Inhuman Swill : Page 173
Why is my blog called Inhuman Swill? Because you can unscramble the pieces to make William Shunn.

My friend Andrew puts his finger on the real heart of the digital music revolution:

The Joy of Digital Music That I am rediscovering, or in some cases hearing for the first time, music I already own is symptomatic of what a lazy culture we have become (or least how lazy I am personally). Opening a CD case, carrying it to the player, putting it away again, these are inconvenient tasks! However, clicking the little shuffle button and going about your business is a piece of cake. Ironically, now I that have this archive digitized, I never use the corresponding search functions, the feature I once longed to have. I find I'm content to either select a song or album directly, build a playlist or just run the whole thing on random. Go figure.  [more]
Myself, I've written my very own music server so that Laura and I can listen to our CDs anywhere there's a fast internet connection. The collection is fully indexed and searchable on track title, album title, artist name, genre, subgenre, instrumentation, instrumental or vocal content, and other more esoteric designtations. We're nearing 19,500 tracks ripped, representing over 1,600 albums, and I estimate I'm 75 to 80% done ripping. I'm loading CDs into bankers boxes and storing them in the basement as they fill up. Ugly shelves are going away.

In the end, the entire collection will fit with lots of room to spare on a 200 Gb hard drive smaller than a hardcover novel. When I hit shuffle, as often as not I hear music I'm only marginally familiar with, if I know it at all.

If this isn't a science fiction world, I don't know what is.

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Never too old

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We learned something new last night at the Met. (The Metropolitan Opera, that is, not Museum.) The Met has these amazing crystal starbust chandeliers that hang from the ceiling and can be lowered at least halfway to the floor, maybe further. They look like overgrown versions of something that wouldn't have been out of place in a swingin' space-age bachelor pad -- but far cooler than that makes them sound.

Every time we'd seen a show, the chandeliers were down while the audience filed in, then would rise to the ceiling just before curtain. Last night, though, the chandeliers were already at ceiling level when we entered. "I want to know why," said Laura. "I'm going to go ask someone."

So she did. She's good at things like that.

She came back, having questioned one of the program-hander-outers, and reported that the positioning of the chandeliers is left to the preference of the director of whatever production is being mounted. "This director apparently wanted them up," Laura said. "Also, there are three curtains, a red, a gold, and a black, which I knew, and the director gets to pick which of those gets used, which I didn't. I guess this director liked the black."

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Stream-of-consciousness ramblings

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So how were my last few weeks? I'm glad you asked.

Let's see. I mentioned the show at Iridium. That was exciting. Lee and Emily felt like they hadn't been cheated because they did get to see Elvis Costello up fairly close before the show. Lee studies mechanical engineering at Stanford, specifically the modeling of turbulence, and he was in town for a conference on fluid dynamics. Since the timing was right, Laura and I invited him to stay in the neighborhood a bit longer and come out to our place for Thanksgiving. He liked the idea so much that he brought his wife and kid too. While Lee was at his conference, Emily and Jack stayed with some friends near Columbia. On Wednesday, the night after Iridium, all three of them came to our place, where they stayed for the next four nights.

We've traditionally (well, since 2001) had a big Thanksgiving party for folks without family in the city. We managed to get Cory Doctorow out to that first Thanksgiving party, and happily he hasn't missed one since, including this year's. We were also supposed to have Laura's brother Tom and friend, but Tom had to cancel because of work. A couple other guests dropped out too, and most of our old standbys were not available this year, so instead of the rollicking drunken baccanalia of the last couple of years, we had a fairly low-key meal this year, followed by low-key conversation and a lot of napping. But the food and company were both as good as ever.

The next day, Lee and I joined Cory for a noon showing of The Haunted Mansion. It was fun, though not nearly as good as any of us had hoped, given the quality of The Pirates of the Caribbean. I'm a big fan of the Haunted Mansion (the ride), and it was a pleasure to see the movie with an even bigger and insanely knowledgable fan. The look of the movie was terrific, and the corners were jammed with cool bits of eye candy yanked straight from the ride. (I especially appreciated what they did with the barbershop quartet of headstone busts.) The plot, though.... Ouch.

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It didn't actually turn into a riot two weeks ago at Iridium, but it looked like it might for a few minutes there.

The first indication of trouble came early, though we didn't recognize it as such as the time. My brother Lee and his wife were in town from Stanford. They wanted to see a jazz show while they were here, so we made reservations to see saxophonist Lee Konitz play at Iridium. The evening was part of a week-long stand at Iridium in celebration of Konitz's 76th birthday. (Konitz was playing in Miles Davis's nonet way back in 1949, so it's not a small matter that he's still around and blowing.) Lee and Emily specifically wanted to see the Iridium show because guitarist Bill Frisell was playing with Konitz, and they're both huge Frisell fans. Rounding out the quartet would be Gary Peacock (perhaps best known for his work in Keith Jarrett's old trio) on bass and Paul Motian (who played in the Bill Evans Trio in the '60s) on drums.

However, there was an extra enticement to the Tuesday night shows. The Iridium web site proudly trumpeted that, for one night only, the set would feature SPECIAL GUEST ELVIS COSTELLO. We were quite happy to be able to secure three reservations for the first set of the evening.

Doors would open at 6:30, so I arrived at Broadway and 51st nice and early to queue up to secure a good table. I was fourth in line outside Iridium, in fact. A portly, hale fellow arrived shortly after me, and the line was not much longer when Lee and Emily got there and butted in line with me.

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The 49th Perpendicular?

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Having entertained two sets of Canadian visitors in the last couple of weeks and discussed plenty of social and political issues, I was quite interested to see this New York Times article, as offered by Yahoo! News:

Canada's View on Social Issues Is Opening Rifts With the U.S. Recently, while musing about his retirement plans, Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said he might just kick back and smoke some pot. "I will have my money for my fine and a joint in the other hand," he said with a smile. The glibness of the remark made it nearly impossible to imagine an American president uttering it. But in a nation where the dominant west coast city, Vancouver, has come to be known as Vansterdam, few Canadians blinked. [more]
I've chosen the most sensational paragraph to lure you over to Yahoo!, of course. Thanks to Canadian writer Michael Libling for sending me the article. You can find his most recent short story, "My Father's Club," online at's SciFiction, where it is currently the featured original.
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Loving Christian email of the day

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"Your worst nitemair" ( writes to offer these pearls of Christian compassion:

You are a fool with absolutly no morals or truth in you you are a wolf in sheeps clothing you have broken covents made to god and his angles and for this you shell be damed i here by place a curse upone your head. Your life is about to fall down around you. Death is in the air and you will die a most painfull death. There is no hope for you and your soul. You speak forth lies. Aperintly you know nothing of acrology they have backed all teh b.o.m.s claims. You also are a fool to leave the truth. I fear for your soul!
Frankly, I fear for my IQ if I keep inhaling droppings this fragrant. I'm sure Jesus will rest easy tonight knowing he has defenders this capable.
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It is finished

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A week later than I'd hoped, but yesterday I finished the third draft of Silvertide, at long last. Then I promptly went out with my wife and celebrated with raucous partying at the annual SFWA Authors & Editors Reception in Manhattan.

This afternoon the manuscript went in the mail to my agent.

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The 'Tide rolls in?

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Okay, so today is Veterans' Day, and since my company's home office is in Washington, D.C., and they follow the government holiday schedule, I'm off work today.

So I'm here at home making what I hope is the final heroic push to finish the third draft of my novel Silvertide. So will you please stop distracting me and let me get back to work?!

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'Strong Medicine' at
My new story "Strong Medicine" went online at Salon yesterday! I would have said something sooner, but it was so fast that it took even me by surprise. Read it here:

Strong Medicine
Salon is a subscription-based site, but you can access the premium content by viewing a short ad to get a Salon Day Pass. Like before, I've posted instructions for doing this if you need help.

Hope you'll drop by Salon and give the story a look. You've got to check out the cool illustration, if nothing else.

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At the office earlier than usual this morning, I ordered some breakfast from the usual diner. An omelet with sausage, tomato, and cheddar cheese; whole wheat toast on the side, buttered; large coffee, half-and-half light.

My order just arrived. It's a scrambled-egg sandwich on whole wheat toast, neatly layered with sliced sausage links, tomato, and cheddar cheese.

But hey, they buttered the toast like I asked.

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William Shunn