Karl Schroeder did a reading at the Toronto Reference Library from what will be the last Virga book (now if only number three will come out in paperback) and had a great and wide-ranging Q&A session. His thoughts on the recent Amazon fail were interesting, at $9.99 (which I've always thought was too much for an ebook) Amazon is actually losing money on most of them. The printing and distribution costs of a paper book only account for something like 20% of its cost, something which surprised me a lot. It means that we can't expect ebooks to be significantly cheaper than print, unless we really do want writers to starve. Karl thinks that writers being able to make a real living by just writing was a short lived 20th century phenomenon that is now coming to a close (except for the Stephen King's of the world). He's making as much or more selling the multimedia rights to his work now (games, webcomics, etc), and thinks writer should start encouraging people to think of books as services rather than simple products. We have no problem (well, some problem) paying so many cents for a cell phone call when the call itself actually only costs a tiny fraction of that, because we know that there's an entire infrastructure involved. It was a great evening.
Sunday was very busy. Brunch with Joel and Mel, and then the Sunrise String Quartet playing a couple of pieces, one of them written by my friend Colin, who was there to bask in the glory. I asked Colin how to know when to clap (something that drives me crazy with classical, especially with quartets). The short answer is wait for everyone else (no use if that's what everyone else is doing), the long is to know the number of movements in advance so you can count them and applaud after the last.
In the evening got together with my brother, davemerrill, and dwinghy for some bad SF movies. First was the MST3000 version of Time Chasers, which had a time machine built into a Cessna. A surprisingly well-thought out time loop plot was ultimately with an ill-advice time to the Revolutionary War. Next up was an Italian "Classic", The Day the Sky Exploded. Cue davemerrill spending the whole movie going "Come on, let's see the sky explode!". Manned atomic rocket goes awry, pilot hits the escape capsule, rocket flies off, blows up near some asteroids, which start plummeting towards Earth and knock out our magnetic field (?) before they get there, resulting in tidal waves (??). And using nuclear missiles to blow up the asteroids (cue Sky Exploding) was something only one guy in the world was capable of thinking of.
I bring all this up because this is likely the only film in history when air conditioning saves the world. A mechanical calculator is being relied upon to work out the launch times of the missiles. But it requires a stable temperature to work (thermal effects on all the moving parts) and the We-must-submit-to-God's-Will guy (there's one in every movie like this), shuts the AC off and barricades himself in the machine room, so a couple of guys have to rush him and get shot to restore the precious AC. This is actually true about mechanical calculators and was about the only solid scientific fact in the film.
Last night there was a very interesting presentation at the TRL, CSI Shakespeare: Investigating the Portraits of William Shakespeare, with Dr. Jane Freeman, on Stratford's Shakespeare Festival’s Board of Governors. I think everyone is familiar with the Droeshout Engraving, which is on the title page of the First Folio, the first collection of Shakespeare's plays. While it was commissioned by people who actually knew him, and so almost certainly is his image, it's an oddly done, out of proportion work that was drawn after his death. So is there a picture of Shakespeare painted while he was alive? Dr. Freeman went over all the major contenders.
She was thumbs down on almost all of them, citing modern work that shows pigments dating from after Shakespeare's time, x-rays that showed portraits that had been "Shakespeared" (i.e. touched up to fix hairlines, add beards, change dates, etc.), and a great digression into clothing laws at the time, enacted by Elizabeth the first. It was illegal for people of lower social standings to wear certain clothes, and some of the images show a younger Shakespeare (before he was famous) in outfits he couldn't wear. The only one she thinks has a real chance of being Willy is the Sanders Portrait, which she says has passed all the tests so far, and is Canadian to boot! Some really fascinating stuff.