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And no one sings me lullabyes
And no one makes me close my eyes
So I throw the windows wide
And call to you across the sky.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

Really intelligent stupid people. (Rant)

Today just seemed to have been one of those crystallization moments (you know, super saturated solution meets seed and bang, crystalline structures everywhere). Not in a good way.

First was the NASA Chief spouting his ignorance of Global Warming (now known as Global Climate Change). At least he can be excused as a political appointee in a administration more concerned with political correctness (that's a long essay on how PC is actually conservative, but here I'm talking about fealty to the Bush family) and religious affiliation than with competence (you did listen to the Monica Goodling testimony and all the scuttlebutt about our rebuilding corps that went to Iraq). I'll need to do another post about all of the twists and turns that took on NPR. There was also the Early Human program on Discovery (OMG, say, can we vet these things for cultural prejudice?). And the stupidity at work. But I don't want to discuss that.

Nope, today was also when Microsoft, the people who brought you the Blue Screen of Death, unveiled "Surface Computing" (Microsoft page, Internet News, just do a google for "Surface Computing", can't miss it). Really intelligent people being stupid all over the place. But, hey, that's Microsoft (IMHO).

So, the one thing they like to say (on NPR and TV) this would be great for is restaurants. Restaurants. This is high stupidity of the first order. This is why Windows is the piece of dead weight that's sucked down man-centuries of productivity into the null bucket, this is why modern programmers couldn't find a wet paper-bag to fight their way out of. Seriously. My bone fides? I was in Computer Science/Math as my first major, the one where I had an Honor's Program scholarship. I'm from that generation that still thinks it's good that your 150 line program I can reduce to 10 lines (5 of which are the sort subroutine) because that's a Good Thing(tm). And it's something still very relevant. HTML anybody?

So, why is this so dumb? Okay, so let's put aside the ergonomics of this device, let's also set aside the resolution, let's also set aside the lack of human contact (if I go to a luxury establishment, you know, one that could afford this, give me this instead of someone at the counter and you're going to get a very grumpy customer), let's also ignore the fact that it's not "play" for me to use in your store, it's work. I'm your customer, stop making me work for you for nothing (well, actually I'm paying for the privilege). Why is this dumb?

Because it shows a serious misunderstanding of their core push. One, $5000 for a table? No restaurant is going to pay that price. Two, when was the last time you had an excess of foot space at a table in a restaurant? Yeah, didn't think so. Think those owners will want to lose a table or ten to roll these out? Just on those two criteria, this gets a big "F." Reminds me of the algorithm experiment about writing a logic structure to put on and tie your shoes. Who forgot to put on their socks first? Everybody who works at Microsoft.

Okay, so, let's get past those. Let's say the big M is able to convert this all to a flat plasma or LCD monitor, mod in the infrared sensors, put in the Bluetooth, WiFi, and all that other supporting tech and get the price point below $1000 (good luck with that).

The first five-year old with a spoon spells the death of this machine (fork or knife? fuggetaboutit). If you can't sterilize the surface, you're doomed (no FDA food surface approval, you ain't getting anywhere near the restaurant). If the surface can't take 112 degree heat only three inches away from 60 degree heat without cracking, you're doomed (imagine the sizzling fajita platter next to a cold beer). Can it handle a wet cloth or how about a full glass of milk spilling? Crumbs? Oh, and will it make my cold-beer warm? (Bzzzzit!). Also, you want to replace waiters? How dumb is that? Maybe the programmers, who I'm guessing here only tip around 5-10% and think that's way too high, don't think their service is any good (might be another reason for that, me buckos). Your table better be able to bring me a refill before I'm out of the last drop in my glass.

Edited 06-01-07 12:50pm Anonymous posted about using a glass top on the table. I misunderstood and was a bit pissy. Now that I have caffiene in my system (oh, caffeine, is there anything you can't make better?) I understand what Anon was saying. Yes, that would help with FDA, also with some heat dispersal (but not much, next time you see such check out the condition of the surface beneath the glass). Also I think it might interfer with the touch screen mechanisms, fixable, but in a way that creates "interface sloppiness" which degrades the experience. It also doesn't help mask the heat from the projector below. Warm beers again. And while it protects from crumbs and spills, it doesn't fully protect it.

And you want to replace the wait staff? Um, maybe you all ought to re-examine just what a restaurant is all about. If you answered "the food," you have the second reason (in priorities) for restaurants. Do I need a "media rich experience" while ordering food. Nope. Do I need to speed up the experience? Nope. Do I need to have as the reason my food took an hour to prepare and arrived cold a computer failure? Nope.

Before this gets into restaurants I see fast food places installing self-checkout lanes (existing, proven tech, and in fast food, you want the food fast, not the restaurant experience and they're already wired for computer based order processing).

And do you really think I believe all this "wonder kiosk" crap? Nope. 'Cause I've been to company websites, so I know the "depth of information" that the company wants to make available. It's not worth it.

I'm just waiting to see how Apple did this project three times better and with more realistic goals (iPhone anybody, multi touch=the scrolling touchpads). Also, John Scully (former Apple CEO) was talking about this back in the 90's when he still was CEO of Apple.

From Zero to Buried in 20 Minutes

Last night I hit a point I hadn't been to in a long time. There were no vinyls on my desk when I left (with no prospect of them showing up when I was gone). This morning I finished up some other scutt work. Coasting good. A good day.

And then the avalanche started. And it's all do today by 3pm. Blech.

It's not easy, being green.

Frequent commentor and really nice person LBB pumped out an awe inspiring 5000 words the other day. She's tapped into the mother load. You go, girl! You leave us open mouthed and green with envy, and so happy for you.

Just so there's no pressure, most of us realize that such an effort won't be an everyday occurrence. But as long as the words flow, there nothing wrong with trying to drink from that firehose. What would be a larger crime would be to intentionally tamp it down to a garden-hose flow.

For those of you non-writers, 2000 words a day is considered a good pace. NaNoWriMo, National Novel Writing Month (November), sets a goal of writing a 50,000 word novel in 30 days (no rewrites, that's in February). That comes out to 1667 words a day. Most people who try it don't make it.

My personal best came to about 3000 words in a day. I don't "write" (that is, for my stories and novels) evey day, so making a comparison would be absurd. Especially since I haven't typed much in since middle March. If I average about 500-700 words a day, I think I'm doing good. But those come in 1000-2000 word chunks.

For anybody thinking of starting writing (or wanting to get back to it), from all the books and advice I've received, writing everyday at the same time and in the same place is the best way to do this. I don't have that luxury, so I get what I can. I don't produce much in a year, either (normally 2-3 short stories, mulpitple fragments, and little progress on the novels). That needs to change. So far this year I have one short story, many fragments, and no progress (other than notes) on the novels. I think I can get two other short stories (7-Year Itch, and what I'm calling "Daddy's Little Girl" which I put up the first sentences yesterday) out this year. I really want to get at least half of "Post-Rapture Industries" out as well. Must type more.

Other frequent commentor, Todd Wheeler, is in the middle of a program to gain back time to write. I've tried that. I even choose the day job in an effort to help my writing (I had a choice, this one paid a little more, and leaves me with creative energy at the end of the day, instead of feeling like my brain is a freshly wrung washcloth as I drive home). I think there's a few more things I can cut before I get to leaving money on the table. Now, it remains to be seen if I have the willpower to do it.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Beware the Jabberwocky

Scatterbrained, can't focus. So here's some random thoughts.

We finally have cool computer technology, like a 70's scifi movie. Unfortunately, it's Microsoft technology. Which means it's a distopian future that's only bright enough that we need shield our eyes.

Also, on the topic of story openers, sometimes you get them right off. Most times, I think people could follow the story advice I heard a long time ago, "Write it all out, toss the first third in the waste bin, and rewrite the opening line for that point." Sometime I write the opener as the last piece. But sometimes good stuff comes right off the Muses teletype (not a Story Bone).

"It was three weeks after the funeral that the crying began. I got up, half dead and on automatic at two in the morning, said to my wife, "I'll get her," and stumbled to the nursery. It was only when I saw all the boxes ready for Goodwill that I remembered she was gone."

And Who Watches the Watchmen

It's on tonight! Okay, so if you don't watch any other episode of Ghost Hunters you should watch the one playing tonight on SciFi at 8pm eastern. It's the haunted lighthouse. I'm pretty sure this is the one (they've done a few lighthouses) where they get the full upper-body apparition. Of course, they've done a few lighthouses (in one a chair moved, in the other not much happened). Another good episode is on at 7pm, the Stanley Hotel (inspiration and set for Stephen King's "The Shining"), and then at 10pm is the Irish Elemental Episode, which is okay (there is an attack on a crew member, but not much caught on camera).

So if you have cable, and you get the SciFi channel, and you're near the TV tonight at around 8pm, tune it in. If it's the episode I think it is, you should have a fun time. You know, if you like this stuff.

Edited 9pm 05-30-07 Well, it was the episode I thought it was. I guess they're running the "best of" episodes because next week begins All New Episodes. I hope you got to catch it, it really showed them doing the things that I like. They mess with each other (in a "we're all friend here" kind of way), they debunk some things, the work as a team, they get all excited, and they catch cool stuff. Ao if you're on the West Coast (LBB :), you might still get to catch it when it play on local time.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

It goes like this, the fourth, the fifth, the minor fall, the major lift

Work is a struggle today. There are moment of high confusion followed by moments punctuated with the phrase, "OMG, it's Tuesday?!"

Edited 05-29-07 4:50pm So, I was looking forward to leaving on time (3:00pm). Here I still am about to get ready to leave (read, at least another 15 minutes). What a day. At least it isn't 8:00pm.

but you don't really care for music, do you?

Doing research this morning on a story idea (well, almost half the story came tumbling out between that Thursday and Friday) and I fond something that just makes me giggle. About.com has a Paranormal Phenomena section. Okay, things have just gotten bad. On top of that, this is my first true-out ghost story, so I'm looking for similar stories and I've come to the conclusion that Real True Life(tm) Ghost Stories have the same problem as Penthouse Letters (i.e. they're written by up and coming professional writers). I haven't read much of them (mostly those that use the same prop I'm using), but they have that feel, "You just won't believe this, but I swear it's true." Yep, some of them use that old chestnut. At least my ghost story is a story, not a RTL(tm) thingie. Now I need to go back to the About page and see how far I need to dig before getting ot the "Bloody Claw" story. My inner-child is giggling.

that David played and pleased the Lord

Just 'cause I like blowing people's minds with the Amish. The Amish aren't backward, they aren't simple, they aren't itinerant craftspeople (when I was looking at house I looked at some Amish Houses, you just don't want to know), they aren't technophobic. They are, however, major consumers of cellular technology and now, solar technology. We English are about to get lapped by the Amish (which is hard for them to do in horse buggies).

I heard there was a secret cord

I have another new secret pleasure. Well, I should say my first secret pleasure, Ghost Hunters on the SciFi channel, will be having new episodes next week. Woohoo! SciFi has been playing past episodes every Wednesday, so I've caught up with some things I hadn't seen (yes, even with my secret pleasure, I don't actually get to watch it too often). If they play the Florida Lighthouse episode this Wednesday, you really should watch it. I get goosebumps just from thinking about it. More than the Irish Elemental episode.

Anyway, my new secret pleasure plays to my geekiness (I'm a card carrying geek) and my love of enviromental concerns. I'm a long-standing distributed-energy guy (our current energy model is very centralized). I can't do a lot with my current house (although I'm doing what I can). When I have the money to build the house I want, it'll only be connected to the grid as a backup. So here's a website that follows some very cool tech where I can get my geek freak on, behold the EcoGeek.

Friday, May 25, 2007

You've Got Snail Mail

The envelope is off. It took tremendous skills and a "I don't give a rat's patootie, I'm going home" attitude, but Running of the Deer is in the postal system.

Best Laid Plans

Well, here's another long weekend staring us in the face. It's Memorial Day Weekend, so do the cemetary or grave yard (did you know they aren't the same thing? A grave yard requires a church be adjacent.), clean the graves, remember those who passed, watch Formula 1 Racers go round and round in a cricle. The usual.

This weekend I hoped to get caught up with things and contruct one on the built-in shelving units I have planned fo this summer. With 12 hour days at work, I'm not ready to do that. I wasn't even able to get the old shelves (put it together yourself shelves) cleared off, let alone cleared out of the room. So then I hoped to just get caught up. I don't think that will even happen.

But on the plus side, I now get to go to a party for and with friends. After that I'll spend the night over at Mom's house. And then spend the other two days tyring to catch up.

Hope you all have a better weekend.

Slush!

Running of the Deer is all addressed and ready to go. Now I need to make it to a post office while it's still open. The lucky winner is the Slush God at Fantasy and Science Fiction. John Joseph Adams is pretty good and working through the slush quickly (he is, after all, the Slush God), so I expect to hear back quickly.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Brooding

(insert ominous music here)
Brood 13 is coming. The end if neigh! Flee! Flee for your lives!

No, seriously, Brood 13 is coming. It's an invasion. I'm not joking.

Unless you like the cicadas, if you're in the mid-west, this will be a summer of hell for some of you. Brood 13 is one of the largest cicadid populations, made up of two species (I think). After growing underground in their larval stage for seventeen years, they are emerging this summer to suck on trees, find a mate, and die. And while they're doing all that they'll create a racket louder than airplanes landing.

I lived in Cincinnati the last time Brood 13 was above ground (or actually, when the parents of this brood created this brood). You can't hear much noise off the road in a 4-cylinder car travelling at 65mph with the windows rolled up. You can hear them, though. And when I say they're comming, I mean they're comming in the billions.

Also, please don't spray them as almost everything finds them tasty and feasts on them (birds, racoons, dogs, cats, even some people).

I expect sometime in June, at the height of their mating, you'll see it mentioned on the news.

So until then. Run! Run as if you're life depended on it! They're back! Ayie!

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Don't Ask Me What I Want It For

Well, let the HFT pricing schemes begin. Yes, went into work and gas was $3.09. In case anybody tries that old, "adjusted for inflation.." line, they can stop now, 'cause it's no longer even a shadow of the truth (that is, they can't find any statistic which will continue to point in that direction, like price at the pump compared to price per barrel adjusted for inflation, which was the last statistical line). Came out, gas was $3.49. Absolutely no reason for it either.

Everybody is going to pull out all the old chestnuts, supply/demand economics (bull), shortages (flaming bull, they are scheduled), NIMBYism (flaming bull on a stick), or "maybe we ought to adjust the cafe standards for cars shipping 5 years from now" (well, that stick is now pushed through a different section of the flaming bull).*

Want to see gas prices go down? Let's do what we did last time (1982). It's call a temporary windfall profits tax. Let's say, 50% of profits when profits are greater than 25% of operating costs/expenses. All money collected to be applied directly to the US Debt (not deficit).

* This should have been done back in 2000, but the Religious Right said, "God will take care of it." (seriously, I'm not joking) So the President stopped the Clinton program of having homegrown hybrid technology by 2006 (as in 25% of fleet) for his own Hydrogen tech program deadline 2011, and there are no goals with that (and we are woefully behind in deployment of infrastructure).

Rest of the weekend

I spent the rest of the weekend reading for the writer's group. There were lots of good things in there, including a short story involving an infection that kept laughing and giggling all the way through. Really, it was funny, and meant to be funny. Then we had the critique on Sunday, along with excellent foods. Very good. Smart people talking about writing and life, it was a good cap, but a very tiring one, on the weekend.

Story Bone

Gathering the summer moon in pickel jars and storing it in the back of closets and cold cellars, only to find them years later, glowing under cakes of dust.

Monday, May 21, 2007

Bring Out Your Dead

Well, this weekend I started on my summer sunburn rotation. The first one isn't bad, it's the later ones where I peal. I stood out in the sun for most of Saturday morning unloading cars and trucks of the various detris that had piled up in peoples lives. And seriously people, don't let your stuff get like what we see every year. It's just disgusting. I've helped our streets guys now for the past four years (they get paid per hour, me, I'm salary on my night job). And I'm seeing that each year has a theme. Last year was computers. We tossed dozens of them. I took my little toolkit with me this year to hank some hard-drives out to create my own external RAID system. Not a single computer this year.

This year's theme was moldy clothes. Which we couldn't accept (general garbage). I mean many people with multiple (one truck had at least 10) black garbage bags full. One pick-up truck with the bed stacked in general garbage (including food stuffs, fortunately all bagged) which we couldn't accept. Seriously, where do they keep this stuff?

We filled three roll-off containers full of stuff (we use the back-hoe once we have to close the door). We didn't fill the two metal only containers (we get those for free and get some scrap money back, last year was a whopping $235, total cost of the weekend is about $2300). So, a succesful day. Now I just need to schedule in a contractor to clean up the brush piles (no open burning in the Village).

Friday, May 18, 2007

Your bags have been sent ahead, where is it you are staying?

Well, Running of the Deer aka The Wild Hunt is in an envelope. I just don't have an address on it, or reply card, or a SASE. Well, halfway through the battle, eh?

When I did the Pirate Story, aka Robert's Thunder (oh, I'm all about HTML markup today!) I tried the experiement to post my wordcounts as a whip to get me to the end. I think I need to do that for my other stories. As I expand my blogging world (what? me? procrastinate? nah) I'm seeing other authors employing this (Tobias Buckell, although he's fallen off the bandwidth wagon, and Cherie Priest). While I'm feeling itchy to get back to logging word count, I'm still dealing with lots of outside work and distractions. So, next week I plan to start that. Maybe I'll post the word count on the "In Progress" section for all those stories (some of which I need to dust off). I've also though about restructuring the Links and In Progress side bars.

So much to do, including reading for the critique group on Sunday (I don't think I'm going to get everything done), clean the bathrooms (yes, still needs to be done), logo work, village work, our Village Cleanup Day is tomorrow (there goes the morning), and sleeping. But, hey, it's less than last week.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Sweet Dreams Are Made of These

The book is coming in bits and pieces. I just wish they were all in order to make the typing easier. You know? Anyway, for your delight and edification, "Some people descend into hell, others swan dive into the Lake of Fire."

I'm a junk food junkie

Well, not so much anymore, but how come when the walls are closing in and there's general heinousness in the air, junk food seems so appealing to one's soul? I know that the opposite can be true, there are places I can go that are usually natural calmers. The junk food's appeal just seems stronger in times of stress and adversity.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

The Pinnies are burning!

Hey Rog, just saw this. We're working on sending rain your way ASAP.

I grew up in Southern Jersey in a small town called Gibbsboro. My experiences there probably warped me into the person I am today. We had a vampire. No, seriously, guy went around biting people on the neck. Escaped our local police force a couple of times. And then there were the Pine Barrens and the Jersey Devil. James Taylor maybe going to Carolina in his mind, but I go back to the Pine Barrens and velvety nights in pine scented air (of which I am allergic) and the abandoned psychiatric hospital just down the road. And the sound of hooks on the roofs of cars. A snapping turtle with a shell the size of a manhole cover. And the mobsters. Always had to be careful where you fished.

You say Tomat-oo and I say you're insane

So, the Prez has finally found a sucker, I mean, able body to fill the role of War Czar. I think I stated my comments on this title before. But, see, he's actually, "The Full-Time Manager of the Wars in Afganistan and Iraq," which, you know, I thought was CentCom's job. One commenter stated that this would be an awfully long title to fit on a business card (I could make it fit), so I'll suggest my alternatives, Scapegoat or Fall Guy, your choice. Say, isn't this exactly what a War Time President/Commander in Chief is supposed to be doing? Clearly the sign on the President's desk is, "The buck doesn't stop here, keep moving, nothing to see."

Edited I thought of a better sign, "The buck doesn't even slow here."

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Diggity

With the increased postal rates I queried Weird Tales about my story. Well, first bonus of the increased postal rates, it seems that my submission, as I feared, dropped down the rabbit hole inbetween the editorial musical chairs. So I resubmitted and was able to say "per request" on it to boot. Woohoo.

Duty

Well, washed the car and mowed the lawn, continued to straighten up a little. No bad for a day off work. The brain is working better now that I'm not thinking about this suit.

Ding, Dong, the Witch Is Dead

(continuing with "D" titles)

So, not only is that a gag from the first chapter in my book, Post-Rapture Industries (working title), it is also what I said when I heard Jerry Falwell had passed from this side of the veil, who was an inspiration to write the book, but not in the good way. Fortunately for me, I still have Dobson and all the rest (including our homespun wacko, Ernest Angley). So, my personal constellation of inspirational thousand-points of light is now 999 points of light (yeah, turn it upside down, but still the Number of the Beast is 616, it was previously mistranslated because part of the text was missing). On the upside, there's a nice bar-b-que somewhere in the celestial cosmos, cause fat burns slowly and brightly and his brain was as choked in fat as his jowels, and I say that as a large man myself.

When I was in high-school, while others were writing rock music lyrics on their binders or who loved whom, I wrote, "Immoral Minority." Yeah, Jerry affected me even back then. So you'll excuse me as I round up the other munchkins and we engage in another round of a boisterous rendition of the aforementioned song.

Done and done!

Well, on the plus side we came to an agreement on the suit against my committee. I didn't like it, myself. But then, I was just representing the committee, not the Village. It was the Village that came to the agreement. We'll implement it and get it done. So now I can think about other things. All that junk, arguments, positions, history, who said what when and what their hand position was when the said it can now all go into the big junk file of the brain. Next, I need to drink to empty that file. It's been accumulating for many months because I haven't had a drink since Confusion.

I can feel my mind shifting. So hopefully we'll be cranking out the words again. Yippie.javascript:void(0)

Monday, May 14, 2007

D'oh!

Dagburnit! I just had one of those moments when you realize that you forgot something. The muse has been sly and shy, and since it was a Big Idea(tm) I thought, "I'll remember that to write it down later." And then I clean the machine, make plates, answer email, blog, and then remember that I didn't write it down but can't remember what it was. Argh! (Smack).

Once that happens, the muse gets even quieter. It's only when she trusts you to listen does she give the good stuff. I'm sorry. Come back. I'll write it down this time, honest.

Dis, Dat and da Udder Ding

So, didn't get done nearly half the things I needed to have accomplished this weekend. But, Mom's doing good. She's exhibiting many characteristics of her Mom, and not in a good way. Ah, well. Put in a new sliding door screen for her, assembled some outdoor furniture, Bette spray painted some wicker stuff. We made several trips to the hardware/Wal-Mart. So we were highly productive, at Mom's place. Sunday was mostly a "move things around" day, finished up some projects that only needed a slight amount of time, but needed equipment that I purchased this past week. Finished some archiving I wanted to get accomplished. Sent off some correspondence that needed to get out.

Still need to read for this Sunday, clean the bathrooms, mow the lawn (again!), clean the garage, prepare the office for built-in bookcases, and vacuum the floors. Margle.

Up on deck this week, well, the only thing I can really think about right at the moment is the Mandatory Mediation tomorrow with the people that are suing my Committee. I reviewed some documents yesterday to prepare. It'll either be a very long meeting, or a very short one. I'm feeling vaguely Hulkish about it, right at the moment.

On the way up I'll need to stop by our County Seat and get the petition for re-election. Then I'll need 25 people to sign it. The joys of elected office just never end. On the plus side, if I'm able to convince 25 people to sign my petition, and I'm re-elected, I get a pay raise (that we voted for 3-years ago). So I'll get a grand total $400 a month (before taxes) starting next January. Woohoo! I'll be able to afford that operation now! (just kidding about the operation).

Friday, May 11, 2007

Walkin' On the Moon

Again, another slow work day at noon. Hopefully I'll get to leave on time today (3pm).

Of course, email has been down all morning. It was supposed to be back up at noon. It still isn't there. It could happen (because it has before) that there are mucho ads to be completed just waiting in ether-bit limbo to come storming out, screaming like flaming wood-ducks, right after the email flood gates open.

It could also happen that there's a bunch of small press stuff just waiting to be plated that the CSRs just haven't processed yet because they were working on large press stuff. It's happened before. Slow to "OMG where the heck did this all come from"/Avalanche in the space of a few minutes.

I Wanna Be Sedated

Well, we're approaching the first week on Glucophage. At my last exam my level of insulin was high and the dcotor felt I have Metabolic syndrom, AKA insulin resistance. I'm not up to full dose yet, but I'm feeling the effects. I'm much more tired that before. The other day I felt the "sugar crash." I haven't experienced that for a long time.

Hopefully with this treatement I'll be able to lose the weight. I walk about 6 to 10 miles a day at work (I used to wear a pedomoeter) which should be enough to keep trim, but I'm gaining weight (just a little every year, it adds up). I'm over 300lbs right now. I work like a mad man in the yard. Not as much as I used to, but I can still sling wood and dirt better and faster than younger kids (I know this by helping my neighbor, and he hires kids to help).

This weekend we go to twice daily doses. In another two weeks I'll be up to full dose.

Burning Down the House

So this year's fire season is off to a ripping start. Say, remember back in 2000 how the bad fire season was blammed on Eveything Bad Is Clinton's Fault(sm) and all those tree-huggers out there and how the New Bush Administration was going to change all that by thinning out the forests and removing all the "overly thick growth." So, how's that working for you all?

You Spin Me Right Around, Baby

Here in NE Ohio car manufacturing is big business. So when Ford closes plants, we all notice it, especially when it's our plants. There's going to be a lot fo people out of jobs soon. And the spin doctors are working overtime.

Yes, see, it's all those dirty union jobs that are the cause of the problem. See, the union makes us pay way too much for things. The union protects bad workers. The union is at fault. Teh union is draining the coffers with their greedy contracts

Bull. If all the union workers Ford is letting go (some places say all Union Ford Employees, but lets be generous) made $75,000 a year (which they don't) it would cost the company, with benefits, around $12 Million. The new Ford CEO's signing bonus (that is, how much he got just to sign the contract) was $18 Million. Who is the greedy sob dragging the company to the grave? It isn't the union workers.

And I've said this before, we can build anything in this country better than anybody else in the world. But we can't engineer passenger cars to save our lives. And those engineers aren't union. Soon, we'll also be shown that we can't engineer light trucks either.

It's spin. Don't accept it when a company says they can't afford union employment or that they can't afford medical benefits or pensions. They're lying.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

My Honorable Discharge

I've been asked why I don't like writing Military Fiction by both LBB and now Ryan so I guess I need to explain. Understand, I have no problem with other military fiction, I've enjoyed many books (Hey, Scalzi and Tobias), SF and otherwise (yes, I've read most of Tom Clancy, at least all of his early stuff). It's my writing military fiction I have a problem with.

First thing, I can't be truthful with this. There are standing orders that prevent my full disclosure and while those orders are two decades old I'm still upholding my oath.

I have a long history with the military. My name isn't German, it is Salvic, and it's meaning implies my ancestors were swordsmen (not everybody in medieval Europe were permitted to own or carry swords). My Great Uncles fought in WWII. My Dad helped install the first missile defense system our country had (it was intended to shoot down hyper-sonic bombers). My brother loved (notice past tense) the Navy. And that's where I come in. My brother was very involved in JROTC and Reserves. My mother was a Warrant Officer in the Reserves to support her oldest son. And I went along as well. That's where I learned protocol, marching, military this and that. But I never liked the military. In fact, I hated it. My Mom and brother were willing to overlook things that drove me batty. My brother joined the Navy and got a cryptography slot. That's when I went to college.

My background is working class poor. We weren't always that way, but after my parent's divorce, that's what we were at the time. I qualified for a conditional Honor's Scholarship at Akron U, the school I choose (MIT couldn't offer the financial support I needed). My High School grades weren't good (2.6gpa), that's another long story. However, my SAT and ACT scores were excellent, and every other test score I had showed that I wasn't applying myself in school. Then, the Air Force also offered a scholarship, full ride. After they saw my grades, though, they asked to see one semester of college first. So I went to Akron and joined the AF ROTC program. A four-year hitch in return for both college and job skills. This was the mid 80's and those things were a definite plus at the time.

I blew the doors off my first semester. I lit a fire in the ROTC program, and I took the OCT (Officer Candidacy Test). My score was so high that my commander (a full-bird Colonel) told me if I hadn't had shitty eyes the AF not only would have guaranteed (that's the word) my pilot slot, they would have paid for my civilian flight training (you learn to fly jets in the Air Force, you don't learn to fly). I was in like Flynn. And they had other uses for smart, angry young men like myself. He made some recommendations. My scholarship was approved for the next semester. Since the AF Scholarship had lower requirements than the Honor's Scholarship, and paid more, I signed on the dotted line and allowed some of the recommendations to go forward.

That spring semester I failed Calculus II. Things were happening fast. I was going here and there, and I was starting to have difficulty with college. I retook the class in the summer and got an A, but since it wasn't a full load in the summer (as I was working, etc) I was still on probation.

Life went to hell that August. My brother had washed out of the Navy on a medical. My Mom had cancer, my Grandma went into the hospital, and my fiancée (high-school sweethearts) broke off our engagement and moved to California with her family instead of coming to college. Other things with my Reserve status kept getting in the way, and I had a lousy Fall Semester. I failed most of my classes and I was failing at life. I was insubordinate and vocal about my feeling regarding orders, my Reserve Commanders and the AF Cadet Commanders. I lost my scholarship.

I was court marshaled. Failure to follow the direct orders of my superior officer, insubordination, and a few other things. I was eventually (half a year later) found guilty of Failure to follow.

At this time, the world was strange. The military had reformed itself after Vietnam, but was still haunted by it's ghost. Grenada hadn't happened yet (Hey, Tobias, I wasn't there). Many of my friends who were also AF Scholarship recipients were being denied commissions on graduation and forced to pay back their scholarships. The AF was intentionally loosing personnel. Everyone (including my commander) expected I would be asked to pay back my scholarship money, nothing else.

My sentence? I was stripped of rank and privilege. My record was altered. I was given an involuntary call to active duty for two-years (longer than I had been in already), no rank or chance of promotion, no slot or choice of assignment, no chance of re-upping, no joining another branch, etc. ad nausem.

My commander helped me get an academic deferral. After six letters, and a call from my State Senators, I was allowed to change that sentence to repayment of scholarship monies (effected a year later). Which I did.

I have an honorable discharge. Not a general or dishonorable. There's a lot I can't talk about. All those privileges are gone (so, no VA Loan for me), it was a fair deal.

I changed my personality, I'm no longer that angry young man. I gained weight. I avoided military types of activities. But the body doesn't forget.

While I was forbidden any other military service, this is the first war since then that I'm not afraid I will walk out of my house to find a Humvee with two MPs waiting for me.

I am afraid because the body doesn't forget. Many years ago I accepted an invite to play paintball (they needed more guys from work so I was asked, I was overweight and I don't talk about my service). I was put on the side that was intended to lose. I freaked people out. I made one guy scream like a little girl because he never saw me coming across 100-yards of grass field until I popped up 5-yards away from him and splatted him. We didn't win, but the other side didn't have the cake-walk they expected, and it was a very low scoring day. I also displayed my command capabilities directing fire and ordering people about.

I don’t like it because I know what I was and I am no longer that person. It was a horrible time in my life and I don't want to go back there ever again.

And some of those moments back then were when I felt most alive. Standing in a forest and feeling the leaves turn with the coming rain. Hunting by smell and sound. Alive with every sense and fiber of being. And I enjoyed it. I'm wearing an inner smile as I type this remembering that. And I don't like that feeling. There's a black wind blowing there. I was good at it. I don't want to be good at it. I don’t want to enjoy it.

And that's why I don't want my only success to be for writing Military SF. I would like to have those stories be successful. But it's not what I want to write for the rest of my life.

One of those things

One of the metrics that my day-job tracks is time, and production time. See, for every plate I print there is an added estimated three minutes, which is added to my "production time" (non-payroll hours, dagnabit). Today's "production time" is three-hours and six-minutes longer than my "payroll time." And I'm not done yet. One-hour into over-time right now.

Yep. Busy, busy, busy. However, it's that "production time" when I'm waiting for the machine that I read websites/blogs, and post here.

Lessons Learned 101

There a lot of material showing up about getting past being a Neopro. I think I've given shouts out to Tobias Buckell and his series, "Getting Past Being Joeblow Neopro." It was how I found Tobias and he is not only a great source of info, a rockin' good writer, but a really nice person as well.

Merrie Haskell (did I get the name right this time, Mer? :) also links to another article "Common neo-pro mistakes: Wiscon panel 70". It's mostly notes, but some good points are in there.

I've been mulling around about "Lessons Learned," i.e. what I've learned so far trying to get published, and if I'm taking the correct lesson away from experiences. This really isn't formed fully in my head, so I'm going to flail around it for a bit, possibly over several posts.

One fear I have is that WotF will make a nod toward my "Robert's Thunder" or Weird Tales will accept "My Favorite War Stories." Why fear? Well, because I'm not really liking that trend toward military fiction. I'll need to explain why I don't like it later. So, should I take the lesson from that as "I can write good mil fic and should pour more effort into it" (which is where the fear is coming in) or should I look at other parts of the story. That is, with "RT" I try the "you're not going to see this comming until I'm into the action" trick. In other words, I try to intentionally get you to root for a suicidal-car-bomber. Well, it's a light tank bomb actually. With "MFWS" I work with not telecasting what comes next (okay, you know the POV makes it out alive, but you don't know so much about the secondary characters). My self-editing has also gotten better and I throw my characters to the wolves with more glee. Can I do those with other stories (fairytales, adventure SF, etc)? Or is my genius really military stories?

Anyway, like I said, it's just a rough idea of a concern. Maybe it's only goblin talk.

New WotF Email - Career Boosting Advice

There was a new email today entitled Career Boosting Advice. And it looks like they tried a mail merge. The first line was, "Dear [First Name],".

They talk about how one of the great things abotu WotF is their week-long workshop. Which, yeah, sounds great, but from what I understand it only for those who won. "Want some ice-cream? Psych!" Then they say about how you can get the same great advice with the essays in their books (which have been somewhat good).

Argh!

Okay, so I was gearing up for a good weekend of writing related activities. Mowed lawn last night (before the rain) so I wouldn't need to do that. Was going to scrub the bathrooms (yes, I share some of the household chores) tonight. I was able to actually put the garbage out. Did I forget to mention I went home last night relatively on time, took a serious ribbing for only having 1.5 hours of overtime ("Yep, I'm making it a half day today," grin). Mom's at home and being looked after. The new computer is up and running (need to switch out).

I've got about a hundred pages to read and get ready to critique for the 20th. I'm psyched to get back to typing, been writing notes about stories. I'm back to wondering just why I haven't put Running of the Deer in an envelope. I sent off the query to Weird Tales last night. I should hear if and how I can help out an editor by transfering their World Fanatsy Membership and hotel room so I can finalize that.

And then I remember it's Mother's Day this weekend. (honk honk screech CRASH!). I love my Mom. But the trip down will suck up a whole day, and leave me tired the next. ARGH! Yes, Mom, I remember how tough my delivery was (I was a blue baby). Mom raised my brother and I single-handedly. Mom's still not all right. Sigh. Yes, Mom, I'm comming down. She doesn't read this blog, but she can hear me typing this. I know she can.

Wednesday, May 9, 2007

Great News! Well, not for me. At least it's not Scientology SPAM

Okay, I'm starting to get tired of Writers of the Future. I get an email every other day from them. All trying to sell their books and Hubbard's reprints. I know they're out there. I have a number of them in my library. You (Author Services Marketing People) tell me I have to think of WotF as a market, then please stop the SPAMming.

Today's email was

Contest Finalists Announced

Hello,

Hi, welcome to the internet and mail merge lists. You have my name, please address me as such.

I have some really exciting new news for you regarding our most recent winners and finalists for 2007.
Read on….


Oh, I will. I have a story into you all for last quarter's contest (that you're reading now). Oh, BTW, ellipses are only three (3) periods and no comma. There's no reason for the ellipses here.

First Quarter 2007 Contest Finalists Announced
The first quarter finalists for what will be published in Writers of the Future Volume 24 were just announced and the names for both the Writers and Illustrators Contests are included. From these names, the 1st quarter winners will be chosen:

WOTF First Quarter 2007 Finalists
Eugene Myers - New York, NY
Dr. Philip Edward Kaldon - Allendale, MI
David Parish-Whittaker - Encinitas, CA
Z.S. Adani - Boca Raton, FL
Laura Bradley Rede - Minneapolis, MN
Ayne Terceira - Gainesville, FL
Patrick Lundrigan - Boonton, NJ
January Mortimer - Middlesex, England

ILOF First Quarter 2007 Finalists
Stephen Stanley - Eugene, OR
Mark Koralchuk - Rostov-on-Don, Russia
Doronin Andrey Nikolaevich - Omsk, Russia
Diana Hsu - Middletown, NJ
Robert J. Hall, Jr. - Gilbertsville, NY
Alexandra Szweryn - Brisbane, Australia

Congratulations to all of you!


Well, uh, yeah, uh, congrats to all of them. But WTF? You posted this on your blog back on April 23 and First QTR results? That closed for submission Dec 31, 2006 and you should have known at the end of March 2007. Excuse me? How about 2nd QTR results, you know, the quarter that ended submissions March 31 and you should be reading your way through right now. This isn't "exciting news" this is stale news release with coffee stains, random scribbles, and phone number without a name and a missing corner-edge.

About the game of getting published, Writers of the Future judge Robert J. Sawyer says:

And here begins the "buy our book package and get five free gifts," no doubt one of which is a set of ginsu knives. And "game?" WTF are you? Are you tapped into the publishing world (I know Sawyer is, maybe you should have him write these emails). Don't you know that this phrase is a red waving flag that says, "high, we're a vanity press. We don't know any more about publishing than you do, but we'll convince you otherwise and take your money."

WotF has the best return (i.e. pay) for short SF/F fiction other than Playboy and more mainstream markets that sometimes print Spec Fic. I still qualify to submit stories. So I still submit. However, I'm rethinking that strategy. Yeah, winning would be a nice feather in the cap, as well as money in the bank, but if you keep acting this way, your reputation may not be worth it.

It's spring, and the SPAM is in bloom

I must be pretty dang luck. "Cause I've been winning all this national email lotteries lately. People across the globe who are dying in the cancer epidemic that obvisouly must be out there all want to give me their money, as long as I spend it on charity. And I know where to get great knock off watches and drugs. Even drugs that will increase the size of all these different body parts because, apparently, women in Indonesia are laughing at me. All the things this inter-tubie net thing brings our way.

Another thing, I think I forgot to mention

It's a slow work day. So you all get to benefit from my blathering. But this is something special for me.

The other night I saw the space station. When I'm driving home late, I tend to channel surf the radio to find something that's annoying (it helps me keep awake). Fortunately for me, Rural Ohio is packed with religious channels, and they're something sure fired to get me going. But I hit an Akron talk station that night, and they mentioned (for whatever reason) that at nine o'clock that night we would have a good viewing of the space station (exact time was 9:24). they gave coordinates to see it. And, glory be, it was a clear night.

I hit the village exactly at 9:22 and pulled into the Village Hall parking lot (far back from the main road, where we have street lights which sometimes really pisses me off). And right on time I spotted a fast moving point of light heading in the right direction. No flashing, and moving way faster than the planes in the air (there were about 4 I could see). Just a point of light moving across the night sky. It made me very happy and hopeful.

You should try and see it.

One of those things

As a writer, you should be very highly aware of what other people are saying, as well as what you are saying. I get some of my best story bones from conversation. Sometimes it's misheard, sometimes I wish I misheard people, sometimes it's how people say things and what that reveals about their thinking process. Yes, I do have some courses in college psychiatry, why do you ask?

Anyway. See, there are these guys in NJ who are so bad at being jihadis that they were outsourcing their video duping. Seriously, they couldn't spend $150 on a video to DVD-R device? I'm not that worried about them. On top of that, they were intending on attacking Fort Dix. Yeah, these are the seriously brain-dead terrorists. I'm not worried about them. In fact, why arrest them at all? Let them try the attack on Fort Dix. Because... (roll tape)

"Poor jihadis. They brought guns to a tank fight. Boom."

Yeah, that line is going to find it's way someplace.

Ragamuffin running me ragged

Tobias Buckell is releasing chapters to his new book, Ragamuffin. I have the ARC (thanks, Tobias!). I'm in the middle of it (also reading Magic for Beginners at the same time, along with all the audiobooks at work). So far it's excellent, and given the end of Crystal Rain, I expect Tobias to make this one as good (heck, I haven't even gotten to the scene that's depicted on the cover, which kicks-butt BTW, a scene that I heard Tobias read at last year's Confluence, and the scene is also kicks-butt). My only complaints are I now sort of miss the "Caribbean Speak" from Crystal Rain (although I have a feeling it will come up later). Also, Tobias doesn't fully describe some action and detail, which works for his style of story telling, i.e. fast paced, but sometimes leads to my own confusion. This could also be my reading books when I'm dead tired. But it's been a fun romp so far. Nothing has bumped me out of the action, in fact it's been hard to put down.

So, go read someone who has excellent craft, and some really cool ideas. If you like big SF, you won't be disappointed.

Waterloo

So, last night I'm were I do my best thinking, and I realize just what was bothering me about those poetry lines from yesterday, and the muse (or that other being, it now no longer being winter we're going to be oblique about it) smacks me.

In Xanadu did Kubla Khan
A stately pleasure-dome decree
Where Alph, the sacred river, ran
Through caverns measureless to man
Down to a sunless sea.

Granted, is mostly a standard rhyme scheme and rythmn placement, but "D'oh!"

Postage Rates, Smack! Part 2

Todd Wheeler reminds me that postage rates are about to go up (to better serve us). My submission to Writers of the Future was delayed until I could get up to date postage on it. As I don't expect the acceptance letter (yes, please) until the end of June I had to take the new rates into consideration. But I forgot my submission to Weird Tales. Time to query and ask if I should send a new SASE with proper postage. This business, what a crazy lot it is.

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Because the Muse demands

(in my best Igor voice) "Yes, master."

So, like I said, I've been thinking about poetry, and I ride in to work early, and LBB had these wonderful pictures of smoke on the water, here's some lines that came flying out of the blue. The muse demands they be posted. Here it is.

Down below the grindylow
swim though twilight dreams
the washer women prepare their folded hair
and tend to your shroud's seams.

It's too sing-songy for me. I've studied poetry. I love Ferlinghetti. But there it is.

The muse has been proflic today, once I wrote those lines down. So here's to major breaks after I post this (and hopefully my typing will get better, it's been going downhill all day).

Monday, May 7, 2007

On the Road, Again.

Sent in my registration and booked the room for Confluence. I had a fun time last year.This year I'm thinking of going the extra mile and taking a day off of work to get there early. I missed some good stuff that first afternoon. This con is a very well attended small but growing con that drew a lot of big names last year. I wish I had known more about con going and people then, I would have had a better time. As it was, Tobias Buckell kept going and going like the energizer bunny, and I was dead-tired from work. Sorry, Tobias. This year, I hope to be better (hence the taking the day off). Good folks, good panels, good parties, lots of nice energy. I hope to see everybody there again and have a wonderful time.

As a side note, I'm still working on going to World Fanatasy. If you're thinking of going, the deadline for $125 memberships is this month on the 15th. The main hotel is already booked (but they have a second hotel).

Hey, Ho, Let's Go

Kelly Link just kicks my butt. I'm in the middle of Magic for Beginners and enjoying it immensely. It's be a while since reading an author has adjusted my voice, but Kelly Link is doing just that (argh, that's not my voice! delete delete delete). So I need to finish that book soon. There are things of hers I want to take away, the ease of telling a lie. Seriously. She'll just walk right up to your reading eyes and say, "tricked ya." I've been trying to place where I knew her style from, and once it hit me, of course, it was so damn obvious. She's writing down stories like oral tradition. Now I know that, I can see the mechanics, the hard-worked simple presentation, the "breaking the fourth wall" style of including the reader. Understand that I think she's great.

A few years ago I was into oral traditions and went to a couple of storytelling events. They are exceptionally exciting, better than poetry readings, IMHO. You get both the story, the entertainment factor of someone standing up in front of you, and you get the real power of words and rhythms. And when storytellers try to outdo each other, stand back and hang onto something that won't give way in the ensuing tumult. There was a young guy who had audience participation by having us repeat "Ho" every time he said "Hey." As the story reached its climax (a Native American fairy tale with stone people) he increased the amount of call/response. It was very effective.

So now I'm on to you, Link. I'm enjoying every minute of the ride, too.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Better Second Drafts

118 words, the repetition is tighter, the sentence structure makes more sense. The frags work better.

"We planted another boy today, old enough to husband, not around enough to father. Small mercies there. We've practice so everybody knew what to do. We knew when to line streets and welcome him home. We knew the correct, repeated, so sorry words to say. Waited in line to say them to his parents and wife. We knew the honor guards' names from before. We knew to line the streets again as he went to rest. We could recite the well-worn words of commendation spoken before the open ground. We knew which casseroles we liked. We knew the precise moment to crack the right joke in the church basement. We were well practiced. Wars make for good practice."

Crappy First Drafts

Ever since LBB posted about her getting two (in the voice of the Count "Two. Two. Count to Two. Ha, ha, ha.") I've been thinking about short-shorts, and not the clothing kind.

One-hundred and twenty word short fiction. Just how the heck are you supposed to tell stories in less than 2300 words (my shortest "finished" piece so far)? I think it's in the implications of the language. So here's a crappy first draft, written mostly on the way to work ("Paper is for wimps" - Toby from the West Wing).

"We planted another boy today. Old enough to be a husband, but not around enough to be a father, small mercies there. We've had practice so everybody knew what to do. We all knew when to line the streets and welcome him home. We knew the right often repeated, so sorry words to say, waited in line to say them to his parents and wife. The uniformed honor guard we knew their names from before. We knew when to line the streets again as he went to rest. We could recite the well-worn words of commendation spoken before the open earth. We knew whose casseroles we liked for afterwards. We knew the precise moment to crack the joke in the church basement. We had all gotten well practiced. Wars make for good practice."

133 words. I had to stop myself from doing preliminary rewrites as I typed it in. The rythm breaks at points, I don't have some words in the right place for a good repetition. So there is the crappy first draft. I need to lose 13 words (I think I know which).

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

Mine, mine, mine, down, down, down, go, go go, mine, mine, mine

So, I'm writing some more of a story bone I put out there early in the month. That was:

"These are not my hands. My hands are warm and strong and meaty. These aren't my hands. These thin and shaky, couldn't harm a fly, not able to grip hands, diseased hands, non-feeling hands. See how they rub together with no warmth, see how the cadaver fingers weave around each other, no magic, no spark. I don't care if they're on the end of my arms, these just can't be my hands. These hands didn't play guitar or put together a thousand erector sets, touch my wife and make love or bathe in the ocean. These aren't my hands with pain filled fingers."

One of the newer sections:
"The good and the bad, always a minus with the plus. Never in balance, the minus tally was higher, until I became unreal, non-rational, imaginary. So you stick this needle in my arm and add to me I know you're subtracting a whole lot more. That okay, there's not much more to give. People have always taken more than I've given. Now that they've taken so much, I'm an empty vessel. But even now they ask for the vessel after all the piss and vinegar is gone. All the bad drains away."

"Freebird!"

Hey, Little Bird Blue, a frequent commentator, all around sweet person, whose currently traversing the US, and one more sub-clause, had two short stories picked up for an anthology. Woohoo! That's excellent, LBB. You all should go over and tell her just how wonderful she is! Short-shorts, those are a hard gig. Congrats, LBB. I knew you were a talented reviewer for the prestigious Greenman Reviews, and now this. So talented.

And she shares too. The antho she's in is still open, and she has the info on her blog.

'Cause I'm a Man

And in other medical news, turns out my testosterone isn't low after all. Second lab puts my numbers right in line. Well, there's one less thing to worry about.

Still need to see the endocrinologist about the insulin thing.

Mayday!

Happy May Day and International Worker's Day. Knock off early and dance around the May Pole. Blessed be.