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March 09, 2005

What I Want: Not a Meme, Just a List

Like every man, I have needs. This isn't about that. This is about my wants -- some things I want, that don't reach to the level of actual need. These wants are specific to me -- no "I want world peace" crap here, just things I think would make my life a little cooler. Here are things I want, in no particular order:

1. I want a Mac. For some inexplicable reason, I think it would be groovy to write The Ghost Brigades on a Mac. I don't think it would be so groovy that I'm willing to pay to do it. It's not really an issue of cost, particularly if I went mini, but with four fully functional computers in the house (and at least three non-functioning and in various states of being cannibalized for drives and parts), this is one purchase I'm not remotely going to be able to justify. But we're talking wants, not rational thinking.

Someone buy me one. I'll dedicate the book to you.

Oh, I'm just kidding.

(This one would be nice.)

Stop looking at me like that! I'm joking!

(Get me this one and I'll name a character in the book after you, too! One that doesn't die horribly!)

Jeez, people. You'd think by now you'd know when I'm ribbing you.

(I'm serious, man.)

Enough of that.

For the record, my desire for a Mac does not mean I'd be doing the "switch," as they like to say, since I'd be keeping and continuing to use my Windows machines (Two reasons: Games, and two button mice. Yes, I'm serious about the two button mouse. Right-clicking rocks). I'll just be openly biprocessorial. Hey, I'm not ashamed.

2. I want a gazebo. Because what could be better than writing from the gazebo on a warm summer's day? I've got the laptop. I've got the wireless home network. And God knows, I've got five damn acres of lawn. I've got room for one somewhere on the property. The only drawback I can see would be actually setting up the thing; that's more manual labor than I want to do. But I suppose if I were going to go in for the expense of a nice gazebo, I'd probably kick in another couple grand to have someone set it up for me, and spending the interim learning how to make a nice mint julep or something.

The modification I would make to the standard-issue gazebo is to have netting one could put up in the "windows" to keep the bugs out; we do get mosquitoes and other flying annoyances. You can get gazebos with actual windows if you want, but I suspect having a tiny little enclosure completely surrounded by glass on a hot summer day isn't actually a recipe for outdoor enjoyment.

3. I want to work a slush pile. Every publisher who accepts unagented submissions has a got a stack of manuscripts from hopeful would-be writers reaching toward the sky (here's one from Tor, my SF publisher). For those of us fortunate enough to have escaped the pile, the stack nevertheless holds a fascination -- after hearing editors describe why the vast majority of manuscripts are, in fact, unpublishable, one has a desire to dive into the pile one's self and confirm this fact to one's own satisfaction. It's kind of the writer's version of facing one's own mortality, a "there but for the grace of God" moment, if you will.

Now, one thing that does distinguish me from many writers is that I've also been an editor, and an editor handling submissions -- I've worked a slush pile of my own. But that pile was for short, humorous pieces, not novels, and I don't doubt that the slush pile for novels has a pathology of its own. I also don't doubt that the idea of wading into the slush pile for a spell is more appealing than actually doing it, just as idea of anything is usually more appealing than actually doing it (actually doing things often requires work). I've heard first-hand stories from authors who decided to read slush on a lark and have come out of it a few hours later shocked, humbled and bored by the experience.

Be that as it may, I think it's worth a try. The next time I'm in New York, I may hit up the Tor folks to sit in on the slush pile. It could be fun. And you never know: I might find something good. If I found something worthy in the slush pile, and it actually did get published eventually, well, I think that'd be the coolest thing ever.

4. I want a big honkin' external hard drive. We're talking like a terabyte of storage, although I'd settle for a quarter of that at the moment. I've just about maxed out my hard drives in my computer with MP3s and other multimedia files and it's beginning to affect my computer. I need to offload all this crap onto another drive. This is clearly the most achievable of my "I Wants" so far, and I imagine I'll be purchasing one for myself sometime soon.

5. I want a new desk chair. Look, I didn't say that all the things I wanted were sexy. And anyway, anyone whose skeleton is mostly bone instead of cartilage knows that a good chair makes a big deal of difference. I've had the same desk chair for about a decade now -- and right now, my chair creaks, the back rest is all wobbly, and the chair seat's cushion has a decade's worth of ass compression and flatulence in it. Time for the junk pile. As with the external hard drive, this want is likely to be achieved in reasonably short order.

And that's pretty much all I want at the moment. Seems pretty reasonable overall, I think. Feel free to list some of your own wants. You know, if you want.

Posted by john at March 9, 2005 10:01 PM

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Eric Zorn | March 10, 2005 12:43 AM

I am so very much with you on right clicking. I'd convert to Macs in heartbeat if they had a significantly more functional mouse.
Oh, and I want a leather club chair. That's all I need. A leather club chair and this paddle game....

Dave Schaefer | March 10, 2005 12:51 AM

Very nice John.

Some notes - you can indeed buy two-button mice for Macs (Macally has some nice ones). Then you just program the right button to do whatever you want - be it right click (bind it to the Mac's control-click) or double click, or whatever. You can even change what it does for individual applications!

Also, if you're getting a gazebo, make sure you have an axe or some fire spells handy, or you might run into problems ;) (okay, sorry, that joke may be too obscure for some people)

"just as idea of anything is usually more appealing than actually doing it"
With sex and bungie jumping as possible exceptions?

A good chair can make all the difference - think about how much time you spend sitting in it. That chair looks pretty sexy to me.

RooK | March 10, 2005 01:06 AM

Aaargh! I think I see an evelope of mine in that slush pile!

Unless you're intending to pack your massive pile-o-multimedia around, you might derive some considerable satisfaction and savings from converting one of your auxiliary machines to just be an array of hard drives.

You're bang-on about getting the comfy chair, though. Nothing is quite as important for productivity as getting rid of the niggling distractions.

Scott | March 10, 2005 01:18 AM

Dude. For nerdy coolness, switch over to Linux and write your novel using OpenOffice. Heck, you've probably got all the hardware you need right now...

Soni | March 10, 2005 01:20 AM

Speaking of new computers, in the race to see what would hold out the longest - my innate unwillingness to replace anything until the last hope of duct-tape-resuscitation has faded or the structural integrity of my computer - cheapness has bitten the dust (to be followed imminently by my computer, which has more miles on it than Michael Jackson's surgeon's scalpel). The keyboard has sticking keys, the mouse likes to double-click at random single-click intervals, the monitor is starting to try on new color schemes without warning and the sound coming from the hard drive on spin-up is downright hostile (I fear for my kneecaps in the event of catastrophic failure).

Is there a site where I can enter my needs and get a quick rundown of what I really need, at minimum, without getting sucked into the bundled-software-and-cheesy-warranty dogpile from hell that buying a computer usually entails?

I am so far out of the loop, technology-wise, that I have no idea what I'm going to be looking for and I don't feel like paying for more than I need, not even for cool points. On the off chance anyone here's willing to do a quick freelance audit of my needs, here are my parameters:

PC reserved mainly for office stuff (I have Office 2000 and am happy with that). Must be able to run some games, but not Doom or anything like that. Think Sims with some expansion packs and a few old-school time wasters (Hubby's side of the deal). Also need to be able to run the odd graphic program such as PrintShopPro or PhotoShop, eventually, when I figure out what I'm going to get preferably while simultaneously doing the office stuff and twitching back and forth. Future scalability issues will be web cam, virtual seminar and other interactive communications needs, although nothing NASA-level (basic virtual meetingstuff) and perhaps some low-end-professional quality video/sound file editing.

Any hints?

BTW - solved my chair issues handily without the dreaded extra purchase. I use my yoga ball. Keeps me alert and generally slump-free, plus I can bounce around when there's good music on and in the long run, it'll be good for my back, since I have to maintain my balance and have no backrest. Also keeps dabblers off my computer, as there is no traditional seating alternative handy. :-D

Nathan Sharfi | March 10, 2005 02:14 AM

Regarding decent mice in OS X:

I've never even bothered to use the stock one-button mouse; I just plug in a proper (read: four buttons plus a wheel) USB mouse in and bind the two extra buttons to various Exposé functions. I actually get more use out of the extra buttons on my Mac than I do on my Windows machines.

This won't help much on the games front, though.

Squid | March 10, 2005 02:32 AM

Is there a site where I can enter my needs and get a quick rundown of what I really need, at minimum, without getting sucked into the bundled-software-and-cheesy-warranty dogpile from hell that buying a computer usually entails?


Any hints?

This isn't precisely what you're looking for, but Ars Technica's budget box may be of interest to you, if you're comfortable building your own boxes.

Karl | March 10, 2005 02:42 AM

Yes, I would like a Mac too, though it has nothing to do with any application. Just curiosity. So, if anyone is buying Scalzi a Mac, buy me one too. ;)

Burns! | March 10, 2005 06:02 AM

I've got a slush pile you can have. Back when I was booking bands, I got tons of submissions all the time. Most seemed to be made up of songs about why 'the vast majority of manuscripts are, in fact, unpublishable.' Or maybe they were just really bad bands. Anyway, I don't know why, but some of them are still in my garage. I've finally got a reason to throw them out (moving,) but for the price of shipping, they're yours.

PiscusFiche | March 10, 2005 07:22 AM

1-You don't really want a Mac. :) (I have to work on both, and I like the Mac for somethings, but it is not worth the price of its "cool".)

2-Would it be a Dread Gazebo?


3-Me too. I got to work the slush pile once at the Leading Edge, and it was kind of fun, because it wasn't something I had to worry about on a regular basis. I bet it palls after a while though. Still doesn't stop me from wanting access to another one.

4-I took Lee's external hard drive to work yesterday so I could grab all my iTunes before leaving this job. I can definitely see the attraction.

5-I too am in need of a new desk chair. Fortunately, I will be moving to a close proximity of TWO Ikea. (And I already know the chair I want. Mmmmm. Ikea.)

I would stay and talk more, but I must skibble to the aforementioned work which I will be leaving.

Chad Orzel | March 10, 2005 07:32 AM

I think you need to rank the rest of these items in terms of what they're worth in The Ghost Brigades, just so we know where you stand. You know, "If somebody buys me a nice gazebo, I'll name a minor character who dies horribly after them," or "If somebody buys me a nice desk chair, I promise to use the letters making up their name somewhere in the book."

If you come up with a good enough offer for the slush pile, you can probably induce people to write new unpublishable dreck and send it to you directly. You'll have a slush pile of your very own.

John Scalzi | March 10, 2005 07:41 AM

"If you come up with a good enough offer for the slush pile, you can probably induce people to write new unpublishable dreck and send it to you directly. You'll have a slush pile of your very own."

The horror! The horror!

The cost of a good gazebo is actually higher than the cost of a Mac ($3k - $10k vs. $2k - $4k for a decently-attired Mac), so I suppose I'd have to lay out the better "Ghost Brigades" appearance deal for that. On the other hand, at the moment, in terms of sheer wantage, I want the Mac more. And in the alternate universe in which one would seriously consider that someone would get me one of the two, I would imagine people would want to shell out for the lower price item. So the Mac it is.

I am ashamed to admit I've now far exceeded my "thinking about someone else buying me a Mac" bandwidth.

diddidit | March 10, 2005 07:44 AM





Kevin Q | March 10, 2005 08:15 AM


Soni said:
Is there a site where I can enter my needs and get a quick rundown of what I really need, at minimum, without getting sucked into the bundled-software-and-cheesy-warranty dogpile from hell that buying a computer usually entails?

Yeah, here:
store.apple.com :)

PC reserved mainly for office stuff (I have Office 2000 and am happy with that).

Microsoft Office is available for OS X, as is Pages, Apple's new word processor. Pages is only $80 (as opposed to Office's $150-$500) and does outstanding page layout and design, and is really easy to use. Pages isn't an office suite, though, so if you need mail merging, or other technical functions, you might want to stick with Office. (I use both.)

Must be able to run some games, but not Doom or anything like that. Think Sims with some expansion packs and a few old-school time wasters (Hubby's side of the deal).

Sims 2 now available from Amazon, and will easily run on any new Mac you could get. Also, Apple has a large collection of freeware, shareware, and demo games on their website, http://www.apple.com/downloads/macosx/games/ And there are more around.

Also need to be able to run the odd graphic program such as PrintShopPro or PhotoShop

No problem there, Macs are known by their affinity for graphics programs and image and movie editing. All new Macs come with iLife '05, a suite of programs to let you work with media on your computer. Included is iPhoto, which organizes your photos, and can either do basic image manipulation, or allow you to pass the image editing off to another program, such as Photoshop; iMovie, which lets you edit movies, including transitions, effects, and editing three tracks of sound; Garage Band, which lets you create soundtracks for that movie you're working on; iTunes, which lets you listen to your music, or share it with others; and iDVD, which lets you take that magnum opus movie and burn it to DVD, complete with full-motion menus and easter eggs.

I just started Law School, and needed a laptop for classes, and I was smitten by the PowerBook from the first moment I laid eyes on it. My original goal had been to use the laptop at work, and my desktop Windows computer for home use, since OS X plays nice with Windows machines, but the Mac is more powerful than my Windows machine, easier to use, and requires less maintenance (no viruses, no spyware), so now my old desktop works hard keeping the floor down, while my laptop pulls double-duty.

Inexpensive means you're getting something of value for little money. Cheap means it is little money and little value. What's the equivalent at the opposite end of the spectrum? Yes, you can get PCs that are cheaper than Macs, but for what you get, Macs are really no more expensive than PCs. You can get the Mac mini starting at $499, or the iMac, which John pictured in his post (yes, that is the whole computer, not just a monitor), starting at $1300. If you are an educator or a student, or have a student in the house, you can also get a student discount, which can save you up to a couple hundred dollars off a Mac. (At store.apple.com, choose "Education Discounts" at the bottom of the left menu.)

I love my Mac (in case you couldn't tell). It's powerful, easy to use, and - frankly - quite beautiful, both on the outside and inside. The operating system (OS X) is easy to use and intuitive, and makes doing work that much more fun. If there's an Apple store near you, I suggest taking a look in person, but Apple's website has movies and images of a lot of what the Mac can do. Good luck with whatever computer you wind up getting.

Kevin Q | March 10, 2005 08:21 AM

(Sorry, two more things.)

You can use any multi-button mouse you'd care to use with OS X, and it will work exactly like it works under Windows. I don't know why Macs ship with a one-button mouse, but any USB mouse will work in its place.

Silence. The iMac or the Mac mini are almost completely silent, especially when compared to a standard PC. I almost never hear fan noise, unless I'm doing something really graphically intensive, and then there's a gentle whirring, not the helicopter noise I get just from turning my PC on.

We now return you to your regularly scheduled posts.


John Scalzi | March 10, 2005 08:22 AM

Don't bogart the Kool-Aid, Kevin.

Tracina | March 10, 2005 08:42 AM

5. I want a new desk chair.

I want an Aeron chair

Dave Munger | March 10, 2005 08:50 AM

I want a killer pair of skis, with appropriate boots and bindings. I can never bring myself to buy them, when rentals run about $15 and buying would approach $2K. It'd take me ten years to get my money back, assuming I hadn't broken my leg, or neck, or something by them.

Saundra Mitchell | March 10, 2005 08:54 AM

I want a house with a freestanding garage so the people from Garage Takeover to come and turn it into a wicked smart writing suite. I don't think that's unreasonable, do you?

John Scalzi | March 10, 2005 08:56 AM

What will you do with your cars?

Brennan | March 10, 2005 09:13 AM

I want a pony.

Jon Hansen | March 10, 2005 09:17 AM

John, if you really want to write Ghost Brigades on a Mac, I've got one I could give you. It works perfectly, and as a matter of fact I finished writing a story on it not too long ago when my primary computer was unavailable.

Okay, it's a Centris 650. Hey! Don't turn up your nose just yet! It's a Mac, it works just fine. Runs on system 7, has MS Word loaded (5.1, I think), and can read PC floppies. No USB plugs, sorry.

Just think of yourself as cool circa 1994.

Maria | March 10, 2005 09:25 AM

Bi-OS user. ::g::

* the Mac: been there, done that, love the iBook. Also kept the Dell PC desktop for CD burning, archiving, etc. (backup, mostly).

* I use a Microsoft USB trackball mouse with the iBook. Works great.

* Justification: iBook is for work (e.g., writing, writing related activities). PC is for play. CDs, etc. (okay, so I was reaching)

* Love the idea of a gazebo, but since I live in a high-rise, not so practical.

* Desk chair - hey, maybe it's not sexy, but damned important. I have 2 chairs from Staples that are similar in style to the Aeron, but a fraction of the cost. I love them. (two because one is for home/writing office, one is for day job).

Wanting vs. having - that's the beauty of the day job...allows me to have more things I want.

::prods John to buy the Mac::

Eric | March 10, 2005 10:06 AM

Also, if you're getting a gazebo, make sure you have an axe or some fire spells handy, or you might run into problems ;) (okay, sorry, that joke may be too obscure for some people)


That is the first thing I think of anytime I see the word "gazebo".


p.s. Does it see me?

Kevin Q | March 10, 2005 10:13 AM

John said:
Don't bogart the Kool-Aid, Kevin.

Sorry, John. It's a psychological compulsion, it comes gratis with any new Mac. I read your post, and then blacked out, and when I came around I found that I'd written a whole screed. I'll try to keep it under control in the future.


diddidit | March 10, 2005 11:31 AM

Gotta sit in an Aeron or Mirra before you can compare it to a cheaper chair. They're worth the extra cost.


rick mcginnis | March 10, 2005 11:51 AM

I second Tracina's motion - having ensconced my posterior in one for a period of time, the Aeron is the quantum desk chair leap mankind has been awaiting since the countoured rock gave way to the wooden bench. If you can afford one, make the leap, John.

It's a pity you weren't around for the big dotcom bust sell-offs - Aerons were being auctioned for a fraction of their price, after vast office lofts were emptied of programmers and marketing geniuses. Now ancient history, alas.

Ellen | March 10, 2005 12:21 PM

I've always wanted to be a slush reader. I've been an editor, but never of the acquiring sort, so it's still a faraway dream for me.

Somehow, I don't think those in the Tor offices would be as welcoming to me if I went to New York and demanded to do some slush-reading. New and unexpected disadvantages to being unpublished!

Saundra Mitchell | March 10, 2005 12:37 PM

What will you do with your cars?

Put them up on blocks in the front yard. I do live in Indiana, after all.

Justin Anderson | March 10, 2005 01:18 PM

I suppose it falls to me to be the token naysayer, Aeron-wise. Fine chair, no complaints about the product itself -- but it's vastly overpriced. I honestly don't think it's significantly better than a typical good $100 - $200 chair.

That being said, some people do swear by 'em, but I'd definitely try before buying.

PeterP | March 10, 2005 01:32 PM

Do you want mobile storage, or just a big place to keep your stuff? Hard drives and raid controllers are so cheap these days that it would be trivial to set up a big raid storage box from one of your semi functional machines. Might require some linux hacking, but I suspect you can do it under windows as well.

John Scalzi | March 10, 2005 01:43 PM

I just need another hard drive. My computer is RAID-ready, so I could theoretically simply chain in another hard drive. But that's beyond my technical competence, and since there's not been a time where the local computer "repairman" did not manage to wreck a computer of mine he was allegedly "fixing," I'm not planning to use him. With the external drive, I'd basically be paying a premium for not having to crack open my computer and fiddle with it.

Kristy | March 10, 2005 02:31 PM

Forget the multi-button mouse complaints of being dual-OS; I want Apple to make their darn keyboards have the function keys in the same place. If they're going to use the same basic keyboard shortcuts as the PC, the least they could do is to put the open-apple key in the same location as the PC's Ctrl key, so when I'm on my PC I'm not trying to use Alt instead of Ctrl.

*lurks until one of the other amazing readers here pipes up with tips on reprogramming iBook keyboards*

And FWIW, as a long time "the only real computers have command lines" nose-in-the-air type, I *love* Mac OS X.

Tripp | March 10, 2005 02:47 PM


Personally I go with cheapo disposable eMachines. $400 gets you last year's hot model. I want a computer not a relationship, and the technology is changing so fast don't even try to keep up.

Speaking of wants (hey, this is like acting class), this is what I want (that I can say in public):

I want to get out of here.

I want a massage chair. Leather.

I want to understand the Universe, especially the beginning.

I want the Vikings to win the Super Bowl. Just once.

I want to punch Daryl Hectie.

Kai Jones | March 10, 2005 02:58 PM

I've tried the Aeron and didn't like it. When I had an on-the-job back injury and wanted a new chair, I spoke to a couple of local office furniture stores and they sent over trial models for 3 to 5 days' try out. That made picking the right chair easy, and more than 5 years later I'm still very happy with my Steelcase Leap.

Luciano Pimentel | March 10, 2005 05:15 PM

I want to be a cowboy.

And you can be my cowgirl. (he says, staring at a framed picture of Lindsay Lohan... NOT my place, okay? *LOL*).

Seriously, John - forget the slush piles and check out stuff online... I am sure you can find something GOOD a few clicks away... (hint hint)

Patrick | March 10, 2005 06:08 PM

Ah, I've been invited to a play reading party next Sunday. The theatrical equivalent of a slush pile. There's nothing better for the spirit of an aspiring playwright than reading the works of others, and giving critique. Add in a "Yes" or "No" pile, and I'm in heaven.

seratonin | March 10, 2005 06:55 PM

It's not quite the same, but I have a "well loved" ti-Book I'm getting rid of sooner or later. It has a certain...character, possible only through heaps of abuse and continued functionality.

re: mice. Urban legend (although probably true) is that the one-button mouse is a personal obsession with Steve Jobs. Because they can't convince him to give up on the "key+mouse" approach, they just code support into the OS and trust the user to plug in better mice.

Finally - the Aeron cannot be praised enough. I'd sleep in one if I had it here, though it's probably worth more than the apartment I'm renting.

seratonin | March 10, 2005 06:56 PM

Minor Addendum: Mint Juleps? You sick bastard.

mythago | March 10, 2005 07:05 PM

And I want a iPony!

PiscusFiche | March 11, 2005 07:06 AM

Last night I dreamed I was reading a slush pile IN a a gazebo. I lay this at your doorstep.

Anonymous | March 11, 2005 05:00 PM

Brennan: I want a pony.

I have three. Wanna come help scoop poop and brush 'em now that they're shedding? They really like rolling in the nice clay mud!

Come to think of it, that may be why mythago wants an iPony.

Bill Peschel | March 11, 2005 06:12 PM

Getting your name into a book is easy: simply write a review trashing someone's debut mystery. They'll be happy to star you in the next book as the corpse. Eaten by turkey vultures.

She had the last laugh, however. Her two series are still in print:


Dave | March 11, 2005 06:14 PM

Your desire/love for a gazebo will end the minute someone asks you to paint the damn thing...

John Scalzi | March 11, 2005 08:34 PM

Link doesn't work, Bill.

Dave: If I'm going to pay someone to set it up, you think I wouldn't pay them to paint. My sloth knows no bounds!

Thomas Armagost | March 12, 2005 10:59 AM

Get the mini and the chair. Blow off the rest of your wishlist. Mac OS X can be tweaked to accommodate any USB mouse. For example, the Wacom Intuos3 6x8 tablet comes with a five button programmable mouse that's Mac compatible. Do you have big paws? Consider the three button whale mouse. It's UNIX friendly. Or just use any one of the USB mice already in your possession. Crikes, this comment resembles spam. Feel free to moderate it.

Harry | March 14, 2005 10:14 AM

Nice chair.

Jon H | March 14, 2005 09:36 PM

I use a Microsoft keyboard and trackball with my G4 and with my PC, through a KVM switch.

Ironically, the Microsoft trackball works better with OS X than with Windows XP. Microsoft screwed up their Windows driver a version or two ago, which messed up the ability to assign functions to the buttons. I have two buttons which I like to have assigned to page up/page down. The first driver revision took away the ability to assign pageup/down to buttons, for no apparent reason. Then they put that back in, but it doesn't always work.

I use Microsoft's drivers on OS X for both devices.

Jon H | March 14, 2005 09:39 PM

"Urban legend (although probably true) is that the one-button mouse is a personal obsession with Steve Jobs."

Actually, when Jobs started NeXT, the NeXT computer's mouse had two buttons. One would bring up a duplicate of the main menu, wherever the mouse pointer was.

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