Donna J. Clarke

It's been a month and I still don't know if I can do this. I lost the single best part of me when Donna died last month. She was my courage, my confidence, and my strength. We were married for thirty-one years and every single one of those years was better than the one before it.

I can't even blame Covid. We were both already vaccinated and waiting for the restrictions to lift. We had a whole list of things we wanted to do first. If anything, the pandemic did me a favor. Working from home gave me a year and a half of being together without losing the time being at the office or commuting. I did the math. The pandemic gave me the equivalent of an extra 162 days with her. So thanks for that, I guess.

I'm finding ways to trick myself for now. Her flip-flops are still out on the front door mat--the sparkly blue ones that made her smile every time she wore them. It feels more like coming home that way. I let the dishes stack up in the sink for a couple of days, because I can't handle washing one fork, one knife, and one plate.

But this isn't about me. It's about the bright, fearless woman who made my world a better place just by being in it. It's about the woman who decided she wanted to go to film school at forty, moved from the city where she was born and raised, and graduated from NYU with honors. It's about the woman who made me write when I tried to find excuses to avoid the work. It's about the woman who could talk to anyone and made friends everywhere she went.

I'll do more later, in a more appropriate way, but this is what I can do for now. She was the best part of me. I will love her and miss her for the rest of my life.

Donna Joy Clarke
2/23/1952 - 5/18/2021

Gardner Dozois

Sadly, I note Gardner's passing. I had the pleasure of talking to him on several occasions, both online and in person. When I first became serious about writing science fiction, he was one of the most welcoming people I came across. Amateur, pro, beginner, none of that seemed to matter to him. He was helpful and encouraging at every turn. I consider myself honored to have met him.

This is why I love the folks at Bethesda:

So there I am, fighting against a bunch of raiders in Fallout 4. They're ducking behind cover and shooting and I'm kinda ducking behind cover and shooting when, amid all of the other things the raiders are shouting, I hear one of them yell out, "Aggghhh. I got hit in the knee!"

So, if you've never played Skyrim, it's just another throw-away line like, "Keep firing!" But I have. A lot. So of course I got killed shortly after that because I was too busy laughing to even hit the pause button.

If you have no idea what I'm talking about, hit up Google with the phrase "arrow in the knee".

Drupal 6.37 and Autocomplete

This one is strictly for those Drupal developers still maintaining 6.x sites.

I case you're wondering why your multi-level autocomplete form stopped working correctly after applying the Drupal 6.37 security update, here's why and how to fix it. Admittedly, it's something of an edge case, where you have something like a dropdown box where the user chooses a category which then triggers AHAH to load the appropriate autocomplete text field using the standard CCK nodereference widget. It's something you might design to choose a content type via select box and then a specific node via autocomplete. It's a handy technique for multi-level selections that provides a much better UX than just one long autocomplete collection.

Most likely, you built it using an after_build function to insert the appropriate autocomplete path. The problem is that in 6.37, now also stores the original path in autocomplete_input in order to store the non-clean path (of the ?q=... variety) to use any time the form gets rebuilt. That overwrites your after_build function's autocomplete_path update. See the release notes for more info on that.

The fix is to update #autocomplete_input in your after_build function so that when the form gets rebuilt it's using your updated path instead of the one that the nodereference module's widget chose originally. Take a look at form_preprocess_autocomplete in for the details. The place to update the path in your after_build function would be $element[FIELD][INDEX]['nid']['nid']['#autocomplete_input']['#url_value'].

Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman. Illustration: Tim McDonagh (via New Statesman)

This conversation between Kazuo Ishiguro and Neil Gaiman at is just brilliant. It's a dissection of "genre" as walled gardens and the things that happen when writers choose either to wander at will or simply to stand atop the wall and draw from both sides. They touch on two particular points that I've long believed. One is that genre is primarily only useful as a marketing tool and that "literary" and "genre" are in no way mutually exclusive terms. The other is that "genre", the way it's been used, has created certain reader expectations beyond those dictated by mere story telling. Ishiguro uses the example of westerns and the good guy/bad guy showdown.

My question, then, is this. Aren't those tropes a learned expectation? Have writers or, more precisely, editors and marketing teams taught readers that certain genres must have certain elements--that noir must have a femme fatale--that westerns must have a showdown? Does it just make the books easier to sell, because tagging it [GENRE X] somehow lets potential buyers know that it's going to be inside their comfort zone? That they won't be jolted out of the safe coccoon that's been spun just for them? Is that why publishers are so fond of series fiction? Because it's the ultimate sub-sub-sub-genre?

Following on the second point, Ishiguro points out that there is a difference between a story with cowboys in it and a cowboy story. That leads right into the discussions I've read (and had) many times about whether or not there is a difference between literary science fiction and literary fiction with science fiction tropes in it. I'm of the opinion that there isn't. In my view, "speculative fiction in a literary style" and "literary fiction using speculative elements" are two ways of saying the same thing. Give me a good story, with good characters, and something for my brain to chew on long after I've finished the book and I'll be a happy camper.

I went to see Trace Bundy at DROM last night and he's even more amazing in person than he is on video. The man really is an acoustic ninja. You know the old saw about the farmer using every part of the pig but the squeal? Well Bundy leaves no part of the guitar unplayed. He'll provide his own percussion using various parts of the guitar's body, reproducing everything from a kick drum to bongos. In one piece, he even played a set of cutomized capos. He's not satisfied with just using the capos as capos, he actually works in playing notes with them in the process of moving them from place to place on the neck.

DROM, by the way, is a great, intimate little venue. It seats about 100 people for dinner-and-drinks acts, more if they clear the floor for standing/dancing.

You've probably seen Bundy's rendition of Pachelbel's Canon on YouTube, but that's just the start. He'll kick on his looper and, in real time, lay down three or four tracks layer by layer. He'll play a song you don't know, loop it, then play the loop backwards, at which point it becomes a rendition of something you do know.

Beyond the wizardry, though, his original compositions, like the majestic Elephant King, or the two-guitar Joy & Sorrow, are beautiful examples of everything the acoustic guitar can be.


Welcome to the Machine

Pink Floyd - Wish You Were Here

Whoever struck the deal to use Pink Floyd's Welcome to the Machine for the final segment of Person of Interest's season finale should get whatever they're handing out for medals in the television production world these days. It wasn't just a great move, it was perfect. From the first synth thrum, I sat up. "Hey, Pink Floyd!" A half second later I cheered out loud as my brain realized which track it was. Not only is Wish You Were Here my favorite PF album (I know, a lot of DSotM zealots are throwing stuff at their screens just about now), but it was the exact best track for the situation.

What's amazing is that the show managed to negotiate the rights. Let's face it, this is a band that (for very good reasons) refused to sell their music by the track until recently.

So the Poets & Writers Local app has proven to be very popular. It's also boosted use of the web-based calendar, which has seen almost 70% traffic growth year-over-year. It's interesting to see where most of the users are, too. After New York, the top ten includes Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle, and San Diego. In fact, there are currently over 100 events listed in the calendar for San Diego. Chicago and D.C. are in the top ten, as well. More and more organizations, venues, and small presses are listing their events in the P&W calendar.

For those keeping track, there are over four thousand installs, between iOS and Android, with 75% of those being on iOS. Usage statistics mirror that balance.

Overall, I couldn't be more pleased the whole Titanium development process or with the results.

Welcome to Spring

So, yeah. That's what passes for the first day of spring in NYC this year, because the winter wasn't crappy enough.