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issue 12
January 15, 2019

Time Machines

One of the big memes this week is posting photos from 2009 and 2019 showing how much (or how little) you’ve changed.

Unlike the ice bucket challenge, which always struck me as a perverse form of self-waterboarding performance art, I’m happy to join the mob on this one.

It’s impossible to look at your own face objectively. You can only view yourself in mirrors and photos, which are never quite what other people see. But to my eyes, my husband Mike and I have aged on the lower end of expectation. We’re both clearly the same people, with no shocking changes. For me, having shaved my head in my early twenties means that my hair never changed from brown to gray, or thick to thin. (It was never thick.)

What’s changed most between the two photos are the iPhones that took them. The 2009 photo comes from my friend Amy Higgins, who remembers taking it on the first day she got her iPhone. The 2019 photo is from my iPhone X. Cameras really have gotten dramatically better.

What will the 2029 cameras be like?

Assuming we’re still talking about a 2D representation of someone’s face, it’s hard to imagine where there’s room for dramatic improvement. But it will happen, and it won’t be mere megapixels. Perhaps we’ll be capturing the entire light field and rendering in a very different way, more like how we create videogame characters. Or maybe we’ll just be asking our phones to create of new photo of us from existing photos, like these amazing generative adversarial networks.

Whatever the technique, I hope to look on the low side of ten years older.

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In celebration of the 2009 to 2019 meme, this week’s links are all about time:

Future past. Did you know Google books has an archive of Popular Science magazine going back to 1925?

Free for all. On January 1, a bunch of famous works entered the public domain, which wouldn’t be remarkable except it is the first time it had happened in more than 20 years.

Not a coincidence. The Pudding has a great site to demonstrate The Birthday Paradox.

How talking points are made. Max Read has a good look at how ideas travel from joke tweets to lead new stories in just a few days. In this case, absurd screeds about Rudolph the Reindeer.

Dystopian YA caste systems, real-world edition. This video about different colored ID badges at Google is eight years old, which means it predates a lot of fiction like Insurgent. Also, I’m kind of scared to link to it, in case the algorithms identify me as an enemy of the hive.


Arlo Finch 1.5 and 2

The paperback version of Arlo Finch in the Valley of Fire came out in the U.S. last week. The cover is gold this time. I love it.

The second book in the series, Arlo Finch in the Lake of the Moon, comes out February 5th. I’ll be doing a one-week tour visiting schools in St. Louis, Seattle and Portland before coming back to Los Angeles for a launch event at Chevalier’s Books on Larchmont on February 9th at 12:30pm.

The review copies of Lake of the Moon have been out for a few weeks. It’s been great to see that readers like it even more than the first book. My friend Nima says it’s the Terminator 2 of the series. And, sure. It’s bigger and deeper. While it’s still appropriate for kids who’ve read book one, it certainly goes into some darker places, with a human villain who isn’t playing around.

If you’ve read book one, you’ll dig it. And I’ll just say it…

How do book series hit the best-seller charts? By people pre-ordering book two.

It’s simple math: Over the course of the year, X people read book one. If a lot of them pre-order the second book, all of those sales show up the first week, and you have a good chance of reaching the charts.

So it would be amazing if you’d pre-order Lake of the Moon. You can pre-order it at just about any bookstore, including Amazon.

Pre-order on Amazon
Pre-order from Barnes & Noble
Other Bookstores
Be like Adrián! I will be forever grateful.
And that’s what’s interesting this week. As always, you can email me at

Enjoy your Wednesday!


The Princess Bride
Free Screening and Discussion
Sunday, January 27 at 5pm
Writers Guild Theater in Beverly Hills (map)
WGA members get priority seating at 4:30pm
General seating at 4:45pm

Scripnotes in Seattle NEW!
Wednesday, February 6th
Details soon

Arlo Finch Reading and Signing NEW!
Saturday, February 9th at 12:30pm
Chevalier's Books on Larchmont (map)


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