Jason's blog

Poets & Writers Local

Poets & Writers Local screen shot

I built the Poets & Writers Local app and, so far, it's been really well received. It's available for both iOS and Android. I built both native apps simultaneously by using Appcelerator's Titanium to build it. It's a brilliant development platform that lets you build in javascript using libraries that hook into the native functions of each platform. Wherever possible, the libraries are abstracted to the point of allowing a single code base to build native apps for both platforms. I'd say that roughly 95% of the code for P&W Local works for both versions without modification, and there are excellent platform-specific libraries that can be leveraged to handle the rest.

The most-used function of the app is to pull location-centric data from the Literary Events Calendar on our Drupal-based website, pw.org. I wrote a little mini-API-like thing to grab the specific data and return it (leveraging Views, for you Drupal folk). The app handles the rest, including hooks into the respective native e-mail, voice, calendar, maps, and sharing features (Apple's Social Framework and Android Intents.)

Then Geoffrey Landis got in touch. He maintains a publicly accessible Google calendar of Cleveland literary events. Since I was already working on a way to import calendars through Google API, I jumped at the chance when he kindly asked about getting the Cleveland Poetics calendar into the P&W event calendar. It's a win-win situation. P&W gets more help feeding the calendar, and the Cleveland literary community gets to take advantage of the app. Now several other folks have asked us to import their calendars, as well, so the importer periodically checks Google's Calendar API for new and updated events and syncs the calendars.

Of course, that wasn't enough.

Now we're being contacted by folks who only have iCal files exposed. Some are Google-hosted, some aren't. So, now I'm working on doing the same thing for .ics files. Ugh. What a horrid little format is the iCal file. Honestly, it's almost as bad as parsing e-mail files, but with more chaos and (thankfully) fewer options. I must have tried half a dozen PHP iCal-parsing libraries before just giving up and writing my own. It helps that I'm a former PERL coder. I may not bleed regular expressions, but they're certainly detectable in a blood sample.

But, of course, that wasn't enough.

Up until now, they were all regional calendars, specific to a single city--and a single time zone. But what about the small press with events spread all over the countr(y|ies) [Canadian support is built into the calendar]? Yeah. Awesome idea. So now it needs to check where the event is taking place and adjust the date/time on a per-event basis, rather than on a per-calendar basis. Grumble grumble. Welcome to the wonderful world of feature creep.

The Machine

The Machine movie poster

I caught this movie on Netflix a little while ago and wanted to mention it, because it's a really good indie science fiction film. Okay, yes, it breaks down into a little bit of high action shoot-'em-up toward the end, but I'm guessing that was as much for trailer fodder as anything. What matters is that, prior to that, it's good, high concept, thoughtful science fiction.

Here's the IMDB page for The Machine.

And here's the trailer:


"You're Not Alone" Anthology

You're Not Alone cover image

Damien Broderick has put together an anthology of short fiction originally published in Cosmos Magazine, when he was the fiction editor there. That means it includes my short story FOR THE LOVE OF JAZZ. In fact, it was my first pro-level sale, so it means a great deal to me. The book is nicely done, too, with a great cover by Anders Sandberg.

As a bonus, I get to share the TOC with names like Jay Lake, Mary Robinette Kowal, and Joe Haldeman.

Since I know you're going to click right out and buy a copy, here's a handy link to Amazon.

Human remote control

This amazing research coming out of the University of Washington, in which one subject's brain controls the hand of another subject--via the Internet, no less--sounds vaguely familiar. Oh, that's right! It sounds like my short story STRINGS ATTACHED, from the SATIRICA anthology. In that one, unskilled workers hired themselves out to be teleoperated by folks with skills, like surgeons.

I guess I need to put that story out as a single or something.

Clarkesworld: Year Four

For the print readers out there, here's a "heads up". The Clarkesworld: Year Four anthology, including my short story BRIEF CANDLE, should be available some time in the next week or so. Also, I just noticed that all of the back issues on Amazon are also available as POD chapbooks. I don't know if that's new or if I've just been extraordinarily inattentive.

So two Simon and Garfunkel tunes slammed into a song by Bread at a bad intersection in the left half of my brain. The result was a story called "The Long Happy Death of Oxford Brown" which, I just found out, is going to be appearing in a future issue of Asimov's. I know I'm only like the zillionth writer to mentioning drawing inspiration from music, but so far The Alan Parsons Project, Kansas, and Yes, in addition to the two mentioned above, have contributed inspiration to my stories.