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Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

It's Story Time with Uncle Steve

Ever since Al Gore went on the offensive with their ad about Clean Coal Technology exposing it for the vapor ware it is, the proponents of CCT have been hitting back. Hard. Seems to question CCT is tantamount to conservative blasphemy.

The management consulting firm I used to work for was spun off from the partnership's accounting branch, so within it's corporate culture we had many "accounting" stories that we told to each other as we sat around the bonfires of corporate earning reports and methodology manuals making 'smores and drinking ourselves into stupors.

Here's one of those stories.

Back in the day when accountants had to wear hats when going on client calls (actually, not that long ago, I think my firm finally relaxed that rule in 1990), a certain accountant went to a client in Chicago. True to form, the Windy City lived up to its moniker and blew his hat off and down the street before he could stop it. Since company rules dictated that he must have a hat, he made a quick stop in the local haberdashery and procured one. Then he rushed to make his meeting on time.

On his expense report for that trip he listed the hat as materials required for the client. His manager, being the careful accountant he was (all of them were "he's" at this time) saw the hat and called in this account to, well, account for it.

The accountant argued that since he was required to wear a hat, that it should be an expense-able item. His manager disagreed and said that a hat, even though not normally worn on the street any more (and here he decried the demise of proper attire in the commonplace), was considered personal attire and was therefore not eligible for reimbursement. After all, as a careful manager he had to watch the partnership's money. Further more, the employee should have made every effort to find his original hat.

The accountant took his time and expense sheet back to redo it. A few hours later he returned to his manager's office with the adjusted expenses. However, the manager, being the careful manager he was, noticed that the bottom line was the same as the original and pointed this out to his employee.

The accountant looked his manager dead in the eye and replied, "Find the hat."

Clean coal technology and its claim to reduce carbon dioxide footprint is a big game of "Find the hat."

Making the baking easier

MattW asked about the cookie cutter I used for the Coyote Cookies in this post. In case anybody else may be wondering I think we got it from a vendor at a local outdoor fair called "Yankee Peddler." We bought it several years ago, although YP has a good tradition of keeping their vendors. So it was probably from the Little Fox Factory. I don't see the one we have, but they have another Coyote on their "Animals" page (Coyote Cookie Cutter 96-502).

This has been a PSA for all you bakers out there.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Waiting for the year to turn

Hope you all had a festive festivus. Was offline for most of it. Did I miss anything?

This year we had three Xmases, like previous years. Had one with Mom, one with Bette's family, and one for just us. Walked up and down the McKinnley Monument. Because it's Winter we couldn't visit the dead guy inside. Then we went to the local Museum and wandered around. Had dinner with the extended family, learned a nephew got engaged, caught up with the rest of them, and in general, had fun twisting their little minds. Yes, that's the Uncle's job; warping the youth of the next generation.

Took Mom to see "Marley & Me." If you don't want to cry, do not see this movie. Yeah, I know. I knew it was just a movie, the acting wasn't all that good, you know the SPCA isn't going to allow anything to happen to the real dogs, but still. At the end they play the music very loud so nobody can hear everybody else sniffling. It also didn't help with putting Isis to sleep just a few months ago. Along with sneaking in water and snacks, don't forget the tissues.

Helped Mom take down the outside decorations on a very warm late December day. Also did minor repairs around her house. Didn't get much sleep on the bed there and my shoulder is still sore. There were three good wireless network signals at Mom's place, but I couldn't hack into any of them. Me so sad. Who told these people about network security. Oh for the days of open sharing of broadband. "Back when I was young, we had open access..."

And I stayed the (explicative) away from the malls. The nieces wanted to go shopping (actually I think they just wanted to get away from the adults and go boy watching). Yeah, let them go.

Spent some time at the hospital. That is almost like a meme lately. Nothing big, but something that you shouldn't wait to see if it gets worse. So, a shot of Benadril and we're back home.

Got lots of good swag. Looking forward to reading and watching them all. Spent way to much money on gifts. But sometimes it's worth it.

There are some new inhabitants of the Coyote Mansion who arrived just today. We'll see how they work out for the moment before giving more details.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Domestic Coyote Xmas

Just checking back in, busy with domestic things. And to wish you a Merry Xmas, the Christmas Coyote:

He looks a little doughy there. Here is a crisper image.

Yes, the coyote bakes, and cooks. A versatile trickster he is.

Hope you all are having a good Xmas.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Lightning in a Bottle

Did the final run through, had to add some words to make some of the sentences work better. We're at 4370 words now, so yes I cut some others. It's printed on good paper and in the envelope with SASE and postcard. So as soon as I can get to the post office it'll be off (either tomorrow or Wednesday). I'm going to list it in submission now because I may not be able to update the site quickly after it's off.

So (as long as the river don't rise) I'll make my yearly goal by a week. Not exactly good because I try and set my goals low enough that I know I can make them. It's all about going beyond the goals. Most people look at goals as something to reach for, I look at them as something to vault. It's a perception thing.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

1 Degree from Happy Solstice, forecast of sporadic blogging

Hey, the outside temperature is frightful. Just drove home in the drifting snow and 1 degree of Fahrenheit. Bette tells me the house has been a popping all night. There were little kitty prints out in the snow, so we left some food out (hopefully the raccoons won't get to it). It's been over a week since we've seen the little calico cat. I hope she's okay.

Anyway, Happy Solstice (a day late). Also happy Apollo 8th launch date, 40 years ago yesterday (Sunday) we launched the first manned craft to leave the Earth. Apollo 8 didn't land on the moon, but did orbit before returning to Earth.

Also, a joyous holiday of light for whichever persuasion you wish to observe this time of year.

This holiday season sees something strange in my life. With time off, holiday time, and plant closing (for one extra day, and I was able to use another vacation day) I will be off work for more than a week. Other than losing my job (happened twice) I've never had this. Granted it's only (if you include weekends) 10 days, but still. That's a long time for me. I might forget my door access code (well, not, I have it on a cheat card in my wallet, just a list of numbers with no explanation, I know where they go). But with that time off, I will be spending some of it with family (mine and Bette's) so expect sporadic blogging.

Keep warm, keep safe, enjoy yourselves and whom you're with and when it all goes pear-shaped, it's only two weeks until it's all over and you can ignore them again. The Holidays come once a year, and we're all grateful for it. Also, a Christmas Carol is not about Tiny Tim, and The Nutcracker is not about the nutcracker.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Blagojevich, Bye Bye

Rod, let's have a little confab. You look pretty young, so I don't think you understand this, but pretty much your entire press conference was a cliche. Really, only bad writers would do something like that. Because every single guilty politician has used exactly the same script.

Your credibility has hit the ground and now it's digging deeper. No, I don't give a crap, dude. Time to go. Pack the bags and shuffle off.

See, not only at the press conference did you again say that your story isn't out there, you refused to tell your story. And if "Truth" is your ally you don't refuse to answer questions. You invite questions. You stay and answer all the questions until you collapse or the questions stop. Really.

"You'll answer all the questions in the proper place and time"? Just write "GUILTY" on your forehead in mascara and for good measure point to it every chance you get.

What? Is there a script out there for politicians charged and guilty with graft? It seems so. Everything you said hit all the high points. And like I said, if I had to write a character in your position, that press conference would have gone a completely different way. Only characters in bad fiction say what you did.

Friday, December 19, 2008

I've got over a 7000 word vocabulary and I ain't afraid to use it

(Cross posted on Genre Bender)

I've made the comment that to learn dialog you should study the stand up comedians. Well, the humorists also are great users of the language. Roy Blunt, Jr. was on the Bob Edwards Weekend show a few weekends ago. I suggest you download and listen to it (free podcast). Bob also interviews a great many writers and song writers.

Best comments were when Bob asked Roy about why he was so interested in the language to write a book about it called Alphabet Juice. Roy replied he had been earning a living using his "over the counter license" to use the English language for his livelihood since he was 14.

I need to remember that phrase.

Edit Nathan over at the Polybloggimous posted a link to a vocabulary test. Scores are posted over at Nathan's place.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Delicate Sound of Thunder

Just finished another full run through. Cleared up some language, added in the two words (and a few more along the way). We're down to 4369. So another 152 words go to the big bit-bucket in the sky (and that's an eight bit bucket by the way).

It's starting to have that "dead fish" feel about it, which means I'm close to the end with it.

I have a few thirty thousand words to read and critique before Sunday, and a house to help clean up, so I'm probably not going to get back to it any time soon. But it needs to go in the mail next week.

The tide comes in, the tide goes out

"Scrimshaw Man" is once again in submissions to Andromeda Spaceways In-flight Magazine. Good luck on the opposite side of the world, little poem.

Bells will be ringing the sad, sad news

So Roddy "the Bleep" Blagojevich is going to fight it out. And he just can't wait to tell the people of Illinois his side of the story, which he's going to do RSN.

Hey, Rod, see all those people with the cameras and microphones? You know about microphones, don'tcha? Yeah, those are called "reporters." They have these things called "news outlets." Yeah, those are the people you want to tell your side of the story to.

Hear that sound? Yeah, I know it's kind of hard to hear it over all the bells that are ringing for thee, but that was the last of your credibility doing a belly flop on the concrete from one of those bell towers.

Time to write your book.

Oh, and there's this Republican Senator (sorry, although you've been on the air a few times I haven't caught your name) going around "poo pooing" the Democrats because he thinks they're trying to avoid an open election to fill the seat because (gasp) a republican might win it.

1) Live that dream, pal. 2) No, that would be a Republican strategy, us Democrats actually believe in democracy and 3) Democrats also believe in the rule of law. It's something you republicans give lip service to, but obviously you don't know WTF you're talking about because it's the Law that the Governor appoints Senate replacements.

And while we're at it, you know, everybody involved with the investigation has cleared Obama and his staff of any tainted involvement with this case (most importantly the people who've heard all the tapes and are bringing the criminal case). And yet I continue to see and hear the right wing farting class try and make a link because, "We just don't know the whole story." Yeah, I'm sure there's something about Intelligent Design that links Obama to Blagojevich's criminal activity. Oh, I know, there's probably a link through Ayers. Better get Rush on that.

Boomerang Submission! And let me sleep on it.

Leah Bobet over at Ideomancer sends word that they're over bought with poetry and so will be closed to new poetry submissions for a few months. edited for clarification

There was that little voice in the back of my head that told me not to close out all those browser windows last night. Those windows included all my searches. Ah, well. I think I know where I'll send it next anyway. Just need to double check to see that they're still open.

This is okay, because on the way in today not only did I come up with two different edits for A History of Lightning (which solve two problems I was having last night, which I wasn't very happy with my solutions then, but I think these work better) I also had a different idea for the second stanza of the poem. Yes, they're all on a little scrap of paper right in front of me.

Unfortunately I need to start focusing on house work and I've got stories to critique for Sunday. Hmm. Think I might not be sleeping Friday and Saturday nights.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Lightning strikes again

Just finished the first full run through. Changed a character's name. Can't believe I missed so much before.

We're at 4521 words. Down another 158. Still more to go, but I'm not sure I'm going to make 4250. Maybe 4400 the next time. There are some darlings that I could cut, but they really do help set place and mood. I'm not saying this because they're my darlings, I'm going from comments during the critique.

Very tired. Go up before o'dark thirty this morning to drop things off before thinking I had a long commute to work because of weather. This morning wasn't so bad, so I was into work early. But eyes are droopy and I'm writing run-on sentences so I better sign off and get to bed before my head explodes.

As dry leaves that before the wild hurricane fly

"Scrimshaw Man" is off to Ideomancer after some changes. It's still the same poem, slightly less "prosy" and fixed the last line from being such a clunker. Hopefully they'll agree.

General Random Thoughts

Amazon is one of my favorite shopping places. I don't know about you, but I tend to accumulate things in the shopping cart. When you log in and check the cart Amazon will inform you about items that have increased or decreased in price or have become unavailable. I tend to put things in that I find that might make good gifts or I might want to get, but don't need to buy right away. It's like a continuing notebook. That way I can surf for good prices. Sometimes I've got caught leaning the wrong way. Now that it's the last day for SuperSaver Shipping to arrive before Xmas, I was greeted with almost a full page of item price increases. Ain't that a kick in the pants.

Many people have talked about how our arena sports are the modern incarnation of the Roman Circus and Blood Sport. Well, I disagree. Shows like "Funniest Home Video" and now "Destroyed in Seconds" on the Discovery Channel fill that roll. Crash Lab and Mythbusters may seem more like it, but the others show "real" acts and people really getting hurt. "If it bleeds it leads" maybe the cynics view of modern local news, but these are shows that use that as their whole business model.

You know how all those news reports talk about how low interest rates have gone. Um, have they all checked the details of those low rates. Ditech requires 2.5 points. Wellfargo which is 1% higher only requires 1 point, as does Countrywide. These aren't low rates. Of course it may just be where we live, which always has higher than normal.

Way to much of the current advertising herd totally pisses me off.

Lots of happenings at work, which is strange considering how slow we are. Although today was fairly busy.

And lastly I've heard on several interviews on TV and the radio about how going Xmas Shopping during these economic times is doing your patriotic duty (either as an admonishment or by people who are so happy to spend money and be patriotic at the same time). Oh yeah. You're patriotic by going to the mall and spending money. It's just like slogging through the sand box or stan hunting down al Qaeda.I think we should make Black Friday a national holiday just like Memorial Day. Please.

I write I'm sorry but my letter keeps coming back

(Cross posted on Genre Bender)

S. Andrew Swann points us (through his blog post which has a really good LOLcat) to a new publishing group at HarperCollins that's trying something different. Here is a Reuters article giving the basic overview and a NYT article with more details about the new group and what they maybe trying to do.

I think it's good that some publishing house has not only realized that the distribution and business model of book selling is broken, but is trying something new to fix it. The "share the profit instead of an advance" has me a little worried and sets off my "Scam" alarms, but with the HC name behind it, I'm willing to give it a little room to wiggle. For that part to work, accounting at the publishers and distributors will have to become simpler than the full work-up astrology charts they currently resemble. Really, there's a whole art to figuring out when advances earn out and how much royalty is due afterward. Go ask any published author who has actually earned a royalty check. Santeria has more straightforward rules.

The process of "stripping" is also something that should be abolished and this new venture goes a long way to plunge the stake into it's heart. For those of you not in the know, many moons ago the publishing houses realized they were losing money on return shipping (having started the process of full credit returns during the last depression IIRC) so for paperbacks, they allowed the stores to strip the covers off and return just the cover for credit. The store was then to destroy/pulp the book themselves. I'm sure you've all seen the warnings to never buy a book without it's cover. You wouldn't need such warning if it hadn't been such a widespread practice. Personally, I'd rather see the front side of distribution change with adding more actual people on both the handing books to the stores and the stores buying books (IMHO, this is where printed fiction has lost the majority of their audience, the automation of the process and the reduction of real humans who actually knew what people wanted to read in their local markets on both sides of the transaction).

How this will affect the whole life cycle of a book remains to be seen (publish, sold, shelved, returned, discounted, remaindered). And as you can see they're only tackling one part of this. That part is pretty important (constant shipping of one book can soak up more than the royalty), but it exists in a larger context of the business model.

Unfortunately I see this as becoming into a more traditional "partnership" with the publisher. And it still remains to be seen how the other aspects of publishing are handled (marketing, shelf space, printing complexities, art direction, etc) with this model. For some reason (call me a cynic) I don't believe the publisher will re-shoulder more of the marketing responsibilities. Although 25 books a year is considered "boutique" from what I understand, there are small presses which publish more books. So they may be able to give more in all these concerns.

In the overall scheme, I think this is a good new practice. I have some minor quibbles, but it doesn't even sound like they have it all together yet anyway. It'll be interesting to hear from the authors that sell into this new imprint. I hope they will share and can share their experiences. It'll also be interesting to see how this would stack up against other small press deals (who I would see adopting a business model close to this faster than the larger imprints).

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

It's beginning to look a lot like rejection...

Just finished up a lot of homework kinds of things and was thinking of starting into rewrites of A History of Lightning when "I've got mail!"

The fine editors over at Goblin Fruit sent me a very nice rejection email for "Scrimshaw Man." Sent a thank you note (the rejection was very nice and I think it was close). I took a few rounds through the poem to see what I could refine. Deleted a word, added another word. And then I went to go look for resubmission while I pondered other edits.

That's when my brain sort of went, "sprung!" There was a fleetingly short burst of information across the synapses, a detailed plan of what I needed to do to find another market. Then blankness. The shoulders slumped. As I tried to recreate the process of resubmissions I didn't so much hit the wall of sleep as it came crashing in on me.

I've been burning the candle at both ends and having the emotions/expectations played to a limit for the past few days and it's caught up with me. Time to go to bed. Heck, I might even read a little (it's been over a week). Then go comatose until tomorrow morning when I need to get up even earlier than normal.

Shoe in the air, shoe in the air!

(transcript of Secret Service command channel on Sunday, December 14 - edited for date)

Voice 1: "Cut the chatter, Shrub is on the podium. Eyes on the crowd, guys."

Voice 2:"I have a mark that looks agitated in the fourth row on the aisle. He's fidgety and doesn't seem to be paying attention. Should we collar him?"

Voice 1:"Negative, probably just has to go to the bathroom."

Voice 3:"Everybody's been wanded and hand patted down, right?"

Voice 4:"Roger that. Nobody has so much as a toothpick."

Voice 1:"Let's focus on the job, folks."

Voice 2:"My marks getting worse, he's going to pull something. I suggest we put a hand on him now to calm the situation."

Voice 1:"Negative on that, we're guests in this country. We can't just willy nilly snatch..."

Voice 2:"He's taken off his shoe!"

Voice 1:"Protect POTUS!"

Voice 3:"You take the shoe for the Shrub."

Voice 2:"Shoe in the air. Whoa, did you see that? Good toss. I didn't think POTUS could bend that fast."

Voice 4:"He's dropping the other shoe. Nab him now!"

Voice 1:"Wait, give him a sec. Double or nothing on the second shoe hitting."

Chorus of voices:"Bet, bet, bet"

Voice 1:"Damn, went wild. Okay, now nab him."

But in all seriousness, the Secret Service is trained to step in front of the President in a shooter situation. Wasn't anybody there willing to take a shoe for the Pres?

Monday, December 15, 2008

Storm's Wake

This evening I ended up rewriting the ending in a continuous improvement process. I lost count of how many times I've gone through it. There's a lot of new stuff, and most of the old is said in a different way. I needed to change it to be more of a Temptation of Ben Yoder that it was. I think I made that. And Ben still says, basically, get thee behind me.

If I say, "His doctor was surprised, but ended up giving him advice about gift horses," you all know what I'm talking about, right? That one was a way of cutting about twenty words. We're at 4679 words. Down 90 some, and I haven't looked back through the whole story. Yet.

Only two links (so far - more later?)

Jeff VanderMeer returns to the Land of the Living(tm) after cranking out his latest novel. And he brings pictures of the novel process (is that the process he uses is novel, or that it's the process he uses to make a novel, I'll let you decide). Anyway, it's always good to see someone else's process if only to make you realize you just aren't all that organized. Or something. As someone who posts his manuscript markups, I should make fun should I?

Justine Larbalestier gives her opinion on writing a blog as book promotion (with a follow-up here) and I have to say I agree with her. When I started blogging, it was because I didn't have any place to say what I wanted to say (well, I could say it to Bette, but then she gives me that look that says, "Why are you telling me this?"). So, yeah, I blog to annoy the rest of you. Because I care.

Via Colleen Lindsay at the Swivet, a a post with links to the state of the publishing industry vis a vis the ZOMG We're Going Down in Flames attitude. Edit it appears that the link to Juno Books that Colleen had doesn't work (thanks Camille). Here's S. Andrew Swann with some figures from the story and here's a post at Juno Books that explains the article's disappearance.

Have a holly jolly piece of toast

For your Xmas gift giving pleasure the printing toaster. (thanks to Dan for the link)

I wonder if it duplexes?

Sunday, December 14, 2008

The week starts early tomorrow...

... so it's off to bed. I got through the entire story, adding in and making the small edits. We're at 4768 words, and there's one piece I just left at notes (explain how Jedd had to kill to get body). That might add 20 or so words.

I need to edit it back down, and rewrite for clarity in some places. I think I need to delete some, but I'm figuring I'll end up at 4250-4500 words. A little longer than when I started and what I wanted, but it does make a stronger tale (although my opener isn't as strong anymore, but I solved for POV).

Time for bed.

It Must Be a Picture Weekend

About to start on the fourth rewrite of A History of Lightning. Actually, I'm about to start the keying in part, I've already completed the "combining all the suggestions from the critique group" and the "put in all the notes you have on scraps of paper" part. And as a demonstration of such an event, here is the first page of edits.


Again, this is the fourth round of edits. So you thought it would get easier did you? Ha, I say. Ha.

Okay, to be fair, this is just the first page so it holds some of the general comments I have to keep in mind for the overall rewrites/edits. That's most of the red marks up top. And one of the comments that most people agreed with was I didn't make the POV clear in the first paragraph, so that explains most of the marks there. The other pages have less red. No, really they do. Right now it stands at 4009 words.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

Cause I'm being followed by a moonshadow

When I purchased my new digital camera I wanted to be able to take low light pictures, mostly for one major purpose. To be able to photograph the moon shadows we get in our back yard. What I'd really like in a digital camera is both a full manual setting, aperture settings of at least f64, manual focus, focal depth, and a "bulb" exposure setting (here I'm thinking only a Digital SLR will work, but even those don't fit the bill, really, until you get to buying a digital back for a standard camera, there's not much out there, and that rig starts at the $1000 level). So I went Nikon, which was the closest. It doesn't have enough capability to capture the summer dappled moon shadows, but I had hopes for snow. As you know, Bob, last night was the full moon, and as I am of a certain age, I was up at five am.

This is what it looked like out my bedroom window.

Well, it's more light in my eyes. Which is why I want to be able to hit bulb and allow the image to build on the CCD just like I've done with film.

And here is the culprit of the scene.

Yeah, sometimes I just look outside for a few minutes before trying to get back to sleep.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Even stop lights blink a bright red and green

Well, it's the holidays and you know what that means, blowing the budget on the electrical bill. Yes, when I turn on my outside lights, the other lights in the house dim. Good friend Sheila wanted pictures, so here they are.

We'll start with the inside.

For every holiday with lights, I have a great mailbox that just begs to be wrapped up.

And, of course, you need to make the gateway into the house welcoming.

And when lighting you should consider all angles, like your own view from the house (in the back you can see some of my neighbors inflatables).

And here are my inflatables. May I introduce the next heartwarming holiday special, Frosty and his two drunken little brothers.

And an "all together picture" to take us out. As you can see, my heard of deer has grown.

Five Not-So Random Link Post

(Cross posted on Genre Bender)

Justine Larbalestier has a few things to say on the need to prefect your craft. I'll reiterate here a comment I made there, in every thing you try in life you'll eventually reach a point where it becomes hard. What you do at that point determines what you really love, and what should just be a hobby. For, that point concerning writing came eight years ago. It was at that point I figured "If I'm going to do this writing thing, I need to really work at it." I could have kept at the same level I was, I enjoyed telling myself and my friends the little stories. But if I hadn't made that determination to "go beyond" and start putting more energy and start sacrificing other things, I wouldn't be close to being published now.

K. Tempest Bradford is guest blogging over at Jeff VanderMeer's Ecstatic Days and she has some words for genre fiction writers who maybe thinking about including rape, sexual retrograde mores, being ironic about the same, and how being a feminist does not automatically make your writing feminist. On her own blog she's gone off on many things that (IMHO) don't deserve the attention her vehemence brings, however she's spot on with this criticisms.

Diana Peterfreund talk about bad and good books and some writerly response. You need to read.

Matt Jarpe links back to his 5 Writing Lessons he wished he'd learn the easy way. We all feel that pain, Matt. We all do.

Dave Klecha clues us in on making advice too cliche-ish instead of helpful. And yeah, a lot of advice comes into this realm. He also reminds us, that not all advice works for everybody.

Goes far, flies near, to the stars away from here

(greped from Jay Lake's link salad)

Okay, here's a Science Fictional concept, the spaceship is the engine. I'll let you read the whole thing (if you're interested in such things) and except to say, now that is a concept. Of course, at least for me, we're still talking generational arks here (proposed speed would be on the order of 0.1C, so even a short trip to a nearby star would take centuries) as I don't believe in some of the outside "human life expansion" theories (which, IMHO, are based on the mistaken cultural belief than humans are not animals).

Now, there are other ideas for starship propulsion that have greater capacity for speed, although their energy requirements are astronomically high (as they involve the manipulation of space density). This idea, on the other hand, use technology that is within actual near time reach (like within 50 years, except for the human life extension stuff, which, like I said, I don't think will really ever happen).

Thursday, December 11, 2008

In the eyes of the Confessor, there's no place you can hide

So I need to come clean about something. It isn't a good thing, but it's something I think I need to say. I've been a bad boy.

Other than working a crazy (returned to last year's level) amount of overtime (but probably only for this week), there a whole parcel of other things happening with the day thing. As you may be aware, Bob, the economy sucks rocks. Or in the immortal words of Colonel Sandurz in Spaceballs, "She's gone from suck to blow." There's some newer tech that'll be installed in the next week which may siphon some of my work away (at least until they realize that the myths they've told themselves aren't true, but who know what direction it may take after that).

Printing and design are like canaries in the coal mine. We're usually the first to drop over as the economic air turns acerbic. It's been a little strange, and we've been slow at times, but so far no layoffs. However, I was getting a little anxious as we approached the end of the year. Good thing for us is there's still work coming in and (even though I jump on them at times) the sales team has been bringing in new clients.

Then we have one person retiring at the end of the month. So there's a staff reduction by volunteerism. And now we hear that another coworker needs to take extended leave to deal with a family issue. This really sucks, and I hope they're able to make it through it. I have some personal history with the issue, and it's not going to be a fun time and I feel very bad they have to go through this. It's a rough thing to go through, and I'm not sure I'd be able to make it if it were me.

There was a little part of me, though, that felt relieved. One more volunteer (although this employee will come back at some point), and I felt a little easier about work. And as I felt that unclenching release of "maybe I will have a job through the next year, and we'll make it through this downturn," I realized just how horrible that feeling was. Survivor's guilt is what they call it.

A bad economy, it brings out the best and worse in people. There's a movie quote, and I can't quite pull it out of memory, but I think it's Scotty from Star Trek that says something like, "Aye, and what a bastardly lot it makes us." Exactly how I feel at the moment.

Republicans Come Clean

Well, if you've been following the bail-out talks, the Republican Senators are no longer caring to hide their true intent. They want to use this bad economy to bust the union. Some of them still couch their language in terms of "making the companies competitive" but in the next sentence they talk about having the bankruptcy judge force changes in the contracts (that were just signed last year).

That's right, the party that cried to high heaven about allowing judges to change "private contracts" when it concerned your home mortgage on the grounds that "the judges shouldn't have the power to change contracts" are more than happy to have those judge change your work contract.

This is the very definition of hypocrisy. And for anybody wanting to cheer this morally bankrupt party on because "they want to stick it to the unions," I'll just remind you that this is the same party that had no compunction about giving money to the banks with no oversite. If you are not management or an owner of the business, the republican party is not concerned about you. In fact, with this argument, they're giving you the finger. If you work for a living, they want to put you as low on the ladder as they can.

Their unadulterated contempt and hatred for those people who actually make things is startling. I've posted before about how the majority of their arguments are baseless (Toyota paid their line workers more than the big three last year for example). That by forcing the companies to default on their pensions will throw those pensioners to a government run organization (that is underfunded now). Those same pensioners would also be forced onto the Medicare rolls. By breaking the union, they increase government size and control of people's lives (something that they say is an anathema, but only for the rich, gotta keep government hands off the rich peoples' money) and will result in increased payroll taxes (to pay for the increase in Medicare and to keep the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation solvent while paying reduced benefits). All things they say they're against.

This is exactly the same kind of management philosophy that led us to the precipice and spawned the formation of unions back in the late 1800s. But they don't care, as long as they keep you down.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

You say goodbye, but I say hello

(Originally posted on Genre Bender)

Joining a professional writers group has been the best thing I’ve done for my writing career to date. I’ve learned more about writing fiction participating in critiques than I have any other way. And I’ve learned the most from watching others critique others. (For more on critiquing and maybe a place to get started, The Online Writing Workshop and Critters)

I know that there’s this “thing” out there where writers are supposed to be fragile egos. Well, I went through art school, that builds up a thick skin. Calluses from the friction of critique ever single day. However, the critique is about the work, not about the person. And getting criticism from people you know, people you can ask for follow up, and from people who know how to tell a story is about the best thing you can do as a young writer.

But I’m going to touch on one subject in regards to critique workshops or groups. What do you do with conflicting critiques? (edit: Last month's meeting of the) writers group I belong to went over my latest story A History of Lightning and there were many points that the critiquers agreed on (end doesn’t have enough tension, I should forecast some things earlier, I wasn’t being true to my POV character at the end), but there were plenty where they split on advice. When everybody (or at least a clear majority) agrees that you should fix something, you really should fix it.

In case of tie, decision goes to the author. However, that doesn’t mean you should just go with your original. It means you need to think it over if you should change it or not.

My title, about as many people liked it as didn’t like it. I personally suck at short story titles and was hoping for some direction here. I’ll wait to see the handwritten notes before I decide this one. I think it’s evocative, but not really resonate with the story (it was a good working title, though).

An equal number of people felt having all the characters having on syllable names and that the two main characters are known as Ben and Jed just served to confuse the reader. Just as many felt it was perfectly fine. I think I’ll refrain from naming the bartender (he doesn’t need one here), and I’ll rename some of the other characters, but I’ll keep Ben and Jed (short for Benjamin and Jeddediah).

They split on my language usage, some calling it too “purple prosy.” One person had a distinct disfavor for my use of gerunds (although I think it was the participles and prepositional phrases). Here I’m going to keep the language poetic (that’s my style), but I’ll try and eliminate some of the gerunds (which I should anyway) any participles that dangle. General note here, gerunds often denote simultaneous action when it rarely is simultaneous.

I guess I also didn’t catch all the similes and all the typos. Some tortured sentence structure continues to cause mischief (and the worst one, that I rewrote every time I went through the story) I may just cut the idea out.

So, there you have it. Just because the tie goes to you doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do something about it. The good thing for me is most people said they enjoyed the story. One person complained about the Frankenstein reference, but more people liked it, and I think it’s critical to the story, so I’m pumping that up.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Tora, tora, Xmas

I took Sunday off to remember the Seventh of December in my own way. Which means I tried desperately to catch up with all the work at home.

I finished relamping a white-wire deer outdoor decoration. Last year we relamped the nine-foot Xmas tree. The year before I relamped some garland we had.

Why do I do this. Every time I swear I'll never do it again. And then something breaks and I have to fix it, or I try to save a little money, and I'm right back stubbing my fingers, bending my back in painful ways, and generally getting all grumpy.

But the deer is relamped and back out on the lawn. I moved it and two others to the side lawn as we kept throwing the breaker (and I replaced more incandescent strings with LEDs). When buying a house, pay attention to the electrical (also, run hot water through the taps for at least two minutes). Out front outdoor plugs are on the same circuit at our living/dinning room. Need to hire the nephew to put it on it's own breaker.

Put out less lights? What, are you crazy? (to be fair, I'm no where near those guys I remember from my youth that we would go see, or those people the local news do segments on, the ones that negotiate a special rate from the electrical companies) My neighbor and I are the big attraction on the street. People slow down as they drive by to take it all in. Of course, then they slow down and I look out because "the car is slowing down in front of our house what are they up to." Yeah, sometimes the paranoia can be a little much.

Finished up some business stuff, designed a new notepad for a client, set up getting printing quotes. And helped wrap packages. Busy boy.

Also, I wanted to let you all know I'm super-crazy busy at work for the next two days (at least). After sitting around plaguing you all with posts and comments, we're busy again (it's nice to be busy). I've got three books (benefits, contracts, etc, not fiction books, and nothing I wrote) to lay out. And the client went all explody with the different bullet points (kinds and levels, the most I've run into so far is five levels down of bullets; section, bullet, a) level, #) level, and A) level). So last Friday I was down to Zero posts to read, when I left tonight it was up to 200. You all are busy. Plus tomorrow is meeting night.

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Language Choice, Verisimilitude, and Readability, or Forward into the Past

(Originally posted over on Genre Benders on November 19)

On this 145th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address I think we should discuss the use of language. Most school children in the US are (or were) required to memorize Lincoln’s memorial words to dedicate the Union Cemetery at Gettysburg. “History will little note or remember” my arse. But when was the last time you’ve ever heard anybody speak or write like that. The supportive clauses, the language, all of it. Nobody does that. And at the time the Address was criticized for its baseness, its commonality (not to mention its brevity). This is close to how people actually spoke then. If someone were to give such a speech now, with all those comma spliced clauses, they’d be laughed at or at the very least thought to be way too pretentious to pay attention to.

When King James I sat his clerks and scribes down in 1604 Hampton Court Conference to make a new English translation of the Bible, he instructed them, among other things, to use archaic language structures. The KJV was meant not so much to supplant the Bishop’s Bible as it was to correct some misbegotten Puritanical values that crept into that version, so it needed to impart by the language used an established weight and authority of history and precedent. That is, it was meant to zoom the parishioners of the Church of England into believing its translation over others because it sounded older. Nifty trick if you can pull it off, which he did.

Obviously some of the translation had to be “modern” (to the 17th Century) or most of the people being preached to would be lost in those archaic structures and words. In modern times we tend to perceive a wall behind which exist the Shakespeares, Chaucers, Venerable Bede’s and whomever originally wrote down the epic of Beowulf, and that they’re all alike. But each shows how much English as a written language has changed.

Strangely enough, H.P. Lovecraft did the same thing. Writing in the early 20th Century he specifically and with intent wrote using structures not common since the late 19th Century. When I first started reading him I classified his writing as late Victorian Romance, which was Lovecraft’s intent. Through his choice of language structure and words, we meant to evoke that weight and feel of a past time, even though what he was writing about (a Godless world ruled by fear and science) wouldn’t have been acceptable to the general populace of that earlier time. He also encourage those writing works in his world to also write using those constructs. All in an attempt to transport the reader to a poorly remembered past and invoke nostalgia and importance in his stories. And again, he couldn’t do it completely (even though it had only been 50-20 years) because of how far the English language had evolved. He had to include contemporary words and concepts so his readers wouldn’t be completely lost.

Susanna Clarke revised this in Johnathan Strange & Mr. Norrell and some of her other stories. She intentionally chose victorian romance (read as contemporary fiction of the Victorian Era) structures to evoke a mood and nostalgia in her readers. Her story actually takes place in an earlier era (an alternative England under George III and a Napolian Europe ). So not only did she have to update some of the word choices and structures, she is using a language construct that was contemporary at least 50 years after her story’s time period. But it works, doesn’t it? At least to our ears and eyes.

Can it work for you? I’m not so sure. There are strong currents in both SF and Fantasy circles to make the works more accessible, which means using current structures and word choices. Plus, in Fantasy at least, you risk being labeled as following Susanna Clarke or being to close to Tolkien unless you update the language. For SF there is the revival of Space Opera which has seen a (slight) nod to 70s sensibilities, but the genre has moved quickly beyond that (IMHO). But if you do try it, it doesn’t hurt to know the history of those who have travelled that road before to see how they updated the usages to make their stories work for their audiences.

Friday, December 5, 2008

Blame Canada

Some of the leaders and pundits of your movement have been starting the side argument about how this economic downturn has its roots in "policies that are decades or more old." Stop it, or I'll point out President Bush took full credit for the surging economy in the past and slap you all around with it.

It's been eight years. The "Blame Clinton" mantra is too old. Only the brain dead politic wonks accept it. The horse is dead, stop beating it.

On the other hand continue to deny any blame, continue in the bubble you've created for yourselves, and watch your movement die out. Seriously. You've been so used to playing with loaded dice that when the game changes, you don't realize those dice are a liability.

Story Bone

"When they said 'be respectful to your elders,' I don't think they meant the Elder Gods."

Thursday, December 4, 2008

What you talking ’bout, Willis?

(Originally Posted on Genre Bender)

One of the parts of my writing that I’m constantly commended on is dialog, which is also one of the things most new writers (and even many established writers) have a problem with. Want to know my secret?

Well, besides listening more than I talk and having a wide range of friendships with people from all over the world, I’ve studied stand-up comedians. As a former class clown I was always interested on how to crack a joke (it’s not as easy as you might think). So back in the days before TVs had remote controls and more than 6 channels in any market (yes, we also rode dinosaurs to school back then, in the snow, uphill, both ways) we had these things call “variety hours.” These were shows where established and up and coming comedians could get ten minutes of time to flaunt their wares. There was also the perennial Johnny Carson’s Tonight Show which would showcase many young comics. I would devour these shows.

Studying comedians is studying dialog. For most stand-up artists, that’s all they have (unless they’re Gallagher doing the Sledge-o-matic) except for costume (did you know that the late George Carlin started his stand-up career performing in a three piece suit?) and some basic stage acting. They use the language to great effect. Pacing, timing, connections, connotations and denotations all come into play and are highly practiced and controlled. They may look calm and all personable, giving one-liners seemingly off the cuff, but they’re not. They’ll adjust their timing to suit an audience, change up the order of the show, cut or add sections, but they’re all part of a planned performance. And while some of the starting comedians will sound alike, any who have made a big name for themselves have their own voices.

Jerry Lewis, Richard Lewis and Lewis Black’s comedy have very little in common except that they are masters of the comedic form. If you closed your eyes you should immediately be able to recognize any one of them, even if they aren’t the ones doing the actual recitation of their acts. They all use their own vocabulary and string their words together in a unique fashion. They also all have their own verbal ticks. Take Robin Williams (please!) for example. He’s wild and wacky, and have you noticed that not only does he do accents (or voices), he’ll change his word selection to match those accents? He’ll adjust the emphasis and pacing, change word order, all to give the effect of verisimilitude to the character he’s try to portray.

That’s the basic gist. Comedians make their living by their language usage. That language is almost always dialog of some form. It’s easier to study their conventions because they exist in isolation from narrative, which can murky the waters. Very few successful comedians sound alike. And now that we have DVDs and Comedy Central, it’s much easier to study this way.

Also, as it concerns dialog, you did notice I didn’t make the title, “Whatchoo talkin’ ’bout, Willis?” But I’ll bet you said it that way in your head.

As a side note, this is also why a lot of new “comedy” doesn’t work on me. To many comedians go for the gaff and have no real sense of timing. Or maybe it’s that my brain still works on pre-MTV timing, so I miss the subtleness of their craft.

Whadidtheysay?

It's my contention (supported by industry dynamics) that more powerful computers are purchased to play games than for any other reason. It's a related axiom that more powerful computers are engineered to play better games. The resulting increase in other productivity measures is a side effect.

I was once asked by a nephew on why it was important to be smart. My response was, "So you can understand better jokes."

So, with that in mind, and with the general gloominess surrounding the various economic news and a slightly dimmer holidays, I offer the freshly posted quotes from the Fall 2008 Feral Writers Retreat. Yet another example of why hanging out with really smart friends is the best entertainment available. Especially if those friends are all writers.

Obama-ology

Way back in the Cold War (with Russia) there was a sweet science called Kremlinology (which strangely enough is a word recognized by the Mac system spellchecker). This involved reading official Soviet News (Pravda, western press releases, etc) and scrutinizing official published photographs to reverse engineer the politics behind the closed walls of the Kremlin to know who was in and who was out. Given that official Soviet Photographs were often doctored, eliminating embarrassing connections between the powerful and the recently dead or exiled, this was not exactly rocket science, but it still took skill and memory. Also a vast archive of previously published photos didn't hurt. In fact the photo doctoring/elimination was so widely known as a hallmark of corrupt regimes that George Orwell made it the job of Winston in 1984.

These skills are having a strange revival when it comes to the President Elect. Because Obama refuses (with good reason) to usurp the current president's power, and, in my personal opinion, people are looking for hope that the current president cannot/isn't willing to provide, the public is attempting to scry the future through appointment announcements. Soon I expect to hear what breakfast food he's eating and how that relates to fiscal policy, how many bowl movements and the regularity relates to military policy, and when he goes to sleep relates to how he'll revise "No Child Left Behind." And I'm only slightly joking here.

Mr. President (the current one, not who we'll have next year), the country is longing for leadership. You're longing for legacy. Looks like a solution in search of a problem to me, and it will help your party more than installing the "Shadow Government" your brother was talking about. Pull your head out of your nether region, sir, and do your job.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Five Random Links

Jim Hines give you the goods on author self-promotion. You'll notice he doesn't say things about "bookmarks are the bomb" or "you must make (insert swag type here)" any of that extraneous stuff. Also, just in general, his Rules on Self-Promotion work very well even before you have a book. Just saying. Tobias (whom we're happy is out of the hospital) had a post a while back on some marketing research on the types of author promotions that work (there are at least a few dozen other posts about the subject).

Also, I think Jim's #7 could also be written as, "Don't cheap out." If you're going to make the effort on producing something, don't get cheap about it. Better not to do it at all than leave a feeling of, "Well, that was crap," in a potential customer's mind. Understand that being frugal isn't the same as being cheap. Frugal is finding the best price on good quality product; cheap is chasing the pennies down the rabbit hole (as a random example, if the paper you print on will cost you $5 more for a heavier or better quality sheet, spend the $5).

Mer Haskell has more organization than I. The post is also a good view into the rewriting business. While I have such lists, I've never written them down in such a manner. Normally I go through the story (Mer's is for a novel) with my red pen and mark exactly where I think something should happen. YMMV.

Self pimp Over at the community blog, Genre Bender, I write about Death by Thesaurus. We have a number of good blog posts there about writing, BTW.

Nathan offers up some quick (and funny) Zombie Fairy Tales (hmm, must think about that) as influence by MattW doing a Zombie Haiku inspired by Christopher Moore's Haiku post and his story The Stupidest Angel (of which I am re-listening to right as we type, how's that for synchronicity!)

And the best for last, Matt Stagg wins the rejection letter contest. What, you didn't know it was a contest? Yeah, can anybody beat Matt's rejection letter? My best was my first. It was from Ellen Datlow and started something like, "We're sorry to inform you that OMNI Online is closing..." Yeah, it was such a stinkeroo I killed the market. Still not as good as Matt's letter.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

It starts when you're always afraid

The Indians are upset with their government for not protecting them. That the special operations unit trained to handle this situations had to sit on the ground for eleven hours waiting for transport (because no jets were available), that the government withdrew security from the hotels two days before the attacks (because they felt the threat had passed), and that the government had failed to secure the sea ports (which were a widely known vulnerability). They are pissed. The Indian government is attempting to point west and say, "It was Pakistan's fault." It's neither India or Pakistan's fault entirely.

The truth is you can't watch everything. War is economy. Terrorism's asymmetrical aspect includes that in the calculations. To prevent a terrorist attack governments must spend multiple factors of money in comparison to what terrorists spend on attacks. We're talking levels of tens of thousands to one here. There just isn't enough money in the world for that. So smart governments work to cut the legs out from under terrorists (something we actually did at the beginning of the War on Terror) by causing the terror groups to spend more money to keep moving, resupply, etc, and only costing the targeted country slightly more than what they already were spending on standing armies. There's also the challenge of depriving terrorists of their causes. It's much harder to recruit when people aren't upset, have full bellies, and relatively stable lives. There used to be an argument about poverty and lack of education but the last eight years have proven that argument to be false (although it never hurts to also help on those fronts as well).

But I'll reiterate here terrorists are not in the business of killing innocents; they're in the business of toppling governments. Their tactic is killing innocents, striking at the fundamental social contract between the government and the governed. Their goal is to first convince the governed, which they view as passive adherents of the status quo, that their government can not protect them. This is done by keeping them in fear (the terror part). The next step is to show the governed that their government is willing to toss out civil liberties, the rule of law, and will violate the basic principles of civilization to strike back. It's the terrorist's hope that the governed will realize that their government is out of control and might be willing to use the same tactics on them. At this point the terrorists are playing on psychology to have that fear they instilled, through time and weariness (fear is tiring), change into anger. With what they've done they expect that anger will be directed at the government, which will lead to an uprising and revolution. If the terrorists are still alive (it's not a given within their own psychology, they are willing to die to accomplish the overthrow) they hope to use the resulting chaos and instability to grab the reigns of power. But by this point their main goal has been achieved.

Everybody see all the interviews with the Indians who are fed up with the impotence and incompetence of their government? Notice the pattern? The terrorists are winning.

So, what to do? First, Pakistani ISI has to go. It cannot be reformed. Trash the whole organization, put on trial those whom you can prove support the terrorists as traitors to the government (after all, one of the Taliban's and Qaeda's goals is the overthrow of the Pakistani Government). Then create a new internal and external security/intelligence agency carefully vetting all those who join and tied it to the civilian government.

The rest of the items that need to be accomplished come under the "easier said than done" category. The Autonomous Tribal Areas must be federated. No longer can a modern nation state tolerate such a condition. It can't be by fiat, but instead the tribal leaders need to be convinced that abandoning their current system will be a net gain for their people. Unfortunately right now the trend is in the opposite direction that many of the federal areas aren't so sure they want to remain that way. The Pakistani Military must be brought to heel and made subservient to the civilian government. Kashmir must be an independent country, with a stable government and the ability to protect its borders. Without all three of these actions this part of the world will continue to be unstable and a breeding ground for insurgents.

Say, wasn't all this set up by the British. Hmm. What other countries did they screw up? Oh, yeah.

If we all pull together as a team

Yesterday the official word came out, we're in recession. The National Bureau of Economic Research came out yesterday and officially proclaimed we've been in a recession since last December. The NBER is the official body that declares these kinds of things. It's kind of like the Seal of Good Housekeeping, only not so much.

Well, now that it's all official and everything, I mostly have just this to say, "D'uh, dudes." Yeah, those of us in the real economy, or working in real government, we already knew this.

So, there's going to be a slew of numbers being thrown at us in the coming days in an effort to soothe your fears and concerns. Two of those are going to be cost of living and rate of inflation. You need to listen carefully to these numbers because for the past eight years the numbers reported have a caveat. They've been "core number" which "exclude the volatile energy and food prices." You know, those things that those of us in the middle and lower ends of the economy spend most of our money on. With the recent drop in fuel prices I'll bet the numbers that you hear won't be the "core numbers" but instead the numbers that include those volatile energy and food (maybe they'll just exclude food this time) prices." This is what's known as "lying through statistic." Just thought I'd give you a preview.

I wonder how the current administration will blame this on the Clintons. Oh yes, see, Nancy Pelosi and her liberal cabal have been in charge of Congress. Thankfully the true patriot conservatives have kept them from getting any business done or else this would have been worse. Yeah, I'm sure that will be the line. Bonus points if you can spot the contradiction in that reasoning.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Look for that union label

Well, in the waning months (less than 2! And the villagers dance their dance of joy) of the Bush Presidency the various union busting activities are taking a fevered pitch.

In the past eight years we've seen the various airline companies declare bankruptcy and jettison their previous union contracts for more favorable terms, ie. fewer benefits and protections as well as offloading pensions to the government Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp all while continuing to pay their executives "bonus pay." The PBGC is having a terrible time meeting expectations, BTW, and generally pays much less than the original pension agreement (and the more companies' pensions are put into receivership, the less those pensioners get).

Then for the past month we've had the barrage of "The UAW is sinking Detroit, oh woes is us, gives us the cash," from the big three and the various right of Rush talking heads. You know, except for last year Toyota paying their employees more (with the help of year end bonus) than the UAW workers got paid. But, shh, nobody's supposed to know. Forget that the big three played their double-down bets on big SUVs while not doing a damn thing with the money except pay out bonuses (say, remember when the new GM CEO came in and was paid a signing bonus larger then the yearly union payroll of the two factories he immediately shut down? Ah, good times). You know, how they could have been, say, leading the charge into hybrids like the Clinton Initiative, instead of lobbying to get that scrapped for the Bush Hydrogen Car that's not do for about five or so years yet, and there's been talk of pushing that back as well. Or say plowing that money into R&D to make more efficient SUVs? Or maybe changing their business model from having cars engineered to require "Genuine GM Parts" instead of engineering them to last. See, it's all those damn union workers' fault. If we could just toss that nasty old contract away we'd be all sunshine and lollypops.

Now it's the teachers' unions under fire. See, our kids aren't measuring up and it's all because of that damn union. We can't fire under performing teachers or give those miracle good teachers the pay they deserve because of the union. It has nothing to do with lack of support from administrations, or parenting that lacks instilling self discipline, or a general disregard for eduction that permeates US Society or that parents are willing to sue if little Jonny or Suzy makes anything less than an "A." Nope, it's that damn union. If we could only (cheaply) fire those tenured teachers all would be right. You know, except we've had a two decade long control test with charter and alternative schools. Guess what? Those kids don't do any better. And with the increase in vouchers, the private schools are coming down as well. Yeah, see, it's all about those unions.

So, time to see what unions have done for us.

Five day work week of forty hours. Yep. Although notice this is changing. Many people are working four 10-hour days (or even four 12-hour days). When I worked at E&Y I was regularly working 70 hours (fortunately I was paid overtime, which those directing my time didn't have to pay out of pocket, but my partner was very upset and even challenged some of my time sheets). And many in the service industry work seven days. I did when I worked at Wendy's back in high school. It was against the rules back then, but it was a pay check.

Retirement. Yep. Before unionization retirement was only for the gentry. Normal people didn't retire, they worked until they were crippled or dead. This was only a hundred years ago. This is also changing. Notice how many retirees are working? It's not because they want to afford the champagne lifestyle. This is the reason I decided to get serious about writing. I could probably drive a truck in retirement, but I don't want to. I can't keep going at this rate forever, but I could probably keep writing until I kick the bucket.

Holidays off (with pay). You may think it was Scrooge's general demeanor that had him admonish Cratchit with, "Christmas is a poor excuse to pick a man's pocket every December 25th." It wasn't. This was a common business practice, one that Dickens intentionally wanted to break (it was his reason for writing "A Christmas Carol"). Holidays were considered work days (even the Pilgrims did it). Again, lots of people in the service industry work holidays. My work place can have us work holidays, although we get double time. That's a big incentive to keep us off on holidays.

Pay in dollars (or whatever your standard currency is). Anybody know what "Company Script" is? If you worked for a factory in the 1800s and early 1900s you would have known. This is a practice that, sad to say, is back on the move again. At E&Y we used to get "bonus" pay in the form of company swag. There's also a movement on to have your health care considered "pay" (former boss included her cost for health care as a part of my "overall compensation"). "Owe my soul to the company store."

Bathroom breaks. Yeah, seems basic doesn't it. Not exactly an "inalienable right" though. When I worked for the USPS, they were scheduled. Leaving your workstation "unscheduled" was cause for demerits or summary firing (worked as "casual", non-union).

And that's just the start. If you don't think all these things could be rolled back, you're leading a sheltered work life. I've seen all of these violated or ignored in my various jobs.

edited to correct some typos.

It's THAT time of year

Ah, cyber monday. And the spam falls like snow in the Cascade Mountains.

Boy, you all have been busy. There were 200 new posts waiting for me this morning. What? Don't you all have lives. Oh, wait a sec, the caller-id says Mr. Kettle is calling me back about something.

Took Mom to see the new James Bond movie. My analysis? Eh. Unless you're really into the franchise you could probably skip this one. It's a good "everything goes bang at the end" movie, but if plot holes where bunnies there would have been a stampeding herd of rabbits by the end. Plus, note to director, director of photography, and editor; you have a bunch of people with light hair and short haircuts, similar suits and builds, lots of things flying around, shooting it from extreme angles and close-ups, speeding up the footage, and editing it like an MTV video on meth does not lead to coherent story telling. Also, note to writers, "Quantum" as the name for the new baddie organization? Why? You had a perfectly respectable organization called SPECTER which you could also have reinvented (since you reinvented the main character).

On Friday we went to the Canton Museum of Art (or more appropriately, the Canton Couple of Rooms of Art), also taking Mom. The Clyde Singer show was excellent. Man, what a painter. I would say he's a modern Diego Garcia, but for the US. Part of the fun of the show were three Art Students. I pegged them as Art Students the moment they entered the gallery. Understand, there are art students and then there are Art Students. The first are fun to hang out with, the later are annoyingly conceited little twits. I've known my share of the Art Students, which I studiously try to avoid. These are the ones who know that True Art is (puh-lease). So here is this guy's work, which ranges from impressionist, cubist, realist, cartoon, and the Americana he's so well known for. More range than most other artists. And they think it's boring. Just wanted to slap some sense into their privileged rich little pinheads.

The weekend was spent putting up the outside decorations (done!, okay, well, mostly, I'm thinking of buying a new garland for the railing) and the tree. It's not decorated, but it's up. Last year we rewired the tree for multi-color LED lights, so it looks nice this year. My wife also bought a train to go around the base. We'll see how long that lasts. Many presents were also wrapped.

And now we're back at work. So far reports of Black Friday have not been encouraging. Sure, they were better than expected, but you remember just how low those expectations were this year.

Turn your geek light on

Courtesy of the "now a year older, but still better" Dan, some old timey cryptography. These are the things that make me squee.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Stop, Drop, and Roll with it, Baby

Random Michelle K and Janiece are doing it, so I thought I'd do it too.

The American Civic Literacy test.

For giggles I scored a 90.91%, missing three questions (Lincoln-Douglas Debates, benefits of International Trade and Specialization, and I mixed Debt and Deficit in my head, so got that last one wrong too).

Link salad for Turkey Day

Ten Mistakes Writers Don’t See (But Can Easily Fix When They Do) via Colleen Lindsay's the Swivet. Colleen also has a lot to say about the writing industry, BTW.

Joshua Palmatier talks about making maps.

Rick Ferrel gives us the clue of how to survive the first dragon.

If you've ever wondered what submissions would be like as a role playing game, Jim Hines delivers the goods. It's a very funny read.

Not exactly a writer's link, but a good way to wax cats, the Eyeballing Game, via John (whom I don't think has a blog).

30% Chance of Light Blogging

Before it all gets away from me, I wanted to wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving. I hope you enjoy the holiday with friends and family (born into or chosen).

I'm thankful for all the opportunities I've been afforded this year, all the friends I've gotten to know/meet/hang-out with (online and off), that (so far) I've been able to meet my obligations (fiscal and time wise), and that I've been able to have a good time. I'm thankful I'm not in the grips of the big D anymore.

I'm grumble and gripe a lot, but I am a fairly content and accepting person. My regrets for the year include not being able to help my friends and even some people I don't know at all in more meaningful and supportive ways, letting my good nature allow others to roll me over, and not working harder on the writing.

But as we approach the holiday I'll be in and out with little time to be online. Today the RSS feeder says there's 23 posts I should read. I'm thankful I'm back into a mode where I can comment more on my friends blogs. I have a feeling next Monday morning I'll be back to over 300.

I'll probably have a few more posts to get out today and over the long weekend, but I wanted to make sure to say I'm thankful you all are my friends. Thanks, friend.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

How long to the point of no return

I have reached the end of the internets, and here be dragons (RSS Feeds read "0" post to read - granted I skipped most of them and Random Michelle's feed continues to give we hickups). Raconteur extraordinary Rick is talking about Dragons and creativity. He's posted the first installment, the Dragon of Calcination (first of two posts I'm assuming).

While Rick is approaching creativity from the alchemical view, this journey he's giving us all is not dissimilar to other journeys in other traditions. The eight-fold path in Buddhist tradition has similar steps. When Campbell was studying comparative mythologies he came up with the concept of "The Hero's Journey" to describe them. Rick's focus, however, is a mindfulness of our creativity, a nurturing and exercising the font from which our lives flow. First step, "Unlearn what you have learned," as Yoda told us. You must die to yourself/the world (relinquish the ego and pretense).

While he's taking a stake to my Muse, she'll survive. I've been on that path before, I know from whence the Muse speaks. I still love to hear her singing.

However, it never hurts to understand and nourish the wellspring of our creativity.

There's something happening here

Where Steve takes a hard turn in politics. This morning (okay, well for the past few weeks) there's been plenty of talk about the incoming Obama administration and what they should and shouldn't be doing. That President Bush is seeking input from them is, IMHO, a Good Thing(tm) and he deserves some credit for it (although the completely cynical side of my brain says it's a way of transferring blame). However this call for Obama to start calling the shots is completely over the line.

As Obama stated at the beginning of this, he supports the "One President at a Time" doctrine. President Bush, for all I've criticized him and think he's the worse thing since before they decided to sell sliced bread, is still the President. As such, he can ask for all the advice he can stomach, but until noonish January 20, 2009, he is still the President. The decision, choice, and ultimately the blame, are his until that point.

All these pundits calling for Obama to step into the transfer power-void are wrong-headed. Obama has no Constitutional powers as President Elect. For better or worse, this whole ball of wax is George W. Bush's until Obama is sworn in. Obama shouldn't be making decisions that go beyond his transfer team and announcements of what his administration will do (and who they'll nominate) once they're in. Advice? Oh, I'm all for that. I think that GW is willing to look at all solutions and include Obama in the loop earlier than any other presidential transfer is to his credit and helps with a smooth transference. But to have Obama give orders or even hold press conferences saying, "This is how I would have handled this (insert detailed plan)" is just bad form (and I expect better from him).

So, get up to speed Obama Team, plan out the strategy and forecast your cabinet, give advice all you want, but do not force your position. And President Bush, you need to step up to the plate more. The country needs a leader, which you claim to be. Time to show it.

Edit the incomparable Janiece says similar things. Great minds think alike. Or we're all hot chicks here. Something like that.

Edit and in other "Gee the economy is going swimmingly well" news, note over at S. Andrew Swann's blog, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has instructed editors to stop buying books. Um. Yeah. That's a good business plan for a publisher. And has it gotten cold in here or was there just a deep freeze front that passed over every writer's desk.

Monday, November 24, 2008

The money post

This is also in consideration of the previous post and I did mean to bring it up earlier.

Demonstration of this year's economics:
I'm an hourly employee at the day job, which means I have the patience of the Buddha, after all they're paying me by the hour (overtime is a nice thing, I haven't had it most of my life). If I take my hourly wage and multiply it out by 2080 (40x52), I get what my "salary" would be (before deductions of taxes, union dues, retirement, and health care). So in 2007 I had made as much as my annual salary by the first or second week in August. This year I just passed that mark last Friday.

If I include all the pro-bono work and the barter work I would have my best freelance year ever (too bad the IRS considers my freelance a hobby).

Turn and face the strain

Well, time has come today as the other song says. Tonight while talking with a design client he asked me for business cards to hand out. While he didn't exactly state it, I think many of his "competitors" are jealous of his brochure (or at least that was the gist of the conversation). Now, I did do a bang-up job on his trifold, and I'm commensurately proud of it.

But last year I did make the decision to cut back on the freelance design to spend time writing. This was before overtime went all sucky and I was charged with being Chairman of Safety which soaked up that freed time. I still kept some clients, work I like doing, not that's necessarily good money makers. This would be good money. And my plans to spend more time writing didn't exactly pan out.

So now comes the decision to change directions and get even more hectic, hope to change out chairmanships, maybe get more overtime (probably not until middle of next year) and see if I go back to also writing. Or, I could soak up even more precious time but get paid well for it (instead of writing on what is basically spec).

Success, sometimes it's a frightening thing. I still want to write, but that lure of money for doing something I still love for people who actually have money. And this client's clients aren't hurting either, so if they're asking as well, even better.

Argh. It could drive one mad.

But it just may be a lunatic you're looking for

Just did a post over at Genre Bender on critique groups, and I thought I'd do a little thing here on accepting critiques. Also, this was just pointed out to me this weekend (and I'm probably the last person to see it).

(first, I haven't received a rejection letter, I'm talking in general here)

Many people think artists and writers have easily bruised egos and just can't stand criticism, and for some they may be right (hey, and I may be crazy). You can see these people all over. There was even a website devoted to rejection letters and the writer's responses. Good luck with the sour persimmons, cousin.

However, I have a BFA from the Meyer's School of Art at the University of Akron, and I've been a professional designer for almost two decades now. Know what that means? Well, at art school (not my first major, BTW, that was Computer Science) we were critiqued every single day. Now, fortunately that was being critiqued by professionals and people who understood what they were doing (so no "I'm not sure that shade of red is correct" when they really mean, "Helvetica? You choose helvetica, what kind of moron are you?"). Top that off with 19 years of professional work getting critiqued by amateurs (that's where you have to divine what the client is really critiquing). That all leads to having a thick hide when it comes to critique.

Reject my story with a form letter? Pishaw! Most times it barely registers more than, "Time to go to Ralans and Duotrope again." Most non-form letters mostly talk about the good things. Sure, they didn't buy it, but they liked it enough to take the time to write a letter. That's a success in case you didn't know. I thank every editor who has sent me a non-form rejection letter. Those are really good people. But, savage me in a rejection letter and call in to question my heredity (it's never happened, just making that clear)? Ha! I say again, "Ha!"

That is nothing compared to having the professor who chose your thumbnail, chose your rough, guided you on the final rendering only to come into class as all the pieces are up on the board and say, "These are all fine, except for one. And that one doesn't deserve to even remain on the board with the others it's so bad." And then he grabs your piece and throws it on the desk. Yeah, your form rejection letter? It ain't even close. (again, there is no actual form letter I'm responding to here, I'm just making a point in general that form reject letters are no big thing) Also I'll point out that after another year of taking classes with that prof (oh yes, I signed up for every class he taught) we had a good relationship. He actually suggested that I should go to grad school. Not so much for my benefit, but the school's.

This is why I point out to you that googling "Oh John Ringo No" will lead to hilarity. Don't forget to check out the Cafe Press store. Now, I'm not recommending that you write a story like the one that started this (really, I'm not, don't do it, for the love of all that's Holy don't do it), but to be fair, he never intended it to go public and he claimed the only reason he wrote it was to get it out so it would stop bothering him. But I do recommend that you look at how he handled the criticism. (Props out to S Andrew Swan for pointing this out to the group yesterday)

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Rolling down the interstate, running thirty-minutes late

Arrived late to the writing group. However, we haven't started yet. So all is good.

This weekend, well this Sunday, is the first day we didn't have snow. Skies are clear, the ice on the road sparkles just like the salt lime on the windshield. Ah, it's winter again.

Hopefully next weekend we'll have a break in the weather so we can decorate outside, although all this week the weather channel predicts snow

every

single

day.

Hope the weather near you is better.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Looking Through a Glass Onion

It's been forty years since The White Album was released. My brother loved the Beatles, and I grew up knowing most of their songs by heart.

It's also on this anniversary that the Vatican official forgives John Lennon for saying the Beatles were more popular than Jesus. Glad they don't carry a grudge, and didn't wait as long as they did to forgive Galileo Galilei.

Friday, November 21, 2008

The Gales of November Remembered

Well, looking at the radar it looks like most of you are in the clear. It's been snowing for the past week where I commute. Today was an hour and half plus to work, none of it over 40mph. Lost control four times, nearly went ditch diving once (fortunately regained control right before going in, soft ground), had trouble accelerating a few times. Breaking? Fergetaboutit.

Good news for retailers looking at not only the free-fall economy (oh noes, look, deflation, argh! um yeah, come talk to me when a McD's double cheeseburger is $.75, falling commodity prices isn't bad necessarily, falling wholesale prices is something else), but a shortened Holiday Shopping season (no matter what they try, typically Black Friday to December 24th). Yes, it's cold and snowy so people are thinking about Xmas.

My Xmas Wish List is almost finished (note to self, put Wii on list, then I'm done). My wishes for you, of course, are warmth, health, family (born into and/or chosen), prosperity, and happiness. I thought I'd get my shopping done early. You're welcome.

Every year I think I'm going to get so much more done. This year I was hoping to get a story out that I was going to chapbook as gifts (and release here). Maybe we'll get snowed in and I'll be able to get it out. I have no idea what it'll be about (although I'm thinking it'll be a Windswept, Ohio story, hopefully below 3000 words, hopefully about this time of year).

This weekend is going to be busy. Saturday we're going to Carousel Dinner Theatre (oh noes, it's an Elvis musical, no wonder my wife said she didn't know what is was about, tricksie she is). That's a whole day event. Sunday is our wedding anniversary (#11, Steel), writers group (of which I'm still reading, have about 40 more pages to critique), and that's the day our Parks and Rec board decided would be a good day to put up the Village holiday decorations. I have a feeling I'm going to be missing at least one of those.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

You say it's your birthday

Happy 10th Anniversary to the International Space Station, aka Enterprise. Here's a big candle for you.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Ear worms

Damn it. Can't get Grieg's In the Hall of the Mountain King out of my head. Fortunately I have an excellent memory for music so the rendition is fabulous (Cincinnati Pops version, not the one from the video link). ARGH!

Losing my religion

It's almost Thanksgiving which means it's time for that other turkey in the straw, Frere Jim-Bob Dobson to climb out of his borrow. If he sees his shadow, it means a few more millennia before the second coming. Yes, I'm sure with the incoming godless (actually I got to see Hal Lindsey explain how the Obama Presidency will usher in the World Government, aka reign of the Anti-Christ, great comedy) Obama Presidency will mean fewer merchants will say the politically correct "Merry Christmas" and instead revert to that blasphemous "Happy Holidays." A trend perpetrated by that poster-child for the godless, Bing Crosby. Yes, soon Dobson will be back on his high hobby pony banging his shoe against the Fox News commentary desk decrying the horrors of retailers who are obviously so godless to not say "Merry Christmas" and only offer sales, decorate with trees and lights, dress in red and green (hey, even the street lights are doing it from what I hear), play mind-numbing Xmas muszak, and generally don't do anything to celebrate the season.

Well, he may not be able to get his message out as well this year. The economy (and plowing so much of their money to support Prop 8) has hit Focus on the Family hard and they have had about 40% layoffs this year. Fewer Christian Soldiers to marching on to Shibboleth, at least in the pay of Spain.

Me? I think we need to put the Ram back in Ramadan, Kwanz back in Kwanza, the Chzks back in Chanukah, and Mythra back in Christmas, but then I'm a contrary cuss.

And speaking of getting religion, wow, it's interesting how quickly conservatives suddenly get religion when it comes to politics. After eight years of "whatever the President wants" I'm now hearing a whole bunch of voices advocating for less presidential power, less executive office expansion, more controls on spending, etc, etc, etc. After 20 years of arguing how the executive branch and Congress should be controlled by the same party all in the name of unity and "gettin' 'er done," well, I guess a loyal opposition actually is needed. Go figure.

As Bugs Bunny once said, "It is to laugh."

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Joe the 'tard

So, Joe the Plumber has a website and a movement. Pity he's a wonk. Could have used him eight years ago when the Republican Party standard bearer GW decided to trash our country. But of course, this isn't what Joe is really about anyway, protecting freedoms. What he's about is hate and sour grapes. He's a sore loser and he has plenty of company. He's going to keep watch? Well, Joe, you're eight years to late to the game. Thanks for closing the door once the horses have all run out. Fucktard.

Yes, after the Bush Administration decided the best way to fight against the terrorists who "hate us because of our freedoms" wasn't killing them but denying them their objective by removing our freedoms, you decide to get into the game. I know you think GW was just "protecting us" but he really hasn't. Instead, they've plundered our economy and treasury just as they plundered our freedoms and world-wide good will. Glad to see you're also trying to get some of that money.

Yes, Joe, you are an ignorant ass. I know you value talking the truth, so there it is. Everybody, including the McCain campaign economists, tell you that your dreams of owning the plumbing business you worked for (a dream I'm assuming you've abandoned now) would work better under an Obama Administration, and you doggedly cling to your preconceived notions that you would be worse off. Good to know that insightful advice from knowledgeable people in the field doesn't sway you. You fit perfectly in the modern conservative movement.

You are also a publicity seeking twit. Yeah, just try and defend yourself. I'm waiting. Maybe you could make another trip to the NYC to do the talk show circuit to tell me how I'm wrong. Maybe you'll sign your (hastily ghost-written) book to me to that effect. Probably you have a very insightful commentary behind your subscription based website that proves me wrong. I doubt it.

The people who are propping you up will abandon you just as quickly when the national media is through with their infatuation with you. Which should be sometime next month. Instead of "keeping it real" you opted to cash-in (I hope your plans include the cash-out). Yes, once you have that really tough interview (I mean, eventually you'll have to move beyond Fox) and the investigations start, your star will dim.

You're from the Toledo area. IIRC that's the same place that a few years ago a teenager stole his mother's credit card numbers to give his girlfriend breast enhancement surgery so she could be an adult movie star. Good to know you're continuing to uphold the same high standards.

You have a fast car

Here's something we haven't seen since the eighties. You may not be paying attention to this, or you might be distracted by all the hand waving, but the American Auto Industry is about to do some union busting on the scale we haven't seen since President Reagan fired all the air traffic controllers.

There's some fucktard analyst out there that keeps talking about how the UAW agreement is "over an inch thick" and how this is dragging down the industry, and that "no business can expect to comply with all that and be profitable." And he's using this argument to (not so) subtly argue for either the Congress or a bankruptcy judge to throw out the union contract. This is union busting plain and simple and these people need to be called on the carpet for it. And the people supporting are the exact same people who complained so loudly that bankruptcy judges shouldn't be able to rewrite mortgage contracts because that would be "interfering in private contracts."

If this agreement is "too complex for a business to operate under" than every executive at the American Auto Industry should be fired. They agreed to it. They accepted it. If it's unworkable they are at fault for agreeing to it. So every single one of them must go.

Cost of employment is too much? Huhn. Toyota USA and Honda USA pay the same wages (or slightly higher) and they don't have that problem. But then those companies pay their executives less (and watch for the arguments about how we need to pay that high and give bonuses to attract the best and brightest who'll agree to contracts that they find unworkable).

To be fair, there are some contractual benefits the other companies don't have to work under, and some I find egregious, but those are things that can be negotiated. The big difference between the Big 3 and the others concerns health care and retirement. I'll point out here that again, our private payer based health care system is the major drain on the economy. It was the major sticking point in last year's UAW negotiations, the unions made concessions on other parts of the contract but stuck to their guns over health care. As it was the unions accepted the new burden of paying for health care for their retirees. Also, the UAW has a good retirement plan that has been underfunded by the car companies. The other car companies have 401k plans.

So there it is. Because the insurance industry has such a strong lobby, and some conservatives can't see that their ideology is crippling the country, our economy is being drug down.

As a side, you'll also hear about how "the consumers didn't want more efficient cars." That's a red herring. My argument, "Okay, so why didn't you take your big profits from the SUVs and do the R&D to make them more efficient?" The reason why they didn't? That would have affected their profits and bonus pay.