Site for Sore Eyes

December 22nd, 2011

Welcome to my expanded, updated, essentially reborn online persona.  Now the truth — all the truth, not just the pretty bits — can be told.

Working on the state-of-the-art programming console pictured above, power-drinking caffeinated Slurpees through the long Northwestern nights, Bonnie Riley has brought this site into 2011, just in time for it to enter 2012.  But this time, we’ll stay on top of it.

Those of you who visit the site via this blog should take a few minutes and wander around a little bit.  For the first time, there’s a section for the Junior Bender books and “special projects,” — for now, the two short-story collections that raised money for Japanese disaster response and Bangkok street children.  Great to have them up.

And for the first time, all five online Simeon Grist books are up.  (Just in time for the sixth, which will probably go online in the next 4-5 weeks.)

It’s great for me to be able to look at this thing without feeling as though I’d hallucinated large chunks of my life and that entire books I thought I’d written were (as Scrooge says when he hopes he’s having a nightmare) “an undigested bit of beef, a blot of mustard, a crumb of cheese, a fragment of an underdone potato.”

In order to achieve this, Bonnie had to crawl around in the substructure of this site, coding, tweaking, rewriting, doing, and undoing.  It took her more hours than I can possibly pay for, although I should point out to Bonnie that that’s intended as a colorful phrase rather than a cold economic reality.

The way Bonnie described what she was doing during the long, long overhaul process — the number of tweaks and beyond-the-margins kind of fixes she had to make — reminded me of the Hale Telescope at Mount Palomar, for almost 50 years the most powerful ‘scope in the world.  Its 200-inch mirror (then the world’s largest by far) was a triumph of optical science, and the mechanical structure that maneuvered it was state-of-the-art.  But when it was all put together, some problems emerged.

— The counterweight system wasn’t completely accurate, off by ounces of the tons required.  Within a few months, the supporting cradle for the mirror was festooned with fishing weights of various sizes to bring it to perfect balance.  These were adjusted as needed for years.

— Early images revealed lots of stars that couldn’t be found by looking through the lens.  These turned out to be specks of dust on the mirror.  Dusting the mirror was difficult and perilous (a scratch would have been a tragedy) but some astronomer figured out that he could smear the entire mirror — the wonder of the optical world — with a men’s hair tonic of the day, Wildroot Cream Oil, and then set it on fire, and when the oil had burned off, the mirror had an anti-static, dust-repelling surface.

It was through the Hale that the existence of  galaxies beyond the Milky way was discovered and the expansion of the universe was observationally confirmed.  So give thanks to hard science, fishing weights, and Wildroot Cream Oil — and to ingenuity and on-the-fly creativity, which the Palomar scientists and Bonnie Riley demonstrated in their respective tasks.

I no longer look at the site and wonder, along with Ronald Reagan in “King’s Row,” Where’s the rest of me?

Thanks, Bonnie.

12 Responses to “Site for Sore Eyes”

  1. EverettK Says:

    Bravo! Bravo, Bonnie, BRAVO!!! And well done! 🙂

    So, Tim, have you READ the Simeon Grist page recently? Do you want to leave the mention of Pulped on there, or do you hope to do something with it in the future?

  2. Bonnie Says:

    And now we have the granddaddy of WordPress Commentspam installed, Akismet, which should save Tim a lot of time rejecting rude and sytactically interesting suggestions. The way it now works is that Akismet is the first line of defense, and if you do write something spammy (like offering to enhance someone’s performance or size), the fallback CAPTCHA will ask you a question in plain English presumably too difficult for a bot to figure out. Please, folks, let me know if you have any problems with it.

  3. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    You’re amazing, Bonnie.

    LOOK, EVERYONE — no f*&!ckng Captcha!!

    Just don’t be rude, or Akismet will kick it over to me, and I’ll not only delete it but also send you a sharp note. Sort of sharp. As sharp as a butterknife, anyway.

    Everett, I do have a rewrite of PULPED in mind, but not for the next 4-5 months. My schedule is pretty full.

  4. EverettK Says:

    Tim said: I do have a rewrite of PULPED in mind…

    Great! Glad to hear it, as there was a LOT that I liked in the book, and I think it’s very much worth saving in whatever way you see fit.

    (And thanks, again, Bonnie! I’m about to see how well this new comment submission system works. [pressing Submit Comment now…]

  5. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    It’s really nice to see all the new stuff, and to look forward to your new books. I’m glad Pulped hasn’t been consigned to the circular file. I seem to have some affection for the book-the parts we read, anyway. I can only marvel. Bonnie and Everett are in a totally different realm from me. I can only enjoy the results.

  6. Suzanna Says:

    Took a quick tour and the site looks great!

  7. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Everett, there’s quite a bit in PULPED that I like, too. I’m essentially turning the story inside out and starting in Joshua Tree. Might work.

    Lil, you always say what I most want to hear. Bonnie gets a huge amount of credit for this, and isn’t it nice to kiss CAPTCHA goodby?

    Sooz, I agree. Can’t believe I did all that work. And that Bonnie got it all into the site.

  8. Sharai Says:

    Site looks great! Also enjoyed the ‘Hale’
    story. Couldn’t help thinking about your previous blog while reading about the counter weight system as the aroma of pumpkin pie wafts from my oven.

    Happy Holidays!

  9. Timothy Hallinan Says:

    Hi, Sharai. Omigod, pumpkin pie. Omigod, pumpkin pie. Umm . . . glad you like the way Bonnie’s re-engineered the pie — I mean, the site.

    The Hale story is great. It was first told (I think) by Richard Preston. in FIRST LIGHT, which no less an authority than Freeman Dyson called “The best book ever written about astronomers and the things they do.”

    Pumpkin pie, huh?

  10. EverettK Says:

    Omigod, pumpkin pie. Omigod, pumpkin pie.

    Tim: I strongly recommend that you go back and read your previous blog entry, Excuse Me While I Disappear

    This notice provided by your friendly support team… 🙂

  11. Lil Gluckstern Says:

    It’s okay, pumpkin is a vegetable 🙂

  12. Philip Coggan Says:

    Congratulations, many hours of browsing pleasure ahead of us. And I have a question: why does Poke have thrillers, while Junior and Simeon have mysteries? I thrill to Junior and I’m mystified with Poke…

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