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On the side of a hill in the deep forest green, tracing a sparrow on snow-crested ground,
blankets and bedclothes the child of the mountain sleeps unaware of the clarion call.
On the side of a hill, a sprinkling of leaves washes the grave with silvery tears,
a soldier cleans and polishes a gun.
War bellows, blazing in scarlet battalions, generals order their soldiers to kill
and to fight for a cause they've long ago forgotten

Saturday, February 28, 2009

Everything stays the same

So, okay, I took a few moments out of this busy Saturday to check up with CPAC and Rush Limbaugh's keynote address. Yeah, so much for all the "Rush isn't one of our leaders" talk. Anyway, I was afraid that conservatives would get a clue, change to the modern political era, and actually become relevant going forward. You know, they would actually believe their line about being a big tent and wanting to hear from dissenting voices and becoming an party of new ideas.

I didn't need to worry.

Nope, seems the party has decided to go the route of the Ugly American Tourist. When confronted by someone who doesn't seem to understand how wonderful they are, they'll speak a little slower and louder until the foreigner finally understands English. Because, you know, conservatism is a set of core values, and those values don't change.

Way to go Republicans. And thanks for making our job easier. Oh, and keep calling us, you know, the people you think are too dumb to understand that you all fart rainbows and sunshine, keep calling us the enemy. It does the same thing as the conservative religious people who think there's a war against Christianity/Christmas. Normally it's called sympathetic magic or the "result of positive thinking." Or by believing it's reality, you bring it into existence. In other words, you brought it on yourselves.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Mixing metaphors like a fox

Well, research can be your friend, a friend that likes to drink and tell lewd stories. Turns out I guessed right in wanting to write "Bladesman" in a harboiled/noir detective style. It has all the traits of one. So I have some of the books on CD, and I'm looking for more. I hear Elmore Leonard is supposed to be good, so if anybody has any recommendations I'm listening.

I'm getting books by Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane (having trouble finding those) and Dashiell Hammett (if there are books I "just gotta read" by these or anybody else, let me know). From what I can gather, Raymond Chandler is the guy to study. Much of my research says his writing achieved the pinnacle. I have some of the "original source" material done. As a young man I read my Conan Doyle and Christie, my Poe and much of the rest. Sure, I wasn't reading and dissecting the words and structure, and I've forgotten much, but I think enough lingers like stale cigarette smoke in my mind.

A murder does start the book, however there's really no mystery of who dunnit. The "mystery" part revolves around the "why" they dunnit. There's also the reverse detective story, the "how are they going to catch the murderer" type. And while police are still an option, it's not one that our main character and his cohorts will ever take seriously. So without really meaning to, I've been wrapped in a rug and stuffed in the trunk of the hardboiled detective genre. To be sure, this is also an urban fantasy novel, can't get around that. What else would you call a novel that's near future, dystopian, west coast after the earthquake and a Chinese Invasion, economic collapse and it's aftermath, all with swords and magic anyway. There's a decidedly low-tech grunginess brought about by economics alongside the high tech geegaws and work flow. And there is magic, very limited in who can use it, but very powerful.

So now it remains to be seen if I can keep all these voices separate in my head straight to write the three novels (neo-noir, high fantasy, and contemporary satire). Or there's going to be some weird mix ups.

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Updatery Duece

Getting closer to normal at the day thing. Spent time reinstalling software and regaining functionality. Since I have to go through this I am setting up some things to work better than before (lack of legacy can be freeing).

For a short meeting tonight it went on entirely too long. And I also have an extra meeting this week. Joy.

Wrote about 1000+ words tonight in emails. Will probably spend the rest of the week's word output putting in reports and more emails.

There's plenty of things write about. Hopefully I'll get to some of them soon. As it is I'm falling behind with getting quotes, writing a business letter, finishing my business cards, and getting my own freelance business back in order. Not to mention checking up with people I haven't heard from in a long time. And probably twenty other things I'm forgetting. Hope your weeks are going better.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Updatery

Okay, first off, for those of you with my cell number, I upgraded my phone and I now get signal most everywhere so it's on most of the time (except work hours, because, you know, we have a memo against that).

Next, I know I haven't been on IM in days. Something about having your hard drive go all smacky can lead to that. Hopefully soon. Many of you helped me get through years of working by myself, and I want to get back on line to repay on that. Plus, you know, I miss both the humorous, insightful, and brain expanding conversations. Not to mention the great technical support and general cultural help.

The Apple tech was out to our site today, the hard drive was toasty. Guy was good to us by actually trying to get it to work. Thanks, dude. However that means a starting from scratch with all the passwords, emails, connections, shortcuts, and wicked functionality to get my work done faster. And getting away from Outlook Web App. OMG, I'll be so happy.

It's going to be a few days (or more) until I can get it all rocking the Casbah again. The one thing I am going to miss from this experience is that I was working in a half cube on Friday and Monday. I had two walls and a corner. Pretty spiffy.

An earful of hurt like a colorful metaphor

So yesterday's wordage output was around 500 new words. Most of which were suckalicious and will have to be tossed in the can during rewrites. Somedays you get the bear, most days the bear gets you.

Also I want to sing the praises of libraries with online catalogs and customer services. Geauga County Library is one such. Not only do they have a great genre fiction collection, they have a somewhat limited online catalog (pokey, slow, not much in the way of navigation), but one that has a great function. That function is adding books to a hold list.

Tonight I went through and put on hold audio books by Raymond Chandler, Mickey Spillane, and Dashiell Hammett. Five books in total. I know that hard copy books would be better to learn the language usage, but I'm doing it as an experiment. This is like finding out that I can proof on screen, which I'm getting better at. Plus Elliott Gould reads raymond Chandler. How cool is that.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Workshop Announcement

Got novel? Looking to have it critiqued and sharing your insight by critiquing other beginning novelists? Well, there's a new workshop in town. Actually, it's in Western Michigan to be correct.

It's the inaugural year for the Hastings Point Writer's Workshop.Deadlines are coming up fast. February 28th to be precise, which means you'll need to have what you want critiqued mostly in hand. The event is May 14-17.

I know most of the people involved and they're hoopy froods, every single one of them. This is run by the same people who do the Feral Writer's Group, which I've been involved with for the past two years. I wish we could have such an event every quarter (more than that and I think I'd collapse from exhaustion).

The accommodations are top notch, the other writers excellent, intelligent, insightful and witty. The model they're using has been highly successful for some other authors you may have heard of. If you're in the area, have a novel ready for workshopping, and have the time I think you'd be a fool for not trying. If any one of the pieces I was working on was ready I would be trying my hardest to go. In fact, I would need to take an unpaid day off work and I would do it as well.

Yes I wanted to go to this. Mer has been planning this for years and it's going to be fabulous. I wish I had a novel close enough to finished to apply.

Randomness

The snow came on and off today. Is it a good sign when the Weather Channel's "Local on the 8's" has no reports for any of the weather stations around you? Probably not. Last night we drove back from the niece's musical (South Pacific, and it was pretty darn good for a high school presentation) in about two inches of slush. It wasn't all that bad except for the people who wanted to drive on twenty miles per hour. Yeah, notice that long line of cars behind you, it means you're going too damn slow. I think we need to pass a state law that if you're followed closely by three or more vehicles you need to pull over and let them pass.

Some Republican Governors are preparing to "Just Say No" to stimulus money. Back in November we had a pretty bad snowstorm, and our area of the state was declared a disaster area. Which means we qualified for FEMA money (which we were approached to apply for). Now, that money could only cover our costs, manpower and materials, that we used to clear snow or help people out. But that amounted to a few thousand dollars. Some local mayors and councils refused the money (very few). So, I think the term I used for these "principlists" back then is apropos for these governors. That word was "Idiot." Say, can we have some of their money? We could use it here. Heck, the governor of Washington was just quoted saying that a 10% drop in revenue was equal to "the sky falling." I'll just say I wish our tax revenue only dropped 10%. Right now it's north of 18% and accelerating.

Avoiding doing work today. Well, trying to. However I have sent many emails. This week is full of meetings, including my committee (which may have to be broken into two meetings) and appropriations. That last one is going to be a fun one. I expect much haggling and maybe a few recriminations. Of course, it could also go very smoothly. However with the cuts needed to fit within our revenues it could be very emotionally draining. With the freelance, there might be some quick work coming up this week. That might help a little. However, I owe the client some quid pro quo, so it might be more of a bonus to the vendors. But maybe it'll lead to some more work from people who actually still have money.

Did I mention that my work computer died on Friday. Hopefully the tech will come tomorrow and it's just be a loose internal cable. If not it's going to be a rough week of recreating a working machine. In the mean time work will be difficult. A lot of what I do requires email. And I think I said how much of a brain killing application the Outlook Web App is. My guess is that the Microsoft severance pay problems are linked to their software.

On the plus side of the economic downturn (see, I told you I was trying to be lighter) is if you have money, there are great deals to be had now. I expect in two years our retail landscape will be much different than today's.

There is some writing news, or potential news. Once things are solidified I can say something. So speaking of writing, I guess I've procrastinated enough and should get back to it.

Cat Blogging Sunday

Well, I've promised more pictures of the kitties, so here I am making good. It was nappy time the other day. Both cats are getting used to our presence, so they're laying all about us. Up on the back of the couch was Cleo.


As you can see she's sleeping hard there. Cleo was people shy when we got her, with the broken leg who can blame her. But today she became a lapcat, sleeping in Bette's lap while she read the paper.

Here is Vivian sleeping at our feet.

You can see her ear tufts a little better in this photo. While she was the most acclimated to people, she's now the more stand offish. Although a few days ago she slept next to us on the couch with her belly up (which of course we rubbed lightly while she slept, you have to reward these things). I wish I could have gotten a photo of her face then, you could see her real coloring.

Both of them are a bit more orange than appears in these photos. As we approach summer the orange is coming out in their coats. Vivian is still begging for a lot of food, even though she's developing a belly. We're hoping this is just "shut-in frustration" eating and when summer comes and we can let them out more she'll work it off (she is a very good hunter, just watching her play you can tell). I guess one day she was out she did climb a tree. Hopefully we won't have to call out the fire department to rescue her.

Friday, February 20, 2009

Ni hao

First chapter of the brain-space intrusion book, Bladesman, is done. It came in at 2685 words.

So just how does a swordsman work in the age of gun toting baddies? Very well. Okay, he nearly gets killed and is rescued by a few vans of people, but up until that point he was doing well. Until he met the magician.

First line? "The emergency call came on my cellphone as a narrowcast, fortunately I had my sword with me." Not good, but sufficient I think. It's a good place holder for now anyway. It's a little rough. And I think I need to go read some noir detective novels to get the voice right. But it's out. I think I know where the story is going. There were a few partial short story ideas that are from this world that will fit in.

Now let's see if this keeps coming out or the other books start flowing again. Joy, joy, joy. Why can't I be like other writers? Yeah, I know, that's rhetorical anyway.

Looking on the bright side of rejection

The editors over at The Town Drunk send word that "Prince Wanted" just didn't work for them. Fair Cop. This is my first experience with them so I can't tell if the letter is a form or not.

So back to the drawing board and it looks like Andromeda Spaceways is open for submissions so we're off to the land down under across the international dateline. Good luck little story.

The Weekend Awaits!

Which is good, because this week went down the tubes. Yeah, I'm trying to be positive, but let me give you an example of how the week went.

The computer I use at work died. Consensus is that the hard drive is either 1) disconnected or 2) toast. Since it's an iMac, I don't feel comfortable cracking the case. It's still under warrantee, so we'll have a tech out on Monday. I really hope it's #1, because there's lots of customization and data that helps make my day go so much easier.

And along with that I've had to use MS Outlook web app today. How is this company still is business with writing crap software like this? I mean, really, Entourage is bad enough. The web app actually causes brain cells to die.

The night thing continues to yawn up and swallow all personal time. You know, last year I was glad to get away from the thought of, "I have to do this for the money." The last two months of last year were actually somewhat good. The first two months of this year have me back to thinking, "I really need the money. With the day job down 20%, I need to keep doing this." Not exactly the motivation you want from your public servants.

On the plus side, tomorrow I get to go see the niece sing. That should be a fun time. I'll need to put all this week behind me out of necessity. I'll get to have dinner with my sister-in-law which is usually good for my mood.

There's a lot of work to be done. I hope you all have a good weekend and that your lives are going better.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Just one of those things

Today I had a nearly catastrophic run in at work as I went to get tea. I mean a real run in. As in almost knocked me down the stairs. So, of course you know I'm a math freak, and I started making calculations while I poured on the hot water. And here's what I came up with, and yeah, it stopped me for a minute.

I should also mention that my Social Security statement came yesterday.

If I had an accident right then and was permanently disabled, I would receive more from Social Security in a month than I'm getting now in take-home pay with our 20% pay cut (four day weeks, remember).

So, you know, there was a moment there when I kinda thought it might have been good to have been knocked down the stairs.

Yes, I know, that's gross pay and I'm comparing it to take-home, and 20% less take-home than I normally would get (with a forty-hour week). With my luck I wouldn't be permanently disabled, but would just shatter some other bone. Going through that with my fibula wasn't any fun (but then I also went back to work in two weeks when most people, and my doctor advised me to, stay home for months with that injury, as it was I used up my sick time and more than half my vacation - I had sucky benefits then). It was just a momentary thought.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Absenteeism

It looks like I need to take blogging prunes to help get regular again. There's been lots of work for the night thing. So even though I was on another layoff day I was pretty busy. Unfortunately I don't get paid extra for it. There's also the chance of some freelance work coming in. I was able to get ahold of the client today, so we'll see about tomorrow.

For the day thing we have this union/management committee that we can suggest business ideas or improvements to help us work easier, smarter, more efficiently. Well, this past Tuesday was a meeting and I had an idea. Unfortunately since we're not all in the meeting, I have no idea what the reception of the idea was. It would be a big change and without knowing more of the pricing models we're using, I have no idea if it's feasible. A little nervous about it. Some people's toes may have been stepped on.

Also, for the night thing there's some controversy in the Village. Not so much from what we did (although it was a tough choice and vote) but how it came about. I can't explain more about it, but while I feel good about my vote, I feel definitely played by certain parties. I'm thinking about what I need to do about it. Everything I've come up with so far would seem petty.

So tomorrow is going to be an interesting day.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Penta-randomness

I had to stop by the grocery yesterday and I noticed all the Valentines Day candy that was on sale. It was so sad. So much candy and so many soft, cuddy, stuffed animals orphaned into the cruel, cruel word of discount shopping. All those wishes and calories now on the cheap. Kinda like fleet week. On the plus side there were rows upon rows of Peeps! Peeps! Anybody know if those kids that were doing mean and terrible things to Peeps are still at it (like the Peep Surgery - my Google-fu is failing me)? Those poor Peeps.

Speaking of Peeps, wonderful person and excellent writer Mary Turzillo has a story on the Pseudopod Podcast called Bottle Babies (episode 129). Go and be creeped and chilled. Alister has a story for you, and he swears it's true. And if you haven't been listening, why not? They have great stories and excellent readers.

Was off line for a couple of days. One, I've been very busy and I took last night off to spend paying attention to my spouse and the kitties. Sometimes you just gotta do that. If you haven't in a while, I suggest making plans. I also noticed I've been getting crotchety and down as of late. So I figured a day or two might help me reset and come back with some more exciting and funny stuff. Here's hoping.

Work continues to suck wind... oh, wait, I wasn't going to do that. Hmm. Ooo, something shiny! Good friends John and Dan send this picture of a Mac Mini mod that is to die for. That gets an "A+" in my class. Bonus points if the disk door is functional in some fashion and the mini makes the "drive spinning up" sound the old Apple Disk Drives used to make.

Finally, to the Chinese Fish Farm that keeps spamming my comments. While I appear to be a White Hat, and most certainly here I try to maintain that look, technically I am a Grey Hat. I'm also old school from when we built the internet one eight-bit packet at a time. If you don't understand what either of those terms mean, you really shouldn't be spamming me. Just saying.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's a Never Ending Story

Okay, so my wife was taking a nap, I had finished most of the extraneous crap, and I was geared up for writing. So I got out 1500 words on the Bladesman novel (I thinking that would be a good working title) when all the crap came roaring back, and now I'm out of the pocket again. Margle.

But I did some more research on Kevlar(r) versus stabbing attack. Wow, lots of fruitcakes out there. I mean, as someone who knows and thing or two about the wack-a-loons, I was actually a little taken aback by some of the sites. But back to the kevlar. On most of the "real military" places the consensus is kevlar, by itself, won't stop a stabbing attack (slashing attacks you should be good). This was the major thoughts before most discussions ranged down into inter-service rivalry crap. There was a heck of a lot of gamer advice (uhm, no thanks) and even more about Londoners buying kevlar vests for protection against the rash of stabbings over there including some student's "up armoring" their uniforms (there were some side sites talking about American Students wearing Kevlar based clothing). I wonder if those parents are going to be really upset when they find out that only Kevlar with tactical plates will stop a stabbing attack (the plates doing the actual stopping of the blade point). Also, Kevlar vests need multiple layers of fabric before they become "bullet-proof." There's also some data on fragmentary effects of some rounds which will produce bullet "slivers" that will pass through the fabric. Also, you're going to take some damage, just saying. So I might be good with the stabbing though a light vest. So I'm going with that.

Snowy Wet Valentine, Like a Wet Sloppy Kiss

It's a snowy wet day. Vivian is outside, wanting to get away from the kiddo. She's starting to put on a lot of weight, so maybe being outside she'll get a lot more exercise.

The weather is getting wacky. Next week will see most days drop below freezing again. If it's a temporary dip the maple sap should be good. If not, then not only with the maple syrup be of a lesser quality, but there will also be a lot more freeze damage to the trees. See, trees drop their sap to keep from having expansion problems, which is why with maple trees, the first run of sap has a high sugar content.

Spending the day catching up, but so far I'm just procrastinating. Time to change that.

Hope you're all having a good day.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Random Blogging Cat Fridays

I want to wish all of you a Happy Valentines Day. Don't forget to show those you love just how special they are to you. Telling them, saying it outloud, how you feel about them is the best romance you can get. Everything after that is the icing on the love cupcake.

The kitters are getting frisky. Vivian, the momma, went out for an extended play this afternoon. She was out for a few hours. We pretty much think she was taking a break from Cleo (the daughter). Cleo is a wild bundle of teething frisky energy. She'll zoom up the cat tree, sometimes hanging upside-down from the platforms before clawing over to the top side, get to the top and shout her wild yawp to the ceiling wondering just where the rest of the tower is that'll let her go higher. When she's about to pounce, she'll do this back-paw dance like she's winding up. And then there's the times she is in the kitchen, on the linoleum, starting to run and she does a Fred Flintstone with her paws. Vivian plays the long suffering mother, letting Cleo climb all over her, play with her tail, etc. You know, until she's had enough and rolls Cleo over.

Work continues to get weird. From what I understand we're quoting jobs like mad, just nothing is coming in the door. Of course there is work, things I could be doing, but still no overtime (well, except when I have to, like last night, to get plates out) and we're still on four day weeks.

Another sign of a bad economy? It's when you start finding wheat pennies in your change from the store. That means people are breaking into their stashes of money. While not exactly Liberty Eagles showing up in circulation, but still interesting. Next up, silver certificates. I'm still collecting them. Heck, copper maybe more expensive. I could use one of those Cash4Gold envelopes. You know, if I actually trusted something that on it's face looks like a scam, smells like a scam, and is only slightly less risky than buying that genuine Rolex from a street vendor.

This weekend I need to get things done that I've been procrastinating for the past few weeks. Writing, design, personal, village, there's plenty to do. I need some motivation. Maybe I need to change my perspective to try and break out of the ruts I've dug for myself. Time to cowboy, pony, and novel up.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Reality Bites

Okay, on some of the rewrite, reality decided to mess me up. Seems that modern kevlar vests will stop a sharp-blade puncture. So there goes an easy resolution to a situation. Of course, they guy also is recently missing his leg from the knee down, so he's not going to be doing much, having missed his shot by not taking the safety off. However the other gunboy across the room is the problem. Reality, it spoils so many plot points.

Then there's the stimulus and it's reduced money to the States. My own state is looking at even heavier cuts because the legislature reduced the money to the states. Weee.

And then there's the weather. While Orwell is high ground, we have a few major streams around us. And all of them are in major flood right now. Depending on what comes down tonight, some roads maybe flooded out tomorrow morning. And with our yard we could probably go outside and scoop up some perfectly hydrated clay. The best thing for throwing pots. Or, in other words, the ground is saturated so everything is going to sit on top.

Finally we have the latest "Domestic Gas and Oil Exploration Is Good for Jobs" commercial. You know, the latest in the campaign produced by the only avowed conservative ad agency (yes, there is one, and their whole thing of outing themselves were to go after clients like this) that has the woman in the pants suit telling us how we better let the oil and gas companies own all thes leases and drill everywhere around the country. Those ads that have questionable stats (of sure, drill under everybody's house and you may get to those figures, but I doubt you're going to be able to) and the implied threat of "give us what we want, or we'll trash everything." Yeah, those. So, the new one talks about how drilling in the US (well, giving the gas and oil companies the leases to the land that they might drill on at a later date) is all about the jobs. Really? Okay, Mrs. Gas and Oil Company, just how many drilling rigs and derricks did you manufacture last year to help exploit all those leases you already hold but haven't started even exploring? How many deep-sea drilling-platforms did you bring back from the African Coast? Yeah, thought so. With all due respect, reality bites.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Writing

Well, there's a new poem out. It's not speculative in any manner. I have no idea where to go with it. It definitely requires rewriting. And maybe some more thought. It's a rough poem, I haven't felt this way about writing for a long time. A WTF am I doing? I'm sure it will pass.

The title? Dead Things I Mistook for My Dad. Four stanzas of four lines. Some of it feels good, like there's something there there. Other parts aren't so solid in my head yet.

Also, it does appear I'll be writing three novels at the same time. The other day a rewrite of what I though was a short story, then I realized would need to be a novella, but now I think is a novel flowed out. Dang it. But, you know, you have to write the way you write. Trying to channelize it into a prescribed path is, for me, the surest path to dead mind syndrome.

Layoff Day Rejection and Submission

The editors over at Jabberwocky send word they're passing on "Scrimshaw Man." I'm not sure if this is a form letter. If it is a form letter, it's a very nice one. They did say "after much deliberation," so maybe it's not a form. So I'll send a thank you note anyway.

So, where to next, little poem? Time to get out the submission paperwork and see where it should go.

After a quick review, it looks like Coyote Wild hasn't been publishing regularly, although Duotrope says they're still accepting submissions. So I think I'll send it off to Chizine and see how she fairs there.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

The New Phone Books Are Here!

The Kindle 2 is out. Just in case you didn't see it elsewhere.

Funky Fresh Economic Crap

And things just keep getting better. Oh, I'm so glad the conservatives don't think they need to do anything to help out, and that putting people to work is the wrong policy, because their in action and giving money to their banking buddies is working so damn well so far. Yes, I am a little ticked.

We've gone to four day weeks across the board. That is only 32 hours, not four-days of ten-hours. Just four eight-hour days. And I was told 5 minutes before I left that tomorrow would be my day this week. And then I had to log back in to work and extra twenty-minutes of overtime because of an emergency rush request.

So, not only are we down $8 a week from health care increases (erasing all previous raises), now we'll be down and extra full days worth of pay. And the kicker, I was just trained on how to help out with a project that is way behind. And then there was the overtime.

Unfortunately, the major indicator on the health of the company is if the big presses turn. And they aren't, even though other things are running behind.

Go, go Godzilla!

OMGZ! It's the Zombie Apocalypse! It's a Friday the 13th! And it's the release of the new Friday 13th Movie (yawn!)! It's the day before a Saturday Valentine's Day (you you haven't gotten the gift by then, it'll be worse than Xmas eve with all the guys wondering the shelves of the local Walgreens trying to fine the right Whitman Sampler that says they care)! It'll also probably be the day the Legislature votes on the combined economic stimulus bill (so they can have their Presidents Day recess)! And it's also the day the the Unix calendar (which counts seconds) will roll over the number one billion, two hundred and thirty-four million, five-hundred and sixty-seven thousand, eight-hundred and ninty. That's right, 1234567890.

Signs and portents are with us again. (insert dramatic music que here)

Fun lovin' Dad and all around hoopy frood, Dan informs us of this Grand Conjunction Alignment in the computer codes. See, Unix (and it's popular child Linux) counts the seconds from Jan 1, 1970, UTC. Okay, if you want more, here's a wiki.

Well, not exactly the Zombie Apocalypse, more like watching your odometer roll over 100,000 (which, BTW, since odometers are now digital, do we still say "roll-over" like we say the "phone rings" when there's no longer any bell?). But it's still neat none-the-less. And you still get excited when your odometer rolls over, don't you? Come on, you can tell me.

Monday, February 9, 2009

The other thing was death, so we didn't do that

Finished up taxes this past weekend. Wow, last year sucked. without getting into specifics we saw a total 16% drop in overall pay, even with the doubling of my pay for being a councilman (granted, twice of very little is still little). And this year isn't off to as good a start as last year.

One of the things that I think is just hysterical is that for all the blustering and bloviating from the US Senate on how they needed to cut the stimulus package, and they did cut many things, things I personally think are very important and could create many jobs, like the "greening" of federal buildings, but for all that the Senate version is going to come in a hundred billion dollars larger than the House's version.

As to all those who feel that the government can't do anything, let me just remind you that the government (and here lets just say the Federal Government) is the largest single buyer in the country. Back when I started in design it was difficult to find paper with post-consumer waste in them. At any percentage. Instead we were talking about kerf paper and other non-tree-pulp based paper. Until it became law that the federal government was going to purchase most of their paper with at least 10% post-consumer waste (IIRC it's now 25% pcw). Practically overnight the market changed (well, within a year). All of a sudden we had plenty of stocks available with recycled content (post and pre-consumer). While you can buy paper that's 100% virgin, but all of those are special order items. And even those are now rated as regular and FSC papers (pimping my own day-job, we are an FSC printer). And there are more and more papers lining up to go FSC (it involves sourcing and a lot of paperwork/tracking).

So, yeah, having the government making their buildings "greener" does three things. One, it forms the base of the new "Green Technology Industry" with proving a very big client. Lots of private investor money would flow into companies that could supply those technologies. Then there are the building trades for actually implementing this new technology. Lots of builders get involved and trained on how these things work and that translates into other projects that are non-government related. Which then also increases the market for those green technologies. Finally, all that economic activity reduces the price of these technologies which then leads to consumers requesting them and DIY people being able to afford them as being off the shelf technologies. And in the end, we'll need fewer tax dollars to run our government because we'll be reaping the benefit of conservation.

Please tell me where in that chain of events there is anything wrong? And yet the Senate Republicans cut funding for that project in half. I want to go up to them, and in the words of Bill Engvall say, "Here's your sign."

Sunday, February 8, 2009

And place them in her eyes for me


The goddess outside my window tonight.

Today was another warm one. The snow is gone to patches. The trees all have halos of melt around them, and where the seed shells have landed has gone to ground. This week looks like the same weather, above 40s for the days, below 30 for the nights. Didn't Punxsutawney Phil see his shadow? You know, if you can't trust a groundhog, who can you trust?

This weather is good for one thing, though. Well, okay, my driveway is now clear enough that I can see all the grit we used on the roads this winter. Not going to do that again. No, I mean it's good mapling weather. Although, if we're starting the freeze-thaw cycle now, the Geauga Maple Festival is going be a little late in the season, being April 30th to May 2. Soon maple trees will be sprouting their metal buckets (to be honest, every year sees fewer buckets and more centralized collection systems with their purple pipes, which IMHO, just doesn't do it for me). It now depends on how the weather in early March is. If we go back to cold, the syrup may not be all that good. If we keep on this track, though, it should be pretty good (if the producers get out in time).

Rejection Sunday

All around fab frequent commenter, writer, and editor Camille sends word that she's passing on Prince Wanted. She says Abyss & Apex isn't the right place for the humor in the story. Fair cop. She also makes some recommendations and says very nice things about my little story. So I'm pretty sure this isn't her form rejection letter. Thanks, Camille.

So with her recommendation, Prince Wanted is off to The Town Drunk. My first attempt resulted in a server error, so we're trying again. Update, received another server error. So now I have no idea if it went through or not, or if the problem is my dial-up and a less than adequate time-out function. So far no reply email that they've received the submission. We'll try again later.

edit Third attempt also failed. "Validation of viewstate MAC failed. If this application is hosted by a Web Farm or cluster, ensure that configuration specifies the same validationKey and validation algorithm. AutoGenerate cannot be used in a cluster." I'm going to go with they didn't get the file and try again tomorrow.

Saturday, February 7, 2009

300!

This isn't about the Spartans, and I'm not about to confess to being Spartacus. At least not yet. No, this is a health post. It's been some time since I've done that.

It's been nearly two years now since I felt my body change. It was in February when I suddenly just felt I shouldn't be drinking pop. Then, during an annual check-up (that I usually get around to every 5-10 years), I was diagnosed with metabolic syndrome. That's the fancy new word for insulin intolerance. My body was still producing insulin, actually a rather lot of it, but the insulin wasn't processing the sugars in my blood (which is its main purpose). This is the beginning of diabetes. So my doctor put me on metformin, which helps the insulin work, and referred me to an endocrinologist/nutritionist to start on a highly restrictive diet. Weight hinders the performance of insulin, and everybody feels once I drop these pounds I'll be able to go off metformin.

Let me explain the highly restrictive diet. Take Atkins and turn the knobs up to 11. It's such a diet that every other week I would have to have blood drawn to make sure everything was keeping in "balance" (read, I'm not dying soon). Balance, here, is subjective as Atkins seriously alters your blood chemistry. Now, I had already started to drop pop from my diet and I had lost a few pounds between seeing my primary care doctor and the specialist. So I was able to convince the specialist to keep going in the current direction, without the highly restrictive diet. I should also say here, once you're on a diet, you're on a diet for life. After you've lost the weight you can change the diet to a maintenance diet. You can never go back to your old eating habits without regaining the weight. This is called "the yo-yo effect."

I work on what is actually the third floor. We have no elevator for people (riding on the material elevator is grounds for immediate dismissal), so I walk up and down the stairs several times per day, sometimes with loads of 50lbs or so (polyester plates maybe lighter than metal, but not that much). Yard work for me involves chain-saws and heavy loads. I don't have a snowblower for my 50 foot, two car wide driveway. So even though I was over weight I wasn't exactly out of shape.

Then last year about this time I realized I was back to struggling with the big D (as compared to little temporary depressions). My October and December checkup showed no change in weight (before, every quarter I was dropping 9lbs, like clockwork). I was under a great deal of stress (still am) and not dealing with it well, even through I thought I was. So last summer I started on Wellbutrin.

My early January check in saw me dropping 10lbs (I had gained one pound in October, so this was a net 9lb drop). This is especially good since most people gain 5-8lbs over the holidays. The big D has only shown the fringes of itself for the past half year. I brought home the last 2 liter bottle of Dr. Pepper I had stashed at work back in October. Since July I've only had pop at work if we have lunch catered. I've been pretty good on unsweetened black tea. At night and on weekends I still drink pop, but not nearly as much as I used to (instead of 10 bottles every two weeks, three bottles will last me the month). So I think at my appointment at the end of March, if everything is the same, I'll start a discussion on getting off Wellbutrin.

But all that doesn't explain the headline. When I started this two years ago, I weighed nearly 340 pounds. Some of you won't believe that, but I'm fortunate to carry weight evenly over my body. Or at least I did (now with losing weight, it's coming off in sections, first my ass disappeared, now it's my upper torso on the sides above the hips). So there was no bulging gut. But that weight ain't good for me. Well, this morning I weighed myself (as I normally do). This was the first reading below 300. I had been flirting with 303 for two weeks now. The scale read 299.6 pounds. Yippie!

Then I reweighed myself after my shower. I was 300.3. Stupid showers. Actually, that was probably do to rehydration of the skin.

So what are my targets? Well, the main target is to get my insulin working normally, without the boost of drugs. As for raw numbers, I would be happy to be back at 250. I'd be overjoyed at 230. I'd be ecstatic with 200. At 180 I think I'd faint. Although I don't think below 200 will be possible without going on a diet.

So the short version, back on track with losing weight. Big D pushed to the background. No need to go to the restrictive diet.

Friday, February 6, 2009

It all starts to make sense

Back when I was a young pup and working for management consultants, there was an expectation of appropriate dress. It was expected that you would "dress for the position you wanted/the next position your promotion would give you." For my positions is wasn't all that restraining (at least when I started), but some were required to wear jackets anytime they left their office. That's not so bad considering just a few years before they relaxed the rules on wearing hats (if you went out or to a client you had to wear a hat, just because). I was just required to wear a tie (I also had to do that with my first design position as well) and slacks. There was also a rule about "polish-able shoes" (there was a shoe-shine business on the first floor) but I sort of flaunted that a bit. Well, after a few years the jacket rule got relaxed. It was only required if you went to the elevators or were meeting a client.

Then we caught the fever of "casual Fridays." We were one of the first, after all, we were cutting edge, re-engineering consultants. The "custom dress suit/shirt" shop on the first floor went nuts. They actually sent protest letters to our partners. Something funny happened in our office though, which countered the shop's arguments. People lightened up, communications became more open and "cross silo" (previously we suffered from "Silo Thinking" - which I still have to contend with to this day), and more importantly, productivity spiked on Fridays. So, while the office didn't go completely "Casual All the Time" some rules were relaxed. If you were working on a team, you could wear team polo shirts. Still no jeans, no t-shirts, no sneakers, but it was progress. As we cut staff, increased tensions and stress, relaxing the dress code was a good way to motivate us and actually increase productivity. And we were highly productive and motivated people (well, most of us). The business culture learned that you could be a professional and it didn't matter what you were wearing. And that just wearing a suit didn't make you professional and focusing on external fetishes didn't help get the work done. In fact, it distracted you from getting work done.

So when I hear the outcry from conservatives about Obama's lightened restriction on dress in the Oval Office (basically he said that you don't have to wear a suit coat), I keep going back to my consultant days. Back in the early 90s when the rest of the world figured out that wearing a suit didn't matter one wit. And you know what, if he helps fix the economy, regains the USA our world prestige, restores the concept that being smart and intelligent is actually worth while, I personally don't care if he wears loose bermuda shorts and flip-flops.

Given Karl Rove and Scott Andy Card's (no, not Orson, the other one) spittle-flecked hissy fit over, not to mention the conservative press's fixation on, President Obama supposedly dissing the Office of President because he doesn't require jackets, the Bush Presidency's inability to see reality all starts to make sense. Dudes, the rest of business got over that oh, over a decade ago. Can't wait for Michelle Obama to wear a smart pants-suit to a state dinner or some other occasion. I believe the term is "apoplexy".

What a silly old (r)ant

Next time you're found standing in the unemployment line
There's a lot to be learned, like the thinness of a dime

Just what makes that young President
Think he'll move the conservative Senate-ant
Anyone knows a President, cant
Move an ideological ant

But he's got high hopes, he's got high hopes
He's got high IQ pie, in the sky hopes

So any time your savings are low
Instead of just letting go
Just remember the President can't
Whoops there goes another half-million
Whoops there goes another half-million
Whoops there goes another half-million jobs.

When troubles call and your 401K is against the wall
That's when you'll learn that Wall Street could fall

Once there was a silly old man
Tried to punch a hole in the economic plan
No one could make that man scram
He kept rebutting that plan

Cause he had ideology, he had ideology
He had born-again fiscal conservative philosophy

So any time your feeling bad
Instead of getting mad
Just remember that man
Oops there goes Mitch McCon-onell off
Oops there goes Mitch McCon-onell off
Oops there goes Mitch McConnell off his rocker again

All problems are just a toy balloon
The economy will be bursted soon
The conservative ideological flop
Oops there goes another 500,000 jobs,
Oops there goes another chance to turn around,
Oops there goes the economic plan, kerplop!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Submission Thursday

Well, finally got off my duff and finished some rewrites. My flash piece, Prince Wanted, is the first out of the gates. It's off to a little known place called Abyss & Apex. But I hear they're good. :)

Good luck little story.

I was informed a half-hour before clocking out that tomorrow would be my day off. We're on a 5/4 day (40/32 hour) per week schedule now. Thank you wonderful economy. So I'm not really geared up to do anything, but I'll try edits and writing to fill up the day. I also need to do some cleaning. There's some critiquing that I may need to get on top of. And then there's the sleep. Gotta catch up with the sleeping, which I haven't been able to do for a few weeks.

Story Bone

Way back in the 18th Century, as modern medicine was just being formed into an actual study, there was a distinct need for cadavers. Lots of them. The people who supplied the cadavers, before there was a law specifying that the indigent would be used, were called Resurrectionists. While this could be an early for of title creep (garbage men are now Sanitation Engineers), that's an interesting little detail to add into a period story.

Just as a point of information, generally the bodies of the new buried poor were the ones supplied to the medical colleges. The law just bypassed the the burying and grave robbing part. Not that grave robbing didn't continue until the early 20th Century (and in some places still occurs).

"We're grave robbers, my son, a fine and glorious profession with a prestigious lineage." Oo yeah, I can see using that somewhere.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Genre Meme

1. What is your name?
Coyote. Oh, wait, nah, I think it's Steve. Yeah, that's what my current drivers license says.

2. Do you read a lot?
Used to read at least one book per week, and that was slower than when I was a kid. Now I'm lucky if I finish a book within a month. Of course, I'm also reading 3 different books at the same time, at least one of which is heavy research.

3. What's your favorite genre?
Fantasy. High to urban and everything in between.

+++FANTASY AND SCI-FI+++

4. Do you prefer fantasy or science fiction?
Answered that already. Although I still love me my SF.

5. What's your favorite fantasy book/series?
The series put out by Ellen Datlow and Teri Windling. I didn't even know they were a series until last year, but I'm busy collecting and reading them. As a single book I'm going with American Gods.

6. Who's your favorite fantasy author?
Neil Gaiman. Yeah, he's popular, but that doesn't make him any less an excellent writer. If I ever met him in person I'll have to do my best not to squeal like a teen fangirl. Oh wait a sec, if we're talking high-fantasy of some such, I'm going with Steven Brust (with whom I would also probably squeal like a teen fangirl).

7. What's your favorite science fiction book/series?
Old Man's Universe. Love me my Scalzi. First book I read by him was Ghost Brigades. I hit the Douglas Adams joke/allusion in the first chapter and started paying attention. He's tricksy he is.

8. Favorite sci-fi author?
This is a toss up. Here I'd have to say it's a split between Bradbury and Clarke.

+++MYSTERY, HORROR, AND THRILLER+++

9. Which do you prefer: a puzzling mystery, or a terrifying thriller?
I thought horror was a part of this? I'll take horror for $2000, Alex.

10. Do you have a favorite mystery novel?
Hmm, here I'm going to go with anything by Daschel Hammet or Raymond Chandler. Hmm, spicy metaphors.

11. A favorite horror novel?
Currently it's Heart Shaped Box by Joe Hill. I haven't read much by him I haven't thought, "I want to write that well" (same feeling I get with Gaiman).

+++ROMANCE+++

12. do you read romance novels?
Sometimes.

13. How about gay romance novels?
I'm not sure. There have been short stories and novels with gay sex in them. I don't believe I would like a whole novel with that as it's premise. Sorry.

14. What is your favorite?
One of the writers in my critique group just wrote a book they're classifying as Romance (although I'd say it was more fantasy). I think the published title will be Lilly's Song. Good thing is he's thinking about another novel in that world.

+++CHILDREN'S AND YA+++

15. What's your favorite children's book?
Children's? Probably something by Shel Silverstein. They've all run together in my head. I remember my Mom reading me Misty of Chincoteague so that holds a special place in my heart.

16. Is it the same book that was your favorite when you were a kid?
Nah, I was uptight when I was a kid.

17. What's your favorite YA book?
Peeps by Scott Westefield (I think it's marketed as YA). Smart book, although I had a few plot questions.

18. Did you actually read it as a YA?
Nope. Wanted to see what his writing was like after I met him and his lovely wife.

19. In general, do you prefer children's books over grown-up books?
Depends on the writing and the book.


+++CLASSICS AND GENERAL FICTION+++

20. What's your favorite classic novel?
Hmm, is At the Mountains of Madness a novel. Probably not. Maybe Dracula by Stoker. Especially if you read it as a metaphor for sex. Plus, it has a better ending than any of the films.

21. What about general fiction?
I'm stumped with this one, so I'm going with The Killer Angels just because it affected me so much.

22. What classic novel do you just *not* *get*?
Catcher in the Rye. Really, okay it might be because that's a current model and I've read (and lived) other stories like it. But I just don't get why Caulfield is this icon.

23. Do you have a favorite play or drama?
Music Man. Do musicals count?

24. What do you think of Shakespeare?
"Brush up your Shakespeare, start quoting him now." Also a big fan boy of his.

25. Could you pick a favorite poem?
Probably not.

26. What about a favorite poetry collection?
My advance poetry writing course text book. Excellent selection.

27. Who's your favorite poet?
Lawrence Ferlinghetti

+++COMICS AND GRAPHIC NOVELS+++

28. Do you read comics or graphic novels?
Sometimes. Heck, I remember going to a "newsstand" to buy comics. I love some of what has been done lately, but not where the market has gone.

29. Do you have a favorite series?
Hmm, don't consume enough of them to say. Although I was a big Green Lantern guy when I was young.

30. A favorite book?
The Dark Knight. Exploded my mind.

+++SHORT STORIES AND NOVELLAS+++

31. Do you prefer short stories (short novels) over full-length novels?
No preference

32. What's your favorite short story?
Oh poggosticks, this is like trying to choose a poem. My current favorite, the one that still stands out in my mind is "Boatman's Holiday" by Jeffery Ford.

33. Favorite short story collection?
"Fragile Things" or "R is for Rocket"

34. Do you have a favorite short story author?
Let me get back to you on that. For the moment I'll say Bradbury.

+++NONFICTION+++

35. What kind of nonfiction do you usually read?
Research on fairy tales. Writing guides. Technical manuals and industry development for the day job.

36. Do you have a favorite nonfiction book?
Hmm, none pop out at me at the moment.

37. Read any interesting biographies?
I used to read a lot, but lately haven't been driven to. Well, except for John Adams.

38. History books?
Oh my yes. Histories by Heroditus. A must read.

39. Politics?
have you been reading my blog?

40. Religious texts?
Actually yes. Many religions, but lately I've been focusing on eschatological studies and end times for a novel I'm writing.

41. How about books on mythology, fairy tales, or other cultural stories?
What would you like? Yes, most of my permanent research library concerns these.

+++ELEMENTS OF FICTION+++

42. What's the most important element of a novel? Plot? Characterization? Style? Themes? Happy ending?
What, "writing" isn't there? WTF?

43. What kind of plot interests you the most?
I like to have a twist I don't see coming, but in hindsight I should have. Like when Shadow dies in American Gods.

44. What kind of characters usually appeal to you?
The non-bullshit kind.

45. What is your favorite book overall?
American Gods. Damn, I wish I could have written that.

+++PASS IT ON+++

46. What's the last book you read?
Years Best in Fantasy and Horror.

47. What are you reading now?
Goblin Hero by Jim Hines
Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman
The Complete Idiot's Guide to the End Times

48. What are you going to read next?
Which ever one falls on me from the guilt stack.

49. Is there a book you would recommend to everyone on your friend's list?
Have I mentioned American Gods yet?

50. Tag five people to fill out this meme:
Just like Mer said, this is way to long to tag people with. Smoke 'em if you got 'em.

Paper chasing

Questions from newly minted writers tend to come in candy flavors. There's some difference in how the questions are asked, or the actual words used, but they all tend to boil down to some basic metaquestions.

The first one often asked by fresh novelists is, "How do I get an agent?" That one is easy to answer. I have no clue. Well, yes I do, it's the same as getting published. Write the best manuscript you can, research agents like you're researching a market (ie. the agent you query should handle the type of work you're sending), read the submission guidelines and follow directions, and send it off. Cross your fingers. Also in this case the general Wheaton Rule#1, "Don't be a dick," applies.

Fortunately at the panel on Short Stories we didn't get this question. This is good. Because the answer for shorts stories is, "Agents, in general, don't handle genre short stories. There isn't enough money to make 15% worth their while." (for some reason there's a voice shouting in my head, "Castles don't have phones")

The other question did get asked. That question (which I'm going out on a limb here and say 95% of all questions about writing boil down to) is, "How do I get accepted?" My answer seemed glib, and I apologize for seeming that way, but it's still true. My answer was, "Suck less."

Every story is full of suck (no, really, I'm reading the Years Best and there is plenty of suck there to go around). Your story needs to be the best in the slush pile, it needs to suck less than all the others.

Your writing, if you're doing it right, needs to suck less than your previous writing (it's not always a linear progression, but you get what I mean). Two years ago what I wrote that year, it was IMHO brilliant and the perfect example of exemplary craft and skill. This year, re-reading those stories to figure out why they aren't selling I've come to wonder just who rewrote them so full of suck while I wasn't watching. The answer is that what I'm writing now sucks less than what I wrote last year, two years ago, and (shudders) eight years ago.

On the subject of submissions, I still send the wrong story to the wrong market sometimes. But I've gotten better in my selection. My submission process sucks less.

My fellow panelists, who are all made of win, BTW, with very little to no suck present (I was the token "suck" panelist) gave much more concrete answers about the slush process, joining a critique group, read a lot, etc. But it all boils down to learning the craft, learning the business, sucking less, and following Wheaton's Rule #1 (might need to make that the Prime Directive, but I don't think he would like that comparison), "Don't be a dick."

There's also a lot to be said for being in the right place at the right time. But even that won't work unless you have the right story, one that doesn't suck. Also, you might have the most bestest excellent story ever, and if the market isn't right, doesn't have a slot open, or it's the wrong size to fit in the holes they have, they still might reject it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

For the late, great, Johnny Ace.

As I'm sure you've all heard, today is the 50th Anniversary of the Day the Music Died. However, today is also the 200th birthday of Felix Mendelssohn. So it kinda balances out.

Today was a rough day, for both jobs. The day job continues to see challenges posed by the economic crunch. Right now there's a few projects that will take some time to complete (compared to in and out within an hour, at most). Also had a mechanical problem that lead to a new understanding of some more obscure menu functions of a piece of equipment. The solution also begs it's own problems. For the night job it's becoming more apparent that my strategy of managing by soft power isn't getting through to some. So we'll need to have an adjustment of either the management style or the managee.

At work the unread blog posts now number over 950.

And now I'm getting into the three random things make a blog post. I should probably stop typing and go to sleep. Or at least go see what the kittens are demolishing as they chase each other. Kittens. Go figure.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Somebody get a calendar

Well, here's a strategy. You may have heard the recent kerfluffle over the stimulus plan. Especially the quote from a local bigwig politician John Boehner of the 8th District of Ohio. He's into whips or something. Anyway, you might have heard his quote about the stimulus plan. I believe it was exactly, "OMG!"

Anyway, as a part of this media onslaught where the Republicans think it's a bad idea to deficit spend to correct a crappy economy that they brought upon us all by, get this, deficit spending.

But that's not the real conversation going on here. See, with each of the conservatives who got up to expound upon being born-again to fiscal sobriety (think they get chits for every thirty days until they get their one-year button?) they also set in the ear-worm. If the economy isn't fixed in 6-months the stimulus plan will be a failure. You know, even though every sane economist out there pretty much thinks the economy is going to be in the toilet for the next six-months no matter what happens, including the second-coming. And then they all lined up, after the President made a personal appeal (and they begged to have pictures taken with him), to vote onmass to vote against the program.

So, basically they're framing the debate to see the economic stimulus plan fail. Well, actually to not give it a chance before declaring it a failure. Forget the economy, forget the balance of tax cuts to spending, forget all that other hand-waving this debate is about the 2010 election.

DNC, hello, wake up. Time to scuttle that plan. It's easy to do at this point. Like exposing their plan in front of the media. Showing the country just how low the opposition is willing to go to make political hay. Like trashing their perosnal lives to make a point.

Sunday, February 1, 2009

It was all I hoped it would be... or something.

Spending time getting caught up with blogs and just relaxing. Planned to be productive, but things just got out of hand. Well, I guess there's still time.

Editing some of the novel I have done. End of Act 2, the scene is the brimstone lake in PA, our character is about to propose, have just done what he considers a splendid thing. It's early morning, the line to get into the lake is just about to start, the fairy mob (acting as sacred clowns) has begun their antics. As our man gets close the love interest mounts the diving board (installed as a sick joke) and makes a swan dive into the lake. Our man rushes in after her, doing a belly flop. Six of the fairies pull out score cards with 6.0, except for the last one who has a 4.2 on his card. The other five glare at him. Sometimes I crack myself up.

After wrestling with trying to write the first act, I think I've finally accepted that the third act will come out first. Books don't always behave the way we want them to. Just like characters.