Friday, November 07, 2003

Stupid DSL Tricks 

My DSL service from SBC went down last night. It was down when I got home from work, but came up when I refreshed it, for half an hour or so, long enough to download the day's hundred emails. Then after a few minutes it went down again, and remained so as I edited and formatted the Cynthia Ward review for the site, and would have been posting a blog entry. Finally resorted to a dial-up connection to post the review. This afternoon phoned SBC DSL service, and after 20 minutes of them running background tests and me cycling power to the PC and the modem (things I'd already done), the best the technician could suggest was that I go purchase a new Ethernet cable for connecting the modem to my PC. (I've only had the service, and the present cable, for less than 3 months.) Dialed up again, to download the 300 emails, mostly spam, since last night. Posted a couple blinks. Disconnected the dial-up to make a phone call, tried refreshing the DSL connection again -- and it worked! Why now? Who knows.

Two items I'd intended to address in more detail than perhaps I have patience for this evening, but will at least mention. First, in the category of Stupid Reviewer Tricks, to respond to the response to a review on SFcrowsnest that attracted the attention of The Alien Online editor Ariel, and in turn was commented upon by the Fantastica Daily staff (see Nov 1st entry). The review is hardly worth linking to--an unknown reviewer apparently incapable of responding to a collection by Ramsey Campbell--but does serve to illustrate several examples of how not to write a review. A review should say more about the work being reviewed than about the reviewer. Even well-known, expert reviewers get taken to task for this sin, and this reviewer has no reputation, or expertise, to speak from; nevertheless, we're told about another story (not by Campbell) the reviewer liked, that the reviewer couldn't remember much about these stories, etc. Next, the work must be evaluated independently of its format, price, or cover illustration, which are not under the control of the author. And it's hard to take any review seriously that isn't written to some basic standard of comprehensible English. (From that review: "I'll concede that maybe his writing style isn't my taste but I really don't think that that is the case.") All of this is reminds me that I once thought of compiling a list of stupid reviewer tricks, along the lines of that Clarion (?) list of stupid SF writer tricks, of which my favorite was the presumption of the uniformity of planetary ecologies, e.g. "It was raining on Mongo IV that afternoon"... but I never did.

Second, a disturbing report from David Langford's Infinite Matrix column two weeks ago that the Omni Online website (www.omnimag.com), for many years an archive of stories posted there even though not updated for years, has recently disappeared (presumably a consequence of upheavals at the corporation that owned the site). It's a reminder that all of our electronic publications are only a missed payment or two away from oblivion. When brush fires threaten, I worry not so much that my house might burn down, as that my library might go up in smoke -- the house is far easier to replace than the books -- but at least other copies of the books and magazines are out there somewhere to be found, however long it might take. Electrons? Theoretically so easy to copy and reproduce, but in practice, they require a frail infrastructure in which to live.
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Mark R. Kelly

The opinions expressed in this blog are solely those of Mark R. Kelly, and do not reflect the editorial position of Locus Magazine.
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