Thursday, September 30, 2004

Going with FreeFind

Well, thanks to John for the suggestion and Jason for seconding the motion. The link should be on all of the recently modified pages, which is almost everything except the specialized index pages and the bonus features, I think.

I'm finally almost happy with the ol' Complete Starfleet Library as a website and not just as a big pile of information.

(Now playing: Alpinestars, "Snow Patrol (Part 2)," White Noise.)

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Fun with search tools

John Patuto, webmaster over at Cygnus X-1, suggested I try FreeFind as another way to help users on my site. He's been happy with the way it works on his. I'd already been looking into Google free search and was looking for other options, so I created a little test page.

I've got the site registered with FreeFind, Google, and FusionBot. Based on just a little playing around, I'm already inclined to agree with John about FreeFind. Google is almost useless because it can't index only a subdirectory of a server, as far as I can tell, and searching all of is far from ideal. I like the look of FusionBot and the fact that it places ads at the end of the search results list rather than the beginning, unlike FreeFind, but FreeFind finds more pages with hits.

I may also try Thunderstone's Webinator and PicoSearch. But FreeFind is off to a good start.

(Now playing: John Foxx, "Invisible Architecture," Cathedral Oceans.)

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

New Complete Starfleet Library logo, tentative and subject to change

Still under construction...

I've uploaded the pages I've worked on so far. I don't know if this is the site's permanent new logo, but at least you'll know when you see it that you're on a page that's had at least some upgrading done to it. The index pages still need a fair amount of work, but they're functional.

(I wonder if that logo will fit on the screen of this page with all the stuff along the right side of the screen. We shall see.)

In other news...

Having finished the wrenching and riveting experience of reading Black Hawk Down, I went on to read Dennis Lehane's Mystic River. I've had the book a couple years and just hadn't managed to get around to it yet. I read his earlier books years ago. They were good PI stories set in Boston that were about as different from Robert B. Parker's Spenser books as they could be and still part of the same genre. Anyway, Mystic River is almost as much of a downer as Black Hawk Down, with the fact that it's only fiction being a mitigating factor. It's a long book but one you want to read in as few sittings as possible. Now I'll have to see the movie.

To cheer up a bit I read a few of the Jane's World comics that piled up unread over the last few months. It's been interesting reading it this way; you can really see the art and writing improve from issue to issue (most of them are reprinting earlier web stuff and daily comic strips). Good clean fun stuff about relationships, lesbian and otherwise.

(Now playing: The Cure, "Lament," Japanese Whispers.)

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Construction time again...

The grabbing hands grab all they can. Everything counts in large amounts. Wait, sorry, wrong Construction Time Again.

I don't know how much longer it'll take (a week, maybe?), but I'm finally making some of the changes to the Complete Starfleet Library website that I've been meaning to do for years. For a start, I've added anchor links to every individual book title, as I originally intended to. That got lost by the wayside when I started to focus on just getting more books onto the site.

The author index is also finally coming along. I'm linking to all those anchors but I have to tidy things up a little, so the authors who have a lot of books have readable and useful listings instead of a random list of titles. I'm also planning to anchor all the authors' names so that someone reading the entry on, for example, David Gerrold's The Galactic Whirlpool can click on his name and be taken straight to a list of his other Trek books.

Another touch, thanks to playing with Dreamweaver... although the site will look pretty much the same and still have the main content in pages by year, there'll be more navigational options on the pages, thanks to some pull-down menus that will allow the user to go to key pages (the main page, the title index, the what's new page, the lost books page, etc), book type index pages (biographies and autobiographies, novels, etc), and other year pages (from 1967 to 2004 so far).

Doing this as an actual database just isn't feasible for a couple of key reasons. First, I'm not a database programmer nor am I about to become one. Second, I'm still doing this on the cheap through my Well account's web space rather than through a more commercial heavy duty web hosting service, and there are limits to what kinds of things can be done on the Well's web server. The issue of going more pro with the site is one for another day.

In other news...

I finished reading Marryat's The Settlers in Canada. It was, I am sad to report, not very good. For a start, these settlers had a much easier time of it than most settlers in Canada, with help from soldiers to build a nice big house. The book's idea of a happy ending is not to show them well established and building a new town in a new country, but to have them inherit a bunch of money and land in England and go rushing back. And there's way too much Christian preaching. Here's how it ends:

They knew that this world was a world of trial, and but a preparation for another; they, therefore, did their duty in that state of life to which it pleased God to call them—proving in all their actions, that they remembered their duty to their God, and their duty to their neighbour; living and dying (as I hope all my young readers will) sincere and good Christians.
Include me out, Fred.

(I got a neat little German hardcover of the book, but interested folks can read the book free online as an etext.)

I'm currently reading Mark Bowden's book Black Hawk Down, and it's one hell of an experience, especially knowing that it's not fiction. It's hard at times not to empathize a little with the Somalis, who have soldiers from a foreign country occupying their city, but in general the American soldiers are the ones I empathize with. I'd never have joined the military myself, though my parents are both ex-Canadian Air Force, my best friend is a Canadian Army captain, and I have a brother-in-law who's a Canadian Army warrant officer (maybe CWO by now) who's done tours of duty in Cyprus, Bosnia, Afghanistan, and Haiti. Basically, it's the story of a bunch of guys who find themselves in way too deep, on a mission they weren't properly prepared for, in a place they don't really understand. I can't imagine that Donald Rumsfeld or George W. Bush has ever read this book. They might have thought a little longer and harder before deciding that invading Iraq was a good idea. (I'm being unusually charitable here by allowing for the possibility that Bush and his junta read or think.)

In more cheerful news, Laura and I and our friends Anthony and Tamara saw Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow on Saturday. Much fun was had by all. I've seen some criticism suggesting that the script could be stronger, and it could, but that wouldn't make it any more faithful to the old serials, pulp fiction, and comics it draws on for inspiration. It's fun. If the DVD has some good extras, I may just buy it.

eMusic has just relaunched. I'd love to explore all the new features but it won't accept my user ID and password, and customer support hasn't yet responded. I can see lots of people posting to the message board but can't post anything myself, so evidently not everyone is having the same problem. Grumble. Curse. Mutter.

(Now playing: John Foxx, "Shimmer Symmetry," Cathedral Oceans II.)

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Fun with Dreamweaver

I just took a two-day introductory course on Dreamweaver MX 2004, and I think I'm in love. I played with a demo version last summer and used it to create the Stardate 7600 minisite, but the only thing I did then that expanded my knowledge at all was using it to create a jump menu. Thanks to the course, I finally have some useful knowledge about templates, cascading style sheets, and forms. I don't know whether the Well fully supports javascript in its user pages, but if it does, I may modernize the old Complete Starfleet Library a little bit. I'm not ready to do anything database-related in the foreseeable future, but a fresher look with a couple new features might be worth trying.

Damn the United Way

At work there was a fundraising book sale today. The idea is to donate some old books and let your co-workers buy them. So I picked up a few books and a used CD (Bonavista by Kim Stockwood). The books:

Frederick Marryat: The Settlers in Canada

Frances Brooke: The History of Emily Montague

P.G. Wodehouse: Leave It to Psmith

Joseph Wood Krutch, ed.: Eighteenth-Century English Drama

Georgette Heyer: Arabella

Sandra Hochman and Sybil Wong: Satellite Spies

Robert Louis Stevenson: Selected Writings of Robert Louis Stevenson

Paul McAuley: The Secret of Life

... all for a grand total of C$6.50. The Marryat in particular is a neat little item, a small hardcover of roughly the same dimensions as a mass market paperback, published in Germany in 1908. There's an introduction in German but the book itself, a short novel about, obviously, settlers in Canada at the end of the 18th century, is in English. I've been thinking of tracking down one or two of his nautical adventure novels. This isn't nautical in nature, and apparently it was aimed at a younger readership, but it may still be fun.

The History of Emily Montague has been called the first novel written in North America. Brooke, who was English, lived in Quebec for a few years and set the book, an epistolary novel, there. So I've got a couple of literary perspectives on early Canada.

Heyer and Wodehouse are popular with the crowd in the books conference on the Well. I've read a couple books by each. Other popular books there: Patrick O'Brian's Aubrey/Maturin novels and Dodie Smith's I Capture the Castle. Life is much better with those books than without them. Maybe I should be avoiding places where people suggest good books to read. It isn't as if I don't have enough unread books already...

(Now playing: Alpinestars, "You Rescue," B.A.S.I.C.)

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Hey, I bought some Star Trek books the other day!

It's true. There hasn't been much about Trek books here lately. But then, I haven't stumbled across much that's new.

But on the weekend we went to the nearest Chapters (near Gloucester Centre here in Ottawa) and something rare, if not unprecedented, happened. Just as I walked to the area where the Star Trek books are, two other people approached the same section! And as I moved in fast to grab my copies of Maker and A Time to Heal, they started looking at the Star Trek books. There was a man and a woman, not too much younger or older than me. One male, one female. They seemed to be surprised by the Star Trek books -- at least, she did. He seemed like he might actually have been looking for something in particular. She noticed the photo of Riker on one of the A Time to... books and said "Wow, he looks so much older now than he did on NexGen." He muttered something about it being a shot from the last movie.

My impression was that she was one of those people who were big fans back in the Next Generation era (no non-fan of my acquaintance is likely to refer to it as "NexGen," not that many fans I know would, either) but hadn't followed the show or the movies in recent years and wasn't aware of the books. He, on the other hand, apparently knew more.

I didn't make contact. Instead, I withdrew, books in hand, and Laura grabbed me before I could start looking at other books. Part of me wanted to initiate a conversation with these people. After all, the only people I know here in Ottawa who read Star Trek books are me and... myself. And I. There they were, making their tentative approach to the Star Trek books, and here I stood, someone who actually has a Trek books blog and one of the biggest Star Trek books websites on the web. I could have taught them so much!

No, I'm kidding. I'm not that far gone.

I haven't had many real world, face-to-face interactions with people who read Star Trek books. I usually do it by way of the Internet. That way, I'm dealing with people who actually want to discuss stuff with strangers. There's no weirdness on either side of the conversation.

Still, I hope they bought something.

(Now playing: Prince Far I, "Free From Sin," The Golden Years: 1977-1983.)