Welcome to the new blog

July 19, 2007

Well, I’ve decided to migrate my blog from Blogger to WordPress. Whether it now looks better or worse than the old blog, I’m not sure. One thing’s for sure, it’s more functional.

One of the most important things to me about blogging is receiving comments from readers. You’ll notice the new blog lists the last five comments down the right-hand side - a nice touch. Those of you who were in the habit of commenting regularly, please keep ‘em coming. Obviously, you’ll no longer log in from your Blogger account (if you had one), but comments are open to everyone. Just state your name and post away.

You’ll notice there’s now a “Categories” section on the sidebar. This should give a bit more exposure to some important older posts, like my writing and filmmaking tips, that are currently floating way back in the mists of time.

I always hated the navigation (or lack thereof) on the Blogger template. Now, I’ve been able to move all the clutter that was on my sidebar into handy pages along the top.

Expect further changes and enhacements in the coming days.

Book swapping

June 1, 2007

Like most avid readers, I’ve got a collection of books in my house, many of which I’m unlikely to read twice. I’ve come across a neat way to trade those books for other volumes: Read It, Swap It. I discovered the site when I was vainly Googling my own name, to see if there were any new mentions of Chion out there on the far reaches of the worldwide web; I was delighted to come across a past pupil of the school (hello, Megsy) plugging my novels on the site’s forum.

On Read It, Swap It, you create a username for yourself, then put together a list of books you’re willing to exchange. Now you’re ready to browse the full library of books on offer by all users. When you spot something you want, you click to request it. The owner of that book then has opportunity to browse through your books. If he sees something he likes, a successful exchange takes place. What I find charming about this site is that it’s completely devoid of any monetary exchange; even kids can use it.

I’ve made several requests for books, but unfortunately the other user doesn’t always find anything of interest to him in my selection. It’s a pity, because I located a few books that I really wanted (in particular, the original novels behind the movies Battle Royale and Ring, translated from Japanese), but I couldn’t pique the owners’ curiosity. Likewise, I’ve received requests for some of my books, but I don’t always find the other user’s selection interesting. The system works on a simple book-for-book basis, so it’s possible you might end up swapping a perfect-condition 500-page first edition hardcover for a tatty old 150-page paperback. You can think of these as drawbacks, but I actually feel it adds a bit of excitement to the process.

One thing I’ve found interesting is that I’ve had requests for several small-press print-on-demand books by practically unknown authors. It’s probably too early to suggest that there’s any kind of trend to be witnessed here, but it’s possible that in this second-hand trading environment, people are more on the look-out for the unusual and unfamiliar. Thus far, I’ve traded two self-published books (by two authors who have now completely dropped off the radar) for Jules Verne’s 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea and Simon Clark’s Blood Crazy. (The plot of the latter got me excited: think 28 Days Later except it’s only the adults who go bananas; kids are left to fend for themselves in a world where every adult is out to slaughter them. What a great idea for an apocalypse!)

Read It, Swap It is a UK-only service. Here’s my book list, if anyone out there wants to trade books with me, whether inside or outside the system.

Blog comments and RSS

December 1, 2006

I’d like to say a word of thanks to the four or five persons who are in the habit of regularly posting comments to the blog. Receiving comments is the most enjoyable part of the blogging process for me, and it lets me know that my ramblings are not entirely in vain. I’d like to encourage other visitors to comment, too. Please don’t be put off by the username and password prompt that appears when you click the “Comments” button (see below each post). All you have to do is choose “Anonymous.” There is no registration process, no need to have your own Blogger account, and no need to disclose your email address. Nothing could be simpler. If you have the urge to comment on an older post, rest assured it won’t go unnoticed, as Blogger notifies me of every incoming comment. I always take time to reply, too (at least, when I can think of something to say).

Now, a word on RSS. See that little orange square at the top right of the blog, beside the words “RSS Feed”? What the heck is that about? some of you will have wondered. Well, if you happen to frequent more than one blog on the net, then RSS is for you. RSS stands for “Really Simple Syndication,” and what it allows you to do is view all your favourite blogs from one place. All you need is an “RSS aggregator” application. I use the free online service Bloglines for my reading pleasure. Once you set up an account, all you have to do is copy and paste the RSS feed shortcut (i.e. the orange square) from any blog, and you’re all set. RSS works for news feeds and podcasts, too. Clear as mud, right?

Podcasting: microphone woes

September 26, 2006

I recently purchased a professional microphone set-up, called the MXL Desktop Recording Kit, marketed as an all-in-one solution for podcasters. It’s a battery-powered condenser mic and it comes shipped with a nice little tripod and a number of connections, including a standard mini-jack found on all computer sound cards. This baby was £60 plus shipping from the USA.

I’ve got the mic now, and I’m expecting it to be worth the money, except I can’t hear what it sounds like. Why? Because the crummy sound card on my laptop doesn’t have a “mic in” socket. And no, I wasn’t stupid enough to buy this mic without checking. The laptop has a socket with a little microphone symbol over it, but it turns out this is a “line in” socket. So why put a mic symbol on it, eh? Beats me. I tried the mic in another laptop by a different manufacturer, and it was the same story. I tried it in my work PC; same story. I’m seeing a pattern here. Basically, if you’ve got a PC with a basic three-socket sound card labelled headphones, speakers and mic, that really means headphones, speakers and line in.

I checked for support on online forums. Somebody suggested turning on the “mic boost” function in the audio control panel. Wonderful advice … not. All that does is amplify everything, including the background hiss (which sort of negates the reason for buying a professional mic, doesn’t it?). The bottom line is, a proper mic socket is much more sensitive than a line in socket, so there’s no solution except to obtain the right input.

So, what do you do with a laptop that you can’t plug a new sound card into? You get an external USB sound card. I’m hunting eBay for one right now, but they keep going up to around £50. A basic one will done. All I need to see are the magic words “line in” and “mic in” labelled on separate sockets.

This is all pretty new to me. Keep me right on this, DJ Eddie.

Counter-culture: Homosexuality

December 8, 2005

It’s not often I get on my high horse and talk about some big controversial issue, but I feel like making an exception. On certain issues, I find myself standing firmly opposed to the tidal-wave of popular opinion. So, here’s the first one: homosexuality.

People like me get labelled with two things: homophobe and bigot. I’ve never been called it to my face, but that’s because I rarely bring up the topic. But generally, this is what you get called today, if you believe homosexuality is wrong. But from my angle, I’m sick to death of the constant sympathetic portrayals of gay romance on TV, worming away at the public’s psyche and gradually eroding our beliefs. So, I’m going to speak up, here, on my own little forum, to whoever’s willing to give me five minutes. I’m not going to rant and rave; I’m not even going to quote the Bible. I’m going to give you my own simple observations on why I think heterosexual people have started to approve of homosexuality.

It’s the condom’s fault. You might think that’s a strange thing to say, but hear me out. A friend of mine once gave me a memorable line about the way the world thinks today. He said, “Pregnancy is a sexually transmitted disease.” Now, nobody in their right mind is going to admit they believe that to be true, but by their actions, many people treat pregnancy just like a disease to be avoided. Going out on a Saturday night looking for a pull? Make sure you bring the condoms; you don’t want a nasty pregnancy to deal with. That’s sure to ruin your life. Dating a girl, but not ready to commit? Make sure you wear a condom; you don’t want a nasty pregnancy getting in the way and heaping a load of responsibility at your door. Yep, pregnancy is just like a disease. Unless you’re married, you better take the appropriate steps to avoid catching it.

Now, isn’t that kind of thinking just a little messed up? You don’t think so? Of course, because the condom is the wonder-invention that allows you to have your cake and eat it, too. Except, there’s more going on with that kind of opinion than those who hold it would like to admit. What’s really happening is that people have allowed a mere invention to dictate the way they think about something fundamental to human nature: the link between sex and babies. Human nature has a pattern: (1) man bonds with woman; (2) their union creates new life; (3) they support each other as a family unit. That’s the way nature intended it, before the wonderful invention allowed us to tamper with nature.

Because of the condom, sex no longer has to have anything to do with making babies. Sex is now purely a recreational activity. And as such, the only rule that applies is, whatever gives you pleasure, go with it; whatever’s fun, do it. Is it any wonder that homosexuality is now viewed in a positive light?

Instead of talking about homosexuality as being dirty or abominable, I would simply invite you to contemplate the pointlessness of it. In terms of the biological function of sex, the male-male union is completely and utterly futile. And if you dare to think about it in any detail, it borders on the ridiculous. Men have sperm for a reason; women have ovaries for a reason. And the reasons are painfully obvious. And yet, even when these same-sex couples speak up about wanting to adopt children, no one seems willing to state the obvious: “The reason you can’t have children of your own is because you’ve been going about it all wrong.”

No doubt there are people reading this, getting all hot under the collar, ready to start flaming me for my so-called homophobia and bigotry. All I would ask is that people be more willing to look inside themselves and ask themselves why they believe what they believe. If anyone’s going to change their views on homosexuality, they’d first have to have a long, hard think about they way they see sex in general.

The Freedom Triangle

August 13, 2005

I have this little project I’ve been tinkering with on and off for the past seven months, called The Freedom Triangle. It’s a novella which takes place in the mythology of The Tripods Trilogy by John Christopher. Although mine is an original story, it’s technically “fan fiction” or “derivative fiction,” and that turns it into a copyright nightmare. I was discussing this with my writer friend Will Hadcroft, himself a Tripods fan and someone who has met the author of the trilogy. A few days later, there’s a message in my inbox from a sender called Sam Youd. For those who don’t know, John Christopher is actually the pseudonym of a man called Samuel Youd. Here’s what he had to say:


Will has passed me your request/query re your novella, and I wish I could be more helpful. It’s not just Disney - I’m also contracted to Simon & Schuster who have kept the books in print for nearly forty years.

I’m not sure whether your book would be seen as a violation of copyright, not (thank God) being a movie/publishing lawyer; but I know their minds work in strange and often jealous ways. I don’t think they would take private circulation among friends seriously, but actual publication would be a different ballgame. So would publication on the Net: the question of copyright in that area is still to be worked out. What I’m afraid is indisputable is that I personally am in no position to offer a go-ahead or clearance - it’s not in my hands.

Sorry about that!

Best wishes

Sam Youd

I don’t want to sound like a starstruck teenager, but it was great to get an email from the man himself. Ain’t the internet a wonderful thing?

"Warrior" - my song for the MacIdol contest

December 5, 2004

I’ve been really busy for the past month reviving an old piece of music which I composed in 1992, called Warrior. I’ve basically scrapped all the old instruments and imported the musical notation into Apple GarageBand, where I can take advantage of the professional sounds. To give it something extra, I asked my musician friend Mike Andrews to play one of the instruments on electric guitar. All I can say is “WOW!” You can download the finished song at my MP3 page. Hope you like it. Incidentally, this is my entry for the MacIdol music contest, where the first prize is an Apple iPod!