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Wednesday, April 29, 2009

So you can rest, medicine.

Okay, everybody calm down and take a breather. The "swine flu" (H1N1) virus is not what the news media make it out to be. There are worse diseases out there.

Now, it does have the potential to be bad. One reason is the general panic mode. That person who sneezed next to you just now, more than likely has allergies than a flu. And even if they do have the flu, more than likely it's not the "swine flu." But everybody is going to freak whenever somebody has the sniffles. Even at the day thing the flu was all over our intranet.

Here's a clue, the flu is transmissible nearly as quickly as you get it (surface contact, ie. the person is picking up the same infection you have, not by virus your body has produced). Viral bodies produced by your system will be available in a few hours after the infection takes seat. However, it will take a few days before your infection becomes serious enough for you to notice it's affects. That means for a few days you'll be perfectly normal as you go about infecting others. The good news here is that the chance of infection from you is small at the beginning, however it's increasing with every hour. However, this means that by the person in the cubicle next to you is sneezing and feeling achy, you've had about a days worth of good exposure to the virus.

So what should you do? Wash your hands, frequently. When washing hands use soap (not anti-bacterial soap or Purell, real soap). Sing either the "Alphabet song" or a stanza of "Old McDonald" or the trial/headbanging section of "Bohemian Rhapsody" while washing your hands. This will make sure you wash your hands long enough (20 seconds to half a minute). Be careful of what you touch after you wash your hands. Do get the flu shot. Then get the yearly flu shot (if they don't roll them together, and they're is really no reason they shouldn't except for timing, most yearly flu shots include the three most probable infections you might face that year). Do get the booster after the New Year (your body will need to "see" the infection twice for full protection).

What should you look forward to. Well, the flu will appear to disappear over summer. There will be cases, but it'll drop off the radar of most news organization. Until summer turns to autumn and people start getting closer in enclosed places.

And just to put this into perspective. So far, less than 200 have died (as far as we know) worldwide. In an average flue season in the US, 36,000 people die because of the flu and complications from the flu. The difference, right now, is that there have been many victims who normally aren't considered high-risk of mortality from flu. So as the news goes on about how we're now at Stage 5, one stage lower than Pandemic (OMGZ!) you can put it all in comparison. Stage 5 doesn't mean much more than the same viral strain has shown up in several countries.

Keep washing your hands, if you're sick, stay home (do as I say, not as I do), and keep healthy. There's no reason to panic.

Monday, April 27, 2009

First Day in a New Job at the Old Job Place.

First lunch break. Still discombobulated (hey, that's a word, go figure) at the new desk trying to figure it all out. Getting things in order. Getting in the habit of writing on the lunch break.

Good news, with my new reporting time, I get here way early (so might get some typing done then). I have a cubicle! Three walls and nobody behind me. Woohoo! Oh sweet Mother of God, I never thought I'd consider a fabric-walled cubicle a step up. Bad news (the short of it), I forgot to shave. I forgot my cell. I now have to wear slacks instead of jeans. And I'm back to being a tuck-in guy (instead of a hang loose). It's a shirt thing. Also, the cubicle I'm in has the taint of evil (more about that later).

Things are shaking out. Something are still a little temporary. Here's my desk for the Windows PC (I have two computers). Yeah, gonna need to get that a better thing, but it works for now.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

Weekend Updatery

Working on critiques and catching up with things. Actually I'm writing out notes on the one novel I finished so I won't forget all the critiquing parts. Just a little while ago one of the tree in back snapped in half. It happens when you have a small woods out your back door. The top that fell had last year's leaves on it, so it's been dead for a bit.

The wild and wacky Jeff VanderMeer has finished his book on writing. From the TOC it looks like a winner.

Reclusive Camille is off somewhere in the wilds of Vermont writing. She must be in some primitive cabin on the non-skiable side of a mountain, cut off from all of life's modern conveniences and existing on hard-tack, salted pork, and water she draws from a nearby stream.

New insta-family dad Tobias Buckell gives us a link to Lynne Viehl's blog where she talks about the first royalty statement for her NYT (MM) Bestseller. Sobering is, I believe, the word you're looking for. I'm sure this is of great interest to Tobias who also is a NYT Bestselling author (Cole Protocol). While reading the numbers it is good to keep in mind that a first time (published, fiction) author typically sees an advance of $5000 or less with a print run less than 10,000 (10M in printer speak, hey, gotta keep my cred going). Um, why am I doing this again?

My own personal Goblin Hero Jim Hines outlines his Writer as Martial Artist idea. Huhn, I'm a Blue Belt ready to take the test for Red, go figure. Just as a hint, Jim's dojo of writing is not one of social promotion (::cough:: S.H. Kim's in Canton ::cough::), it's one of skill and accomplishment. I could go on about many "martial artists" I've met through life who've obtained "Black Belt" status (and Jim's description is correct, that's why there are Degrees - or Levels - of Black Belt) and just couldn't do much in a real fight (and this was in disciplines that are hard-contact fighting styles). Then there are those Purple Belts who've kicked ass. It all depends on the school.

I'm sure there's more out there, but I have to get back to actual critiquing instead of cat-waxing via internet. Take another deep breath, and fall beneath the waves for a third time.

Friday, April 24, 2009

Signs and Portents, Summer Arrives

This morning's commute, the last in my current position, had the tint of magic all about it.

As I got dressed, I could see lightning flashes out the bedroom window. It wasn't raining yet, but I could see the storm coming. A solid wall of grey hung in the west. Then I pulled out of my garage into golden morning sunlight.

When the sun shines like that, you expect to see sparkly fairy dust in the air. The sun hadn't fully risen, the ground was still in shadow, the second story and the tops of the trees just starting to bud were aflame in that glorious light.

I live to the south east of my employment, and there's a road (SR 86) that travels diagonally most of the way. So behind me was the golden disk of the sun, in front of me was the solid dark bruise of the storm. To the south, the clouds roiled ahead of the front, to the north they streaked across the sky blown by the storms winds, stretched into crystalline thinness.

And that's when the rainbow appeared. A thick band of weak color rose from the north. Lightning played along the storm front, behind the rainbow and across the whole sky, forking and flashing releasing the charge of the world. Some of the lightning did arc across the whole horizon. It was a magnificent storm front.

As the cloud wall grew darker and closer, the sun rose higher, setting more of the world alight in ruddy radiance. The rainbow strengthened until it was a full arc across the sky, spanning two-thirds of the horizon and arcing into the approaching clouds.

That continued halfway through my commute until the rain hit, quickly extinguishing the sun behind me and washing the rainbow from the sky with globs of water. The water smacked against the windshield and slickened the roadway. It cleansed the air of its winter coat and left sparkles of dew on the earth's spring washed face.

As quick as it came, the storm ended and the skies cleared behind it, so when I arrived at work, though the sun hadn't rerisen behind the clouds, the sky was a light blue, and felt fresh and light.

I don't know if this was a gift of prophecy, of signs and portents, or an allegory of the job I'm leaving behind, or a tableau of where I'm at now. I'm sure it was one of the three. Of course, it could also be that trickster returning. He tends to be showy that way. in any case I wish I had my camera and had time to stop and record it.

And I'm reminded that on the first of May, maidens would wash their faces with the morning dew to remain young and beautiful.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Dis, dat, and da udder ding

The day thing is going through a bit of a change. The good news is that I have a job going forward. It pays the same, but is a non-union position. I'm working through what that all means. The position is mostly created, made from need. Right now they're outsourcing most of this work, and the person I'm going to be reporting to is swamped. Hours will be slightly different. I also don't get the extra week of vacation starting in May, I'll still be at two weeks until next year.

This vacation thing is a recurring theme in my employment. I have only had one job where I've had more than 10 days, and that was after working there for seven years (at my 8 year anniversary I was laid-off). Most of my working career I've only had 5 days or less. As a consequence, we haven't really taken vacations over the years. Most of them have just been long weekends. I also have trouble relaxing, although one of the things I loved about this job is that my head didn't feel like it was going to spin off when I got home.

Lots of other things stay the same. Because this group is so far behind, I go back to 5-day weeks. At least for now.

Now we're re-examining purchases and other things we had put on hold. Penguicon is just too close for me to change my mind on, and finances really are shored up enough. Plus I'm going to need that weekend for critique. Plus, it's my SOs b-day.

And speaking of b-days, mine is this weekend. So for my b-day I get a new job and get to keep cash flow. Also, I'm turning 43. Last year (okay, I know I wrote out goals, but I'm not looking back, yet) I made my major goal of having a story accepted for publication (thanks William, for both the opportunity and accepting my story) and a poem accepted for publication next year. I didn't get the novel written, but I'm working on a new one that I really like. So maybe this will be my practice novel, and that'll let me write the others better and with more confidence.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

You didn't have a bet on if black-holes were real or not, did you?

I'm sure as you all know, Professor Stephen Hawking, the Lucasian (Newton) Chair of Physics at Cambridge and author of A Brief History of Time, is not doing very well these days.

Professor Hawking is one of those unique people in the world. Not only is he the longest surviving person with Lou Gehrig's Disease, he is also able to make complex physics understandable by us mere humans. And showing his sense of humor that most people thought wasn't possible from someone in his stature he did a few stints on Star Trek the Next Generation (most notably playing poker with Data and Sir Isaac Newton). He also recently was able to experience 0g in a flight on the Vomit Comet. He is soon to retire the Chair (tradition states at 67, the Chair will retire). For someone with advanced neuron motor disease (ALS), that's quite an accomplishment.

Before I had geek-love for Neil deGrasse Tyson (who also has a great sense of humor and populism), Stephen Hawking fit that bill.

Well wishes, professor.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Submissions and updatery

Today I decided to clean up my Submissions bar and take some things that were most likely dead and send then out again.

Here we sit hopeful for flash fiction Prince Wanted as it's off to Electric Spec, the poems "Rag-a-Bag" to Strange Horizons and "What the Sea Sends" to OG's Speculative Fiction. Good luck little story and poems.

Daddy's Little Girl has been at Doorways Magazine since Sept. 14, 2008 (7 months). They've been closed to submissions for quite a while now, and I'm hoping no news is good news. And A History of Lightning has been at Strange Horizons since March 18, 2009 (1 month, although it feels longer). Their guidelines say to wait 70 days before querying. That'll be up on May 27th.

This cat waxing exercise brought to you by Steve, who doesn't want to get ready for the new week. But now I need to go offline for a bit to allow people to use the phone and to continue the critiquing.

Novel Words

Word count stands at 16400. There's been a slow down of word outputage, and I've changed what happens when, but things are getting interesting. I haven't pulled the rug out from under our character exactly, but I've ruffled his world.

Now back to the critiquing and writing. Latest words?

I tried to distract myself. "So, how many were you responsible for?"

Santana looked around. "My team did a great job pulling your ass out of the fire," he said.

"Yes they did," I said as he mouthed, "Three."

"Thanks, Santana, that's one I owe you."

"Don't be silly," he said looking out the side window, "you owe me two."

Biting the Hand

So I was watching some of the reruns of the Tea Parties.

Anybody else giggle when Glen Beck talks about "the media"? Hey Glen, who signs your check? No, that would be "Media Mogul Rupert Murdock." Yeah, that makes you "The Media," Glen. And you work for a 24/7 News Cable channel. That makes you, "The mainstream media."

And the Alamo stands for something? Yes, it does. It stands for the Republic of Texas. A separate nation.

How is this person still taken seriously?

And for not being a "conservative" movement, the crowds seemed exceptionally homogeneous. So now that were including the costs of war in our actual budget, instead of endless supplementals, the right is getting all wiggy about the costs. Add on the fact that Obama is trying to fix government after eight years of intentional breaking of government and costly outsourcing (when the outsourced work is the only work a company has, it is never less expensive). Oh, and they're going to let the majority of the Bush Tax Cuts, which took a surplus to a deficit in less than 3 months (yeah, revenues were up my ass) expire. Except for those for people making under $250,000. Yeah, it's a crime it is.

Yeah, I couldn't watch it for too long. I've already grown tired of the new conservative spin of "This isn't an issue of party ideology, it's about common sense," when those spouting it are so far to the right they aren't within shouting distance of common sense.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Trying the Patience of the Muse

Okay, so I said I really didn't want to take time out to get a short story out and what happens. The Muse laughs in my face.

"We came in at the ass end of a brainless operation on our mission to secure a spit of coarse sand. A great amphibious assault to take a fishing village, one that hadn't recovered from the fall of the ancient world, the failure of state, and the tsunami that had washed the present away to expose the ragged, cavity speckled, wooden-teeth of the past. Raas Xaafun, the middle-finger Somalia gave the Indian Ocean. Gateway to the Gulf of Aden."

Piracy, despondency, fishing, coelacanths, Deep Ones, Esoteric Order of Dagon, ancient history, guys with guns, and really neat place names. What more could you want. Oh yes; gibbous, squamous , ichor, elder, non-euclidean geometry, and madness. Oh yes, there will be madness.

So about 500 words came streaming out. Now I hope I can get back to work? Or will I continue dream-walking to Unknown Kadeth?

Friday, April 17, 2009

Friday Extras


Because Camille asks. Another jpg of the card.

Also, Flash Fiction Online sends word they're passing on Prince Wanted. So this weekend I'll be doing the submission rounds again. There's a bunch of older submissions still hanging out there. I'll also need to dig up dates and maybe send a query letter or two.

Oddly on a Friday

The past two days I've had lines come to me just as I'm pulling out of the garage to go to work. And by the time I get to write them down (as, you know, I'm rushing to get to work and can't stop - "No officer, I swear that light was pinkish") and I've forgotten them by the time I get to work. Margle. Not a good way to treat the Muse.

At the day thing I'm catching up with the Cthulu podcast. So much of my short story ideas have been along the lines of, "Hey, wait, what if I wrote a retake on one of his stories and change it all around like "Shadow over Nepal" or "Shadow over Modadishu" (or more likely Shadow over Raas Xaafuun", Mogadishu being too cosmopolitan to effectively pull the story off). Hey, "Shadow over Innsmouth" is one of his most famous and most filmed stories. No, I'm not making this a story bone, but hey, this idea is so nebulous it's not like I could cry foul if you wrote one. And yes, I have notes on what my story would be like and I'll bet your story isn't like mine. You know, unless you're reading my thoughts right now. And if you are, you should be ashamed of yourself for thinking that. You know what I'm talking about.

I'm also catching up with Starship Sofa Aural Delights. So far I'm also liking this podcast. Sometimes the accents on the opening get a bit thick for me to make out on the low volume level I have to play this at work.

Finally, the village meetings are done for the month, so I'm free again (unless something bad happens, and there are some loose ends that need attending). So my reading and writing should pick back up. This is good as I'm way behind in critiquing and even farther behind in writing.

With the day thing, people keep assuring me this lateral move will happen, and "they have a deal that'll work," but, you know, nobody has asked my input yet. I'd really like to know the outline of the deal, know what I'm getting into. On the plus side, I'll probably now have a lunch hour. Which means I'll be able to write on my lunch hour like a proper author with a day job. I'll belong.

Yeah, had that thought driving in this morning. It was my morning sarcastic chuckle.

And I miss all my blogging buddies. I haven't had to time to keep up with you all, and my dial-up connection at home just isn't fast enough to update all the RSS feeds all the time. Hoopy frood Jim Wright over at Stonekettle Station has had a few good articles on piracy. Jim knows what he's talking about. While I don't always agree on the details, on the big plan I think he's right most of the time. And he's an author and a woodworker. Although he does that other thing using a lathe instead of, you know, real woodwork like cabinetry. And New Dad (in the "insta-family" kind of way), Tobias Buckell (congrats Emily, you deserve a rest, let Tobias wait on you hand and foot for awhile), links to Kristine Kathryn Rusch's series on freelancing. That's something I'll have to read over the weekend.

Also, picked up printed business cards this week. They are Sa-Wheat! if I do say so myself.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Listen. Do you smell something?

Things have been way too quiet around here. I apologize, it's been a busy time and lately all my down time has been devoted to unwinding.

Hint to the wary, if you're appliance shopping, beware Sears. Not that they don't sell good appliances (they do), but this afternoon after getting my new glasses readjusted (tomorrow I'll see if I'm still having a problem) I went in to just browse some front-loading washers. If I do end up having a job through this summer I'd really like to upgrade. And they aren't cheap (although they are coming down in price). No, what I want to warn you about is being swarmed by eager sales people. I appreciate they're wanting to help me, but when I say, "I'm just price browsing" that means I'd really rather be left alone to look at the models, their prices, and their energy ratings (BTW, I really hate it when the manufacturers use different metrics on their ratings card, can't we have that fixed with our new regulatory regime?).

Back to the incommunicativeness. This will probably be sporadic for the next month as I read, critique, and write my way to May 16th. Add to that the regular writers group going on this weekend (and we have a bunch o' stories this month) and I really want to make it there. I've been scarce there as well lately. I don't want to be "that guy" in the group.

Ideas have been popping out, and some short stories have been calling like the sirens to Odysseus. Lash me to the main mast of life oh Muse. And sign me out. Or something like that. Hopefully I'll be able to get some story bones out here.

So I may not be as regular a poster between now and the middle of May. Of course now that I've said I'll be a little scarce around here, I'll end up posting 2 and 3 articles between now and the end of May. That's just how it works sometimes.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Blathering Blatherations Out Their Porthole

I've been watching Fox News again. Yeah. I know. They've been going crazy over this whole piracy thing.

First, let me say, three head-shots, single shots, from one pitching platform with targets on a separate pitching platform, in rough chop, nearly simultaneously, those SEALs know their stuff. Okay, and because not many people are commenting on it, think of just how long they must have been in position waiting for their opportunity. How many hours do you think they stayed on station waiting for their opportunity? And in case you missed it, right after the shot the rubber boat was on it's way to the life-raft as a back-up.

And the thing the Fox Newsies can't stand is that Obama gave the order in a proper form. And Brid knows a pinko-liberal, tree-hugging, election stealing President just can't be good with military matters. So now he's being pilloried for 1) not going far enough or 2) dangerously escalating the conflict or 3) putting the captain at risk 4) not getting a UN mandate. Their little minds have gone all 'splody.

And now their all, well, we're going to try the remaining pirate and that means were handling this like a police action which we can't do because in over 3000 years of dealing with pirates, we've never dealt with it this way.

One, they're so very wrong. Two, while piracy is old, back 3000 years ago there wasn't much difference between a merchant and a pirate. Modern piracy is not more than a 1000 years old. Also, pirates were often taken and tried in the courts that held jurisdiction (often maritime courts or colonial-governors courts) and subject to the law (which was by necessity enforced by the military commanders on the scene).

Finally, these bastards want to open up a Third War by reinvading Somalia, or at least performing military actions on the ground there. So my question to all these blowhards is this, just how much can we raise your taxes to pay for this third war front you're all so gung-ho for? These blowhards are small, mean, ex-bullies who just don't understand that the world changed since sixth-grade and they're no longer in charge.

President Obama did it correctly. Yes, there is a chance of escalation, but the other direction wasn't exactly diminishing activity. We don't need a UN Mandate to protect our nationals and property (US Flagged ship, US Crew). Declaring open war would 1) extend our forces beyond their stretched point, 2) it's a damn big ocean out there, and 3) most of the boats the pirates use have hostages on them (usually their former captains). Yes, Obama is becoming very popular among the military for promising to get us the heck out of Iraq, and focus on Afghanistan, keeping Gates in position, and listening to the Joint Chiefs. Also, for a President not in office for four months and without prior military service, he made the decision to use lethal force on foreign nationals in international waters and then delegated the final decision to the commander on the scene (while standing behind he decision, and I believe if it had gone pear-shaped, Obama would have taken the blame on himself). That's actual courage. Unlike the chicken-hawk kind we've scene from the former administration and the blowhards on Fox.

Random Mondays

In case you've ever wondered if the broadcast music system (ie. commercial radio) in this country was an attempt at subtle mind control, I'll just point out that in the past three weeks on the few times I've listened to commercial radio, I heard Styx's "These Are the Best of Times" like four or five times. This is more than I've heard 1) Styx and 2) this song in the past decade and a half. I wonder what they're trying to say? And could they be a little less blatant about it? I think it's that they aren't even being somewhat circumspect that is the most disturbing.

Gas prices are expected to continue upward at the rate of $.03 a day until we reach the magical Memorial Day Holiday Season. You know, even though oil on the world market continues to fall on increased reserves and the continuing world-wide recession. Okay, so summer gas needs to be refined in different ways to meet the EPA regulations in different markets. But, you know, this hasn't changed for the past 12 years, don't we have the process down yet?

With the demise of printed newspapers around the country, and (continual blathering about) the move toward e-publishing, just what are we going to use to hit our dog's noses with in the future? What will all those housewives in their housecoats shamble out to the mailbox to get at 6:30am in the morning? What will we line our birdcages with, or wrap fish in to send as a warning? What will children in kindergarden use to make their papier-mache object de art with? And what will kids make pirate hats out of (you know, I used to know how to make a square hat out of paper, but I can't remember now)? What will we use to wrap grandma's china in when we move? How will we show intensive background searches when our hero can't scroll through microfiches on those huge honking machines only to stumble upon the front page headline (that really would have been a page 3 story) that helps them solve their cases? What about the microfiche industry? OMG! It's the end of civilization!

And just how many weeks will the stock market have to grow (and how high) until the idiot financial analysts on Fox News can no longer say "Bear Rally" without the rest of us falling over laughing? And thinking about Fox, just how many more times can Krauthammer and Hannity say "socialism" before all the angels get their wings? Or does that only happen when they say both "socialism" and "fascism" when referring to the same thing?

Friday, April 10, 2009

Lightning Strikes Twice

So, a little while back I did a post on the F-22 and I said there wasn't anything ready on the horizon. Well, I was wrong. Here's the F32 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter. Now I'm really jonesing for a Janes report. Now, to be fair, I think we have less than three prototypes flying around out there. Not exactly a big program (hell, I think the Osprey had 8 prototypes and it was only a Marine acquisition program). And it's heavy. Did we forget everything we learned about the F16 and F18 programs? Apparently.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Kind of a beigey rider on a light-chestnut horse then

Tomorrow is zero hour. Well, actually, because of vacation scheduling, it's been pushed back, but tomorrow was intended to be the final hour. Two people from my department were on the chopping block, and I have lowest seniority. (insert ominous music here).

We had a meeting with the Union where we discussed various plans and we all got a print out of our retirement plans (I'm one year away from vestment in our National Plan, so I only qualify for the Inter-local Plan). All the options were laid out on the table. I had hoped a few people might see that their plans were much better than they thought. I think there was some of that, but do you know what the major factor was in their decision not to go?

The cost of health care. Once again, we're back to the cost of health care in the US. If we had actual national coverage, I think they would have had more volunteers than they would know what to do with. So not only have I had my wages stifled by heath care costs, I'm now boned in a whole new way.

Now the good news. One, several vacations had already been scheduled around the department, and we're a little short handed at the moment. So our deadline has been pushed back to the 24th, right before I turn 43. I have severance pay that I qualify for and the unemployment would probably be the best I could hope for. Ohio looks back past the just previous quarter calendar, and then averages your wages over the four quarters before that. So for me, until July, that would mean all of 2008, which wasn't my best year, but picks up all the time before 4 day weeks, and the first part of the year had some good overtime.

The second piece of good news is that we did have one volunteer. It was someone I had never even thought of as a possibility, but they're taking the opportunity to refocus. I wish them the best of luck.

The third piece of good news is that there have been (as I am lead to believe) several long conversations about my employment (I've heard this from several sources within the building, the first time I heard I was asked not to say anything, but now I think it's somewhat general knowledge in the plant). That the department is now down to one involuntary layoff gives the company options (because of Union Rules). Now, I'm sure they also didn't want to lose the person next up the chain of seniority, so I think they're pretty glad about dogging that bullet. But if they have a position open in the department in the next year, that would mean I would be the first to be called back (Right of Return).

Here's where the advice I've given everybody who has asked for it comes into play. In business, your reputation is the most important thing. I have a reputation for being a productive hard worker who picks up new things quickly, can work with minimum oversight, and produces quality work. All things that are valuable in the current work environment.

Nothing has been settled, it's all still up in the air, but I'm feeling a little better. My mood has lifted immensely. I've ordered new glasses and am thinking about other health care things that I was putting off. So not out of the woods yet, but there's daylight. Thanks for everybody who has been concerned and offering prayers and good thoughts. It's working.

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

The Myths We Tell Ourselves - Markets and Presidents

Okay, so I've been getting tired of some things I keep hearing. And you all know I relax by doing math. The latest is the myth, "Markets love Republican Presidents and do better, and hate Democratic Presidents and do worse." I've heard this bantered several times. So I decided to do some research. I had some difficulty finding specific historical DJI numbers (I did want to go back to 1901), but I did find a list of monthly averages going back to 1945 (the only number that isn't a monthly average is for GW Bush's last day). I figured taking the month they entered and left service was a good overall picture. This, of course, ignores high marks during the presidency, but if "markets love Republicans and hate Democrats" I think a start and end should demonstrate just what the markets actually do like. For the time period we had there were more Republican Presidents (6 to 5) and they were in power longer (36 to 28 years). We start with the death of Roosevelt and we cover an assassination and a resignation, the recovery from WWII (and baby boom), the Cultural Revolution, the 70s, Reaganism, the Internet Boom and Bust, and the Age of Terrorism.

Harry S. Truman-Democratic
Start Apr 45, 206.8 points; End Jan 53, 290 points
+83.2 or 140%

Dwight D. Eisenhower-Republican
Start Jan 53, 290 points; End Jan 61, 648.2 points
+358.2 or 224%

John F. Kennedy-Democratic
Start Jan 61, 648.2 points; End Nov 63, 721.6 points
+73.4 or 111%

Lyndon B. Johnson-Democratic
Start Nov 63, 721.6 points; End Jan 69, 946.1 points
+224.5 or 131%

Richard Nixon-Republican
Start Jan 69, 946.1 points; End Aug 74, 678.6 points
-267.5 or 72%

Gerald Ford-Republican
Start Aug 74, 678.6 points; End Jan 77, 954.4 points
+275.5 or 141%

Jimmy Carter-Democratic
Start Jan 77, 954.4 points; End Jan 81, 947.3 points
-7.1 or 99%

Ronald Reagan-Republican
Start Jan 81, 947.3 points; End Jan 89, 2342.3 points
+1395 or 247%

George H. W. Bush-Republican
Start Jan 89, 2342.3 points; End Jan 93, 3310 points
+967.7 or 141%

Bill Clinton-Democratic
Start Jan 93, 3310 points; End Jan 01, 10940.5 points
+7630.5 or 331%

George W. Bush-Republican
Start Jan 01, 10940.5 points; End Jan 09, 7949 points (Closing January 20 2009)
-2991.5 or 73%

The Democratic Party was in control of the White House for 28 years (5 Presidents), total +8004.5 points. Average percentage increase 162.2%.

The Republican Party was in control of the White House for 36 years (6 Presidents), total -262.6 points. Average percentage increase 149.5%.

So there you have it.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

On Keyboards

You all know I'm trying to get the writing thing going, right? Lately I've been wedging in a few words here, a few words there, on a bunch of different machines and places. So I have a some recent experience using several different keyboards.

Now, when I was a student assistant in the Admissions Office of the U of A, I found my first real love. I had a lust after the computer terminal keyboards, the old ones. They had great functionality and feel. Then in the office we had an IBM Selectric. OMG, now that was a keyboard. I had done my first typing on a manual typewriter. If you've never had to use one, count yourself lucky. The Selectric was like honey. Smooth, easy, and those keys with breakaway springs. Oh my.

So ever since then I've had a love of full function keyboards. They just felt right. So when I saw Apple's new keyboard design, I was immediately put off. It reminded me very much of the old TRSII Color Computer Keyboard (the chicklet keyboards). Not very functional, no play, no feel, no depth of stroke. Nothing.

And then it just hit me the other day when I went to use an older style Apple Keyboard, that was based on the full stroke keyboards of old. Holy crap. I've been ruined. And now I'm really thinking about parting with $50 to get one of the new keyboards for home. Especially since I've realized that I type faster and with fewer errors on those keyboards. Whodathunkit. I actually like those little buttons. And it doesn't feel like I'm whacking the keyboard to get the words out.

So yeah, one is on my wish list. And I may get one I can use for my laptop (which feels constrained even though it's supposed to be a full stroke keyboard). It feels like freedom.

Monday, April 6, 2009

Like endless rain into a paper cup

Learning a language changes the structure of humans' brains. Learning an abstract symbolic language (such as a written language which uses a phonetic alphabet) dynamically restructures the brain. It's been a fun thing for me to say all these years. Ever since I learned about brain differences between literate, functionally illiterate, and fully illiterate people, and those who have only a symbolic language compared to those who use abstract symbolism in graphic design (and see, you just thought we all made pretty pictures) and to understand what this allows us (as designers) to get away with.

Such as, did you know that once you learn how to read, you don't read the letters, you read groups of words - unless the shapes of the words are unfamiliar, then you fall back to reading letters - this is why packaging switches from the word "New" (which is a commodity packaging regulated word, something that is 8 months old can't be labeled "New") to the word "Now" - in your brain you can confuse the two, especially when it's a quick glance. Such as browsing shelves with lots of products.

Then there is the common folk knowledge that knowing more than one language opens up a whole new world of opportunity and consciousness. Well, now there's proof of that.

Here's an NPR story about it. The research shows that your language does adjust your perception of the world around you. That other languages assign nouns gender (and in some ways English does the same thing, it's just not as overt as other languages which use gender specific articles) changes the speakers perception of the world.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Sunday Cat Blogging and Random Operatic Observations

Bowing to popular pressure, a few photos of the little kitty, Cleopatra.

Cleo answers the timeless question, "Why don't you see more cats bowling?"

Why, the fall asleep mid-throw.

And then after a long day of bowling napping, you need to nap on the rocking chair.

That knitted wrap used to be on the back of the rocking chair, but after the fourth time of Cleo climbing up and having it all come crashing down on her, we just left it on the seat. She likes to nap wrapped up in it. And yes, it may look like she's playing, but she's fast asleep in that position.

The child ain't right.

And then watching opera on PBS this afternoon it all comes rushing back to me. In opera or the plays of Shakespeare, you just can't trust the clergy. Most people end up dead in one form or another when they take their advice.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Random Saturday

Well, first up, I'm slow getting up to date with my friends blogs, but, uh, all around hoopy frood Mer Haskell can has agent! You go Mer.

The news organizations continue to plumb the depths of stupidity. The latest fun-ness is an intense focus on employment numbers and how that shows the economy is still crappy. Well, it is. But employment is a trailing-indicator. As the economy goes bad, companies hang on to employees hoping either they won't be affected, or that they can make it through the rough patch. Hiring people is damn expensive, as is training them. It's better to loose a little money to keep good employees in place (because you'll probably lose more through lay-offs and rehires). Then, as the economy gets better, it's cheaper to work your existing employees harder than hire in more employees. Because the uptick may also be a temporary phenomenon. So jobs lag behind the actual economy. I don't say this because I like it, hell I'm about to be hurt by it (and I have friends who are being hurt by it, some very badly).

So, for all those "economic experts" certain news organizations like to have on who point to the jobs market and talk about how we're not around the corner and even though all the major numbers they track say the economy has found the bottom (the housing market, not so much, but it's close) and are all doom and gloom because their road-killed ideology is being kicked to the side of the road, you're full of crap. We're before, are now. Now to be clear, even though I think we've found the bottom, the rebound isn't going to be fast.

And thinking of the economy and jobs, the good people over at Energy Tomorrow, that think tank of marketing manipulation (whose message pretty much is "Oh dear God, please don't regulate or tax us or well take you all with us") has a new commercial out about how they're going to put our economy back on track and create all these jobs because they're gonna drill and make us independent. Um, yeah. Money talks, suckers walk, dudes. Have you restarted the fabrication plants to create these off shore oil derricks (that we only need one to exploit what we used to need ten to exploit)? Have you hired these legions of people to start drilling on all those lands you hold leases to? Have you increased domestic production by anything more than 2% in the past decade (and here I'm talking about total output, not new production to replace tapped out fields)? Do you have the capacity to put those people top work now? Yeah, didn't think so.

It appears we're going to go back to a rash of shootings and other bad personal behavior. I've been dreading this. It's a well known canard that crime goes up during recessions (domestic crime does go up, as does white collar crime, but violent crime actually goes down a little as does robberies, however it's mostly amateurs that do the robberies, which leads to higher conviction rates). But spectacular crime goes up. As the amateurs pattern their crimes after TV and movies and try and grab a lot of attention, professionals keep to the shadows and don't go for flash. There's also been a growing trend of wack-a-loon feeding (like feeding the trolls) from those main stream news organizations and talk shows that like to think they aren't main stream press. I expect (although dread) there will be some school shootings. There will be more police shootings because a pattern is being set. The freeze dried wack-a-loons of the world are nothing if they aren't intense media consumers and they're always looking for templates to play out their own twisted fears. It's something that keeps me up at night.

Friday, April 3, 2009

THREE! FOUR!... THREE! FOUR! (Cleveland Rocks!)

Tomorrow we'll have the first Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction held in Cleveland in over a decade.

'Bout damn time.

Sure, NYC has the glitz, the night life, the media exposure, but I can tell you with full affirmation that they don't love Rock and Roll as much as Cleveland does. About the only other city that loves rock as much is probably Detroit. There are other music capitals (Austin, Nashville, New Orleans, Chicago), but there's few that specialize in rock.

Really, growing up in NE Ohio, you couldn't swing a dead cat without hitting a rock musician (myself included, I played guitar in case you're wondering). We used to have several music halls that regularly had rock music featured; Agora, Colosseum and various other places. These weren't your dance halls or clubs, we have plenty of those. These were concert arenas that held thousands of fans. On any weekend night you can find live music, rock and jazz, somewhere in almost every neighborhood (unless you live in the sticks like I do). Rock and roll dreams, baby.

Alice Cooper opened up one of his Coopertowns here. When asked why he choose Cleveland his response basically stated that between Detroit and Cleveland, all other places a pikers when it comes to rock. "(those two cities) are the only two places in the country that you can go to the City Hall and say, 'I want to put on a street concert,' and the only questions they ask are what street, when, and how long do you need it closed." Yeah, we're that way about our rock.

Unfortunately we're going to have crappy weather, which everybody will complain about. And Cleveland is in the middle of an intense depression (it wasn't when we started lobbying to get the induction returned to it's rightful home). People will complain about that. But even with the crappy weather (it's howling windy and going to rain and snow tomorrow), and the depressed economy, the Hall will be packed to the brim tomorrow, you can bet on it. We love our rock.

I got some records from World War Two
I'll play em just like me grand dad do
He was a rocker and I am too
Oh Cleveland rocks, yeah Cleveland rocks
So find a place
Grab a space
And yell and scream for more.


CLEVELAND ROCKS!

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Line of the Dead

Well, today is the drop dead posting date for Pointwriters and I've managed to get 14,827 words done by now. That puts me midway through the seventh chapter. Far short of the goal. Sigh.

The good news is that I'm really liking this story. Some of the writing is the snappiest I've ever done on a first draft (or draft zero). And I'm sharing this work far earlier in the process than I've ever shared any other piece, even with my first reader (my wife in case you were wondering).

What have I learned? Well, the world changes when you're not expecting it, which I really knew a long time ago but had high hopes (I still do) that things would get better soon rather than later. Writing can be done in short bursts. Leaving off the text when you're in the middle of the action actually works to get you restarted the next writing session. Balancing home life and writing is getting more difficult.

Well, I've submitted for most of the positions I've seen open (some of them are very surprising). There's only a few second choice prospects that I need to submit, but then tomorrow is Thursday. Postings tend to follow the old newspaper schedule so maybe there will be new ones tomorrow.

Now it's time to go to bed before these black circles around my eyes start looking like make-up. When I was younger I never did have black circles around my eyes, no matter how tired I drove myself to. They still aren't all that noticeable, although they're getting there fast.

World Ends, News at 11

That's it for the world. In a stunning move today, God decided to pull the plug on the whole of creation. While the world took six days to create the Creator pulled out the demolition miracles and finished the job in a few hours, even stopping in the middle to have a sandwich. The carpet has been rolled up and He was reported to have said, "Let there be light, not," as he went out.

Random Novel Sampling

Cell phone conversation from the book. Heck, you over hear this stuff in the streets, why not here online?

(our main character has broken into an apartment of a computer hacker for various reasons, is on his cell phone talking with a handler)

"You sure this kid isn't working with the magician?" I asked (Baron).

"I'm positive. You had your doubts. Why?"

"Cause the magician could be hiding in here and I probably wouldn't notice him."

"That bad, huh," Baron said.

"You know how three-day old wet socks smell?"

"Yeah," he said chuckling.

"A candle with that scent would freshen up this place."