Thursday, February 28, 2008

On Books. Mine and Others.

Part One:

You will recall (I command it!) that Janiece asked me a while back how well Jeffry Deaver's Location Scout Mysteries represented the reality of the film business. In a fit of pique, I stomped on the first 53 pages of Hell's Kitchen. I've now finished the thing, and it was a slog.

The book only makes a few oblique mentions of film. What there is is mostly wrong. He makes reference to the "off-duty gaffers" on a film. Well, there's only one Gaffer on a film. By definition, its the "Chief Electrician or Lighting Technician" so having a gaggle of gaffers on one movie might be a little awkward. He refers to a Post-Production House as a "Post-Pro House". Never heard that one before. Its a "Post House", plain and simple. And I don't know where Mr. Deaver buys videotapes, but I've never seen two cassettes that would hold "20 or so hours" of material.

Anyway, the book continued to make mistakes about NYC; we don't have any "day-glo yellow-green" fire trucks that I've ever seen; grimy subway cars were mostly a thing of the past by the time this book was published in 2001. And I won't give it away, but the plot hinges on some of the most ludicrous swings I've ever read.

Did. Not. Like. (I will read Shallow Graves when I get around to it. I'm interested to see how he does when he's writing one that seems to be more firmly set in a Film Biz setting.)

Part Two:

I haven't posted a new chapter for "There's No Crying in the War Room" for about a week. Some of you have even chastised me which I totally take as a compliment, since it means you want more. This makes me happy. The reason I haven't posted is that I've been stuck. There's a new character who will be introduced in Chapter 35 and I didn't know enough about him to write him. All I knew about him was that he was going to be brought into the campaign by Darrell, who had known him when they served together in the Marines. I didn't know his rank or specialty or much of anything else about him. And a few days ago, I slapped myself in the forehead and said, "Schmuck. You have military advisers."

So, today, I had a really enjoyable phone conversation with Jim Wright of Stonekettle Station fame. (You could just change it to Kitchen to make my life easier ya'know.) Anyway, I now know a whole lot more about Senior Chief Warrant Officer Gil Shefflin and I think I can write him. And Jim earns a slot on the Acknowledgments page as military consultant...all errors are the author's yada, yada, yada.

And for those of you keeping score, in the last three days, I've had lunch with John the Scientist, gotten a prank call from Shawn Powers, received a shout out from Vince on live streaming radio and gotten advice from Jim. That's a pretty UCF-full week, if I do say so myself.

Watch the sidebar for news about Chapter 35 in the next couple of days


kimby said...

Yeah! More Chapters!
I have been waiting patiently, but since it is winter, and i live in Canada..and it is TOO COLD to play hockey...i READ!

They are calling for more snow (pleeezzee haven't we had enough already?) so i will be needing more reading material...your chapters can't come at a better time.

I think it is great that you live near/around other UCF'ers. ANyone coming to Canada in the near future? We have this great little pizza chain..Dominoes..perhaps we could have lunch. If we order it now that is.

Nathan said...


Snark will not get you chapters!

(Cookies might.)

kimby said...

Chocolate or Peanut butter...I happen to have both on hand.

Nathan said...

Not peanut butter. Chocolate's fine but if you could come up with some ginger snaps or molasses crisps, I'd be appropriately pleased.

vince said...

Ginger snaps are good. Homemade ginger snaps are better. More chapters with homemmade ginger snaps are best.

Gee, what a concept. Actually consulting with people who know about what you're trying to write about.

Oh, and I not only stream, I go out over the airwaves. Now let's see. Mars was closest to earth last Dec 18th, placing it about 34,646,418 miles away. Earth orbits Sun in 365.26 days, while Marsorbits Sun in 686.98 days. So 390 days from December 18th Mars will be located exactly behind Sun, making it about 234.6 million miles away. Radio waves travel at the speed of light, about 299,792, 458 meters a second, earth and Mars' orbit are elliptical so adjust for that, do the math.

Hmmm... Wednesday night's broacast should have hit Mars a little over three minutes after it left, so you should have Martians commenting any time now.

Nathan said...

I'm not at all sure the Martians have DSL, but otherwise, your reasoning is perfect.

And, I'll have you know; I don't do math.

vince said...

Martians use Wi-Fi. Really, really powerful Wi-Fi.

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - it's in the UCF bylaws, you hafta do math. Here's your homework:

The notation f(x) denotes a function of the real variable x. This function is usually taken to be periodic, of period 2π, which is to say that f(x+2π) = f(x), for all real numbers x. Such a function can be written as an infinite sum, or series. Start by using an infinite sum of sine and cosine functions of the interval [-π,π], as Fourier did and then discuss different formulations and generalizations.

And remember what Janiece ... er RAH said:

Anyone who cannot cope with mathematics is not fully human. At best he is a tolerable subhuman who has learned to wear shoes, bathe, and not make messes in the house.


Nathan said...


Fuck you. (Please teach me how to type that in Mandarin.)

And I mean that in the nicest way.

(I couldn't even read the problem, much less solve it.)

Ooooh! I think that makes me more of a redneck than you.

Nathan said...

And I've only read one of Heinlein's books, so I don't know if I'm taking him for gospel yet.

Tom said...

Nathan, I think John was using circular logic. It was the 2 pi thing (I don't have immediate access to mathematical symbols, like he does) (oh, and I have to copy the small TM from you whenever I want to use it)

2 pi, or not 2 pi?

2 cookies, good!

Nathan said...

2 pi or not to pi

Fuck you too Tom.

I'm endeavoring to reach a higher plane of comment moderation. I've got a ways to go.

And Tom, I don't know what you're typing on but the ™ sign is "alt-2" on a mac.

vince said...

Nathan, I'll make it easier for you. Suppose f(x) is a polynomial with real co-efficients such that f(x) ≥ 0 for all x. Show that there exist polynomials g(x) and h(x) with real co-efficients such that f(x) = g(x)squared + h(x)squared. Make sure to show your work. (Can't seem to get superscripts to work here.)

As a hint to help you with John's homework, remember that for 2π-periodic functions using sines and cosines, the Fourier series does not always converge.

Yes, I LOVE math!

(turns table over and hides behind it in trembling fear of the f-bomb coming his way).

Nathan said...

Yeah Vince,

predictable as it may be, FUCK YOU TOO.

I guess this answers the question about whether or not i swear a lot.

Jim Wright said...

Holy Crap, again!

I'm with Nathan, I can't even understand the argument. Give me a rock and a cave wall and I can scratch out sin(waveform) and the geometry governing ballistics, but I can't even understand what John and Vince are saying. And Fourier Transforms are the only part of my Masters program I completely screwed the pooch on and still to this day do not understand. At all.

And Nathan, in the original post - Gil would be a Chief Warrant Officer, there's no such thing as a Senior Chief Warrant Officer. Sheesh weren't you paying attention on the phone?

John the Scientist said...

Vince, Fourier Series may not always converge, but the great utility of Fourier Series is that if you set up the right boundary conditions you can find a set of sin / cos functions that can converge to almost any function in a limited region of space.

C'mon, man, I'm trying to get Nathan to solve Partial Differential Equations in 3 easy steps, don't discourage him! Wait 'till I hit him with tensors and Hilbert Space.

I am a geek. I have a t-shirt that reads "I tickled the tensor at the International Conference of Raman Spectroscopy".


Jeff Hentosz said...

To be clear: "math" is what you're calling the puzzly thing that you're doing with the numbers, right?

(I have a T-shirt showing two scientists working on an equation, within which the second step is "...then a miracle occurs.")

I do know about making symbols on the interwebz, though, Tom. Anybody can access 'em with HTML entities! There are a bunch. What they have in common is that they all start with an ampersand and end with a semi-colon. The symbol name goes in the middle, thusly: "&-pi-;" becomes π. I just took out the hyphens.

The ™ symbol is called "trade," and the © mark is "copy". Here's ÷, and of course √. A hopeful one: ∞. You can even get Your Greek on: Ω (the little one is dirty: ω -- heh, heh).

vince said...

To be clear: "math" is what you're calling the puzzly thing that you're doing with the numbers, right?

That would be correct. Although as much as I love math, sometimes "...then a miracle occurs" would be a great way to solve differential equations. God bless you Gary Larson, where ever you are.

...I completely screwed the pooch...

I love that phrase! If you ever have to revisit Fourier Transforms, I'm a pretty good tutor. Did I mention I LOVE math?

C'mon, man, I'm trying to get Nathan to solve Partial Differential Equations in 3 easy steps, don't discourage him! Wait 'till I hit him with tensors and Hilbert Space.

Oooo, Hilbert Space. Analytic geometry and limits and infinite sequences that are square-summable. Nathan's swearing is gonna boldly go where no swearing has gone before. I suspect there will be another call to Jim, this time for a full course in Navy cussing.

kimby said...

I left to go to work, and you guys got all Mathy on me.
(it is TOO a word!)
Number tend to hurt my head, although i used to make a living plugging at them all day long. I actually followed the question...with a shot of Crown in my coffee. I just got home from work and could barely read the question let alone follow it!

Nathan..HOMEMADE cookies are the only ones that exist at Wilsonworld..and if its Gingersnaps you want it is Gingersnaps you will have.
Just let me know where to send them.

John the Scientist said...

Vince - I bet 'ol Fourier never imagined this application when he was dorking around with heat transfer. FTIR is da bomb for overcoming S/N problems in messy samples. And it only took what, 200 years to discover that application?

Nathan said...

I see things have been busy overnight, so...


...all errors are the author's yada, yada, yada. But, yeah, I'll fix the ones you catch before they get out of the gate.


Let me tell you exactly how far I'm willing to go with this math thing. I'll solve this problem for you.

If train 'A' leave NY at 8:10am EST and is traveling 72mph and train 'B' leaves Chicago at 10:42am CST and achieves a speed of 67 mph, what time will they pass each other.

There are two correct answers.

Answer #1: They will never pass each other. Train A is going to Florida and Train B is going to Los Angeles.

Answer #2: They will never pass each other. But they'll be going pretty damned fast when the head-on collision happens.

Oh, there's a third answer. They will never pass each other. This is Amtrak we're talking about.


Amen brother.


I don't know if its because you're new here or if you haven't been paying attention, but fucking movie cursing will fucking work, just fucking fine thank you very fucking much. Fuck math and all of its dripping pestilent diseased relatives.

Look, I know that math is necessary and ultimately a good thing and a whole lot of science shit wouldn't happen without it, but that's why we pay people like you. Let's put that another way, I do 2 or 3 crossword puzzles every day (in ink), and I usually finish before I get to the "Down" clues, but I still look at the people on the train doing Soduko puzzles like they're retarded lemurs. Shut up and do your fucking job in your hidden cubicle and don't come out until you solve Fermat's Theorem.

John the Scientist said...

Nathan, did you know that Sudoku is an American invention and that in Japan it was introduced as an exotic number game from the West?

Some slick marketers over here took a look at the poor reception of the original concept and thought that since it did get to be popular in Japan, adding a touch of oriental mystery would help sell it in the land of its birth.

But yes, people who are into sudoku only think they are exercising their math muscles.

Nathan said...


You've got to follow Shawn's example and figure out where to send the cookies. That gets extra chapters.


My math muscles are puny atrophied little things and I'm happy to leave them that way. Movie Magic Budgeting will tell me the answer to 56 days times 3 police officers times 13 hours per day @ $47 per hour. (And the producer will tell me to cut the budget by 20% regardless of the final number.)

vince said... cursing will fucking work, just fucking fine thank you very fucking much.

So I fucking see. I will now slink to my fucking hidden cubicle and do my fucking job and I solemnly promise not to come out until I fucking solve fucking Fermat's Theorem.

Or until your new chapter is posted, which I will patiently and non-snarkily wait for.

kimby said...

Ok then....Watch the mail, and keep the milk ready Nathan!

Random Michelle K said...

John & Vince,

Do you ever read New Scientist?

Feedback had a hilarious bit on the publication of a paper recently:

"A mathematical model for the determination of total area under glucose tolerance and other metabolic curves" (Diabetes Care, vol 17, p 152)


John the Scientist said...

Michelle - you should not reinforce my negative stereotypes of the mathematical abilities of biologists.

I have a difficult enough time as it is admitting that they are real scientists.


John the Scientist said...

And Michelle - in the old days before computers they used to cut the curve out and weight it, then divide by the average weight per square cm of the paper. I am just old enough to have done that.

Random Michelle K said...

Well, he wasn't a biologist. From the journal Diabetes Care, I'd say you're looking at a medical professional.

Of course I have a bio degree and could no longer to calculus to save my life. But I'm still ok with statistics.

Nathan said...

I really don't have a clue what you people are talking about.

Well done.

Random Michelle K said...

Well Nathan,

There are other funny things at Feedback you might get. If only to take your mind off the math.


“The instructions supplied with Bryan Carter's Sonic Plakaway toothbrush include a warning: "Never use while sleeping"”

John the Scientist said...

Nathan - think of a bell curve. The machine that reads the amount of glucose in your blood spits out a gaussian curve like that. The amount of glucose in your blood is not related to the height of the curve, it's related to the total area under that curve. A short fat curve may have just as much area under it as a tall, skinny one, just like a short, fat person might weigh as much as a tall, skinny one.

One of the reasons that Newton and Leibnitz invented integral calculus was to develop a mathematical method to determine the area under a curve. So we've been using that method for what, 300 years?

This guy Tai goes and writes a computer algorithm that takes the curve, applies Newton's method, and gives you an area under the curve. Clueless biomedical scientists who never properly learned their calculus are calling it the Tai method instead of recognizing the integral calculus they should have learned.

This is like patenting a peanut butter sandwich. As the patent lawyers say "obvious to someone skilled in the art".

Actually skill isn't necessary - it should be obvious even to engineers or scientists who come to work on the technical short bus.

Nathan said...

OK John,

You have a 6' 2"X4". You find it slightly unwieldy Divide 6' by 2 and find you are left with 3'. Measure 3' (from either end of the 2"X4"). Cut with any appropriate saw at the marked line. You now have a much more wieldy clue-by-four.

This shall henceforth be known as the "Nathan Method".

You can quote me on that.

John the Scientist said...

I coulda used the Nathan method when I was a TA.


Anonymous said...

What? I'm being insulted AND someone's trying to steal my clue-by four?? I protest! Mightily! *shakes fist*

Nathan said...


Where were you insulted? I won't stand for that here.

And I was just tryin' to streamline the thing for you. I've also had it sanded and polished for you.

Here, you can have it back now.

Janiece said...

::slinks in::

I can balance my checkbook.

::slinks away::

vince said...

Michelle - It's been awhile since I read New Scientist, but I used to. That Feedback was great. Thanks for pointing it out.

John - Fourier Transform Spectroscopy. What'll they think of next.

Random Michelle K said...


I think John insulted MWT by saying he didn't consider biologists to be scientists.

I'd be insulted, but I'm not a biologist anymore.

Nathan said...

Michelle, thank you for clearing that up for me. I'm thinking that if we have any disputes here, the official means of conflict resolution should be the pants-off dance-off.

Think carefully before you pick a fight here!

Random Michelle K said...

I'm thinking that if we have any disputes here, the official means of conflict resolution should be the pants-off dance-off.

(Backs slowly away from the blog)

Y'know I like y'all, but...

John the Scientist said...

Hee hee. I was waitin' for MWT to show up and defend the profession.


MWT: Spot the quote: All science is either physics or it's stamp collecting.


John the Scientist said...

OK, it's time to send Nathan screaming from the room. GEEK JOKES!

What's this?:


Nathan said...

Two sailors overseas?

MWT said...

Two salts on seven seas?

Nathan: Permission to clonk John the Scientist with my (new, improved) clue-by-four? (Or can I borrow the grill for a minute?)

Random Michelle K said...

I told a geek joke over at Anne's place the other day!

Nathan said...

I like geek jokes, though as often as not I don't even understand them after they're explained to me.


Did you miss the thing about the dance-off? I'd like to keep bloodshed to a minimum.

MWT said...



... I was trying to miss it, yeah. :D

Random Michelle K said...


I'm a teacher at heart, so if I understand it, I can probably explain it to you.

Hell, I showed my grandmother the basics of the periodic table of elements the other day. (She was talking about being confused when her Potassium was labeled KCl. (She keeps close track of all her medicines, which is pretty much a full time job.)

Nathan said...


If you're talking about the geek joke, I'm waiting for the real answer, but I'm pretty sure I get this one.

If you're talking about the math problems, I'm happy in my ignorance.


John the Scientist said...

Saline Saline over the seven seas.


Nathan said...

Huuuuuuge fucking groan.

(And giggling.)

MWT said...



Anonymous said...

Not a math geek here either - I took a year of calculus in college, with a 3.0, 2.5, and 2.0. Since I'm much better at stats than calc, I spotted the trend and stopped taking math.

My son's been coming home with trig questions lately - which I was good at 25 years ago - but I'm clueless now.

I can do stats and financial modeling with my eyes closed and one hand tied behind my back though. :)

Mmmm... did somebody say gingersnaps? If Nathan has 24 fresh-baked gingersnaps, and 22 friends ask if they can have one, how many will he have left?