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

Friday, August 29, 2008

Updatery

The installer was supposed to be here at 3 or so. They called at 3:30 and said they were running late and would be here at 5:30 or so. At 7:30 we called. They were just finishing up the previous installation. They would call us when they picked up our dishwasher. At 9:05 they finally called asking how far away we were from the store. You could hear the air go out of him when I said, "About 45 minutes."

So we rescheduled. He apologized. I guess every installation today went wrong. With our dishwasher being nine years old, he figures he would probably be running all new supply and discharge lines. Fair enough. But now it's another week.

Just keep swimming, just keep swimming, swimming swimming

Wil Wheaton talks about five simple steps to keep writing. It's been bugging the crap out of me that I haven't progressed on the novel. I have the energy (well, some days), I keep looking at myself in the mirror in the morning and say (among other things, like "WTF is that?!") "Need to work on the novel. It's only 90,000 words. You've written that much on the blog just this year. You need to work on this novel."

And then something comes up; village work, extra design work, lawn mowing, low blood sugar, battling the monster algal blooms I've allowed to cover the bathroom surfaces, alien abduction, things keep getting in the way. And then I look at the blank screen for five minutes after typing a little and my brain gets all twitchy and starts replaying Kurt Colbane ("Here we are, now entertain us!") at full volume. I go off and give my brain something to think about. Or I try and work on something smaller.

"It's just ten short stories," I'll tell myself. "I can do that. You can do that. Just farging do that."

I've tried #2, create deadlines for myself. But I know they're soft. I know what hard deadlines are, and mine aren't and my brain knows the difference. I've tried #3, little rewards for interm milestones. But then I'm enjoying those little gifts and not getting anything done.

I think I'm suffering from a lot of #1Blog less (have you notice just how much blathering I'm doing? No, right here, right now, oh damn, now Van Halen is playing really loud in my head). I should, but I love this. Yeah, I know.

I think I also got hit with #4, Don't show your work (until first draft is done). I've failed at that. And I think (at least in my mind) that the wind went out of the balloons as I published that exert however many months ago. I was really happy with it. I wanted to share. It was fun. And just like Wil, I'm not sure why it would happen, and it really sucks when it does. And then I commit the opposite of #1.

It's a cycle. I've broken cycles before. My past is littered with spokes and handlebars of all the cycles I've gotten away from. I can do this. I need to do this.

Literate Wrathfulness

Before I get into the political stuff (are you getting tired of it? Well, today is a slightly lighter treatment) Todd Wheeler is reminding everybody that there's only two more days to get your summer reading done to enter his contest. Get crackin'!

And now back to the political stuff.

Last night, in his acceptance speech, Obama correctly used the five-syllable adverb "inextricably," in a political speech, in the middle of a sentence, without pausing, emphasising, or tripping over the word. He would get my vote for that reason only (there are other reasons for me to vote for him).

Muy impresionado. We have a literate candidate. And the villagers rejoice.

Also, Gustov is steaming toward landfall, most likely somewhere around New Orleans a few days after Katrina's third anniversary, and a few days before the Republican National Convention, bringing the national spotlight back to the aftermath of Katrina (also notice the updated response to this storm as compared to the non-preparedness of Katrina's landfall). If Katrina hit New Orleans as God's wrath against the city for allowing a Gay Pride Parade that would have happened the next weekend, just what message is God sending us this time? If you live by the sword, expect to have the pointy end coming back at you.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Story Bone

Blood Sands of Mars

So the sands of Mars are red because of iron oxide. But, it's a thin layer. Mars was also supposedly very Earth-like in the distant past (okay, so when Earth wasn't so very Earth-like). So what happened?

Massive casualties. Imagine a very dense biosphere going all Battle of the Wilderness all at the same time. Natural disaster, say like a comet strike that also rips most of the atmosphere away (yeah, yeah, gravity, don't bother me when I'm on a role).

Or, how about this. In the Lovecraft Cthulhu world, back before the dawn of history, time out of mind, there was a hugh battle between the Elder Gods and the Old Ones. Although (as far as I have read) Lovecraft never specified where this happened. Both Old Ones and Elder Gods are space faring (well, flying through space like birds), although the later Older Ones lost that ability (along with living in the Ocean).

Now, within my world of Cthulhu (at least the few stories I've produced) I know where that battled happened (no, I'm not telling until I get the stories published or trunk them). But for other people it could be anywhere. Why not Mars? Imagine billions of squamous aliens battling it out across a verdant Mars. Demolishing every thing in their path in the zeal to kill each other (a phalanx of a thousand shoggoths rolling down Olympus Mons into entrenched Spawn). Oooh. Squishy death from above. And at the end, as the remnants negotiate the peace, Cthulhu enters R'yleh and it sinks beneath the waves, Mars is left desolate with rotting corpses of the aliens, covered in ichor feet deep, bereft of atmosphere, and sporting two new moons, planetoids ripped from Mars and blasted into orbit.

What would we find when we send people there? Sure, most the evidence of such battle has long stained the sands the murmuring winds have blown to cover Mars, killing what organic matter had survived. Ancient cursed-life that now lay dormant in the sands. Waiting for fresh organic life to feed on. Or, what artifacts would be find there? Cyclopean cities, castles and fortifications worn away by time, consumed by Mars, covered by meters of sand.

Some Other Odd Things

They're supposed to install the dishwasher tomorrow. That only took a few days of complaining. Really, isn't the economy bad? Shouldn't they be calling me over and over? Or am I missing something?

The past two days at work have been almost close to normal flow. That's why I've been so elusive online. Or something.

Working on a post of "What Writing Is." Hope to have it up this weekend. Supposed to be funny.

Back to being way to tired instead of refreshed. But that may not be a bad thing. Since I've been getting in to work at the start of the first shift (instead of off-time as agreed to with my supervisor, because so much comes in late), I've missed out on some overtime pay because the clock "automatically" round the time to the start of the shift. Not much, but enough for a gallon of gas in the past week. Bummer.

If the world gets away from me (like it did Monday and Tuesday) and I don't get to post later this week, I hope you all have a fabulous Labor Day Weekend (of course you know there will now be something like twelve posts before Monday because I said that). Go out and hug a union member. You're welcome.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Too cool for school

(via Jay Lake's link salad which you might also want to check his link to What the Duck as well) Oooo, almost a jet pack. Okay, well, he cheats by jumping from a plane and then engaging the jet, and finally "lands" by parachute (instead of taking off and landing by almost VTOL and running a lot). But still cool.

Just imagine (okay, well, it's my imagination, YMMV) using this as a part of a HALO drop? Hell, no air space penetration needed. Drop the package out in international waters and the paratrooper jets in to their target drop zone. Cool. I expect to see this in a future James Bond movie. Really, just too cool not to use. I'm having visions of a whole platoon flying through hostile airspace for deep insertion (forget about the submarine drop).

And I'll bet Tobias just re-imagined the opening chapter to Sly Mongoose (although I don't think this configuration would survive insertion, but a swept wing version might).

Let Slip the Dogs of War

Here's a word you'll find used in the coming campaign, consiglieri (because I need to show my writer credentials sometime today, might as well get them out early, even if it's a political post). Or at least if the term isn't used, you'll see and hear from a lot of them this fall.

Well, Mitt Romney is acting as the Republican VP Candidate, which means he's on the attack (the traditional VP role in elections). His latest tirade (which I'll label as the "Oh noes, wheeze all gonna die if you don't vote for us," speeches) has two gems, that electing Obama will weaken our economy and national defense.

Oh really Mr. Romney? You mean the economy could get much worse (well, I guess it could, but it would take a lot of work)? The Republicans have been in charge of Congress for 12 of the past 14 years, and in charge of the Whitehouse for 7 years. Just WTF has the wonderful "Fiscally Conservative Party" done for our national economy, budget deficit and debt over the past 7 years? Why did the Bush Treasury not publish the basic facts about our monetary supply for most of this year? Why are they, in the face of massive deficits, still touting tax cuts when it's already been pointed out that while revenues did go up, that's only because the economy did slightly better for two years after the tax cuts (and included the year after the tax cuts as the base line, that's sadistic statistics, revenues are back down, btw)? That's a short lived economic benefit, and one that most economists say the tax cuts had nothing to do with. Time to point and laugh.

As to the second point? Are you safer? Do you feel safer than you did eight years ago? Before 9-11, before being fearful of Muslims and swarthy skinned people, before we diddled away world sympathy and support to invade Iraq, and now after we haven't killed Bin Ladin, broken al Qaeda, let Russia regain their druthers (to the point of docking our relief ships to Georgia at a secondary port because we might have had to confront the Russian Black Sea Fleet if we had gone to the optimal port), watched as China flexed their muscles, revamped and modernized their military including their cyber warfare divisions, and sat on the sidelines as their "War on Terror" stalled out.

The Republicans fiddled while Rome burned. And how's the New American Century plan workin' out for you all? You know, the plan written back in '92 by Wolfowitz to invade Iraq and use the revenues from the oil to fund a restructuring of the Middle East (a plan repeated by VP Dick Cheney before the war).

Mr. Romney, sir, with all due respect, you may kiss my hairy, fat ass. Or to use the Republican phrase so popular when you all believed the 21st century would be a glorious Conservative, New American Century, only to screw it all up, sit down and STFU.

And while I'm at it, it is tradition that when the opposing party has their convention, the candidate takes a vacation and stays out of the news. Glad to see the Republicans continue their advancements on classing the joint up.

edited typos

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Way Too Long of a Day

Finally got home at 10:15pm today. Had a very long committee meeting. Let me give you one pointer that we reinforced at the meeting (that many people get, and with their help we've caught some criminals).

If you see something criminal, call the police. If you see something that just doesn't look normal (like cars in a parking lot, with lights on in a building that is normally closed at the time), call the police. If kids are carrying a case of beer down the road, call the police.

911 is for emergencies. There are several other non-emergency numbers you can call the police using. We have a number to "talk to an officer." It goes to the same switchboard dispatch as 911, but it's for non-emergencies. If you see a crime in action, if your life or property is in immediate danger, call 911. If you think the criminals will be gone by the time the police get there, call the non-emergency number for the police anyway. They can at least get your statement. Adding reports together can help them solve crimes.

Do not bother the police if the drive through clerk forgot the fries or gave you the wrong pop or short changed you five cents. Do call them if the clerk accidentally gives you the dime bag. Do not use them to get even at your neighbors (actually, that's a felony). Do call them if that neighbor is abusing their spouse (there are several anonymous channels to go through).

Your police get paid exactly the same if they're watching traffic as when they're responding to your call. If you think calling them multiple times is annoying, responding later to your neighbor's call that you're laying out in the driveway is more annoying. They would rather come ten times to find nothing than miss the one time they could have stopped a crime, or at least immediately arrest the perpetrators. The police will prioritize your call. If it's a non-emergency they might take some time to respond (in some parts of the country that may mean days, in most parts it means a few hours).

Large cities may be different, but your local community police want to know you, and want to know what's happening.

SEGWAY

Watching Fox news analysis after Clinton's speech, I guess they brought the kool-aid tank with them. And that anybody listens to Billy Kristol anymore just floors me. How many times does he have to be wrong before we stop paying him for analysis?

Help Wanted, Need Feste, reply Jesters, Inc.

One of the functions of the Fool in a medieval court was the ability to tell truth to power through the use of humor.

And via good father and all around nice guy Dan, a Daily Show billboard for Minneapolis and the Republican National Convention. It is to laugh.

“For what says Quinalpus? ‘Better a witty fool than a foolish wit.’”

And a general question. Would you prefer I include that photo here on the blog, or the link to go see it in the original context?

Edit
Because Random Michelle K says (basically) "dance, monkey, dance."


I'm still givin' the link lovin' though.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Sherman, Set the Wayback Machine to 1950

So, I'm doing a general search on a Big Name Internet Shopping Site, for "costumes." You know, Halloween is coming up and all. And while I probably won't spend any money this year on new decorations (given how much money will be fleeing out the door soon), I thought I'd see if there were any deals. I was using the BNISS because, one, I have a credit card through them that I get wonderful points with, and two they have a good deal on shipping.

So, I just do a general search on "Costume" and figure I'll drill down from there. Number one was an Iron Man children's costume (I'm going to assume this will be the big hit this year). Number two was this:


Now, if you don't exactly understand why I fell off my chair laughing, recheck the category this product represents. It's the last line. And there's 12,204 more products just like this in that category. Just who the farg is typing in search keywords over there anyway.

Six Random Things Make a Blog Post

Finished compiling the edits for Robert's Thunder and I'm kind of stuck on a direction to go. Many of the comments included items such as, "bloodless," "main character seems emotionally distant," "good wham-bam action," some technical notes that means I need to explain the action and technology of the universe more or at least better, and the "could sell to an specific antho (or a market I've already tried)." So this would end up being more of a full rewrite. I'm not sure if I'm up for that.

Haven't heard from the dishwasher installers (starting to get impatient). Got a message from the furnace guy, mostly, "bad news," but no actual figures. Updated some drivers on the computers so things will work (I stole my wife's mighty mouse and gave her my wheel mouse, but the drivers on the disk wouldn't run with the new OS).

It rained yesterday, but not enough. Lots of thunder though. Our rain barrel was getting very low. The rain recharged about one-fifth of it. I've already poured that on the tomato plant and some of the flowers in the front bed (they were wilting). We have a 50% chance on Wednesday.

Found a green reflective dot on my mail box today. We don't know what it was for, so I removed it. The little bastard took some paint with it. So now my brain is consumed with scenarios of what it was intended to mark our house for; poor tippers, might have something good to steal, Sunday newspaper delivery, crazy man lives here, the Secret Service Super-Rendition Teams to stop here in case of nuclear attack? I don't know.

Delivered the brochure tonight. I don't have the final bill, yet, so I don't know how much I'm in arrears for. Client then asked me to design for them some notepads. Okay. We can do that.

I'm already tired of the coverage of the Democratic National Convention. And what a friggin' nightmare to look at security. I wonder just how much more will be around the RNC? Reminds me of having to practice my Boris Badinov accent. "Papers, please. Now we get Moose and Squirrel."

The Republican Ugly Step-child Syndrome Rears its Swan-ish Head

Obama is a celebrity. The media lavishes fawning attention on him. There is no love for the beleaguered Republican candidate, McCain. Must be that liberal media at work again. That liberal media that GW complained lavished fawning attention on McCain in 2000. That liberal media that then failed to criticize GW in 2000 and 2004, forgot to do due diligence in the run-up to Iraq, had to be shocked back into consciousness by the lack of WMD, and only now is actually asking questions of the current administration. The same media that hasn't laughed Fox News off the air. Yeah, thanks Pat Buchanon for starting that whole "liberal bias of the media" to explain why Nixon wasn't getting the love he deserved. Oh those nattering nabobs of the media elite who don't question how a candidate whose, with his wife, owns over 8 homes valued at over $15 million dollars gets to criticize his opponent who owns one home valued at a little over $1 million and calls him elite for that. I believe that the one house McCain has in his own name is worth more than Obama's one home.

Yes, the Republicans are the Rodney Dangerfield of political parties. Cry for me, America. Boo hoo hoo.

I wonder when the whole "Obama is the son of Reagan's Welfare Queen" rumors will start floating around.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Story Bone

"There was something wrong with the graveyard. The stones huddled too close together, seeking warmth in the cool moonlight as if the coffins beneath them were nestled side wall to side wall. A wild garden of overgrown, riotous graves, a claustrophobic afterlife."

From a dream I had last night.

Now back to editing and (hopefully) writing.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Break on through to the other side

We're back to running the air conditioning because it's so hot. Hopefully we can open the windows tonight. You know the day destroys the night. fortunately this morning I got to sleep in as the rooster that I've been hearing for the past month decided to take a break. Night divides the day. It must be in one of the farms down the road. Some mornings it decides that "morning" is 4:30 am. Tried to run. I don't know why. It's still dark then. Tried to hide. And I need at least another hour of sleep.

Busy, busy me. Did some cleaning of things needing cleaning. Chased my pleasure here. Fixed some things that needed fixing. Dug my treasures there. Helped clear out some other things. But I can still recall the time I cried. Caught up on billing. In the processes of catching up on archiving.

Now I want to work on the novel, and I'm hitting a wall. It's that fear wall. Must break on through to the other side.

Rewrote Prince Interview and renamed it Prince Wanted. It's now about 590 words, and much stronger (if I say so myself). It amazes me sometimes how much I've grown as a writer (when I focus on things, unlike this blog where I sometimes dash off an entry and it shows). If I didn't have a poem and short story in to Abyss and Apex I would have submitted it there to give Camille a laugh, so I submitted it to Strange Horizons.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Sometimes We're Asked to be the Jackbooted Thugs

With the economy worsening and some other specific changes to ownership of property and the management of it we're seeing an increase in some potentially criminal activity in our Village. And we have some upset residents because of it.

So last night I got to handle a complaint about some of this. Much of the conversation revolved around why we can't violate the rights of the "criminal element" or force landlords to do things, or pass laws quickly (when I explained that having a law enforced in under 12 months, if it's significant legislation, probably wouldn't happen). So now I get to feel bad because of what is happening in the Village and that I can't help these people. Or at least in any fashion that would be faster than them simply moving away.

To be fair to us, reading the ordinance they would like us to copy from Cleveland, we've already done some of the "resolving actions" contained. I need to research the Ohio Revised Code that this ordinance references. I have a feeling they go to the civil remedies that are available to renters, but I want to make sure. If they do, what this ordinance would add doesn't help their situation beyond what we've already done.

So law abiding citizens would really like it if the government could just willy-nilly tell people how to manage their property. Or else. After all, we would only use such powers for good.

I've put some things in motion and asked for comment on others and updates on still more. I've told they person they can come to our meetings (you all know that in the US you can go to your government meetings, no reservation - usually - unless you want to speak). But I'm not sure how much more we can help without violating the Constitution and our codified laws. I'll thread the needle of getting information on continuing investigations without interfering or compromising them. That's always fun.

The end result is that if a landowner really wants to let their properties go to seed and ruin, there's not much we can do to stop them. Some laws that have been proposed (through zoning) that could have helped here were roundly trounced as over reaching.

One of these days I'd like to have one week of feeling good.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Happy Squamous B-Day

The eldrich horrors in my head compel me to say, "Happy birthday H.P. Lovecraft." May your angles never be Euclidian.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

You never give me your money

The dishwasher is purchased. It wasn't the least expensive, and wasn't the most expensive, but it was a little more expensive than I wanted. However it had some amenities that became "needed." Well, better to spend more up front (it hopefully will save us on water). They're supposed to call tomorrow to schedule delivery (hopefully this Friday, but we'll see). So that's done.

Daddy's Little Girl is off to Abyss and Apex.

Not getting my other priorities done.

A little bit of this, a little bit of that, it all makes a blog post (so I'm told)

Last night I finished edits to "Rag-a-bag" just in case Abyss and Apex decide to take a pass. It's been a long time since I submitted it there. I guess I should query them.

Found a market to send "Daddy's Little Girl" off to, but email was wonky last night and it didn't go out. Duotrope was offline last night (or at least I couldn't get to it) so I did it the hard way. Ralan's is an exceptional list, but Duotrope is much easier to use. Story Pilot also as ease of use in searching, although their engine needs some tweaking, and it's a little clunky. Duotrope gives the most information, but tends to rely on colors and 1 letter acronyms which can get a bit confusing (what shade of blue is that, does that mean they accept horror?). Anyway, hopefully email will be less wonky tonight.

Tonight I'll meet Bette at the Sears to have her look at the dishwasher I found. It has the best energy rating of all the models I looked at. It's a mid-priced ($400 on sale) Kenmore. It feels and looks a little cheap (there's a $450 upgraded model that feels a little more solid and has some options), but I like the energy rating on it (320 on a scale from 195-538). While that scale starts at 195 I haven't found a make or model that is below 300. It doesn't have the supper quiet insulation package, but then our current one doesn't either. At the other end, there was a Frigidare that was nice (same energy rating but felt and looked solid), but at nearly $600, it's a bit out of our price range (I think, especially with expensive furnace repairs or replacement). Installation is $139, with a $35 rebate. I'm debating if $100 is worth them doing the work and hauling away the old one. I'm leaning toward yes. I think I could do it, although the soft copper tubing has me a bit concerned, but it'll be a most of the day kind of job. And then I'll have to wait until spring to dump the old one (Village Cleanup Day). But dishwashers seem to suffer from "give the people more, even if they don't need it"-itis. Does anybody really need 6 wash settings? Is the "sanitation" cycle really a concern for people who don't have phobias (and just what is that, do they have a UV purification lamp? I don't know). Now having the choice of a stainless steel tub, that's an option. Or the difference in wire rack construction, I can see that (although, wouldn't they get the price down if they made all their racks the same way and bought on volume?). Even the difference in "quiet pacs" I can see as costing more (although, really, just make the damn things quiet across the board, it works toward your brand).

Yesterday, the one BP station had gas for $3.48. It was a mob scene. Lines of cars out onto the highway. Seriously, it's gotten so bad we're all Jonesing for $3.50 gas.

Tonight I'm hoping to get rewrites on the "Prince Interview" flash done. Yes, I'm doing short stuff first. And I'm not working on new things right at the moment. I keep beating myself up on writing the novel. Right now, though, I'm feeling all spacey and non-focused from life. And I'm anxious about other writing things which I also wrote a query last night, but talked myself out of it and said, "Be cool, dude." We'll see if that last to the weekend.

I also need to do billing for some logo work I did. Just got the final approval on the brochure which I really like, and I like the client, he's a good guy. This one is going in the portfolio. There's a lot of really nice photoshop work (of which I underquoted, but I loved doing it so I took the time to do the full nine yards - we'll see what he says on the final accounting, I'll show my actual time but keep to the quote). It just too way too long to get to this point (I wanted it done by Memorial Day).

So, still a lot to do, but I'm not paralyzed by it. I think those 3000 words this past weekend helped, as did the sleeping in for three days. Sometimes you have to get passed things instead of bottling them up.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

MARGLE!

So the guy was checking our furnace and of course, he found something. The heat exchanger has rusted and is exchanging air as well as heat causing incomplete combustion and soot. Replacing the heat exchanger, because it's rusted it won't be warrantee, is just slightly less than getting a whole new furnace (the time to remove everything in front of it, plus parts). So $2-3000 for the whole thing. Just fargin' fantastic.

Plus I need to do another repair that I knew I should have done long ago and add louvers to the utility room door.

And the dishwasher. And the hot water tank. And the cement outside. And the roof is getting old.

Excuse me while I go kick cats.

Ohio SF is coming to kick your @$%! (In a nice readerly kind of way)

Oh, and if you're looking for great SF-shoot 'em up fun (with Zombies!), today is the release day for Tobias Buckell's latest romp, Sly Mongoose.

Tobias read the first chapter at Confluence last year and I've just go to say, it's very cool. Floating cities, individual atmospheric insertion rigs, and a hard landing. Plus Pepper! Woohoo!

This book is definitely on my Xmas Wish List (in case I don't go all yuppie drunk crazy, continue to leak money and go buy it myself before-hand). I'm also hoping for many contests (you know what I'm like for book contests).

Oh, and this other guy, John Scalzi, you may have heard of him (Campbell, Nebula, a technorati rating the rest of us would kill for), he's got his latest book out as well.

If you're near Ann Arbor, Dayton, Lexington, or Columbus you can check them both out in one fell swoop. John and Tobias together are a hoot, by the by. Two smart people doing smart things and cracking smart jokes.

The horror(s)!

(via Jay Lake's link salad) Apex is having a flash contest for Halloween. They don't call it flash, but shorts under 1000 words, to me, are flash. Anyway, the theme (imagine me as the teacher from A Christmas Story, "I want you to write a theme.") is ELECTION HORROR. Oo, scary.

I'm assuming here that they don't want the horror that John McCain is selling that if Obama is elected he'll tax us until our eyeballs fall out and there will be roving gangs of "radical Pro-Choicers" roaming the land (I just heard that term last night and I'm still trying to figure out what it means, other than the standard verbal gymnastics the far right engages in, I mean, are there gangs out there grabbing women off the streets and performing abortions on them even if they're not pregnant?). I'm also assuming they don't mean the horror of John McCain being President and either going off the deep end or being a real Manchurian Candidate (and you probably couldn't do that in under 1000 words anyway). Nor the whisper campaign that Obama is the anti-Christ (no, really, it's out there, ever wonder why the McCain ads feature people chanting "Obama" and playing up the whole "world celebrity" thing, yeah, plays to that whisper campaign).

There's plenty of horror to be found in elections (ad campaigns in the week leading up to the elections, I shudder just thinking about it). There's the election booth horrors (25 initiatives! But I need to get to work in an hour). Horrors of elections booths, the cramped cloying closeness behind the curtain, the pulling of levers (well, here in Ohio we get glorified folding tables with privacy screens reminiscent of those panels during Final Jeopardy). There's the multiple signing of names to big registers (care to sign in blood, Mr. Buchheit?) after declaring allegiance (and knowing the politics of your registrar is the exact opposite, benefit of the small town). There's who you vote for (how many of you have actually met these people in the flesh), what you vote on, where you vote (oh, more basement horror), the mind control techniques of political advertising where running a "clean campaign" is an attack ad of it's own. And then there are the unique horrors of being in an election. There's just so much material here, but you only have until October 15th to get it done and submitted.

What to choose, what to choose. Just remember when elections get weird, the weird get elected.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Long Weekend Not in the Berkshires

Never did get to the store. Did little stuff around the home all weekend. Cleaned out the laundry room, dismantled the hot air vent on the clothes drier (wasn't planned) and put it back together. The drier works better now. Did another CLR treatment on the washer, washer doesn't work better. Will need to try new pump hose. On the plus side, with having to reconnect drier vent I moved everything in the utility room around (that could be moved) and cleaned up the floor under the appliances. Scrubbed the bathrooms after having waited way too long (LimeAway, oh how I love thee). Wrote about 3000 words that will never see the light of day, the less said about the better. Caught up with the blogs (at least I think, with the dial-up the RSS feeds don't update so well). Found the exact gift I was looking for at a great price, two weeks after I got something close at 3x the cost (sigh). Spent too much time on the intertubienets. And slept. Oh boy howdie, did I sleep.

Last night we had fireworks, the first this village has had since I've been living here. That was a little fun. They couldn't launch them too high (for some reason), and while it was only a block away, the trees obscured most of it, but we could see enough to have fun.

Today I did the councilman thing, on the sly. I set up the sound system for the parade, and then watched said parade. Spent fifteen minutes talking with our Chief of Police. This evening I walked up to the fair and spent too much money on dinner, caught up with a friend I haven't seen for a long time (part-time police, ambulance paramedic, former county emergency management team, etc, and so on, in retirement he's working even more, seems to be a theme in these parts).

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Dishwasher Shopping

Well, the leak is from the pump. I can't find a full replacement, only rebuild kits, and no instructions (the manual has been discontinued). So, it looks like it's going to be a new dishwasher. My bad for not locating the source of the leak first and going on advice (bad handyman, no Klondike Bar). I think I can install one myself, although the soft copper tube makes me nervous (it's easy to kink). Sears is running a sale, that includes free installation (by rebate). I could live with that.

I took tomorrow off (last week was really bad at the day job, and this week wasn't much better). Bette has some errands to run. Maybe we'll go later in the day (I really want to sleep in), or Saturday.

This weekend is also the Grand Valley Festival (also called the Fall Festival by the born-and-bred-here types and wanna-bes, I guess at first it was help in October, old names die hard in small towns). I have to do the speaker system for the parade. I should probably put in an appearance. A few years ago they had one of those booths where you have to shoot out the star. Yeah, considering the dust on the stuffed animal I don't think the carney ever thought he'd have to pay off (the secret is to cut the star out). I don't think he ever came back (at least I haven't seen him, and it's a small fair). The new thing this year is fireworks on Saturday.

Down

Money, it's a gas.

Hey look, gas prices are going down and there was no more drilling, Congress recessed before lifting their offshore ban. Why, it's a miracle.

Except for it's not. See, the dollar has rallied. It's as high as it has been for months now. Last month the dollar was worth half as much as it was last year at the same time, and strangely enough, oil was selling for twice as much as it was a year ago. Now that the dollar has rallied, the price of oil is going down. Go figure, oil is sold on a world market but it is priced in dollars. Who knew.

By most people's estimates our consumption of gasoline is down 2-3%. And that can swing markets (especially those based on "what the market will bear" costs). It's a clear message to producers, you charged too much, the market has now responded negatively for the first time. Add that to the word that car manufacturers can move trucks or SUVs (except to the country farmers, or out in Wyoming which is having an energy boom). Although gas prices might go up for the short term. It seems that rebel action in Nigeria (well, we call them rebels) has cut production there by 25% until they can fix some infrastructure.

The dollar has also been helped by classic recessions (quarters of a shrinking economy) in Germany, France, and Italy. More importantly, the Fed has taken steps to shore up the dollar (like actually publishing just how much currency is floating around out there, which they haven't done for many months). See, the decline in the value of the dollar was intentional. It was even a 2000 Campaign promise by the current president. The devalued dollar has not been all bad for our economy. If there is a manufacturing plant in the US that bases most of it's sales on exports, why, it's been a boon. Take Caterpillar for example. They make expensive, big earth moving equipment. Just the kind of equipment that Canada needs to haul all that tar-sand out of the earth and that China and SE Asia is experiencing a massive building boom, all of which requires CAT equipment.

But, how's your budget doing? Mine, not so well. Because if this rally holds (and if you read that article, it's not a given) it will take years for the full effect of the fall to be felt.

Just on a tangent, this past month's tax revenues for the village were the same as last year, we don't expect it to hold. One of our industries (that has cut staff to one third) has been working overtime.

Everything is my fault.

There are days like this in the universe where everything is my fault. Can't find your car keys? My fault. Russia invades Georgia and keeps troops active after they promised to withdraw? My bad. Your star implodes a few million years earlier than predicted because of the presence of too many mini-black holes? Look no father, it's me. The coach-a-bower drives by? Yeah, they probably asked me for directions because Google screwed up.

It's one of those days.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Inspired by all the swimming

Rewrote "What the Sea Sends" from the notes I took at the poetry group reading. Tightened up the language, didn't do much, mostly single word edits. And then submitted to the good people over at Goblin Fruit.

We Call It Riding the Gravy Train

The Scorpion King 2, direct to DVD. 'Nough said.

John McCain, Comedian in Chief

Who knew John McCain was running to be the nation's Stand-up Comedian. During an interview this morning on NPR (transcript here) he basically says that comparing Obama to Paris Hilton was really supposed to be a joke.

"... I strongly recommend that people who don't find humor in that relax, turn off the computer and go on it and get some fresh air and try to regain some..." He was cut off at that point.

See, John was just trying to be funny. You know, ha ha. See, he was just kidding. As Ellen Degeneres says in her stand up routine, "..and then once you're upset they say, 'Just kidding.' As if that makes it all right. They were just kidding. 'Well, obviously you don't know how to kid because we both should be laughing.'"

For some reason I have visions of the McCain campaign pulling the online video of the ad and replacing it with the tag "Video deleted at the public's pantiwadulous response" (here's a link for those that don't get that joke, if they want to know).

So I guess I know now when John McCain says something so totally outrageous, he really did mean for me to laugh at it. And I thought I was doing that as a sincere form of sarcasm. Now I know it was for effect. Bravo, McCain, most candidates wouldn't have the courage to crack jokes like that.

Also, just because I'm sure with that first link some one, somewhere will be vanity checking. To Senator McCain, please sir, learn the positions of those who are working in and endorsing your campaign. To have Steve Schmidt make a quote in the WSJ and then you have to say you never heard that just makes you look amateurish. This isn't (by far) the first time you've had to distance yourself from either a key advisor or a key endorsement. The person running your vetting needs to have a talk, as does the person handling your campaign communications. People are so off the farm to be considered "free-range politicos."

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Still gots all my balls

Well nothing was resolved tonight, so I still have all those balls to juggle for another two weeks. Damnit. Person from the public never showed up. The MARCS radio system was bounced back to committee (I need to do a post about that, severely not liking it as a citizen, as someone in charge of Safety I see it's benefits).

Also the dishwasher is still leaking. I took off all the front plates I could. There was a little water underneath, but not as much as I expected. I can't find a tub seal in the parts list. So it's looking like we may need a whole new washer. Will look under it during the next washing. After CLRing the washing machine it still drains slowly, so I'll need to do that again. I guess if home ownership were easy they'd just let anybody have one.

Losing My Religion

On the latest episode of Writing Excuses, the writing prompt, and the whole episode really, was on creating religions in world building. This matched to one of my notes I had taken recently (and I apologize, I can't remember what actually sparked this idea).

That which eats us has the power to instill religion and receives worship from us.

Most religious researchers see the start of religion at the same time we notice ritual burials. That religion is an attempt to explain where we go when we die. I personally think this is a post hoc ergo promter hoc error, but there does seem to be some concurrence with burial sites. Although, this may merely coincidence as much of what we know from early history is based around ritual burials (the other major trove are fireplaces and their attendant junk pits). I think it's safe to say, any religious artifacts would not be thrown away, and any that would be burned would be indistinguishable from the normal detritus found in fire pits.

For literary worth I offer the proto-man apes from Clarke's 2001 (the book, not the movie). After they learn from the Monolith how to kill, one of the first things they use that knowledge on is the leopard that stalks them in the night. The main proto-man mounts its head on a stick and uses this to instill fear in the other tribe of proto-men.

Take for instance the power of our collective unconscious when you think of bear, wolf, and cat. All of which have one time been objects of veneration, all of which in the modern age have been pushed to the edges.

That which kills us, we venerate.

The ancient Greeks called Zeus the "Benevolent." Now, if you know your greek myths, Zeus (a relative late comer to the pantheon, BTW) is anything but benevolent. The Greeks had appellations like this for all their gods. These name tags are meant to pacify the gods and direct them to behave in certain ways. Most cultures do the same thing. In western Christianity there is the phrase, "most merciful God," usually said when entreating him to be merciful to the practitioner when that practitioner is expecting to get smitten in some fashion (either by the God or by supposed God's enemies).

In modern Christianity, post Middle-Ages, there is the obsession with the after-life. That by pleasing God we can obtain life everlasting. Failing to please God means the big Lake of Fire consumption. You can see this fascination with God-baesd retribution in the ranting of modern televangelists.

That which does not kill us only serves to make us stronger.

AIDS, bird-flu, Ebola, and a host of other parasites and diseases instill fear in our modern minds until they become almost fetish symbols. But these aren't so much religions as they occupy niches in existing belief systems. They're given supernatural powers and attributes because of our fear response. Don't see this? How many of you know a person who either won't fly or doesn't trust "them Arabs" after 9-11? How many people had discussions about H1V1, avian, or bird-flu? There has been no instances of human to human transfer. If an avian flu makes the evolutionary jump to humans, it will be devastating, for the very reason that it happens so rarely we have little resistance. Oh, and thing the fear is gone, don't count on it.

Humans have survived many diseases. The cures are encoded in us (such as malaria in Africa), transfered by mother's milk (there's a whole parcel of good things that babies get from it), and we've made artificial progress as well. Many of the "childhood" diseases were once deadly to whole populations, and some still are. Most people, however, do get over chicken-pox and the like because those of us who survived the millennia are those who are resistant. Those who survive the 1918 Pandemic either weren't exposed, or had some form of resistance. So saying the next one will be just as bad ignores that fact. There were, however, whole populations never exposed before.

So where was I? Oh yeah, religions. So what would make a good fantasy religion? I'm thinking an animistic religion would probably work best. Start there, anthropomorphize a predatory animal, mix in various dooming characteristics and you'd have it.

Warp Factor 5, Engage!

Yes, Virginia, there is a Warp Drive. Based on the theoretical work of Michael Alcubierre, and if M Theory (aka String Theory) as currently described is correct it is possible to create a "warp bubble," or wing, and slide along space time at speed faster than light.

Of course there's several problems with implementation. One, we don't know how to manipulate the three standardly accepted dimensions, let alone the extra dimensions necessary in M Theory. So "magic" will have to happen here. And the calculated energy needed to change those dimensions is a serious hurdle.

But hey, we now have the white paper. So that stage is done. They'll leave all those pesky engineering details to someone else.

Two money shots of the article:
"'These calculations are based on some arbitrary advance in technology or some alien technology that would let us manipulate the extra dimension,' said Cleaver."

The scientists estimate the energy necessary to create the warp bubble is about 10^45 joules. "'That's... (the) energy you'd get if you converted the entire mass of Jupiter into pure energy... ,' said Cleaver."

Monday, August 11, 2008

Too many notes, Mozart

There comes a point in juggling, as the assistant is feeding more balls into the circle, that the juggler's brain refuses to process anymore. In fact, it hits the big "Tilt" sign and shuts down. All the balls come falling down.

After the blazing display of focus the other week with writing, I've been hoping to continue that. But there's too many balls in the air, and I get paralyzed and can't do anything. Tomorrow some of those balls will go away after the monthly meeting, hopefully not to be replaced with more balls. This week I hope to put two freelance projects to bed (and force a check out of a client I thought I could trust), fewer balls. The door gasket on the dishwasher didn't help, one more ball. But I cleaned out the float mechanism, which was all gunked up. One fewer ball (until we test it). I really hope it's not the tub gasket, or the water line (as I haven't figured out how to get under the thing without dismantling much of the front). More virtual balls. Yard needs work, chores need done, crime needs busted, all balls in the air.

I need to get back writing. The words are starting to eat me. And I'm bugging you all with my output (I don't want to count the past two weeks of blog output, that would be depressing).

Crow, it's what's for dinner

Hey look, John Scalzi won the Hugo for best fan writer. Congrats John. While I like David Langford's Ansible, I'm really glad you won. Having seen you at Confusion for several years I can say without hesitation that your fannishness is not in doubt and have used your Whatever to great effect to help other writers. You all should go congratulate him, and if you're not reading Whatever (and John's books) why the hell aren't you? It's excellent. Well done, John. And I'm sure this is the first of your many Hugos to come.

And now for the mea culpa. See, last year I was a complete dick towards John about his first nomination for fan writer. Armed with a complete misunderstanding of the Hugo's rules, I put on my asshat and went in swinging. Many other people, including Patrick Nielson Hayden himself, set me aright. The crow that day was very tasty (I make mine with a secret Tobasco Sauce recipe, it's guar-an-teed).

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Every Rose has it's Thorn

Last week I was in Sam's Club, and I was looking at their Member's Mark Milk. Something was bothering me about the label. It took me a while to notice what it was. The cow on the label has no udder. Hello. Earth to graphic designers, cows without udders typically become hamburgers. Cows with udders produce milk (given the right circumstances, and then stand back). What does it say about the milk they're selling when the cows have no udders. No sure I'd want to drink it.

Conversely, there's this cartoon called Back at the Barnyard. One of the main characters, Otis, a boy cow (we call 'em bulls where I come from), has an udder. Um. And they say gay marriage will confuse the kids.

Now, since I normally criticize those in my profession, let me give a shout out to someone doing it right. Those wonderful people over at TCM have some very good visual designers working for them. I love their cut scenes, the monthly focus blurbs, and just in general how the non-movie visual of the station. It's fabulous.

Break and then Working Hard Weekend

Well, took a break on Friday night to watch the opening ceremonies. I didn't plan to, but it just kept me looking at the spectacle. Yesterday was supposed to be a goodbye party for the nephew heading out to USC. Unfortunately, the father-in-law refused to leave, so we ended up not going down (long story). Instead we went to the movies with wife and sister-in-law. We saw The Dark Knight. How the heck is that PG-13?

Lots of things going on in that movie, and for me, lots of laugh out loud moments (mostly from Heath Ledger's Joker). But the thing is intense. Very much so. The bat cycle didn't work for me (seemed too cartoonish). The lead up to the final confrontation with the Joker went on way too long. Over all it was a good movie though. Lots of subtlety happening (like how many people caught that the Joker knows who Batman really is). I'll probably end up asking for the DVD for Xmas.

Then we had dinner at Red Robin. I'll leave it at I only tipped 10%. That's rare for me.

So that left today to make up for all my avoiding work. Finished a few variants of logos for an old client and emailed them off. Then hung pictures around the house after all the painting was done (hung six new frames, had to use the ladder). CLRed the washing machine to help with tub drainage. Then I replaced the gasket in the dishwasher. That was fun. The main open area of the door wasn't bad. But under the door, where I couldn't see what was going on was a big pain. Took me twice as long to do those little pieces as it took me to do the rest of the door. Damn those Chinese and their little nimble fingers. It's been storming on and off since last night so no yard work could be done (the lawn really needs mowing, branches need lopped and chainsawed). There's always next weekend.

This week has meetings and more work work work.

So, hope you all had a good weekend.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Olympics in China

Okay, watching the opening ceremonies. Holy frack. That LCD panel, wow, just fargin wow. Now that is a nice piece of kit, and the usage (so far) has been spectacular.

But those Fou Drums. Does anybody out there know more about these. All I can get (after 15 minutes of searching) are all links to "hey look, they were used in the Olympic opener, discovered in a tomb in 2005." Yeah, great, thanks. Are these martial drums (used to call the order of battle, like some of those large bronze bells)? They look and sound like they could be (although being a standard musical instrument may not be out). Are they temple or palace drums? Just what are they. I can't find anything else, no archeological data, specifications, nothing. Yeah, I'm an ancient warfare wonk. Hell, how many of you knew that the ancient Chinese used bells to call the order of battle?

Oh, and because most commentators are missing it, there is a message in the opening ceremonies (I'm up to them finishing the "we were great mariners once" stage). It's "we've got the people. We have the tradition. You can no longer ignore us." It's a very nationalist message. And can I say that watching Communist China glorifying it's dynastic ages, mind boggling.

Can you hear the world's smallest violin playing?

Everybody believes in the Adam Smith's "Invisible Hand of the Market" until it comes around to bitch slap them. Now it seems the airline industry is square in the sites of that hand. Having slapped them upside the head at 9-11, the invisible hand of fuel prices has them on the ground and is continuing to slap the crap out of them.

Oh yes, that paramount triumph of will of Reaganomics is on the ropes. All that "free competition will drive down prices" is now driving them out of business. Oh sure, companies come and go; Pan Am anyone? And they can change business functions to say, cut out the travel agents so that the industry can keep more of the profits for their own scheduling services. And then they can eliminate everything from leg space (big one with me), to dinners, to even switching from peanuts to pretzels, to three pretzels, to "you don't really need anything anyway," to "why do you need luggage," and "oh, if you bring luggage, you'll need to tip the handlers because were not going to pay them." But, see, now they're all feeling the pinch, which is why they're attempting to commit "Death by Over Feeing."

And you know who is to blame? Why, you are. Yes you. I'm looking right at you. You, the consumer who wants actual service, expected those "savings through competition," needed on-time flights, demanded to be treated like a physical human, and worse yet, played the pricing game exactly the way they wanted you to. Yes, you're forcing the airlines to fly full planes that they loose money on. You bad consumer you. (Really, read to the bottom of that first article from NPR, it's all your fault.) So the airline industry doesn't want to charge you fees for wanting a seat and seat belt when you fly, no, they're really nice people who love their wives and children and play with their dogs.

Maybe it isn't so much of a invisible hand as a steel-toed boot.

Can you tell I have no sympathy? This is a "You made your bed, now lie in it," moment. And yes, I believe that is Tchaikovsky's Serenade Melancolique.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Open Anthology Calls

For all those writers out there, in case you missed them.

John Joseph Adams (aka the Slush God) has announced an open call for his anthology "Federations." This is your basic Space Opera set up. Five cents per word up to 5000 words, not shabby at all. Plus, John is a nice guy.

Eric Reynolds over at Hadley Rille books and Jay Lake are editing an anthology called "Footprints." They announced the basic story is aliens find out footprints on Earth's Moon. Humans are long gone. What do these aliens make of this? Flat payment of $40 on publication for 4000-10000 words. Eric has been doing some good work, several short stories he has publish in his anthos have been nominated for awards.

Sweet Esoteric Order of Dagon, WTF is this?

(via Matt Staggs) Someone has been naughty and I really wish they would have been nice. They made a travesty movie called "Cthulhu." As most of you know, I have a deep and abiding interest in such subjects. However, this isn't about Cthulhu, this is about the Deep Ones. From "Shadow Over Innsmouth" (if memory serves) comes this retelling. Certainly HP's writing would need to be 1) modernized and 2) have real dialog added, but I'm not sure this is the movie that does it well (take a look at the "awards" screen, recognize any of those? I didn't even know there was an HP Lovecraft Film Festival). And can you really trust a movie that has the wrong frickin' title?

When will someone make "At the Mountains of Madness" (although wiki says it's for 2010)? When I saw the opening of the trailer to "Aliens vs Predator" I was all happy, until I saw what it was really about? I guess "Shadow Over Innsmouth" is one of the few stories that could be made into a movie easily (most would make excellent short films, although some of the FXs budget would be exceedingly high, "Color Out of Space" anybody? "Rats in the Walls"? " "The Dunwich Horror"? Although Night Gallery did "Pickman's Model") Although looking at the wiki article on HP, I guess a lot of his stories have been adapted ("Shadow" and "Dunwich" being the most adapted stories). I'm so behind the times.

Oil Drilling Redux

Is it only me or do you all have an automatic response when politicians say "We should stop sending all our oil money to people who hate us." My automatic response? "Damn those Canadians!" Our leaders are fiddling with their naughty bits in public while Rome burns. Don't let them get away with it.

Have I been writing too much about this issue? Probably so, but it really pisses me off (I commute 38.6 miles one way per day). Our politicians are saying the equivalent of "The Internet is... a series of tubes," only nobody is laughing at them.

So you've heard about how wonderful it would be if we opened off-shore drilling, right. You might remember my earlier post about it. If we could get all 18 Billion Barrels (a statistical mean, more than likely much less) of oil right now, and it was the type of oil we could process, it would only stop imports for 5 years. That's if we continuing our other domestic production. There is also no guarantee than the oil would be sold here to the US (oil is sold on a world market, no matter where it's pumped).

But now we have estimates on how much oil we realistically could be producing in 15 years (any talk about seeing oil from these leases before 10 years are simply lies, we don't have the equipment, we don't have the infrastructure, and we don't have enough engineers to do the job - see the industry's excuses on why they haven't drilled on the land they currently own leases to). Most people are talking 200,000 barrels a day (the far end is 800,000 barrels a day). We import 2.36 Million barrels of oil per day. Until recently (the time that the DoE figures referenced in the link above) we were filling the strategic oil reserve to the tune of 79,000 barrels per day (that's now at an end).

So let's say we could get 200,000 (800,000) barrels of oil per day. That's only slightly more than what we import from Equador, #12 oil importer (Iraq, #6), and is 11% (44%) of what we import from Canada (our #1 importer). It's the output of roughly 2000 (8000) US wells, but only 2 (8) middle east wells. Saudi Arabia is already over producing (they used to be #4 or 5, now they're #2) and are beyond their comfort zone. They would love to cut back and would only have to cut their production by 12% (50%) on just the oil they sell to us and we would be equal.

The best thing we can do to drop the price of oil is conserve. Most countries are still expanding their need for oil (China and India continue at the pace they have for the past three years). However here in the US gasoline and diesel consumption (from retail sales) has dropped by 2-3% in the past few weeks. The price of oil has also dropped to below $120 a barrel. Properly inflating tires could cut another 3-4% on consumption. These are things that have a real impact right now.

I can (cough) see clearly (wheeze) now (cough) the rain (hack) is (cough) gone (wheeze)

Well, the three month plan of China's overgrupenfuerers seems to have gone bust. After a good day on Sunday, the smog is back over Beijing. This Olympics will be remembered for more than the medals. Already there is political strife (some VIPs have been denied entry visas), athlete scandals (just how old are China's gymnasts), and all the fun surrounding the torches progress to the eternal flame. Just wait until the world sees athletes in face masks, the reports how some athletes are not competing in their signature events because they don't want the health problems, and the ever famous "location" shots that appear to show the venues surrounded in fog, perpetually.

I have major issues with the EPA. Not in their authority or their purview, but in their implementation of the rules (which tends toward the ignorant authoritarian side). However, I do remember "haze clouds" over Philly and Cleveland. I remember the smell of cities. How many young people know what I'm talking about when I say you could see the temperature incline in the air because that was the deepest brown line in the sky? I remember that very well. It's still there, but it's much harder to see. When I was young you couldn't miss it. This is why I support the general mission of the EPA. As you watch the Olympics keep in mind that what you're seeing isn't to far away from what our skies looked like in the 70s. Keep it in mind as people talk about relaxing air quality standards.

I do not want to go back to that.

Now if you'll excuse me I have to go get Copland's "Fanfare for the Common Man" out of my head. That thing is an earworm we're all going to be humming.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Crazy Two Weeks

What a crazy two weeks it's been. Up and down, left and right. The day thing has long tracks of not much to do (hey, I've been doing well with the blogroll), followed by "we need these before you go" requests. Good thing is that this means overtime, but not that much, four to six hours a week. Council has been up and down, and I've been dragging my feet on some emails and reports I need to write. Then there was Confluence, fun but took a whole weekend. Family obligations. And a major rewrite of a story (hopefully I can tell you all about it soon). Too many late nights and early mornings.

The next few weeks promise to be just as crazy. And I've just realized how much of the summer is done and gone.

So, you surface for a moment, breathe out as you come up, fill your lungs once cleared of the water and plunge back in.

Hope your all lives are going a bit more smoothly.

McCain to Nevada, yeah, I lied

John McCain spent some time in Nevada and assured the people there that Yucca Mountain wouldn't need to be opened (a softer report here).

You see, John McCain is also advocating more nuclear power. More nuclear plants means not only more problems with finding Uranium, more mining Uranium, more processing, more spent fuel and by products, it means something else. See those photos of the fuel rods suspended in liquid from the DoE link (first one above). What do you think happens to that liquid? Yeah, it's a real problem.

When I was a young graphic designer I worked on the environmental reports (DoE and EPA mandated) for the Fernald Nuclear Site for the years 1989 and 1990 (published 1990 and 1991). They say it's cleaned up now. Um, yeah. Don't believe it. I tried to find the reports but my google-fu has failed me. See, Fernald, Ohio is also big dairy land. In 1989 and 1990 there were whole months (read that as plural each year) that milk both downwind and upwind could not be sold because it was too radioactive. Fernald hadn't had a working reactor for over 15 years at that time. My guess is that the dairy farmers in the area still have to dump milk every year.

You don't want to know the stories I heard from the engineers there. Not all of the fuel could be accounted for, let's just leave it at that. There's a creek that flows into the Ohio River (from the Miami if memory serves) that flows right past the plant. You do not want to fish there. Trace materials that can be tacked back to Fernald have found their way to the Ohio.

The biggest problem at Fernald, and at all nuclear plants, is the storage of the reactor coolant. See, not only is it highly toxic, it is "mildly" radioactive as well. And there are holding tanks, large holding tanks, full of it all over the US. It will also be stored at Yucca, because most of the tanks were not constructed to for long term storage. In fact, they're way beyond their expected useful life. So, yes, waste for nuclear power plants is certainly less that from coal fire plants. But it's much more directly deadly.

You can make the reactor core safer than what we use now (like a pebble-bed design), but you can't get away from the hot water waste (from the cooling towers), nor the actual radioactive waste (both high and low-level). And you need to store that waste, somewhere. Shipping it internationally isn't going to work (heck, there are actually laws against it). Yucca Mountain here we come. And there's going to be a whole lot more coming your way if John McCain can be believed.

And don't get me started on "Clean" Coal (which is a game of "hide the carbon-dioxide, sulfur, and mercury").

I'm sure the DSM has something to say about this

Two weeks ago Josh Palmatier had a blog entry asking why people write (with a follow up). For me it's very simple.

(said in Bart Simpson voice) Can't sleep, voices will eat me.

There are voices in my head. Sometimes it's my voice, or the subconscious with a wake-up call, sometimes it's the Muse blowing across the antenna wires in my brain, occasionally it's that trickster up to his games, and then there are the very rare "others." They feel like the Muse, but they sound different. It was because of one of those that I started writing.

Most writers hear voices (and the ones who say they don't are lying, that's my guess). Most rationalize them (and I could probably do the same to all the above), safely label them and put them on the shelf. And in that sterile field of a mind, with the ground thoroughly salted, they begin to write.

Bleh. Not for me. Give me the voices, give me my Muse, give me the cacophony. I want weeds to grow in my mind, I want butterflies and milk weed spores, mushrooms and wild grasses. I don't want inorganic fertilizer, I want a rich humus to grow my ideas. I write because it is what I do, and I should have fun. Follow your bliss Joseph Campbell said. That's what the myths told us. Do what you love and the money will follow.

And I'm not the only one. (via Matt Staggs) Ken Scholes talks about the voices and how to write a short story.

Monday, August 4, 2008

His delete key went snicker-snack! He left it dead, and with its head, he went galumphing back

"War Stories" is now 4985 words long. Tonight's edits were a hunt to "eliminate needless words." I did rewrite about 250 words or so. I bobbled around the 5000 mark for a long time. Bobby is a more haunted figure now. Most of his friends at the legion hall might not believe his story, but one knows he was telling the truth.

The email is in the cue as I type this. I screwed up and tried to send it before I was connected. I'm really tired. Ah, now it cleared.

I'm glad I slept on it. I found some horrendous grammar and a few dastardly typos. I think I caught them all, although the editor may disagree.

I know the story still holds up for me, but then I knew what it was all along. Now I'm worried I cut to far. Oh well. I guess we'll see.

Lessons learned from this rerwrite

I am a much better writer now than I was three-years ago. I wasn't bad then, but I know more about how to construct a short story.

It distresses me that it was fairly easy to cut 15% plus of the story (okay, I knew I left some darlings in there, but the cuts yesterday were after I had eliminated most of them). I guess I bloviate a wee bit too much (like I did just then).

I still have problems typing "from" (usually comes out "form"). Also, I now cut out the word "back" as I type.

Novels seem to be my natural form of writing. Short story work is very intensive still.

I do well under the gun and with having defined parameters. Not so much with my self imposed deadlines, but external ones get me going. Also having a structure to work in helps me focus. When I write short stories, I tell myself the story. Then I try and find a market that it'll fit. Some markets I'd like to try have word count limits that I go beyond. While my newer short stories are smaller, I think having those boundaries helps.

For these edits I've rewritten many sentences to eliminate bloviation. I've done a little of that before, but this is the first that I've been so ruthless and thorough. Some sentences I've just loved met the axe because I could say the same thing with three fewer words (although I did keep some).

So I still need to cut at least another 116 words. Hopefully I can find most of that with a reread, but I'm getting close to eliminating characters which might lessen the concreteness of the story. Or I may have to cut some actions or descriptions, which I think I'm at the edge, or slightly on the too little side already.

This really is a rewrite of the story. While I've cut some places wholesale, some of what was cut found its way back in, but in a changed form. At one point I had to open up a previous version to regain some text I had cut. There were times when my word count was above where I had started for that session (usually met with calm and professionalism instead of a "OMG, I'm gaining, I'm not supposed to be gaining, I'm going to screw this up," because, you know, I'd never have that thought). Much of what was there before has gone through the washer. But I just want to say here, it is so much easier to rewrite and edit a story than it is to pull it whole cloth out of the ether.

Oh, and I really like this story. That should go without saying since I'm the author, but I like this one. A character that had been nameless has a name and became more of a character. I think he's the most interesting one of the ensemble now, but this is not his story, it's Bobby's. Bobby is the one that changes and has things affect him. I think Casey (that's the character's name) will show up again. He's in a position to do that. I don't know his whole game, but he has some of the best dialog. Very funny guy that Casey is.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

Misc Other Things from the Past Week

Received two rejections, both form letters. So I'll need to find some markets for a story and a poem (might rewrite poem first).

Moved to final proof for client brochure. Hopefully will hear good things on Monday.

Misunderstood some budget information for the Village and panicked a little. I'm better now.

Feeling a little better about things in general. Might be the drug working, finally. Or it could be the general accomplishments of the past week.

Also, finally put the iMac on my desk at work (yippie). It's a big one. And now that my video display is in focus, I realize I need new glasses. One of the industrial hazards of graphic design is failing eye sight (that and bad posture which leads to sore backs). Hopefully I'll be able to get new lenses this fall.

Edit 08-04-08 8:23pm Forgot to mention I won a book from Ken McConnell. Yeah me! Thanks Ken.

Hope your week was just as productive.

If you want a good giggle, check out the new Old Spice commercial. I haven't heard it yet (normally mute the TV during commercials), but I've seen it a few times. Starts off with a guy in the shower using their new wash product, and the guy turns out to be a centaur. Beautiful chick in robe comes in at the end. Yes, I know what they're saying here, it's very obvious (can't we be a little teasing anymore, huh guys?). Anyway, what makes it hilarious is that the horse body they put his torso on is obviously a mare, not a stallion. So just like a Ken doll, this guy has no dangly parts. Makes the whole commercial a laugh riot.

Diving Back In

After the family obligations of yesterday, I'm back into rewrites. Reread what I had fixed before, cleaned up some confusing bits, and cut some more. I'm back to where I left off before, but the new stats are 3303 words in, 5664 total (cut another 21 words). Realistic goal is to get to the end by tonight. Hopeful goal is to have another polish round of edits tonight.

Here we go.

Edit 7:30pm At the end. 5425 words. 6847 to start with, that means 1423 words cut or roughly 20%. Not bad. Still need to find 425 words to lose. Am going to have dinner and come back at it.

Edit 10:44pm Down to 5116 words. Close enough I think. Plus I got to use the magic words "eldritch," "rugose," "noisome," "squamous," "ichor," and "cyclopean." Behold my mighty Lovecraft-fu. Or something like that.

Time for sleep. My rugose grey-cells are noisomely squamous as I traverse my cyclopean house to deposit ichor somewhere (don't worry, I didn't write the story like that). I want to read through it again, maybe in hard copy, to make sure I didn't miss something (or to find more things I could cut) and then submit tomorrow night.

Saturday Among the Nieces and Nephews

Yesterday was filled with a co-ed wedding shower for nephew and soon-to-be-niece-in-law. There's something to be said for ritual and tradition. This party was neither. It was mostly a kegger for the kids. No homage to coming of age to be married, entering a new phase of life, etc. Granted they've been living together for a few years now, so some of the "you're wedding night will be special" couldn't be there. The passage of life stuff could, but was very absent. Oh well.

At the party they had a game of "Corn Hole." Okay, stop giggling. Basically it's Bean-bag Toss, but the bag is filled with corn and there are more standardized rules (including a specific kind of paint needed to be used on the goal). So I have no problem with the actual (for lack of better word) sport. It does take some skill and technique, but could we please call it something else? Corn hole already has a meaning, one that I don't think should be applied to a kids game (although Corn Hole is mostly played by adults now, go figure). Every time I see it, or have somebody say the name, I laugh. And yesterday, not only did we play the game, we did it tournament style. You know what's next, right? It'll become an Olympic Sport and the commentators will have to announce that So-and-So is the Gold Medalist in Corn Holing. That's just something I don't want to know about.

After the party we ate dinner with another nephew and his friends. We finally got them to open up right as we finished up. They were somewhat funny. When I was their age I think I was a little stick in the mud, but they've got me beat. Youth is wasted on the young.

Then we visited with another niece and played cards until late. That was fun. She's still in high school. We discussed if she should retake her ACTs. The first time she scored a 30, not bad. She aced the math section, but faltered in the English side of the test. Where she placed percentage wise we said that retaking the test probably wasn't necessary, except the parents are going to pay for it. We said that if she felt she could move up three or four points, it might be worth it. I'm glad she's so smart. She was a good kid, but when she hit middle-school I was worried she was going off the tracks into to much of a celebrity watcher/emulator. I'm also very proud she's good in math.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Footprints in a Clean Desert

Starting back up. Had some epiphanies in between. Did some minor tweaks.

I also realized I was switching POV too often with scene breaks. Now I'll only have three breaks with POV switches. Start with 3rd Person Limited (opening frame), switch to 1st Person (bulk of story), then back to 3rd Person Limited (close frame/twist) following a different character. You know, unless I change my mind again. The other switches (mostly inserting the frame back in that 1st Person narrative) weren't needed and didn't advance the story.

At 2206 words, we're at 6025 total.

Edit 11:56pm 3321 words in, 5685 words total, so I cut 340 words tonight (over all 1160 words are gone). Here's where it gets hard. I've taken out most of the easy stuff. Still need to find 700 words to cut while keeping the story. Probably will need to go through it a few more times to get there.

I combined the two scenes, added in a bunch of key phrases, tightened the language a little more. I'm not describing everything, but hopefully I'm describing what's needed. I've added a little bit here and there (so I've cut more words that is shown here). Used some of the standard Lovecraftian language.

Tonight's favorite line, "Another example of the Pentagon wasting hundreds of millions so I can push a button and make it go boom.” Close second “Think they can out-weird the US, eh. They should think again."

Famous Last Words

Hey, there's another chance to win a free copy of Neil Gaiman's Graveyard Book. I didn't win the first time, so I'm trying again.