Archive for September, 2012

Better Covering

September 30, 2012 Leave a comment

You might remember that I created the covers for my current three published short stories using the ancient MS Paint tool.  What I created was far from superior – for reference, just click on the Unfree Fiction tab above – but Paint was what I had available at the time.

Turns out I was wrong.  Google Docs (now Drive) has a draw tool that is far superior, also free, and has the advantage of storing whatever you make out in the cloud, safe from floods, disk crashes and motherboard fires.

The cover I came up with the other day, for the novella that I am turning into a novel, actually looks like it might NOT have been made by a preschooler with a wireless mouse.  The process was quite simple.  First I did a web search for Solar System images, found one that I like by NASA (read: public domain), and pasted it in the draw tool window.  Then there was a little judicious cropping, to turn a square into a tall rectangle – book cover shaped.  Then I created two text boxes for the title and my name.  Done.

Took about twenty minutes, most of that time spent trying to figure out the quirks of the thing.  It allows me to download it in various formats; I used a JPEG, but PDF is also available.

The only really annoying bit was that I could not figure out how to crop the pasted image.  I could size the background to book cover shape, then center the image over that background.  Only the part of the image that is on top of the background actually prints/exports, but the only way I could see what that looked like was to go to print preview, then come back to the draw screen and move things around.  I could shape and resize the image, but I could not crop it.  Granted, I only have about a half-hour’s experience on the tool and it is quite possible I missed this function, but find it I could not.

Anyhow, this is what I came up with.  It is light-years beyond the other covers – granted, the NASA image is the real reason for this.  I may rethink this before I publish, but for right now, it looks pretty good to me.  Now all I have to do is finish writing.





Categories: Publishing, Technology

A Little Productivity

September 28, 2012 Leave a comment

Actually been getting some writing done the past couple of weeks, turning my novella “Lifeboats” into something more of a novel.  By way of a preview, here is what I wrote last night.  The background is a full-scale evacuation of Earth.


Copyright 2012 by John K Berntson

“Sorry, I don’t think I understand you.  Could you repeat that?”
Martin Pearce put down his drink and waited for an answer.  He sat in a plush chair in a nicely appointed office, which was the domain of the media mogul in the other chair, Mitchell Adamson.  Adamson took a sip of his drink before he responded.
“I said, Mr. Pearce, that your time at Free Press Seven has come to an end.”
“And just why would that be?”
“Because I am going to give you an offer you simply cannot refuse.”
“Odd, you don’t look like a mobster.”
“Very droll.  No, not that type of offer, Mr. Pearce.  No, this will be a monetary offer.”
“Really?  Okay, let’s hear it.”
“We shall come to that.  First, however, I would like to tell you about the job I am about to offer you.”
“I have a job.”
“Yes you do and you do it very well, which is why I wish to make the offer in the first place.  You have been a reporter for two decades, Mr. Pearce, and you have built a reputation for being a very hard-nosed investigative reporter.  Solar News could use that sort of reporter.”
“Solar News?”
“Solar News Service is the name of the new company I am forming.  Its focus – well, lack of focus, really – will be news that affects the Solar System at large.”
“Everyone is doing that, Mr. Adamson.  Free Press Seven covers the whole system.”
“Covers?  Perhaps.  But FP Seven is a relic of the early days of internet news.  Yes, you cover news from all over, but you write, primarily, for Earthlings, not for the people who live out there.”
Adamson pointed vaguely at the sky.  Pearce followed the gesture for a moment, realized it was silly, and forced his gaze back to his host.
“Of course we write ‘for Earthlings’ Mr. Adamson.  Most of humanity still lives here.”
“Yes, but the numbers dwindle every year, while the speed of the evacuation increases.  Soon, you will lose most of your audience.”
“My readers – our readers! – continue to follow us even after they escape.  We will continue to have an ‘audience’ so long as people continue to read.”
“Perhaps.  But Solar News Service will exist to inform the people out there, to give them news from their point of view.  In the end, every news story is about how events impact the reader.  So, instead of writing about the people leaving Earth, we will write about the people arriving at their new homes.  Instead of telling the tale of resources being sent away, we will tell of resources being received and used.  Do you see the difference?”
“Well, yes, now that you put it that way.  But I think we already cover both sides pretty well.”
“I don’t want to cover ‘both sides’ anymore.  I want to serve the side that is getting bigger.”
“And you think I can do that?”
“Of course you can do that.  I’ve read a lot of what you write; you have the skill.  All you need to do is change your point of view, just a little bit.”
“As an investigative reporter?  That’s what your audience wants?”
“Needs, not wants, Mr. Pearce.  I am recruiting from various skill sets.  We will have puff pieces and disasters, we will have sports reporters, we will have celebrity and entertainment reporters, we will have political reporters and pundits, and we will have business and financial reporters.  About the only thing I do not expect to have are meteorologists, for obvious reasons.  But behind it all, I want a small team of tough investigative reporters, finding out the things that people are desperate to hide, the things that affect us all.  You will be the first member of that team, if you wish.”
“I very much desire your services, Mr. Pearce.  Here is the annual salary I have in mind, using Earth years, of course.”
Adamson pulled a piece of paper out of his breast pocket and slid it, face down, across the table.  Pearce hesitated only a moment, then picked it up, glanced at it, and then stared.
“The figure on the left is in Golden Currency, Mr. Pearce, as that is what most people are using out there.  The two figures to the right are translations into U.S. Dollars and into Euros, using yesterday’s exchange rates, merely for your convenience.  The offer is in gold.”
“That is quite a bit of gold, Mr. Adamson, quite a bit.  I like it.  But really, dollars will be fine for my needs.”
“No, they will not be fine for your needs, Mr. Pearce.  Not where you are going.”
“Going?  I assumed I would work out of this building.  This is your headquarters, isn’t it?”
“Only for a brief period, while we recruit and organize.  Jupiter is the fastest growing population center and will soon eclipse Mars.  That is where we will be based out of, although I suspect you will spend a lot of time on liners, visiting other colonies.  After all, Mr. Pearce, you cannot cover the evacuation properly from Earth, now can you?”

Categories: Writing

A Little More Walk and Talk

September 25, 2012 Leave a comment

For those who want just a teensy bit more West Wing, here is three minutes worth.  Actually a non-partisan political ad, but so what.

As to the basic message of the piece, I do not actually have a problem with what they are complaining about.  Ballots should be considered a rudimentary intelligence test.  If you cannot figure out simple definitions, you really don’t deserve to have your vote count.

It must be nice to have a sister in Hollywood at times like this.


Had to Happen

September 23, 2012 Leave a comment
Categories: Trends

Live Free

September 19, 2012 Leave a comment

The Gary Johnson campaign has come up with some first-rate TV spots they would like to broadcast.  Check ’em out!

This is the guy and this is the time to help him.  A month from now, it will be nothing but the horse-race.  Now, there are some who might listen.



September 9, 2012 Leave a comment

Once upon a time, there was something called Google Docs.  If you had a gmail account, you could click over to “documents,” where you could create and edit word processing documents, spreadsheets, presentations, or forms, all stored safely on Google’s drives “in the cloud.”  You could also upload your Microsoft and some other documents to the cloud for safe keeping.  All this was for free, up to some high level of gigabytes.

If you wanted more storage, you could get a Google Apps account for a reasonable fee.  Again, you got to store more, but you also had access to the App store, where you could get various applications, some for free and some for fee.  CRM, payroll, accounting packages, along with some email groupings and collaboration tools.  Aimed at small businesses, but also useful for some large ones, there was certainly some interest here.  Nevermind Microsoft Office, licenses, and upgrades; this was all in the web browser.

Now, Google has come out with Google Drive.  It is very much Google Docs, but it allows you to store far more types of documents out on the cloud and also has the Apps store, all for free, though some of the individual apps might not be.  The Apps store seems to be much more modest than what I remember for Google Apps, but they still have quite a selection.

The other night, I was able to use a floor-planning tool to draw a plan of my house.  It took less than an hour and it was all done in the browser – no software to download.  You do have to use Google Chrome as you browser for most of the apps, but that is free as well.

And, just looking around last night a little more, it turns out I can write and run scripts in Drive.  Similar to Java Script, Google Script can be used to connect to everything Google and create useful output.  For instance – I think – I could write a script that would run every morning, look at my calendar appointments, and send me an email with the day’s events.  Not all that helpful, I suppose, but if I conducted a lot of business with online documents and such, I would find a lot of uses for this kind of tool.

More to it, of course, and you should have a look.


Categories: Technology

How Many Sides?

September 6, 2012 Leave a comment

If you want to take a fairly short quiz to find out which presidential candidates you side with on various issues, you can go here:

You can then compare your views by category with the various candidates and with people in the various states.  No, the results won’t be expressed in vote totals, but it will give you some idea what people are thinking.  Looking at the results, it seems to me that the number of participants is probably quite small – expect the results to change as more “normal” people find and take the quiz.