled out of the sea - or possibly didn't, because it had been made by the gods, all the same to bystander(?), and lizards turned to less scaly lizards - or possibly did not. And lizards turned into birds, and bugs turned into butterlies, and a species of apple turned into banana, and a kind of monkey fell out of a tree and realised life was better when you didn't have to spend your time hanging onto something. And, in only a few billion years, evolved trousers and ornamental stripey hats. Lastly, the game of Crocket. And there, magically reincarnated was Vimes, a little dizzy, standing on the village green, looking into the smiling countenance of an enthusiast. 

He managed to say "Well, that's amazing. Thank you so very much. I look forward to enjoying the game". At which point, he thought a brisk walk home might be in order, only to be foiled, again, by a regrettably familiar voice behind him, saying
 "You, I say,you! Yes,you! Aren't you Vimes?" It was Lord Rust, usually of Ankh-Morpork, and a fierce warhorse, without whose unique grasp of strategy and tactics, several wars would not have been so bloodily won. Now he was in a wheelchair, a new-fangled variety pushed by a man whose life was, knowing his lordship, quite possibly unbearable. But hatred tends not to have a long half-life, and in recent years, Vimes had regarded the man as nothing more than a titled idiot, rendered helpless by age. Yet still possessed of an annoying horsey voice, that suitably harnessed, might be used to saw down trees. Lord Rust was not a problem anymore. There were, surely, only a few more years to go before he would, er, rust in peace. And somewhere, in his knobbly heart, Vimes still retained a slight admiration for the cantankerous old butcher, with his evergreen self esteem, and absolute readiness not to change his mind about anything at all. The old boy reacted to the fact that Vimes, a hated policeman, was now a Duke, and therefore a lot more nobby than he was, by simply assuming he could not possibly be true, and therefore totally ignoring it. So Lord Rust, despite his look, was a dangerous buffoon, but - here was the difficult bit - an incredibly, if suicidally, brave one. This would have been absolutely tickety-boo if it weren't for the suicides of those poor fools who followed him into battle. Witnesses have said that it was uncanny. Rust would gallop into the jaws of death, ahead of his men, and was never seen to blink. Yet arrows and morningstars always missed him, and quite invariably hitting the men right behind him. Bystanders, or 'other people peering at the battlefield from behind a comfortably large rock', testified to this. Perhaps he was capable of ignoring too the arrows aimed at him? But age could not be so easily upstaged, and the old man, well known for his arrogance, had a sunken look.

Rust, most unusually, smiled at Vimes, and said "First time I've seen you down here, Vimes, is Sybil dragging you back to her roots? What?"
"She wants Young Sam to get some mud on his boots, Rust".
"Well done her! What? It'll do the boy good, make a man of him! What?" Vimes never understood where those explosive "What"s came from. After all, he thought, what's the point of just barking out 'What!' for absolutely no discernible reason? And as for "What, what!?" well, what was that all about? What? "What?" seemed to be tent pegs hammered into the conversation, but what the hell for? What?
"So, not down here on any official business then, what?" Vimes' mind spun so quickly that Rust should have heard the wheels go round. It analysed the tone of voice, the look of the man, that slight, ever so slight, but nonetheless, perceptible hint of hope that the answer would be 'No', and it presented him with the suggestion that it might not be a bad idea to drop a tiny kitten among the pigeons. He laughed.
"Well, Rust, Sybil's been banging on about coming down here since Young Sam was born, and this year she put her foot down. And I suppose an order from his wife must be considered official. When?" Vimes saw the man, who pushed the enormous wheelchair, trying to conceal a smile, especially when Rust responded with a baffled "What?" Vimes decided not to go with "Where!?" and instead said, in an offhand way, 
"Well, you know how it is, Lord Rust. A policeman will find a crime anywhere if he decides to look hard enough". Lord Rust's smile remained, but it had a congealed look to it. 
He said, "I should listen to the advice of your good lady wife. I don't think you'll find anything worth your mettle down here." There was no "What?" to follow, and the lack of it was somehow an emphasis.

In other news, the cover image has been released, and is awesome.

You can learn more about Snuff here

An Evening with Terry Pratchett Transcript: Part 1

I'm got to hear Pterry speak on April 14th in Auckland, NZ, and recorded the conversation on my Mp3. We did get an excerpt from Snuff, and that went by far too fast for me, so I'm glad I recorded it! It sounds interesting, though, and I've tried to transcribe it all. 

It is taking me ages, and it's two hours long, so I'll be posting it in bits.  The sound quality is terrible, too, which is why I'm not just uploading the recording!

This is the first fourteen minutes (followed by the reading from Snuff).

Pterry can be a bit difficult to understand - but I think most of that is his accent not his Alzheimer's, as I had trouble catching everything he said the first time I saw him, too (which was... gosh, ten years ago? At least?).

He's not a perfect speaker - I've edited out all the umms, long pauses, and repetitions of sentence parts as he talks, because they're a) extra typing and b) boring to read. (And yes, I know that the automatic assumption is that 'Oh noes, it's the Alzheimer's Disease! But he' a lot better than some public speeches I've had to sit through! And while he may have planned some of it, and some of the quotes or anecdotes that I'd heard before went a lot more smoothly (e.g. the airport story) other bits were clearly being thought up on the fly - his interviewer/co-host often ended up interrupting him by accident as he suddenly added something else on the end!).

I admit, I spent a lot of time thinking "I'm glad I'm recording this so I can figure out what he said later!" or "That's sounds like it will be really awesome when I write it down and figure out what the timing was meant to be!"

An Evening with Terry Pratchett (Part 1)

It begins with a bit of introduction and pimping of the sponsor, and random giving away of BIP 'Meet Terry Pratchett afterwards' tickets (my friend snagged one, I didn't). Then Terry walks in with a woman who is - I think - playing the role of host or interviewer. Half the audience ends up on their feet applauding.

*Pterry tries to control people standing and sitting in applause by raising and lowering his hat, then gives up because everyone has fallen respectfully silent* (I think. I was behind people standing at this point!)

Pterry: Oh well, never mind.

*they sit*

Jo Carol(?): My name is Jo Carol and of course you know the other person on stage. I'm here because I'm a major fan of Terry Pratchett. I would assume most of you are too. And just because we were talking backstage about just how wide the Pratchett area of Terry Pratchett fans is, just to place myself in that, I read and reread the books, I contribute to online forums but I've never worn a costume. I mention that because I was looking at some pics from a convention -

Pterry: Yes, you see, that's the con-, that's the convention.Which is like a big thing and people think they are loonies. Now, strictly speaking, this is in fact true. But its up to me to say that, throughout their lives, people will go to things that involve wearing ridiculous clothing. Like golfers, for example - and nuns, for that matter. And my friend Jack Cohen thinks that not having sex at all is a perversion. Cause you're built to have sex! If you don't do it, you're perverted - no, I think it's just unlucky.

The thing is, it's always puzzled me that you behave like raving loonies, somehow, yet you all know more about me than I do about all kinds of stuff. The average age now of a Discworld reader, I suppose, is into the fifties. Easily, I would have thought, given the number of letters I've had from varied people. Because once a Discworld reader, I've got you for life.

I had a letter once "I'm 75, I bet I'm your oldest reader." And I said "Nooo, I believe my oldest fan reader, that I'm familiar with, is in fact going to the next American Discworld convention from England, and I believe she's 90. And the lady concerned can play the most ferocious Granny Weatherwax. You have never seen ferocious until she glares at you. You don't know where the fans are - you find them twice when going through various Customs procedures in the last few days, I met a fan. There was an occasion in America, when once - I can't remember why - I was going to Memphis for a convention. And I was - well you know how it is if you've been through the States in the last twenty years or so. I was at the front of the line with a - what I call a cube of ebony, six feet on the side. He said, "What's your purpose in coming to the United States?" and I said "I'm guest of honour at a science fiction convention in Memphis." He stops there and looks at me, and says "Stay right there!". And then he picks up his phone and says "Uh, Stan - I've got him!". How sphincter twisting is that? And then nothing happens much, except everyone in the queue behind me is wondering what the hell is gonna happen to this poor sod. And then quite a small guy comes running up. "Ooh Mr. Pratchett, Ooh! I'm on the wrong duty roster, so I can't come to the convention. I really like your books, can you sign them for me, my name's Stan." And instead of writing "don't let them beat me up, oh get me out of here - oh please help!" or something like that, I write in my very good writing 'Best wishes'. And then Stan, all smiles, hops away into the distance, and I see the evil eyes of the ebony cube on me and he says "Have you got any... ID?". And I said "Stan did" and just for one moment on the earth, one micromoment of the earth, the cube nearly cracked a smile.

Jo Carol(?): Well, I'd love to talk about your fans, but I think to begin with, Rob is going to read for us?

Pterry: Rob is going to read for you a little bit, just a tiny, wee taster -

Jo Carol(?): ...of your new - ?

Pterry: Of Snuff, yes.

*enter Rob*

Rob: Hello, good evening. Actually, before I read today, can I just say on behalf of all of Auckland - all of New Zealand actually - we've actually had a really good time. We've been on the road now for what seemed like a hundred years, and coming here has been like chicken soup for the soul, hasn't it?

Pterry: It has, actually yeah. I like what I saw. But anywhere we went here, people were very friendly. And if we were looking for something we got it. And we're now Hobbits.

Rob: Yeah, we're real Hobbits, we really are - we're standing on a box. It was really fantastic, thanks very much. And now I have a real quandary - do I read from the new iPad, or from paper?

*Rob waves a great big, shiny iPad 2 around*

Jo Carol: People will do just anything to show they've got an iPad.

Pterry: An iPad 2. I think Rob was worried that he'd been given an iPad one in an iPad 2 box.

Rob: I put a tweet up on Twitter saying 'does anybody know where they're stocked in Melbourne, or Sydney?' and it really let us down. And they wrote back and said 'yes, there's one in JB Hi-Fi, we have one waiting for you.' And we went down, and thought that can't happen, that doesn't happen. So, thank you Melbourne. Now, I'm gonna shut up, I'm going to start reading soon, okay? Now, Snuff ...

Part 2: Excerpt from Snuff

Tuesday 5 April 2011

My Top Ten Fantasy Series

The Wise Man's Fear (Kingkiller Chronicles Series #2)I've just realised that I conveniently have ten Great fantasy series. The authors, and books, that I always have on my shelf, always buy if I don't have, and always read again and again. I just finished the second book by Patrick Rothfuss - I think he may be one of the best fantasy authors I have ever read, and if you recognise any of the names below, you'll know that is high praise. 

My top five and bottom five are approximately equal with each other, so the order is only approximate. Most of these are true Epic Fantasies, a few are slightly different. I'll have to write a bit more about them...

  1. The Discworld Series by Terry Pratchett 
  2. A Song of Ice and Fire by George RR Martin
  3. The Kingkiller Chronicles by Patrick Rothfuss
  4. Memory, Sorrow and Thorn by Tad Williams
  5. The Deed of Paksennarion by Elizabeth Moon
  6. His Dark Materials Trilogy by Philip Pullman
  7. Vlad Taltos series/books by Steven Brust
  8. The Curse of Chalion series by Lois McMaster Bujold
  9. The Abhorsen Trilogy by Garth Nix
  10. Lord of the Rings by JRR Tolkien

Honourable Mentions

Monday 4 April 2011

Squidoo Tier Payments from February 2011

The pending payments for April (from Feb) are now visible in the Earnings tab of each lens' stats page. On the whole, Chitika and AdSense are slightly down from last month. Infolinks is up significantly, though, nearly half as much again as last month.

NB: total figure given (if I have no other payments on the lens to confuse the issue) tend to be off by $0.01

Tier 1 $29.77
28/02/11 Ad Pool $23.15 (-$2.14)
28/02/11 Chitika $1.01 (-$0.14)
28/02/11 Infolinks $5.60  (+$2.63)

Tier 2  $5.06
28/02/11 Ad Pool $3.94 (-$0.36)
28/02/11 Chitika $0.17 (-$0.03)
28/02/11 Infolinks $0.95 (+$0.28)

Tier 3 $0.25
28/02/11 Ad Pool $0.20 (-0.0.2)
28/02/11 Chitika $0.01
28/02/11 Infolinks $0.05 (+0.02)