Reality, Augmented

A screenshot from Bionic Eye (via <a href=

A screenshot from Bionic Eye (via Wired)

So I’ve played with a couple of the augmented reality apps available for the (non-jailbroken) iPhone — Yelp, with its Monocle functions, and Bionic Eye — and my conclusion is that navigation AR apps are completely pointless. You see, augmented reality takes into account your position and direction. What it doesn’t do — can’t do, until somebody figures out a way to digitize the dimensions of every building on the planet — is take into consideration your actual physical space. To an AR app, the world is flat, and landmarks or points of interest are simply vectors. When you open Bionic Eye and point it around, it does what’s advertised: it shows you badges for various points of interest like restaurants and coffee shops and tourist destinations. The app works perfectly well at this. The problem is that this information is rather pointless. If the POI is close enough for me to see it, I don’t need the app in the first place; if it’s not, simply knowing that there’s a McDonald’s somewhere in that general direction — on the other side of that block of office buildings, or that stand of trees — is not useful to me. More useful is the ability to see myself represented on an overhead map, with streets, and the location of the McDonalds as a point on the other end of a series of navigational instructions. This is, of course, technology we already have, and AR does not improve upon it in any useful way.
An extremely quickly mocked-up example of useful AR.

An extremely quickly mocked-up example of useful AR.

So what is augmented reality actually good for? Quite a lot, I think. Foremost in my mind, AR serves as a sort of hypertext for reality, providing context and depth. When I was playing with ideas about AR back in 2002-2003, the example I used to friends was: you’re in New York. You see an interesting building. You hold up your AR device (which in my mind was a sort of hyper-PDA, at the time) and it tells you that this is the Chelsea Hotel. It provides you with a set of hyperlinks to information that can be overlaid on top of what you’re looking at — the Wikipedia entry, photographs of Sid Vicious being led out by police after (allegedly) murdering his girlfriend, links to songs about the place. In this way, your experience of this building in Manhattan is enriched, contextualized in interesting ways. Another example: perhaps you’re thinking about going into that sushi place across the street. You point your AR device at it, and it gives you the menu with prices, a list of reviews, the phone number for the place so you can make reservations if necessary. A simple, elegant layer on top of your world. There are other, more obscure, but equally interesting uses. A device which can take pictures and store in them the location, direction and angle of the camera can be used to create 3D versions of physical locations, at a fraction of the processing power used by similar initiatives that utilize existing imaging technology. A wonderful toy might be an AR app that scans Flickr for other photographs taken from your location and angle and overlays them onto your screen, showing you a kind of animated collage of what your physical location has looked like over time. Those possibilities are endless. One application which completely fascinates me — one that I’ve not heard anyone else mention before — is the idea of AR as a medium for narrative storytelling. This idea was probably first considered by Bruce Wagner in the strange and visionary TV mini-series Wild Palms, back in 1993. In the series, TV consumers buy a special box that sits on top of their TV set and “scans” their living room, noting the locations of furniture and doorways. The characters in the TV show Church Windows are holographically projected directly into your living room; they sit on your couch and ring your front door bell. You can watch them from any angle. (Part of the plot of the show is a tailor-made LSD variant that tricks your brain into thinking you’re physically interacting with them. I’d love to see somebody play with that IRL.) But why not an AR drama, played out on the streets of the city where you live? You can watch imaginary events unfold right in front of you; an imaginary meeting between doomed lovers on the street corner across from your apartment; a zombie apocalypse unfolding at Starbucks. The most obvious narrative is something reminiscent of Neil Gaiman’s Neverwhere, in which the inhabitants of a fictional London Below are roundly ignored by the dull inhabitants of London Above; that would be a great narrative trick to explain why the real people you view through your AR lens aren’t reacting or responding to the overlaid drama that commingles with them through the lens of your future phone. Of course, these are just a few possibilities off the top of my head; as the months and years progress, I’m sure we’ll see amazing ideas I haven’t even begun to consider come out of the AR universe. But I’m pretty convinced that the navigation tools that are our first examples of AR in the real world are lame ducks; what worries me is that their lameness will convince people to abandon the concept (much like virtual reality in the 1990s) before it really has a chance to show off.


Ableton Live + Algorithmic Composition (sort of)

So I finally acquired a legal, full copy of Ableton Live, as payment for designing a logo for a client. Yay!

As anybody who reads this blog knows, I’m a big fan of algorithmic/rule-based/non-interactive composition. As much as I love writing songs, I also love simply setting up the computer to generate music on its own, leaving me to tweak the timbre and tones of the piece rather than the notes.

This is astonishingly easy in Ableton Live. The basic rundown is like so:

  1. Create a MIDI track. Add an empty MIDI clip to it.
  2. Inside the MIDI clip, create a series of 16th notes. Doesn’t matter what they are — just add C3 notes.
  3. On the MIDI track, add the Random and Scale MIDI plugins.
  4. Set the Random plugin to Chance -> 100%, Choices -> 24. This will cause Ableton to randomize every note, within a 2 octave range.
  5. Set the Scale plugin to whatever scale you’d like — I’m using Em in this example. This forces the randomized notes into an Em scale.
  6. Route your MIDI track’s output to a synth or to an app like Reason using ReWire.
  7. Hit play.

What you’ll get is an endless bunch of notes in Em. How this actually turns out depends upon your ability to create interesting synth tones, your use of effects, etc. Obviously you’ll want to do this on multiple tracks with different instruments.

Cool Black Marble” (MP3, 192kbps, 3:19) is a track I did last night and this morning using this technique. It reminds me sonically of Avalon-era Roxy Music, or maybe just the background textures. While this piece isn’t ever going to win awards for variation or compositional complexity, it’s a perfectly lovely little bit of ambient music in the most literal sense — it’s an ambient soundtrack to a space. (When I hear it, I think of, well, a cool black marble room, hence the name.) Think of it as simple, pretty sonic wallpaper.

Of course, you can do much more complicated stuff than this using these basic tools — you can automate the Key value in the Scale plugin, for example, to create chordal changes and more complex melodies. You can also automate Live’s clip triggering function to randomly choose beats or melodic instruments or pads. I’m going to be experimenting with this kind of thing a lot, and I’ll post my results.

Let me know what you think of the track in the comments!


The Kitty Genovese model.

A couple of years ago, I delivered an incoherent, profanity-laden and probably awful lecture on the Grim Meathook Future at the Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin. (In my defense, I was completely unhinged due to jet lag and the meltdown of my MacBook the night before the talk, when I’d planned to finish my speech and the accompanying slides.) I barely remember delivering the lecture at all, but I do remember absolutely pissing off a good number of the collected attendees with my assertion that things like blogs and social networks aren’t very useful technology to people who are starving to death or being slaughtered by warlords.

One of the audience members, journalist Quinn Norton, stood up and pointed out that bloggers in Russia were exposing to the world the corruption and chaos underlying that nation’s political system. Which, of course, was true; I wouldn’t deny it. But as I remember, she didn’t have a satisfactory answer to the question I returned to her, and the question that I find myself asking tonight, as great numbers of good-hearted and well-meaning people are filling the Twitterverse with commentary and urgent info about the riots in Tehran following the suspect re-election of Mahmoud Ahmedinajed.

Yeah? So what?

As you can read in my previous post, I was called to task by a few people for my perceived cynicism in being unwilling to tune myself into the stream of info on the repression in Tehran. It’s not the first time. Though I am a technofetishist of the highest water and a futurist by both trade and inclination, I am deeply suspicious and cynical about the effects of technology on human culture. This does not endear me to a lot of my friends and colleagues in the Internet industry, but if I spent much of my time worrying about what would endear me to people, I’d either put a gun in my mouth or turn myself over to Jesus.

I think that one of the greatest fallacies of our time — and one of the greatest leaps in logic that is made again and again by people who involve themselves in the worthwhile struggle to bring equality to all people — is the notion that awareness equals involvement. By providing a way for the world to see the terrible things occurring in Iran right now, we believe that we are somehow “doing something” about the problem — that we are, in some way, affecting change.

I don’t argue that this is sometimes the case. Many times, in specific sorts of circumstances, the rallying cry of “the world is watching!” is enough to defuse a dangerous situation. But many other times, it’s not, and the only person who is empowered or even enervated by global awareness of tyranny and oppression is the person watching events unfold…not the person in the middle of them.

Twenty years ago, the world watched on television and in the pages of magazines and newspapers as a young man, anonymous to this very day, stood in front of a tank in Tiananmen Square in Beijing, China, as part of a protest that served as a memorial for recently deceased official Hu Yaobang. His act served as a sort of visual icon for the resistence of the common man against the repression of totalitarianism, and is rightly regarded as deeply heroic. It also served to draw international attention to China’s brutal policies of self-censorship and intellectual repression.

Unfortunately, nobody knows what happened to that young man. Given what has been seen in other cases of protest in China, it’s likely that the poor guy is either long dead or serving out a prison sentence somewhere. And in the twenty years since that day, China has made only sporadic and small progress in the human rights arena, despite the efforts of millions of people in government, non-governmental organizations, human rights watchdog organizations, and the simple negative public opinion of probably billions of people around the world, who felt righteous indignation on behalf of that anonymous hero, unable to legitimately protest his government’s actions in his own land.

China still operates under totalitarian repression of outside media as well as the Golden Shield (aka the “Great Firewall Of China”), which blocks access to any outside data deemed threatening to the ruling Communist party in the country. Despite this, there is still a flow of information in and out of the country, and human rights violations — as well as violent censorship of free speech, free thought and dissent — are still apparently quite common in China.

In other words, global public opinion has not affected China much over the past two decades. In fact, China is growing as an economic superpower whilst retaining their oppressive practices, due largely to the West using the country as a manufacturing base. We don’t make our shoes and computers in spite of their totalitarianism: in point of fact, we rely upon it. In a democratic society where protest is legitimized, it would seem likely that Chinese workers would protest the sparse wages paid to them by American and European companies to manufacture our goods and gadgets. They might even unionize. But that will never happen so long as our dollars and pounds and Euros shore up their totalitarian regime.

And yet, this notion continues to this day: the idea that the act of being aware of a situation is the same thing as involving oneself in it.

The logic seems to go like this: by making people aware of this terrible situation (protesters being attacked, imprisoned or killed in Iran, for example), we are bringing the discourse into the court of public opinion. We will make our leaders and our people aware of what is happening elsewhere, and then…something will happen to change it.

To be fair, this does work…but only in places where public opinion has a marked effect upon the actions of the regime (whether it be urban, federal, or what-have-you). If, for example, police in an American city attack an innocent African-American simply on an assumption of guilt based upon race, public opinion can certainly create consequence for the wrongdoers. The public can threaten to oust the mayor of the city (or at the very least not vote for him/her in the next election), the mayor can put pressure on the chief of police, etc. etc. In such ways are change affected in a democratic society, and public opinion can be a massive engine of change.

But this all breaks down in the case of totalitarian societies, because by and large, there’s really not much that you, as a non-member of that society, can do to affect change.

Let’s look specifically at the case of Iran right now. People are up in arms because it seems likely that the ruling party rigged the elections. (Americans, of which I am one, don’t really have a lot of room to talk here, but let’s overlook that for a second.) A certain amount of people in Iran are protesting the results of the election. They are, by all accounts, getting pretty brutally censured and attacked for doing so, while the government denies that anything of consequence is happening.

First of all, let’s just be honest here: knowing that people are being attacked for protesting is probably most of what you need to know. The specifics are, in my experience, pretty self-similar in any situation of this type throughout history. I haven’t read the accounts of what’s going on in Iran, but I suspect it runs something like this: the election results are announced. People — probably mostly students at first — take to the street in anger. The storm troopers show up and start bashing skulls. People begin rioting. The riot squads get more brutal. The government begins locking everything down — the media, first and foremost. People are dying in the streets. Shit is on fire.

How am I doing?

I’m being cynical here, but being cynical doesn’t mean it’s not true. These people are in a terrible situation. They’re making an agonizing choice between being quiet and being free. My heart and my sympathies and my support go out to them.

But the sad fact is that they’re probably simply going to their deaths. Why? Because they have no weight behind their dissent. Their government is a totalitarian theocracy run by a pack of lunatics who are actively developing nuclear weapons on the grounds that they might have to scorch the earth for Allah. They’ve been brutally repressing their people for decades now; how is this any different? Meet the old boss, same as the old boss.

More importantly, for the purposes of this discussion: if the people of Iran have no weight behind their outrage, people outside of Iran have less than no weight. Why? Because public opinion is totally irrelevant to Ahmedinajed’s regime. He — and his master, the Ayatollah Khamenei — don’t care what you or your government think about them. They have Allah on their side, total righteousness. They’re also the fourth largest oil exporter on the planet. Oil counts for 80% of their export capital, followed by — I’m not making this up — fruits and nuts, and also carpets.

Putting a worldwide ban on oil imports from Iran would be an instant way to affect change there. The money would run out…and even in theocracies, money is what keeps things running. If the rest of the world were to ditch Iranian oil for twelve months, I guarantee you’d see massive political change there.

But that, of course, isn’t going to happen — not on a global scale, not even on a national scale, and not on a personal scale. The majority of the people Twittering about Iran today are going to get in their car and drive to work via oil that was, at least in part, sold to them indirectly by the same people they’re trying to undermine with information technology. Hell, I would suspect that the power which keeps Twitter’s servers running is probably, at least in part, coming from Iranian oil in one way or another.

What we’re getting out of Iran right now is, essentially, evidence of the crimes being committed. I doubt anyone would disagree with that. But gathering evidence is something you do when you think there’s going to be a reckoning, and the sad example that history shows us is that there rarely ever is. Augusto Pinochet, Pol Pot and Idi Amin all died of heart attacks at advanced ages, either under house arrest or in lush exile somewhere. Their subordinates, by and large, also escaped justice, usually by insisting, as all fascists do, that they were “simply following orders“.

All the Twittering in the world isn’t going to create a world court that has jurisdiction over Mahmoud Ahmedinajed or the Ayatollah Khamenei, or Joseph Kony in Uganda, or Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, or any of the other insane cruel sons-of-bitches who rule with an iron fist over vast swaths of humanity. Pictures of the dead and dying, biographies of the damned…gather what you like and it’s still not going to fix these problems.

There are solutions, real solutions, but they take real work and sacrifice, on the part of every person who wants to truly change things. Stop driving cars; spend more money on products not made by totalitarian regimes; do without. And we are not willing to make those real sacrifices.

So we bear witness, as if the act of merely bearing witness somehow absolved us of our complicity in these atrocities. We tell ourselves that feeling righteously indignant is somehow a useful act, when the only person who is truly affected by our righteous indignation is ourselves.

We feel like heroes, when in fact we are as irrelevant to the situation as the thirty-eight New Yorkers who, in 1964, watched their neighbor Kitty Genovese get raped and robbed and stabbed to death in the courtyard of their apartment building. Each of the witnesses has been variously quoted as saying that they didn’t want to “get involved”. They were rightly vilified for this attitude.

Now, we want to get involved. So we use our global networks as stadium seating for the atrocity exhibition, and we cluck our tongues and shout our derision at those who commit torture and murder. And we feel better about ourselves. But we don’t make the hard choice to step into that ring ourselves, to make even the most basic sacrifices or put ourselves on the line, to prevent the atrocity. We’re concerned, but not involved.

And today, as I write this, God only knows how many Tehranians are going to be beaten and killed by the bastards who rule their country. We’re going to stand around and Twitter our anger to one another. And those poor people will be just as dead as Kitty Genovese when all is said and done.

*     *     *

If I’ve made you angry here, might I suggest that you call or write to your Congressperson or MP or whatever your nation’s equivalent is? Or that you find out if your corner gas station carries Iranian oil?

Do something constructive, in other words. Calling me an asshole isn’t constructive. I know I’m an asshole.


Vids from the show

“Just Like Honey” (Jesus & Mary Chain cover)

“Heroin” (Velvet Underground cover)

These were the last two tracks I did. “Just Like Honey” was going to be the final song, but as you can see in the second video, an audience member asked me to do an encore.

For these, I had a random audience member named Joe (on the first song) and my guitarist Aaron Archer (on the second song) come up and play drums using a Wii remote. This was accomplished via an app called The Wiinstrument, which translates Wii data into MIDI signals — specifically, in this case, a sharp value difference in the Wii remote’s and Wii nunchuk’s built-in accelerometers…using them as drumsticks for playing air drums, in other words. The MIDI was sent into a software drum machine, which had a heavily reverbed drum kit loaded.

I’d been thinking about doing this for months, but I’d never actually tried it until last night. I set it up at home yesterday afternoon and attempted to have my girlfriend play the Wii drums while I played guitar. Unfortunately, she…well, let’s just say she couldn’t quite get the rhythm down. So this was, in fact, totally untested until I actually got Joe the audience member up on stage.

It was really fun and everybody seemed to find it fun. I picked “Just Like Honey” because it’s an easy, easy drumbeat to play. “Heroin” I picked because I knew Aaron could improvise on it (he’s an excellent drummer as well as guitarist), and because my guitar was already feeding back with the sound I’d picked for “Just Like Honey”…and because I can play the living shit out of “Heroin”, and I hadn’t played it live in a while.

So there you go. I plan to use the Wii as an instrument a lot more in the future — it’s fun and easy and it looks cool.


Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn't Fucking Work | The Onion – America's Finest News Source

Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn’t Fucking Work Sony Releases New Stupid Piece Of Shit That Doesn’t Fucking Work | The Onion – America’s Finest News Source.


OLPC "Give One, Get One" is on again!

Oh, man, I want an OLPC so bad. And they’re repeating their Give One, Get One policy from last Christmas: buy two of them for $399 and one gets sent to a child in the developing world.

I actually want one to try to develop software on it; I have a nice MacBook for all my daily work, but I never really had the chance to work with the OLPC team as much as I wanted to and I’d still like to try out some of my ideas. Can’t afford one, though.

But if you know a smart young person who’s in need of a computer (other than me), you ought to get them one of these for Christmas. You’re not only helping them, but a child in a place where computers are even harder to come by.


I Weep For These People.

Dan Lyons (aka Fake Steve Jobs) on the horror of tech conference panels:

My first reaction was that in the greater scheme of things (economy in free fall, war in Iraq, global warming, energy crisis, not to mention the old reliables like cancer and poverty and AIDS, etc.) this challenge of finding a good restaurant seems like a fairly trivial and unimportant problem for our big geek brains to be trying to solve. If I were funding these guys I might go home scratching my head about what those kids are doing with all of my millions. Maybe there is a point to what they’re doing, but honestly, what great problem are these companies trying to solve? Sitting there watching this spectacle — watching these guys unable to simply explain what they do and and how they are going to make a business out of it – it was staggering to think that someone has entrusted these people with very large sums of money. But someone has. I weep for those people.

This is the sort of thing I pissed people off by saying at the Chaos Communications Congress in Berlin in ’06. It’s maybe even more valid now than it was then.


Top 15 criteria for new or interactive media art

From the Near Future Laboratory comes this hilarious (and completely on-the-mark) list.

The Near Future Laboratory Top-15 Criteria for New or Interactive Media Art

  1. It doesn’t work

  2. It doesn’t work because you couldn’t get a hold of a 220-to-110 volt converter/110-to-220 volt converter/PAL-to-NTSC/NTSC-to-PAL scan converter/serial-to-usb adapter/”dongle” of any sort..and the town you’re in is simply not the kind of place that has/cares about such things

  3. Your audience looks under/behind your table/pedestal/false wall/drop ceiling or follows wires to find out “where the camera is”

  4. Someone either on their blog or across the room is prattling on about the shifting relations between producers and consumers..and mentions your project

  5. Your audience “interacts” by clapping/hooting/making bird calls/flapping their arms like a duck or waving their arms wildly while standing in front of a wall onto which is projected squiggly lines

  6. Your audience asks amongst themselves, “how does it work?”

  7. The exhibition curators insist that you spend hours standing by your own wall text so that you can explain to attendees “how it works”

  8. It’s just like using your own normal, human, perfectly good eyeballs, only the resolution sucks and the colors are really the heat from the CPU fan is blowing on your forehead which makes you really uncomfortable and schvitz-y

  9. Someone in your audience wearing a Crumpler bag, slinging a fancy digital SLR and/or standing with their arms folded smugly says, “Yeah..yeah, I could’ve done that too..c’mon dude..some Perlin Noise? And Processing/Ruby-on-Rails/AJAX/Blue LEDs/MaxMSP/An Infrared Camera/Lots of Free Time/etc.? Pfft..It’s so easy…”

  10. Someone in your audience, maybe the same guy with the Crumpler bag and digital SLR excitedly says, “Oh, dude. That should totally be a Facebook app!”

  11. It’s called a “project” and not a “piece of art”

  12. You saw the “project” years ago…and here it is again…now with multi-touch interaction and other fancy digital bells and Web 2.0-y whistles

  13. Your audience cups their hands over various proturbances/orifices at or nearby your project attempting to confuse/interact with the camera/sensor/laser beam, even if it uses no such technology

  14. There’s a noticeable preponderance of smoothly shifting red, green and blue lighting effects

  15. People wonder if it wasn’t all really done in Photoshop, anyway


Playing it by ear: a short interview with Jack Womack

Jack Womack is one of speculative fiction’s secret treasures. His 1995 novel Random Acts Of Senseless Violence is one of the most remarkable and emotionally affecting works I’ve ever read and the seed of my thinking about the whole Grim Meathook Future thing.It’s not science fiction, per se; it’s the story of how American civilization sputters out over the course of a year or two, told from the perspective of the diary of a 12 year old girl who slowly, subtly transforms from innocent child of the upper-middle-class to an almost feral street urchin. It’s gorgeous and heartbreaking and as powerful in its way as Lord Of The Flies or even A Clockwork Orange.

I recently emailed Jack and asked him if I could do a short email interview with him. He very graciously agreed, and here’s the result.

jze: Random Acts Of Senseless Violence is part of your “Ambient” series, and yet it seems to stand alone as its own work. Where did the idea for this come from? Did you want to write a sort of prologue to the other books, or did it begin life as a separate work? How did you, basically, come up with the idea for Lola’s story?

jw: Random, like all the books in the series is intended to both be mostly read on its own (the final volume Going, Going, Gone being the only one really requiring that the others have been read in order to fully appreciate everything about it) and as part of the overall series, in Random‘s case to serve as the gateway to the others in turn — Heathern, Ambient, Terraplane, Elvissey, Going. The intention, for the overall reader, is to make the dialects in the later books more comprehensible.

Random was conceived as part of the whole; as the introduction to the world as well as the word, this particular part told by a young girl at the verge of enormous changes physically, emotionally, and socially; ideally the reader, like she, is changed between the first sentence and the last.

As I’ve noted in earlier interviews, the essential figure of Lola Hart is patterned on how I imagined a friend of mine was when she was 12; after I did the first twenty pages or so I showed it to her and said does this sound OK so far, insofar as a 12-year old girl growing up in your neighborhood in NYC would sound? And she said yep. And from there she and the other characters took on their own lives.

jze: It does certainly have an authentic-sounding voice; it’s one of the strengths of the novel that you can’t hear an adult behind the child’s voice.

The book describes a society that seems to be going out with a whimper, not a bang. How did you envision the subtle way in which Random‘s America falls apart? Was it inspired by any specific thinkers / schools of thought?

jw: Essentially I took current events and projected possible futures, finally picking the one that seemed, unfortunately, likeliest.

There is in fact considerable going on that is not good in the background in Random, but it’s not on Lola’s eye level yet. At the same time, most of the characters in the novel try to adapt to their society in flux to the same degree that we try to adapt to ours; and they, like we, find themselves more and more concussed rather than enlightened by the pace of change.

Never would have foreseen that NYC would have been so regooded so thoroughly, however.

jze: One of the most interesting aspects of Random, to me, is that not only Lola but most of the characters don’t seem to really understand how bad things are getting, other than Lola’s father, perhaps. How far do you think things have to go — how bad do they have to be — before people start to wake up and realize that some line has been crossed? At what point do people finally say “Oh, shit” and start noticing?

jw: It takes an extremely long time for members of any given society to wake up and realize what lines have been crossed while they weren’t looking. A majority of members have to be directly, and unpleasantly, affected by ongoing or new events in order for any response to begin reaching critical mass. And, those prone to optimism are going to see everything as well as they possibly can, for as long as they can. Sometimes the optimism will be justified.

jze: Let’s talk for a second about the language of Random: obviously, one of the most intriguing things about the work is the way Lola’s language sort of devolves from beginning to end. How did you approach the idea of this? The slang she uses is, I assume, mostly invented by you: how did you go about creating a realistic patois?

jw: The point of the language transformations in all of the books in this series was to give the reader a direct idea of the mental and emotional differences between these folks of a possible near-future and ourselves; the point being that as events transpired ever faster, so language and internal thought would transform as well — not within a matter of months or a few years in actuality, but over the course of time (this, like the title of the book, has been taken too literally by some readers and critics.)

Lola’s voice in Random reveals her own emotional and mental tranformations as she adapts to her new circumstances and allows herself access to emotions she’s never tapped before. By the end of the book, the reader has not only seen one additional way in which Lola transforms (as well as the way through which the other transformations are made evident) but should be used to reading the adapted language well enough to proceed to the succeeding books with much less trouble in understanding them.

As to how I made it up, I can only say I played it by ear — if it sounded right in the head, that’s how it went down on the page.

(Thanks again to Jack Womack, both for the interview and the great work!)


Technical Question: TPS to MySQL

I need to import an assload of data from old TopSpeed (TPS) database tables into MySQL. I don’t have access to the original app, just the database tables. I’m on a Mac, but can use Unix tools and Windows as last resort.

Anybody know an easy way to do this? It’s time-dependent.