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

Thursday, December 31, 2009

Seven Swans a-Swimming

Looks like it'll be a quiet New Year's for us. Bette isn't feeling well and has a temp, so our plans to go over to the neighbors fellowship, games and champaign are being adjusted to soup and a movie. It's better than getting everybody sick for the new year.

There's been quite a number of bloggers and news organizations doing wrap ups of the decade as well as the year, so I won't retread a lot of those discussions and arguments (they mostly fall into the Stephen Colbert's question of "So, is (insert politician or event name here) the best (whatever), or the bestest ever (whatever)"). Let me wrap up most of the decade saying that personally like the growth I went through, professionally it was a mixed bag, for the nation I had hoped we would be in a much different place by now. This past year's roller coaster began with reduced hours and discussion of layoffs. After 2008's resolution to focus on the writing, and then have my best year freelancing, with the prospect of being out of a day job I made a vow to focus on freelancing in 2009. Then I had my best year in writing and saw the freelance work dry up. So this year, 2010, I'm going to focus on... freelancing. Of course, Murphy's Law is not recursive, so maybe I should just make a promise to make a focus on what's working well.

My friend Mer decided to hold a novel critiquing workshop and wondered if I could participate. The Post-Rapture Comedy Romance was in no shape to even do a partial, and I had been banging my head against walls trying to get it to flow. I switched gears and resurrected a short story stub and started Bladesman (it always felt longer than a novella). The writing came out and the story flowed to the point that now I know I can write a novel in a year (sure, the first draft isn't done yet, but I actually have until February, and I'm hoping to be done next week at the latest). And that's with all the other distractions of the day and night jobs and exploring retraining for a medical related job. So if I can get a first draft out with all that, I can do more with only a day job (2 years and counting).

I rewrote the first few chapters and applied to Viable Paradise, which I was very surprised to get accepted. I did my second panelist gig. I had a poem accepted for publication this year. Some blog and twitter fic will be published in a book early this year. The only real disappointment I had with writing was not being able to attend the Hamster meetings as often as I would have liked. I also still haven't finished critiquing a friend's novel than I promised to have done by Halloween.

In the end, while the same person signs my check for the day thing, my old position is gone and I'm working in a different capacity. The night thing remained just as crazy as it had in 2008. I've improved my writing to the point where the peaks are going over the publishable water-line in the Bathtub Model of Publishing. The freelancing work which had added to the confusion in 2008 dried up in 2009. And I can see the end of the night thing (thanks to the citizens of Orwell approving the new charter). And I got out 68000+ words on the first draft of the novel.

It sucks that lots of my friends are still out of work. The economy hasn't improved enough for the second and third-tier businesses to start highering again. A third of the country lost their minds and wigged out, politically. A portion of thepolitical landscape came to the conclusion that if they're going down, they'll take the rest of us with them. I'm thankful for the extreme luck I had to keep a job. On the plus side we're no longer talking about when the recovery might start but when the recovery might start producing jobs.

So here's to 2009. Don't let the door slam you in the butt. And welcome to 2010. May it treat us all kinder than 2009 did. Here's hoping we see each other at the end of next year and get to think about how wonderful 2010 had been.

WIP it into high gear

Chapter 39 is in the bag. We added 1545 words bringing our total to 68650. Only three more chapters to go. Hopefully this weekend we'll be finished with the first draft. Unless the damn breaks and the waters rise.

Which has happened before.

And I probably just jinxed myself.

So tired. Must sleep. See you all when the sun is up again.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

More Books for Free

Hey, William Jones is also running a contest for his new book, Pallid Light. Again, rules are easy.

Six Geese A-laying - Thoughts on Constrained Creativity

(Or, why knowing how to write, using somewhat literate grammar, what is story, and why you need to follow the damn submission guidelines you special snowflake you)

Advice in Drawing 101, "Listen to direction, nod sagely as if you understand, take notes on project, draw what the hell you wanted to anyway." Just because it's a themed anthology doesn't mean the theme is all of what your story is about.

Advice in Graphic Design 200, "Clients will give you constraints, your job is to work around them to give the clients what they need." Follow the damn submission guidelines, but give the editors something that sparkles, instead of the 398th story with zeppelins flying overhead.

Advice in Illustration 300, "You can always slip in what you wanted to illustrate and most people will hardly notice." Theme is slippery, it often can take many forms. And what looks like a duck and walks like a duck may very well be a goose.

Advice in Modeling 101 (3D Structures), "Never use the 'L' Word (love) as your sole critique point." Saying, "I loved it," might be a nice sentiment, but it's not a critique. Be more specific about what you loved about it.

Advice in Packaging Design 345, "If you don't think of how the whole thing goes together on the shelf, with all the other competition, you're not doing your job." In other words, pay attention to the market.

Advice in Computer Graphics 320, "The computer is not the artist, it's the medium. It's a sophisticated and often frustrating pencil." You are not your tools, nor are your tools the product (unless you make tools or are one yourself).

Two Turtle-Doves

Okay, so I probably shouldn't get as zazzed as I do by this, but in today's email from Amazon extolling me to "For the Love of Mike, Buy Something Already" entitled "Best SF & F books of 2009" I know two authors on the list, three books I'm familiar with, and another two I've read spoilery critiques of (when you don't have time to read the whole book, spoilery critiques can help you keep abreast of things). And, if I've done the math correctly, at least three featured in John Scalzi's "Big Idea" columns.

I feel so in touch with things. Of course, it'd be better is I actually had read all the books, but that would also have meant I had the time to do so as well (two years, two days and counting).

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Three French Hens Linkee-poo- Working backward

Hey, Jim Hines is giving away books again. And all you need to do is write a little comment on which book and why. It couldn't be simpler.

Justine Larbalestier muses a little on the planning and what to write next. Two thoughts here. First, her quote, "Because it’s not about the ideas, it’s about what you do with them," no truer words have been spoken (and muchg of what's behind the whole story bones thing). And two, write them down. In the past three days I've had excellent ideas all three days, bits of dialog and action. And I didn't write them down. Now they're gone. Do not do likewise.

And Jeff VanderMeer on paying it forward, backward, and using leverage. I certainly have benefited from all of the above. It also plays to Wil's Law, "Don't be a dick." I sometimes worry that this philosophy will go the way of motorcyclists waving at each other. You can always tell the weekenders, they never wave. And now there are newer riders who don't know it's customary to wave.

Monday, December 28, 2009

Five Golden Rings

Okay, well, that'll be tomorrow, but it's close enough.

I'm back. Yes, not enough time or access for the internet. We spent time with family, so need I say I'm glad to be back with you all? Seriously folks, it was good to spend time with the family. I think Mom and I are a little closer. I didn't get to see my brother because of scheduling. Caught up with the nieces, the nephews not so much (one got sick, the others just wanted to play video games), the siblings-in-law, and found myself in the grocery story in Canton thinking, "All these people look familiar. My people." Canton was where I went to High School (well, Plain Township actually).

Now we're back with the gatos, and they are glad to see us. Right now they are at the other end of the couch doing a mirror cleaning. It's like they're the Synchronized Tongue-Cleaning Olympic Team. I give them a 4.5 (out of 6). They aren't exactly mirroring each other, and they get distracted when I look at them.

Even with all the craziness I got Chapter 38 done (using my Mom's computer). She came in heavy at 1920 words. Which brings us to a total of 67105. That leaves me with four more chapters to go before rewrite time, two of which are action (for me those go quickly) and two to wrap it up.

The drive home tonight was crazy. Not so much from the weather, which was here, but from the idiots who decide that driving 20mph in a 60 zone, when it's been scraped and salted, is a good idea. Hint, it's not. First car we nearly had an accident with because the car in front of us screened our view (fortunately nobody was in the left lane, although it wasn't as cleared). Second car, well, dude, if there are eight cars backed up behind you, pull over (I was number 5). Don't keep driving the 12 miles into town (slowest 12 miles of the whole trip).

The other shoe failed to go off. I found myself yelling at the TV news as they were all saying, "Foiled Terrorist Attempt" shouting "Failed, it's a 'failed terrorist attempt.' If it was 'foiled' someone would have jumped him before he set his crotch on fire." And you don't want to know what I was yelling when the "Second Terrorist Incident that Wasn't a Terrorist Incident" got reported. Seriously, not news. Okay, the news was "flight attendant panics" not "Another Nigerian tries to blow up airplane, but was just sick in the bathroom." NewsFAIL. Oh look, now everybody is interested in Yemen. You know, like those of us tracking this were for the past eight frickin' years. And those news outlets who are talking about "the next war" (thank you Joe Lieberman, when are you out of office again?) you can't say that and complain about the debt ceiling.

Ugh. I'm getting all ranty-stabby again. Must think of other things.

Okay, is it wrong that when the Weather Channel plays the theme to Home Alone during "Your Weather on the 8's" that I giggle?

Oh, and before I forget, Holy Crap the Browns won a real game last weekend. Surely that's a sign the Apocalypse is nearly upon us. Run! Run for your lives!

Thursday, December 24, 2009

So this is Christmas, and what have we done

There's been a lot of people doing wrap ups of both the year and the decade. Seems that also comes earlier every year. Hey, you all, we still got a week. Granted, it might also be a part of the psychology of it being declared the "worst decade evar" by a lot of people, so there's a lot of people who just want to be done with it all.

I don't blame them.

But tomorrow is Xmas, for those that celebrate it. Joyeux Noel everybody.

There. You may not have gotten everything you wanted this year. But if we try, sometimes, we've got what we need.

Since we've been running like madmen this past week we've spent about the same amount eating out as I think we did the whole rest of the year. One of those nights we went to the Chinese place in Middlefield. It's a favorite hangout for the Amish. My fortune was so good I've taped it do the thumb drive.

"No problem leaves you where you found it."

I think that's an excellent writing axiom. It also works pretty well in general. Happy Xmas. Here's hoping we're in a better place. And that's my gift for you all.

Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Sometimes I'm just no fun

Okay, well, first, giving you all a heads up. There is every likely hood that over the next week I will be several days away from a reliable interweebie connection. So, if I don't get another chance to wish you a Happy Merry Xmas, have a Happy Merry Xmas.

And now to the meat of the post.

You know how lots of people are talking about how cool the new Sherlock Homes movie looks? And yet, with my day job trained eyes, I look at the title card and think, eh, that's wrong. So, they're going for the look of cold slug type. Although there's very little depth to the slug, which makes it actually look a little line linotype, but then there are the lines between the characters which wouldn't be there... see where I'm going here? And then there is the matter that the type is backwards. The type, in real life, would be mirrored. Yes, I know, I have some in my office.

So my highly warped mind educated eye says, "That's WRONG!" And it sucks all the joy out of the exceedingly nice steampunkary (oh, thank you gods of computers who developed the process of scanning in all the frames of a movie, or shooting it digitally to begin with, and then adjusting all the colors). Add this to the times of going out to a bar or restaurant and having just suck ass visual communications thrown in my face. Sometimes I'm just no fun to be around.

Angels we have heard on high, tell us to go out and buy

Most online vendors have cut off their "we can ship it to arrive before XMas" times. And now, on this day of the greatest delivery service activity, we enter into the time of "unless you pay us insanely high shipping costs."

Sending out a mental therma-packs and icy-hot rubs to all those out there in the cold winter deliving Xmas Joy and post-New Year economic hangover to the millions of gift starved people.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Yet another one to add to the list

And I'll let you decide which list they're added to.

Dear World Financial Network National Bank (store credit card),

You're raising our rate to 25%, removing minimums, and adding a slew of "fees" including a $1 fee per paper statement you send?

With all due respect, screw you. Your card gets the shredder treatment. Think I'm being harsh? That's essentially what your bulk mailed "change of agreement statement" shouted loud and clear at me. I'm just returning the favor. We'll take our (number redacted, let's just say when we looked at refinancing and we asked for the best rate, they said it was only for those customers with the highest credit score, we said, "Check ours, we'll wait" and they came back a minute later with, "Oh, sorry") credit score and do business with someone else.

Wishing you well in this holiday season.

Bite me,
Your former customer

Seriously, $1 to send me a bill? Just how the fuck do you expect me to pay online? With a different card? Oh, wait, you want me to give you access to my bank account for automatic withdraw? Excuse me for a second, I'm laughing so hard I can't catch my breath. Okay. I'm back.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Merry Solstice

Tomorrow being the winter solstice, I thought I'd give you your present early.

The longest night

Down the night,
through echos of bonfires,
come revels of ages
of oak smoke
and holly berries.
The yule tide rises.
Our ancestors' dreams
sluice through our genes
causing parades of afterimages
of years past.
A soul's solstice
burning in the deep night.
Midnight of the year,
a celebrants orgy of dark.

Sunday at the races

The tree is decorated. The last deer that needed rewiring (that I'm going to do this year) is finished and installed. Kittens are petted, feed, and watered. Edits are edited. All that isn't done is Chapter 38.

This past week was excellent crazy, including a late in the week meeting that sucked up much of Thursday night. So not much happened by the end of the week. I keep telling myself that once this is done we have two chapters of action (which I think I'm pretty good at, or at least they come out easy) and then wrapping it all up.

But this is the Holiday week. And we also add in getting the car a new timing belt, spark plugs, a valve job, and the other things that a car with over 110,000 miles needs which will necessitate a reverse Chinese Fire Drill with the cars. And then there's also the high probability of the "ZOMG! We forgot and need all this work done by Xmas." Like what happened last week with the people who have some modicum of planning skills.

And then we wrap up the week with, well let's just say a somewhat normal holiday experience. Which means massive craziness and discombobulation. Just an old fashion Christmas. Which means not a lot of time to write. However that can always change on a moment's notice. Which is why it's good to be prepared. My goal is still to be done with the first draft by the end of the year.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Darkness flops on the couch and changes the channels

A long day of working through various chores. Now is the relaxing time. Well, different work time. Editing.

Trying to work out schedules for the holidays. The snows advance, although for the third time this year it's worse south of us. What's the point of living in the snow belt if we don't get the snow?

It's the last weekend before Xmas and still so much to do.

Yesterday I had my quarterly checkup and as I thought I'm up six pounds from last time. Still above 300, no matter how hard I try. Well we talked a little about options, the option of the all protein diet came up again. We're adjusting the timing of the medication and continuing on with the exercising to see what happens. As the doctor told me the extended release version of metformin is actually more potent, so he's not sure what's happening.

So still more to do tonight and tomorrow. How's your weekend?

Friday, December 18, 2009

Story Bones

"I'm the one with the open cup of boiling-hot water. You have the paper proof. In the rock-paper-scissors of hallway collisions, I win."

Holiday Lunch

Today was our company's holiday lunch (it's sitting right here as I type this). There were the usual words said along with the "tough year, glad we're still together and our clients appreciate all the hard work we do" part of the speech. Then the boss also went into service awards. As soon as he said that my brain went, "Holy crap, I've been here five years." Yep, just this past Monday I entered into the "old timers" category (actually, we also celebrated several 15, 20 and one 25 year award, this job tends to hang onto people).

This makes the current day thing my second longest running engagement with a company in my professional career. It's very standard in my industry to job jump. Much of it runs along personal taste, short longevity, few options for advancement, much of the stuff I really no longer care about. Hell, I don't even have my new job title memorized yet (I think it's Information Architect).

To be fully honest, when I graduated college this is not where I expected to be at this point. But about 9 years ago my dreams and goals changed. I may bitch and moan about the job, but I genuinely like what I do for a living. I like being able to contribute my skills to the team and in the end make us all look better. I also (very much) like when I get home my head doesn't feel like it's going to unscrew from my neck and pop off like a water rocket launching. And that's a pleasant side benefit I didn't fully expect when I choose this job five years ago.

For the record, I had three offers at the same time, one mid-range studio, one consumer products design, and this one in printing. The studio would have been a small step up from where I was at, but for a little less money. The plus side would have been working with some cool clients and the opportunity to work on cool things. The consumer products job would have meant a lot of exposure in the consumer marketplace (I can't tell you what a jazz it is to see people buying products in your box). It wouldn't be as cool, but it was about the same in money (and you all, while you might not own the products, would definitely have seen them in the stores).

And then there was this job. Less exposure, less cool things, and a little more money. The plus side of this job is I don't feel wrung out at the end of the day. Most days I leave here and except for the things I willingly carry, I leave my job here. No research into client markets, no new color theory, no keeping up with the cutting edge in the field (which you never get to use anyway), no wondering just WTF the client was talking about when they said they didn't like the font. There's still stress, still the uncertainty, still all the crazy crap, but the structure of the job puts the knobs back down to 10, instead of 11.

So happy five years to me.

Happy New Year 1431 AH

Eid Mubarak to all my muslim friends (and you know who you are).

Thursday, December 17, 2009

A day as long as my leg

Well, just finished dinner at 9:30pm, so that should tell you what kind of day it has been.

The day thing is feast or famine. Today was feast (after two days of famine). And design work filled the schedule. First a special job for a friend of the owner. I'm assuming it's going on top of a jar (or side of a jar) for a gift of food. I got to be a bit crazy playing with hot colors, some cartooning, and license to be a little wacky. Frankly, if I may say so, I blew the stoppers out and created a funky little piece. Then I finished the day with form design, the stall mucking part of the job (it's dirty, it pays the bills, not glamourous in any sense - even if Mike Rowe gave running commentary - and you feel like you're shoveling shit - so you buck up and do it the best you can).

In other news I've started taking the welbutrin again. I may have over reacted to some emotional problems, but the holidays are stressful enough without me adding to them with being a dick. I also had an episode of going to extreme anger over the slightest problem. I don't wish to suffer through the holidays. We'll relook at it again after the New Year. Tomorrow I have a doctor's appointment. It won't be a good one. There's several issues to discuss, welbutrin being the least. I switched over to extended release metformin in October when a side-effect of the regular kind became too much. However, I don't think I'm responding to this formulation as well, although the side-effects are gone. My weight has been creeping up even though I'm eating less, fewer "extras" (like ice cream, pop, bagels, donuts, etc) and I'm working out on the Wii (6 minutes of Super Hula Hoops, OMG!).

I've only managed about 50 new words on Chapter 38, but I am self-editing some little pieces that will be in an anthology soon. Since the matter of pay for markets has come up and I've made comments on it in support of Scalzi's position (if you've seen the arguments, you know his position), I'll mention that there was no pay for these pieces (although there is the chance of royalties). The differences are 1) I went in full aware of that - and no payment, frankly, is more honest than fraction of pennies per word, 2) The editor is respected in the field and will edit these pieces professionally, 3) I honestly have more chance of exposure through this antho, and in the right quarters, than from some 4theluv or semi-pro markets, and 4) I had a hell of a lot of fun writing them and enjoyed the challenge of writing a story in blog form and in twitter length.

Then tonight we had an "emergency meeting" to discuss some of the issues surround our new Village Charter. And here I'll make a shout out to Dwight who is in the hospital with pneumonia. I just heard tonight and I hope you're feeling better soon. Some measure of panic over things easily remedied. And I think it showed part of a point brought up in the meeting, we have strong leadership in the Village and we exercise that for the service and betterment of citizens of the Village.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Story Bones

From a comment made on a friend's blog regarding the Kindle:
I know some people like to say how "old tech" books are. I've been trying to come up with snappy rejoiners to that. My latest attempt, "Oh really, so why do we have advanced technology attempting to simulate them?" And sure, holodeck sex may get you through the cold dark winter of the big black, but it's still second cousin to the real thing.

there's still enough in the health care bill for me to support it, but...

Dear Senator Lieberman,

You aren't my Senator, but there's no campaign finance law restricting cross-state donations. It will be another three years before you're up for re-election. I will be supporting your opponent, even if that means supporting the Republican challenger. The change won't be that much even in that case. And I mean to do this even if it gives the Republicans 60 votes in the Senate.

I don't mind principled stands on issues. As an elected official myself I understand them and know why they are sometimes necessary. However, you've shown yourself to be a small tyrant. One willing to offer a compromise only to yell, "psych!" and withdraw his support even when he gets what he was offering.

Thank you for your time. Don't let the door slam your ass on the way out.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Call for readers

Hey, ever want to know what reading a novel before the rest of the world gets a chance to is like? Well, Ken McConnell is looking for beta readers for his latest. I'd like to help him out, but I'm stuffed to the gills from other requests (one of which I have in hand and will be getting back to soon, Christina, I swear) not to mention my own novel I need to finish. So, any takers? Click on that link and let Ken know.

Linkee-poo Follows Its Bliss

WIlliam Jones talks about what it means to be "published" and the differences between "self-published" and what that means for book store penetration. And here he unveils the work of the distributors (and regional sales people, when book publishers had actual regional sales people) and how critical they are to your success as an author. He also touches on the rise of the "pay for print" business model within "traditional" publishing houses and why the probably aren't going away.

Barbarienne's Den on why ebooks really aren't that much cheaper to produce. I've tried to make this similar point in many places, but I feel it's fallen on deaf ears. Here is a little backup on the subject. Hint: ink on paper, in quantity, isn't all that darn expensive. Cost per unit is a measure we use to try and get our customers to order in a quantity that actually makes economic sense for them (but, hey, if you really want to go to press every quarter to print exactly the same thing and re-incur all the setup costs four times instead of once, since I'm now on the press side of things, by all means please do so). Now, just as devil's advocate, she doesn't cover fulfillment costs (shipping, storing, distributing, returns, remainders, and rot), but it doesn't add all that much (when you factor in economies of scale). Really, much of the cost of the individual book (cost per unit) is not in the production. This is why I get sorely pissed when presses get cheap with paper and stock material (sure, when you're printing 10,000 units, scrapping $.05 off each unit adds up, but the benefits of those "extras" are well worth it, I had to debate buying my latest Ray Bradbury purchase because the production values were so cheap). But anyway, yeah, what they said. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Pier Anthony talks about some common misconceptions about writing humor. Seeing as one of the things I'm getting psyched about ending the current novel is that I might go back to writing the Post-Rapture romantic comedy novel. (Grokked from Todd Wheeler)

S.C. Butler holds forth on writing what you like. While the often given axiom is "write what you know" (which, just like the sound of one hand clapping, really isn't about what you might originally think it's about), I'm hoping that as I progress in this here career and I get to help youngsters, "write what you like" escapes my lips far more often than "write what you know." There's been plenty of side conversations I've had lately with other writers, some open, some personal, and I've always come back to this point. You have to love what you're doing, because that's always, always, always going to be your greatest reward. If you think Dan Brown, JK Rowling, Stephanie Meyer, Stephen King or any of them are thinking, "Oh boy, this is going to make the bucks roll in" while they're writing, you're fooling yourself. Or, as another person I respect (Joseph Campbell) once said, "Follow you bliss."
BILL MOYERS: Do you ever have the sense of... being helped by hidden hands?
JOSEPH CAMPBELL: All the time. It is miraculous. I even have a superstition that has grown on me as a result of invisible hands coming all the time - namely, that if you do follow your bliss you put yourself on a kind of track that has been there all the while, waiting for you, and the life that you ought to be living is the one you are living. When you can see that, you begin to meet people who are in your field of bliss, and they open doors to you. I say, follow your bliss and don't be afraid, and doors will open where you didn't know they were going to be.

I once thought I was a SF Writer. Then I tried fantasy and my voice got stronger. Then I tried horror and it got even stronger. And now I mix into dark fantasy and I'm having a lot of fun (even if I might question that my writing has gotten a little too close to my military past which makes me a little squishy) and my voice sings out. It also does the same when I write bitting humor (can you tell). I've told all my nieces and nephews that simple phrase, "Follow your bliss." It's, IMHO, one of the greatest lessons we can impart. (Get me talking about programming and career choices one day if you don't believe me on this, also look at the pay rate for short fiction and the average advance for genre novels, if you aren't doing this because you enjoy it, you might want to rethink your strategy).

A SFWA Journal article by Chuck Rothman on hunting for an agent. He also outlines some reasons why you want an agent and how to find one (just a hint, he goes on about "sending the full manuscript", however I advise you to follow the submission guidelines for the agency you're trying to land, playing by the rules is something your agent will appreciate and wants to know you can do). Also with agents, John Scalzi is pimping his. Frankly, looking at Scalzi's career, one could do worse than having Ethan Ellenberg representation. If I had my manuscript 1) finished and 2) in a submisible condition they would be seeing a package from me. And just in general, I follow a bunch of agents' blogs (not all are prospects for me) so I can learn what to do and what not to do. I don't often comment on their blogs, but it's a good place to learn the industry. Just saying.

And here I'm assuming you've all seen the bruhaha surround Peter Watts and the US Border Patrol. Let me just point you to Dave Kletcha's take on it. What he said.

Monday, December 14, 2009

WIPped into Submission

Chapter 37 weighs in at 1710 bringing our total to 65185 (or 89%). Unfortunately, looking at my notes I've combined what I wanted to accomplish with Chapter 38 into 37. Which I think is okay as I'm only 200 words into Chapter 38 and I think it's going in a different direction than I thought. That was part of the whole, "my writing is crap" feeling from today.

On top of that I need to find a place to send "A History of Lightning." I've let that sit for too long. So off to John Klima at Electric Velocipede. Good luck little story.

Black-strap Molasses in January Slow

Well, I didn't get any words out this weekend. But, with a slow work day today (person I've been covering their work for during the past three months is back to work today), I pounded out Chapter 37 (about 1600 words).

Having missed the "middle of the novel and all my words are crap" stage, it's finally rearing its hoary head. It's all crap. There's no tension, everybody is happy happy, joy joy. And they all go along with each other.

Of course that could also be because they've learned to trust one another.

But no, it's all crap. It'll all have go in the rewrite.

Yeah, I hope to be over this pity party for one by the end of the next two chapters. If not, it's going to make for a real bitcher of a rewrite.

I'll post the actual numbers tonight as I get it into a formated file.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

I don't care

When the evening news isn't easily discernible from TZM or Entertainment Tonight there's no point in watching it.

CNN Headline News, you could learn this lesson well. Do you know why viewers are leaving? It's because you're no longer news. There's a percentage of the population that will watch Fox News for no other reason than they agree with their spin. It doesn't matter what they cover, because those people are looking to have their own world view validated. They weren't your audience to begin with. You want me to start watching again? Give me actual news. Not the crap you now have on. I don't need an outraged host, I don't need snide commentary, I don't need the "latest in a case that's been going on for eight months and nobody really knows anything about it," I don't need "activism journalism." I want actual journalism, actual reporting, actual stories. Do that and I might start watching again.

Of course that costs money, doesn't it?

But, in any case, even to all the news organizations, I'm really tired of crap. I don't care about "the latest" on Tiger Woods. He fucked up. We know he fucked up. Does it matter that he fucked up even more? Not so much. Do I care that Accenture (public disclosure, I have relatives who work/worked for Accenture) dropped him like a hot potato? No, not really. The language Gillette used to drop his was interesting because of it's cynicism, not because of them dropping him.

So, enough already. I don't care. This type of news should be on "your website for more info" instead of things like your interview with McCrystal.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Mission Semi-Accomplished

Tree is up (but not decorated). One deer is rewired (which required fixing two sockets on new string, hey, Sams Club, your LED light strings this year suck, and I mean chunks). Hair is cut. Some things are cleaned up. But no new words, yet. Although it's now 9 and I'm thinking about sleep. So tomorrow is another day.

How's your weekend going?

Partying like to was 2008

You know, it was only last year that working and extra 8 hours a week was normal. This week I worked that and feel like crap. Oh, how quickly we adjust back to normal. Last night I was exhausted and had a headache. The difference, I think, is that last year the overtime 1) was paid at time and a half instead of "bankable hours," 2) the work was a little less mentally taxing (this week was layout and design) and 3) the time was predictable.

This weekend we try and catch up with hopefully getting the tree up, cutting hair, finishing up some Xmas shopping, and maybe, hopefully, get Chapter 37 out of the way (this should be the last "difficult for Steve" chapter, except for maybe the actual last chapter). And, if I'm a good boy, get at least one of the deer rewired and out in the yard.

This week we scheduled the 110,000 mile maintenance. I have to say I'm a bit worried as it involves a new timing belt. The last care I had the timing belt changed on the engine blew up a week later (which led to a 6 month long battle with the dealership on whose fault it was, eventually I convinced them they couldn't bamboozle me). I trust this mechanic a lot more, but it's still got me a little spooked.

In other news I'd like to give the captcha a few more days. It's been very effective in chasing off the spammers. I (as of Thursday) still saw them hitting the site, but their traffic is down, and I don't think they've found a way around the captchas to actually get a comment in on one of the old posts. I'm thinking of taking it off on Monday, so we'll see.

I've stepped down the Wellbutrin this week. I'm not sure how it's all working so far, but then it's been a stressful week. I'm going to stop completely today and see how we do over the next week.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Story Bones

A personal story bone that you might also find interesting.

Operation Dominic / Operation Fishbowl, Starfish Prime test. Or, in common language, high altitude thermonuclear explosion tests and their result. I have a short story (more like novella) that includes such a happening, so getting real data on what it would look like and the resulting "aurora" effect will certainly help the story. But you may also be interested in it (if only to wake you up in the middle of the night in a cold sweat).

There's also interesting details about having to safety explode some of the test vehicles spreading poisoning the launch area with plutonium. The link to Operation Dominic also lists all the test including some of the errors. Some of those errors included missile launches that went out of control with a live, armed, nuclear warhead on the top.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Crack that WIP

Just folded in Chapter 36. It came in at 2340 words. Which is a bit on the heavy side. It starts off a little slow, but the majority of it is action.
Parting the seals and the one in the middle lost his head. As his body dropped piercing the clouds and the one on the right developed a puncture wound through his back, between his ribs and into his left lung. That broke up the stalemate. The thumper closest to me on the left attacked before I could withdraw my blade and his blackjack to my left shoulder sent my arm numb.

... I let go of my sword, still embedded in the ribcage of the other thumper and body slammed the one with the blackjack using my numbed side. He stumbled back a step before going down. I had to take an extra two steps to keep from falling over with him.

The thumper with my sword in him fell to his knees, dropping the sticks he had held. Then he started toppling backward. I ran and jumped to tackle him, the pommel of my sword jamming in my own right side ribs, but changed his momentum forward. He collapsed on his face and I went spilling over him. At least I had kept him from falling on my sword and damaging it.

I got to my knees to see the thumper I had slammed was already on his feet. I jumped up into a run, pulling my sword from the back of the fallen thumper and getting the tip up just in time to run it through my other attacker and we piled together. His arm that held the blackjack, raised to strike me, came down hard on my numbed shoulder. Turning cold numbness into streaking fire. I shouldered him off my blade, yelling from the pain, and he fell on his back. I could tell he wouldn't get up again. I flicked my blade quickly to throw the blood and gore off of it.

That brings us to a total of 63475 words. The end is in sight. The consequences of this chapter is they find the information they need to locate the magician. Next up is what to do with it, a final meta battle move (of which we foreshadowed, but you find out what it is this chapter, essentially the bomb goes off), then the assault on the hideout, and the final battle. Then the wrapping up of those who survived getting back to work. And finally the chapter about chopping wood, carry water.

The next few weeks are going to be very busy. I don't even have the Xmas Tree put up yet. I still haven't heard definitively if we're closing shop for a week (of which I'm of two minds, 1) bummed because less money but 2) psyched that I might have more time to write). Plus we have to get the car worked on. We're at the 110,000 mile maintenance line. So time for new timing belt, new spark plugs, a valve job, and new cabin filter (in case you're wondering it'll be nearly $1000). We'll have to leave the car with them the whole day. Which for us means a lot of logistics on who has what car when. Fortunately it's coming at a point where we can arrange it (this past semester and next semester, not so much).

The Wayback Machine

Like I said, last weekend was Christmas in Zoar. And like I said I took pictures. To start us off, a little history lesson.


The Zoarites also had an iron smelter and made ceramics to sell to the outside world. For Separatists they didn't live very separately from the rest of the world. However, they did last most of the 19th Century (longer than any other religious communal experiment).

But much of the interpreter services are now gone, so it's mostly buildings and people in costume now. However, the Village itself isn't locked off. Most of the homes are in private ownership and many of them are antique stores, bed and breakfasts, or other kinds of shops. Part of Xmas in Zoar is you get to tour some of these homes, which are in various stages of restoration, revamping, or completely gutted and rebuilt. They are, however, all damn expensive.


This one is now a home and a hair salon (formerly a doll shop). The owners have done a great job with updating the house, most of it being kept original, but the kitchen is all new (and quite fab). Of course it doesn't hurt to be able to have custom built wood cabinets (and I mean custom).


But much of the appeal is the "old Ohio" flavor of the town. These are some of the doors into the church (now UCC). In the basement of the church they have good food for not a lot of money. They also hold concerts inside, including organ music on their antique organ (which is a work of art).


Here we're looking out of Number One House (a communal living center and for this weekend the main crafter market, the one where they need to dress in period costumes) at the Village Hall (now historical museum).


One of the events on Saturday is the lighting of the tree in the center of the garden (Zoar's community garden, still kept up by the historical society). You can see the luminaries which line the roads (including torches at intersections) and the large tree and smaller trees that form the garden center (did I mention it's a formal garden?). You can also see the candlelit procession recessing (the procession comes down the hill from the church after a holiday service).


One of the big draws, however, is the bread and cookies baked in the original bakery using the original oven. It's pretty much an art to make this bread, and they sell a few varieties (oatmeal, black, and stollen). They don't often fire up the ovens, it takes a long time, but once warmed they stay hot for a long time. Basically they're a brick cave.


One of the differences with this oven is how it's heated. like most ovens of the time, you build the fire inside the oven itself (not underneath or on the side). Once the fire burns out you scrape out the ashes and bake the bread right on the bricks. This year was slightly different than before in that they had several bakes (which necessitated new fires being set in the ovens, typically they do one bake). The first fires are started at 1am for an initial bake at 10am. Like I said, it takes a bit. However, they sell a boatload of loaves and cookie.


Here they are fulfilling orders (and it pays to order the bread early in the morning, and I think this year they accepted orders earlier in the week) by oil lamp.


And finally the oven room work table at the end of the night. When we picked up our bread they still had about an hour to go until the end of the event, but we bought the last available stollen (even after placing our order). So, like I said, they sell out even when they have three bakes instead of one.

And the stollen was excellent, by the way. Think of it as a light fruit bread (with raisins, apples, and some other dried fruit) with spices. Yum.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

The Year Without a Santa Claus

Is exactly like what half a day of work without the internet is like when your work requires internet connection. Our T1 line was down half the day (and our DSL backup decided to tank as well). No internets, no email, no functionality. My day thing requires my connection with several webservers (todays' work necessitated connection to three different client webservers), remote access login (needed two machines), and various FTP sites (three of them). The other part of the day thing, the design part, was in need of email and two FTP servers.

So all that came to a screeching halt today.

As a side note, I had gotten below 200 blog articles to read lately (since Thanksgiving I've been averaging between 300-400 on a rolling basis). I had been looking forward to getting below 150. Yeah, I'm back up to 300. Sigh.

But, while waiting for it all to come up, before the Other Fun Part of the Day&tm; showed up, I did get some good wordage out, finishing Chapter 36 (slightly north of 2000 words) and starting 37.

However the Other Fun Part of the Day&tm; showed up and sucked my brain, energy, and time, working me over lunch and until 7:20pm tonight. Joy. I can't talk about it too much, but let's just say it approached FUBAR. I really was hoping I wouldn't regain my reputation for taking the impossibly complex and screwed up and making it functional and intelligent. Yeah, really hoping I wouldn't have to do that again (or get the rep that I could do it). Damn it.

So, sorry I couldn't play much today. On another plus side I did realize that I need to schedule that Yellowstone in Winter Vacation sometime soon. Much of Yellowstone is without internets and cell connection. That may be a good thing for me. By noon I was getting a little twitchy without connection. The DB shakes weren't far behind.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Passable Winter of the Mind

Another meeting down. Last of the year. Hopefully this will free up brain space. We'll see.

PSA

To my fellow NE Ohio Drivers,

It's called a light dusting of snow. It is not called "OMFG! We're All Gonna Die!" Now, tomorrow afternoon if it plays out according for forecasts, you have the right to panic. Today, not so much. You attention in this matter is greatly appreciated.

Your fellow commuter.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Quoting and the economics of disaster

Printing is a competitive business. Cut-throat is the "nice" mood. Lately, however, we're going up against quotes that are less than our paper costs for the same job. I don't think anybody is getting their paper for better costs than we do. And it's not like we're quoting against differing technologies (such as sheet-fed versus web for 100,000 40 page catalogs, yeah, the web press is going to kick our butts). Even if we were competing against printers in different markets (we're less than NYC and Chicago printers, and probably Cincinnati, but we're probably a little more than St. Louis) I can understand. Note to competition, cutting your own throat to win work to keep cash flow while sacrificing, okay, obliterating the chance of profit (well, I guess negative profit is still a profit level) all on the hope you may get continuing business (ha! Have you looked at our marketplace lately?) once this economy turns around will only lead to everybody dying. You suck money away from businesses trying to make a go of it while damaging the pricing expectations of the market. And yes, pricing below paper costs (forget ink, labor time, production/finishing, wear and tear, etc) is one sure way to the grave. I just wish you weren't taking the rest of us with you.

Want and example? Look at the Akron Printing Marketplace. What market, you may ask? You're right about that one. They're almost all gone. Even the victors. A cold wind disturbs the dust on the presses cold-welding solid in darkened plants down in Akron. That's a business disease you don't want to infect your own market.

Three, it's a magic number

Michelle Sagara West brings up an interesting point on Self-Published Books versus large format trade paperbacks. What she is seeing is that some of her customers are equating "standard glossy stock" cover with "self-published" which is then regarded as "lower quality." It's an fascinating glimpse into some of the issues my day job deals with and also just how high-tech printed books are (IMHO, they're much higher-tech than the new e-readers, no, seriously, get me talking about it sometime if you want to be bored beyond belief). (I have MSW's blog in my RSS feeds, but I did see this one linked in Scalzi's Whateverettes first)

In case you missed it, the whole scuffle over Black Matrix Publishing at John Scalzi's Whatever (and the follow-up post). There's plenty of argument and counter argument over this in the blogosphere, however I tend toward this response (warning, blog with ads). Jim Hines also chimes in with some personal experiences. Boiled down to it's essence the argument is this, just being published for published sake (or credits) 1) isn't hard and 2) doesn't get you anywhere. Credits or "exposure" isn't worth it if those credits aren't worth it (think about getting a Canadian penny in your change, okay, bad example at the Canadian Dollar is almost equal to the US buck again) and, as said elsewhere, people die of "exposure." This is why I rarely submit stories to semi-pro or 4theluv markets. That's not saying there aren't semi-pro and 4theluv markets that aren't worth the time (I've submitted and will still submit to Andromeda Spaceways, LCWR, Weird Tales, and a few others). But at those markets I know they have 1) the readership (including those who read for "Year's Best" anthos) and 2) the editorial chops to make my story look good (or 3-I know the editor/reader on a more personal level). I may not get rich in those markets (and who really gets rich publishing short genre fiction these days), but I do get plenty of brand building from them. This is unlike BMP, which as far as I can tell the editor only shows up once before, when he published one issue (out of the 4 mags he is flogging now) back in 1989. At that point the fractions of cents per word rate is just insulting (IMHO).

Dan sends a /. story on "hackers" stealing hard working "phisher's" data. "There is no honor among thieves." And if you don't think that isn't a story bone, you aren't working hard enough.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

Candle Light with Organ Music

Spent yesterday at Christmas in Zoar. We have photos and will try and get some of them posted. There were plenty of houses open to tour that we hadn't been in, and one old favorite (the Cider Mill, that if we had the mullah, we probably would have purchased when it came up for sale six years ago). Unfortunately they refurbed the Mill and added on some pieces that, IMHO, detracted from the historic plan of the place.

We walked around the village several times, put our order in for bread early (and got what we wanted, I think that's because 1) we ordered and 2) they had several bakes throughout the day). Usually on the crafters I don't find anything that interests me (and that goes for most craft fair things), however this time I did find some things I liked. And even though they were somewhat expensive, I did buy them (two big advances for me). I'll try and have pictures of those as well (they're copper foil wrapped switch plates, I would have liked the solid copper, but the designs on the copper foil were much nicer). Bought a holiday present for Bette, but had some problems with the vendor (changed price from 28 to $30, added in a $.50 gift bag which somehow brought us to $31 and with tax came magically to $41... uhm, no, backtracked when I called her on it and threw in a freebee, if Bette hadn't liked it so much to actually point it out to me I would have just walked out on the deal).

So all in all a mixed bag, but it was good to be out and about. Dinner at a small diner in Bolivar was very good, ran into a friend of sister-in-law who was showing their house. Their kitchen remodel, while breaking away from the historic flavor of the house, was fabulous. The cabinets were excellent (hand made, solid wood doors, matching laminate on MDF cases with solid hardwood faces, just OMFG fantastic).

Today we'll be doing some chores, adding lights, maybe rewiring one of the deer, doing some online research and hopefully getting close to the end of Chapter 36. It's bright and sunny, and now a little past noon, so time to get running.

Also, as a programing FYI, I may be turning on captcha today. I didn't want to but the spammers (or one) has found a way around the moderation. But from what I could tell they couldn't get around the captcha. Again, hopefully it'll be temporary.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Stare into the snark long enough, eventually the snark stares back

Since President Obama's speech this week there's been plenty of conservative bloviating. Here's my take on the two oft repeated criticisms. (I posted some of these comments over on Jim's Stonekettle Station)

On not giving McCrystal 40,000 US troops, although it looks like the total of US and NATO troops will be close
"You should always listen to the generals and give them everything they want."

General John Shalikashvili, anybody? Anybody? Bueller?

On his setting 18 months as to when we would start pulling out troops
"You should never set a time limit on military engagements."

Feb. 7, 2003, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, to U.S. troops in Aviano, Italy: "It is unknowable how long that conflict will last. It could last six days, six weeks. I doubt six months." (USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/educate/war28-article.htm)

On the "dithering"
"He waited too long to make a decision"

1) I like that he didn't knee jerk a decision and demanded a more realized plan and better answers, 2) Afghanistan is about to be locked down by bad weather. Even if we took our time now, all the first troops we could have positioned will be in place by the time the mountains open back up, and 3) I like that he thought about it before spending more of our blood and treasure. the previous administration would have done better if they had also done so.

WIP around the corner

Chapter 35 is in the bag. She came in at 1769 words. I added some words to previous chapters (adding to the story, things I knew where they went and didn't want to wait). Also went through and double checked the math. I hate to admit, but some other errors had crept in). So we're now at the total of 61135 (which is less than last time and a little disheartening). On the plus side I have about 300 words of Chapter 36. Also, of the last seven (planned) chapters, three are all action which I seem to bang out pretty quick, two are novel wrap up, and the other two tying up loose ends and connecting dots.

Also, I didn't like how the chapter was ending, it felt a little too facile. So I rearranged a few words of dialog and made it much punchier. Those words aren't in the part below (but occur right after, sorry, I want to hold that back as a gift for the book), but I'm still pretty proud of this part.
"This is getting redundant meeting you here," I said.

She smiled at me in the way lions smile at gazelles. "I wanted to thank you for getting me away from Xeing."

Her eyes were inticing. I could fall into them for hours and she happy consumed me. Fortunately for me I'd been down this path a few times before. "Knowing you're safe if all the reward I need," I said, trying not to lie too much.

She pressed forward, making the closet feel smaller. I backed up to the wall, found a desk behind me and sat down on its top. The scent of her washed through my senses and overwhelmed them. It had been a long time since I had layed with a woman. "But I think you deserve more," she said in a soft voice.

Think of mating preying mantises and you get a little of what is really happening in the scene.

So, to round up, happy with the chapter, pissed I got the math wrong (again), in good shape heading into the final part of the book. I know a lot of what happens. The major action scene I had already started writing as a second short story, but I'll be retying it from scratch as there's enough difference. That came through in the fragmented pieces I did last weekend.

Story Bones

Odd thought of the day because I've read several blog posts about the arrival (late or OMFG it snowed) of winter. For us here in NE Ohio, we missed some of the snow of last week, being cocooned in some odd parallel universe of summer winds. However the frost giants have arrived today and beat the mercurial temperatures into submission. (okay, you can use that as part of the bone as well, although I think it would be in a different story)

"No matter how hard you run, winter will find you. On fleet foot or clad in hobnailed boots, winter comes for us all."

And here, I hope, you see winter as a metaphor for death. (no, this is just poetics, not personal bleakery)

Updatery

Okay, I've taken off the word verify/captcha thing, but have limited commenting to the past three days of posts. If you see something from before then that you absolutely need to comment on, it will go into moderation. I'll try not to be too slovenly to not get around to moving comments out of moderation quickly. If it must get out now, you can comment on the latest post. Just make sure you reference the post you're talking about, please.

On other things, I'm going to reduce my intake of Wellbutrin for a week, and then stop taking it. After almost two years on it, I think it's time to move off. It was only supposed to be a temporary thing anyway (and two years stretches the definition of "temporary"). Last night I had the wind taken out of my sails (no I don't wish to discuss it here) and seriously reconsidered my position, but then I figured there would always be a reason to keep on it.

Now, I should say here, my move is not for everybody. When I started on I was drifting back into big D way too often and the world was going to 50% black all the time. Living without emotions may have been good for Vulcans, but it sucks for humans (and really, if you actually look at the Science Fictional lives of Vulcans, they aren't very good at masking their emotions let alone removing them entirely). The big D hasn't been knocking at the door lately (at least not that I recognize). I have been beating myself up pretty good lately, but that's normal for Fall (as well as finishing the novel).

So, forward into reverse. Or something like that.

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Links around the world

A TPM article on drug-makers paying generic competitors to stay out of the market. Ah, good wholesome free market values in play. And I believe I've talked about this before in regards to the thyroid replacement therapy drugs we need (which, BTW, Forest Labs continues to say, "Hey, we're trying to play catch up with the new regulations." - Um, it's been half a year, guys. If this had been any other industry, and if you told the truth, heads would be rolling).

Fab Dad Dan send this link to a excellent venn diagram. Which now I need to write the Zombie Jesus story.

FAIL Blog continues to entertain with an excellent register button. Also note, this register doesn't have pictures of food on it, but actual numbers. However, there is also a note that references "Citizens Bank" which we used to have in Canton, but has long be gobbled up (by First Merit if memory serves).

The trouble with tribbles

So, there's a whole bunch of hullabaloo about the stolen emails from East Anglia University. And it's be portrayed as the "see, we were right, all this data is bogus, the models aren't to be trusted, and global warming is a hoax" smoking gun.

Right.

So now all those glaciers we've been hiding can come back (which is good, I need the closet space). We don't have to keep taking heat guns to the Arctic Ice Sheet to keep it in retreat (man, that'll be good because it's damn cold up there and there's polar bears everywhere). We don't need to worry about a shelf of ice that might slough off Greenland and disrupt the salinity of the Atlantic Ocean which might disturb the Gulf Stream (but hey, new real estate opportunities in Greenland!). We can stop dynamiting the Ross Ice-shelf to calve the huge icebergs ('cause, you know, dynamite is dangerous). And we can stop running radiant heating throughout the permafrost to melt it all and release the loverly methane that was trapped in the soil (because, you know, radiant heating is damn expensive, and if you puncture one of those pipes with a staple, it'll ruin your whole day). All those South Pacific Island Nation whiners can just STFU about their islands disappearing into the sea (and shut down those bilge pumps that keep upping the local sea levels where they have to move villages farther inland). And we can stop injecting CO2 into the oceans making them more acidic (and that's good, because that was also damn expensive and the pumps were real noisy at night).

And look, temperatures have cooled the past three years. Hurrah! It's all over! Heck, this might be a trend that leads us to a new ice age. You know, like Newsweek reported back in 75. Because it looked like that back then when you only look at 5 years of data and something like four sample points (can't find the original article, which I once had).

And it's so good to hear that we don't think scientists should be concerned about money and grant funding (you know, like people have been warning about for three decades now). I'm sure research scientists would also agree that the whole "publish or perish" model of research and university tenure is just hokum that should be dumped in the waste bin. They also shouldn't worry about the fact that the media and general public often get things wrong and have the attention span of gnats on coke (the Columbian kind, not the Atlanta kind). And when we throw barbs at them, they should be all noble in their white citadels and not worry about it. Plus I'm sure all those computer scientists who right custom code will be overjoyed at the knowledge that they only have to program it correctly, cleanly, and with great accuracy on the first attempt. And if they don't, by all means they should start over from scratch (think of the billable hours!). Oh, and hey, with all the money we'll save from funding this bogus research, we can research the important things like proving this Darwin guy was wrong and covering up all the data he found to prove God exists and the Earth is only 6000 years old.

Oh, and scientists should always keep every piece of data they ever collected just in case someone without credentials would want to examine it. Because nobody would ever throw out raw data or camera footage. You know, like how we store all that NASA data on our moon landings (probably the greatest human achievement ever).

Good to know all that. And glad we don't need to do anything about dumping all those gases into our atmosphere at the rate of a few tons per second. Cause a little acid rain never hurt anybody. After all, man can't affect the world. Like causing extinctions, the aforementioned acid rain, speed up the rotation of the Earth by damning the rivers and holding more water at higher latitudes, over fish ocean areas until they become deserts underwater, reduce to deserts what were once the lush cradles of civilization, expand the Sahara and Mongolian Deserts, light up the night side of earth to be seen in orbit, fill a wide swath of the pacific north of Hawaii with enough junk to make it a hazard to shipping (and wildlife), deplete the ozone layer, cover SE Asia in smoke so thick to be a breathing hazard from burning forests to make arable land, or dump enough pollution in rivers that they could actually catch fire. Nah, the Earth is simply too big for all of us humans, which, BTW, are now so numerous that the current living ones outnumber all who have died in recorded history, to have any effect on it.

Ah. I can sleep well now. And tomorrow I can go out and see the forest that stretches from the Atlantic Ocean to the Mississippi River so thickly that a squirrel could travel the whole distance and never touch the ground. Because I live in the middle of that place.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Jokers to the right

Haven't been able to get much done at night this week (today included). With writing over lunch I have about 1200 words on Chapter 35. Tied in the bits and parts and need to wrap up the semi-action.

Spent the evening writing reports and reading ordinances. Not a lot of fun, but needs to be done. Also trying to keep on the positive side of being tired. A few more days to the weekend. Of course that's scheduled up as well. We'll probably be at Zoar one of the days this weekend for their Christmas program. And to score a loaf of stollen (and maybe some other bread made in a real brick wood-fired oven, the kind you make the fire inside, clean out, then bake). Maybe this year we'll also make it back to the church in time to hear the organ practice. The other day will be rewiring the decorations.

For the duration

It seems the spammers want a full war. So for the duration, I'm enabling work check and disabling commenting for older posts. This hopefully won't last long. And we apologize for the inconvenience.

At this point they are starting to make it worth while to employ other tools. As has been said, I blog for the love of it. I don't monetize this (and hope to never have to). At some point I'd like to do it through my own domain as all the big kids do. So at this point there's no money in this.

The spammers have taken advantage of complacency to try and garner linkshare to their clients (or their own sites). What they don't realize is my temper. I'm pretty good up to a point. I'll give warnings. Once they cross that point I'm willing to nuke them (there is no middle ground for me, once I'm pissed, scorched earth is my tactic). The threshold they need to cross at this point is to make it worth my time and money to flush out the router maps to their machines, and to reinvestigate a few zombie nets.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

The Graveyard of Empires

I've been resisting doing this post, but it's been taking up too much brain space lately. So here it is.

We need to win Afghanistan. What does "win" mean? It means denying al Qaeda a safe haven and keeping those who gave them safe harbor from regaining the country (for both security and humanitarian concerns). To do that means the Afghanis need to form a nationality, invest their government with the power to stabilize the country, and lay down their arms.

This is possible. The difference between us and the British, the Russians and the Soviets is that we have no interest in controlling the country as a colonial power or as a puppet state. If we are able to demonstrate to the Afghanis that a stable government is possible, that they will benefit, and that we support them in comparison to only supporting the central government it will happen.

The hurdles that need to be dealt with are legion. The Karzi government is weak, lacks legitimacy, and is rife with corruption and cronyism. The native military is considered aligned with the Pashtun and is generally seen as still being controlled by the warlords. The police force is not much better. The Taliban are resurgent including having shadow governments and courts in all the provinces. The country is land locked and we're at the mercy of SoFA's with its neighbors, some of which are no better, some of which were bullied by the Russian government to cancel our leases (which we convinced to change their minds through the diplomacy of the lucre). Our major partner in the theatre is more concerned with their long standing grievances and proxy war with our close ally in the region (whom we are also courting for closer bonds). Not to mention the median cost estimate to field a combat soldier in country is about $500,000 (some of that is support costs of the other soldiers in those neighboring countries). And the country is war weary (actually, this is the most important factor).

However, what's at stake is more important. If we were to pull out it wouldn't be long before the Karzi government was toppled, and probably by the more radical branches of the Taliban. We screw over the Afghanis for a second time (or third, my brain is saying third, but I can't remember the time before the Russians). The Northern Alliance is compromised (Taliban, again, have shadow governments in all provinces). And not only would al Qaeda reclaim a safe haven, the Pakistani military would have no reason to reform and would again leverage Afghanistan and the "tribal" lands in their proxy war with India (which would heighten tensions between two nuclear powers). The world would return to pre 9-11 status quo, only the counter balancing powers would be weakened (and no, I'm not talking about our military). Oh, and did I mention a resurgent Taliban and their patron al Qaeda?

Things in our favor include the Afghanis themselves want something better, or to be left alone. They are also war weary (although they also have a warrior society). Their wants are relatively simple. We have no desire to control the government beyond doing the right thing for their citizens. They're tenacious survivors who, while a young population, have enough people who remember when things were better. Their major cash crop, opium, actually has a large legitimate market (although most Afghan Opium feeds through SE Asia into the illegal heroin trade).

So, it's doable. A hard job, and somewhat expensive. And, to paraphrase Colin Powell about a different war, we broke it, we own it. It's easy to blame people for taking their eye off the ball and screwing up the future, but that doesn't get us anywhere. It's now the job to finish this, and do it fast.Do it right, but fast.

Plea for Sanity

To my fellow designers,

Stop trying to be clever with your layouts. You aren't good at it. Using all the idiotic bells and whistles in programs just makes it harder for me to make you look good. It also makes it difficult for me to correct the work so the client is happy. Learn the trade craft, not the programs. The software is not the designer. Don't let it be.

Also, if you do as I ask, you'll find the productivity of your own studios will be greatly increased as you won't have to spend an hour doing what should be a five minute change. You also won't need to rely on the same designer to do all the work for the project if you make your structure transparent and easy to use thereby reducing overtime and stress. Just some food for thought.

Thank you for your attention to this matter,
Me (design professional for two decades and the guy that typically gets asked to fix your screw-ups)

PS, bleed is .125 of an inch. Not .03125, not .0625, not 1". You should have learned that in Production 101.