I’ll be signing and reading in South Carolina and North Carolina tomorrow and later this week

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I’m spending the week in Spartanburg, South Carolina, teaching at the Shared Worlds two-week long writing camp.

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I’m here with with visiting writers Julia Elliot, Nathan Ballingrud, Terra Elan McVoy, and Leah Thomas as well.

It’s the sixth time I’ve been here (I came last year at the last minute to help out due to a cancellation) and I’m quite honored that they keep bringing me back to teach writing and critique stories written by some amazingly talented teenagers.

As part of this, I’ll be doing two book signings where you can come out to see me if you’re in the area.

The first is a reading/signing at Hub City Books that I’ll be doing with many of the above-mentioned authors:

Join us on Tuesday July 26 for a reading with Tobias Buckell, Julia Elliott, Leah Thomas, Nathan Ballingrud, and Terra Elan McVoy.

That’ll be from 6:30-8:00 PM in Spartanburg, SC.

The second signing and reading will be July 30th at 5pm in Asheville, North Carolina at Malaprops:

We’re excited to host an afternoon of readings from the instructors of Wofford College’s Shared Worlds program, a murderer’s row of sci-fi, fantasy and weird fiction. MC’d by Shared Worlds founder Jeremy L.C. Jones, this event will feature authors Jeff VanderMeer, Ann VanderMeer, Asheville’s Nathan Ballingrud, Tobias Buckell, Julia Elliott, Terra McVoy, Thomas Olde Heuvelt and Leah Thomas, who will each be reading from their personal favorite passages for an event that promises to be strange, fast-paced and even a little competitive.

Media consumption: Ghostbusters (2016 edition)

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This is a little late, but TL;DR I loved it.

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I wasn’t sure I was going to enjoy the latest reboot. For one thing, I’m somewhat burned out by the endless churn of reboots. For another, I was really nervous about the Leslie Jones character being the sassy black best friend.

Also, I had super fond memories of the original.

Well, until a few months ago.

I mean, I always found people dressing up as Ghostbusters at cons and repeating the lines all along fairly harmless. Thumbs up, ya’ll: I love Ghostbusters, too. But it turns some of the tribe of Ghostbusters saw that there’d be an all-women reboot and they went and lost their damn minds.

With all the man-hatred aimed at Ghostbusters, I started to get nervous. With Paul Feig directing I figured it wouldn’t be total shit, but I find myself kinda hoping it would rock out and make some decent money just to fucking take a dump on the Mens Rights Activist types flooding the internet with general misogyny over the movie.

Feeling left out because the movie had a lack of representation? Damn, that’s gotta sting. Never mind taking a moment for some introspection and realizing that how you feel about that, is how some people feel for almost every movie for a very long time, along many different axes. Instead, let’s toss our toys out the crib.

So, I was scared to go see it because reboots often suck, but I wanted it to do well.

Wait up, let me back up. I almost forgot something.

I watched the original Ghostbusters eight weeks before I watched the new one.

Well, nothing ruins something you enjoyed as a kid more than going and watching it as a grown ass adult. Having Netflix has meant I’ve come to realize that Airwolf was a lot of stock footage about a twenty-year old helicopter that was not a super-cool advanced weapon from the future.

I still loved elements of the original, but, man, the Bill Murray character was creepy and we were all like ‘ewww’ about his ‘romance’ moves. They were stalkery and lacked boundaries (when he pushes into her apartment, etc). Also, there was way less invention and palling around than I thought or remembered. And we all know about the sad story of Ernie Hudson, the black Ghostbuster, getting many of his lines cut and his role reduced.

So, it’s not the worse, but it lost its golden haze on rewatch.

And the new one.

Well, it sucked me right in and had me laughing. I adored Kate McKinnon’s character, and I’ve never connected with her humor before. Her inventions, the body language, and that amazing speech about friends that was heartfelt. I could have just watched the further adventures of Kate McKinnon. I laughed at Leslie Jones’s acting, she dominated the screen with her presence, but I was lost in a loop of wondering if she didn’t need more. And the friendship between Wiig’s character and McCarthy’s character was fantastic.

There was a lot of joy here, and I really appreciate that. The whole theater laughed, applauded, and whooped when I caught a showing while I was in Columbus a week ago. It was a good experience.

When I watch it again, I might notice some pacing issues, I suspect. It’s not a perfect movie.

But for me it’s a damn good one.

PS: no, Ghostbusters is not tanking (actual numbers/data from Abigail Nussbaum).

Useful Tools: Fitbit Blaze sports watch and steps tracker

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On Friday, facing a lot of work needing done yet on a rewrite and the house being a bit topsy-turvy with a remodel, summer-time kids running in and out, and a fragile ability to concentrate being a pseudo hallmark of being ADHD, I decamped for a hotel in Columbus to lock myself into a room until the novel I was rewriting was officially over.

Just a couple weeks earlier I’d traveled out to Indy Popcon, a pop culture oriented media convention where I sat at a table for the weekend. While I was there my Fitbit Charge HR gave up the ghost yet again.

I snagged a Fitbit HR last year to solve a couple of problems I had that I felt unsolved by the Apple Watch. I need decent battery life as it’s hard for me to remember to keep something charged. I wanted a sleep tracker, a step tracker, and a way of tracking my heartbeat as I got back into more activity now that I’m cleared by my cardiologist.

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The Fitbit HR was less of a big cost, at $130 or so for me to ease into the idea of trying a watch again (something I’ve never been able to keep on a wrist as a kid or young adult).

IMG 1847Sadly, the Fitbit’s band material (some kind of rubber) started delaminating and pulling away from the top section of the Fitbit. They had some very excellent customer service when I called in and sent me a new one. But while at Indy Popcon it started delaminating again and then just stopped working.

I gave up.

But after four weeks without it a few things happened.

1) Being able to twist my wrist and see my heart rate, even if it may be off by a bit as the Fitbit’s HR device isn’t super super accurate, gives me a general sense of how I’m doing when taking long walks, exerting myself, or just feeling funny. It’s like a quick way to check my pulse and see if I’m roughly where I think I should be. If it’s running high, I have a much more accurate EKG monitor on the back of my phone I can use to get a more accurate reading. But as a first layer of managing my heart health while exercising, it’s great. It’s also something of a security blanket.

2) Being able to track my general resting heart rate over time is a good indicator to me of how my health profile is doing (rested, calm, etc). When things are stressful, or my health is declining, or I am not getting enough rest, my resting HR climbs pretty dramatically and I’m given a clear indicator of how things are going.

Screen Shot 2016 07 20 at 6 30 41 PMSix months ago, before getting cleared to run again and when I first snagged the HR, my resting heart rate was in the high 80s, which is not great. It’s linked to early cardiac death and issues later in life. I’m now rocking more of a mid to high 60s. Better. High 60s when I’m stressing over a novel rewrite with a deadline.

3) Tracking my sleep is helpful. I overslept this morning by a couple hours and did the same the day before. Checking just the last five days of sleep reminded me that I had skipped a few hours of sleep Saturday night. The bill always comes due. Not having a log of sleep hours meant I couldn’t tell if my tiredness came from sleep deprivation or something else. It’s a useful self diagnostic.

4) There is a silent vibrate alarm function on the Fitbit that would alert me at 11:45pm that it was time to get ready for bed. Seems silly to most of you who can follow a schedule, but even after radically changing mine to a non late night schedule, I still don’t have an inbuilt ‘it’s late’ function in my brain. The vibrate at 11:45 was part of my ‘go brush teeth and get in bed’ cue that, once it had been off my wrist a few weeks, meant I started slipping back into my ‘stay up late’ habit and I was falling into some odd sleeping patterns.

Those were four very good reasons to call up customer service, as my Fitbit was still under warranty, and get another one.

But, whether it’s my skin or being out in in the heat, the Charge HR and I clearly don’t get along. And I started looking at the Apple Watch.

Negatives to the Apple Watch that I couldn’t get past:

1) As far as I can tell there is are sleep tracking apps, but they have to be turned on. I’m not very good at remembering to do things. Automatic sleep tracking is where it’s at. So the sleep tracking isn’t as good. And, this leads into the next thing…

2) …short battery life. I’m, as mentioned, ADHD. The responsibility of charging a device once a day in order to use it… that’s just too much. I thought, maybe, every morning, I could get up, take it off, and charge it while I was doing breakfast. And I would need to keep the watch on at night, in order to have sleep tracking. So it would have to be a morning charge. Which means I’d likely get sidetracked and leave it charging. I needed more than a single day’s charge out of a watch that can also serve up my HR and track my sleep without fuss.

So, sadly, I figured the Apple Watch is going to be a Gen 2 or Gen 3 for me.

I went back to Fitbit and took a look at their new watch; the Fitbit Blaze Smart Fitness Watch [Amazon link is an affiliate link, I get a small cut if you order one, FYI]. It had one of the longer promised battery lives out of all the watches, worked with my iPhone, and I already was familiar with their app.

I ordered it to arrive Thursday, but it got delayed and in order to have it for the weekend I literally ambushed my postdude when he was somewhere else in town to ask for it a few hours early as I was headed down out of town to seclude myself and finish rewrites on the afore-mentioned book.

I’ve tried on the Apple Watch, the bands are vastly superior. The device is much nicer.

But the Blaze is rocking all my needs really well.

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It handles all four of my points above. Heart rate tracking at a glance (and the newer technology than the Charge HR means I also see time of day and a graphic ring showing steps goal). Tracks my sleep automatically when I go to bed.

How does moving from a Charge HR to watch do for battery life? Fitbit claims 5 days battery life. I didn’t charge it up when I got it, but it showed a full charge. I got it Friday, it lasted until Tuesday at dinner before I blinked and plugged it in.

That’s slick.

Additionally, and I didn’t know I was getting this functionality, the Blaze can synch up to my calendar’s alerts and buzz me. That has been wonderful, as I use calendar alerts to keep me on task and set aside blocks of hours to do certain kinds of work and warn myself to take breaks (hand stretch breaks, meal times, etc). But in my home office I often mute or do not disturb my phone and put it on a desk, so the alerts have been nice.

I don’t get any apps ecosystem like an Apple Watch, but this little device has been pretty on-point for all my needs and is about $100 cheaper.

I can’t wait for the Apple Watch to hit the points I need, as I really would like a more precise band. My current Fitbit band is either slightly too loose or too tight. A slimmer, smaller profile on the watch would be welcome, but maybe I’m just not used to wearing watches. I also think the glimpse function (where you tilt your wrist to wake the watch up) is VASTLY better on the Apple Watch than the Fitbit Blaze, where a third of the time I find myself repeating the wrist flick.

I feel like there is this GIANT THING on my wrist even though I went for the smaller Blaze. I also felt like having a regular smaller Fitbit Charge HR was this GIANT THING on my wrist, though. I’ve not had anything there most of my life.

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Also, do you realize how long it’s been since I’ve had to read analog clocks to tell the time? I’m having to actually redevelop this mental model. What time is it? I, uh… Seven! It’s seven! And a little bit.

All in all, it’s surpassed my exceptions in the initial run. And that’s nice.

Status update: still editing a $%&*ing novel

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I’m about 100 pages from the end of this edit.

It’s still one of the more challenging rewrites I’ve done, though I did take the last two days a bit slower on it due to focusing in a spreadsheet project that ate up some time. It’ll be way worth it for me down the road, one of those things where I had to build some wheels so I wasn’t dragging a cart around on the ground. In fact, it’s something I should have done some 8 years ago as a teaching tool for myself, but didn’t.

That aside, it’s now back to full grind on this edit. But seeing the end has me somewhat excited. It’ll be cool to see this project out next year.