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O Captain! my Captain! rise up and hear the bells;
Rise up—for you the flag is flung—for you the bugle trills,
For you bouquets and ribbon’d wreaths—for you the shores a-crowding,
For you they call, the swaying mass, their eager faces turning;
Here Captain! dear father!
This arm beneath your head!
It is some dream that on the deck,
You’ve fallen cold and dead.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Too Long for Twittering

So, for everybody else who carries their cell phone in their front pocket, do you also get an internal chuckle by saying, "Excuse me, my crotch seems to be ringing. I better answer it." Or is it just me and my sometimes juvenal sense of humor?

Friday and just what am I talking about? I don't know.

From Jeff VanderMeer's Ecstatic Days, Jeff ProTem Lavie Tidhar gives some bulleted advice for writers. Yes. That. Loved it. "They don’t send people to Australia any more for stealing bread." Water through nose moment.

I've been getting asked for some of my "secrets" of landing the new job. Well, they aren't secret, first of all. Here's a good primer on interviewing. It boils down to do research, targeting yourself to that company, and being personable and open.

And speaking of secrets, well, I'm getting a little feed up with the media lately. We've now had both a Russian spy scandal and the wikileaks release of documents and I really haven't commented here about them. There's somewhat of a good reason for that, but maybe not so much anymore.

Here's the thing. Everybody in the media has been wrong about this. Dead wrong. Those Russian Spies? The media liked to portray that what they were after you could get the same with a CNN feed and home delivery of the NYT. The wikileaked documents only tell us what we already knew about Pakistan, civilians getting caught in the fog of war, and how it hasn't been going very well since we decided that Iraq was more of a problem. Well, if you believe that than you don't remember or know just what the spy game was all about and it points out just how far the internet has dulled our senses. Personally, I blame the Bush II Administration and their stance on the "Osama Plans to Bomb the US" briefing not having any "actionable intelligence."

Seriously.

Okay. First up, with the wikileaks, as it's being now reported in some places, the documents have names of locals who have helped us. Wave goodbye to those people. Either they'll go in hiding, be killed, or live in fear for the rest of their lives. It's not so much the problem of outing Valerie Plame, since she was in the US at the time and losing her as an asset meant at least we could still use her knowledge and skills, for a bit. No, it was the connection to a few people showing up dead in some of the former eastern block countries. People who knew her and had met with her over the years. The forth coming deaths in Afghanistan and those previous have one effect, it chills anybody who may have thought of sharing information with us (and now you know why there's all those cutesy code words for operatives). While I don't completely fault wikileaks for leaking the documents, understand they did it for no other purpose than to increase their brand (see earlier comments on "there isn't anything new here"). You all now know their name now, don't you. Isn't that great (for their monetary prospects). Thanks for that, wikileaks. Maybe you'll actually learn your job soon, or figure out it is a job and do the work so fewer people need to have to die. And yeah, if you don't think the Taliban/Al Qaeda isn't pouring through those documents, you really don't know how this war is being fought and won (or not as the case may be). We seem to have forgotten there is a dagger in that cloak and dagger work. Lose lips sink ships, but a knife in the dark can save or damn a country.

As to the Russian spies. Puh-lease. Do you really think that we say everything openly? Do you really think it doesn't matter to the Russians if we say we want, say, help on pressuring Iran to stop their nuclear program to know just how hard we're willing to press and what we're willing to give up? So we may say that we are going to talk, but if they can suss out that it's mostly for domestic consumption and we have no intention of giving the Russians anything (say, like freeing up their accounts of Iraqi money), their position is stronger. If you think that secrets are only "photocopy THIS", you're missing over 80% of the game. Let's say someone close to the President, or a CEO, suddenly isn't showing up on meetings and their house it dark, you can infer what is going on. Nobody needs to say anything. And we warren's even talking about what the poker players call "tells" (the former president had severals, including that annoying mouth twist when he was hiding the truth, the previous Bush did it with hand movements which is really why his handlers worked him hard to stop doing it).

No, I can't say more or some people out there will figure out my skills. And I'm not willing to let those out. Because I know what this game is and how it's played.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Finally gotten around to checking the scores

Got what I thought, a 39 out of 40 (with 2 extra credit questions). However, instructor did adjust the points form the first quiz to what she told us. So over all, I still have a 100% now instead of 99% (140 out of 140 points). Tonight is last of lecture. Next week is the final chapter quiz/test and then the comprehensive final on Thursday.

Unfortunately the week after is pretty much meetings Monday through Thursday. No rest for the wicked.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

The obligatory politics post

Okay, getting some of this out of my system, and also so I don't lose some of the links.

Might be a little post hoc ergo prompter hoc, but this is interesting. That's a chart showing the difference between the top 1% earners and the rest of us. I haven't delved too deep into the data set yet (I'd be interested in seeing, say, how the demographics play out between those in the top 20% to the lower 80%). But food for thought when the battles come about how we need to have the rich have more so they can create more jobs. This chart definitely talks to that point and pretty much makes a raspberry in its face.

Points at Eric and says, yes. And I'll add to the argument that the crazy right seems to have lost context. They're all about the "But they got that for Xmas and we want one too" style of revenge attacks. Well, buddy, just because the one side actually has a case for being lead into an unpopular war, suffered under debilitating tax cuts (yes, you read that right, see "deficit" if you're wondering what I'm talking about), and had the fear drum pounded more than enough times doesn't mean you also have to have a little red ball because you lost the election.

Roger Ebert may no longer be able to speak, but man, he still has a powerful voice.

And then there's the "Official Michigan Tea Party", the one that will actually be on the ballot, that may be a sham. I wonder how my conservative friends feel seeing the same rhetoric and responses coming out of this sham organization that mirror similar arguments I've heard from the right "we are too legit, and we're so put upon by you asking these questions and feel we're under attack so we're not coming out" feel about it? Probably the same way I feel about it (although in this case I'm chuckling - doesn't mean they aren't stupid arguments).

And finally, the "Huhn, why didn't I think of that" file about Bell City Council and their salaries. Oh, yeah, I remember. Because we'd go to jail because of it. Hope they enjoy their time wearing Orange.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Oh, the things you'll see

I swear this morning there was a road-kill chinchilla on the side of the road.

Don't have much today. Tired. Stressed. Can't seem to get ahead no matter what I do.

The quiz/test tonight I'm sure I got at least two wrong (spelled "graft" as "graph" - occupational hazard, and forgot what the Thalamus does - but then we were told we didn't need to know the functions, just the part names). And I might have gotten a third wrong. Exam was 40 points, with an extra 2 point bonus. We'll see tomorrow.

Did take a picture this morning. No, not of the chinchilla (that was on a hill and I was attempting to get to work at a faster rate of speed than Slow Poke Amish Taxi in front of me wanted to drive). Hopefully get that posted soon.

Monday, July 26, 2010

I can read the writing on the wall

Mamma don't take my Kodacrhome away.

Well, she may not, but Kodak will.

And I really don't see digital as a replacement. Comparatively, digital sucks, but that's also a circumstance of lens quality, apertures available, speed of exposure, and focal length. But digital is cheap. And everybody is doing it. People wonder how I take such good photos (when I take them as photos instead of snapshots). It's because I have photo training using film. Trust me, forcing a CCD to behave like chemical film is a bitch. And there are several techniques (light painting for instance) that will disappear. Many people don't know that the photos they've seen everyday can't be done on digital (tire photography, many of those tire images you see in the ads have exposure times best rated in either whole or fractions of hours). CCDs have a time limit, unlike film where you can let an image build up. After so long a CCD will lose it's charge.

But then there are cool things you can do digitally that you couldn't do with film. I'm not sure the trade off is worth it, but ask me in twenty years. By then we should have seen the digital analog to Ansel Adams or Al Stieglitz.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Giants once walked among us

Daniel Schorr has past from us. Godspeed, sir. Thank you.

I get pulled back in

Feeling the need to craw in a hole and not come out. Instead, at the end of work, I'm off to Pittsburg for Confluence. No rest for the wicked. And on top of it all, I'm behind in my reading for the class (that's not going to get done before Monday), and I have one and a half more stories to get through for the Hamster critique on Sunday. The plus is that Confluence isn't really a party Con. Considering that one of the pillars of the community passed away this year and much of the first night is devoted to a memorial, I'm guessing it'll be even less this year. And in the "it's good news, but bad news too" category, most of the people I hang out with won't be here this year. So I'll have some more time, but will miss them and will be feeling out new connections. And while at other cons the bar is the good place to hang, Confluence is also different in that context.

And, lastly, some others thoughts on Breitbart, from language log, some more thought's from John Scalzi, and finally an interesting twist to what this might have been about. As I've said in the comments, he isn't stupid. Although he's trying that as a defense. No, I'm pretty sure Breitbart did the full political calculation before releasing the edited video.

(the gods but I keep from trying to be political, and then I run across something like this) Dear Mr. Gingrinch, for your desire to bring Saudi Arabia style bigotry here to the US, please, sir, (expletive deleted) and die. As someone who is an elite (say, how many years did you teach college?) you have few stones to throw. Also, since you are a student of history, know full well the Christians also converted Mosques to Churches in the areas they conquered during various crusades. Such activity (the conversion and reconvertion of holy sites were very common in history). You've adopted the stance of "I must leave, there go my people and I must lead them." We, the USA, are not Saudi Arabia, and your desire to remake us into the Christian version of that land can not be tolerated. You political calculations, desire to run for national office again, and lateness to this issue show you to be the opportunist bottom-feeder you are. Please, sir, return to your private home and lecture your fourth wife on the virtues of Family Values and leave the rest of us humans alone. Your return to the vitriol farms you cultivated in the 1994 "Republican Revolution" is neither needed or warranted. You are a smart person, stop behaving like an idiot. And please take your admonishment of "No self deception" to heart. Because, frankly, you've refined it to an art form.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

My GPA slips below 100%

Well, my over all hasn't. On the quiz last night I scored 29 out of 30 (there were no extra credit questions). And I know what I got wrong. I had originally selected the correct answer and then, on my third review of the question, changed my answer. The correct answer was cheilosis, and I changed it to chielosis (it was a multiple choice question). BTW, cheilosis is an abnormal condition of the lips (typically cold sores).

I have a longer post about my class. Short story is that medical terminology is sold as "a precision" language, but in reality it is a language of exclusion. It is meant to make those who don't know the secret handshake feel stupid and left out. It is meant to confuse the average person. Some terms, sure, help greatly. Most terms, however, are meant to keep the lay person at arms length and to keep you from questioning your doctor. You may have heard about how many mistakes are made in hospitals/doctors offices everyday? Part of that is the language used. When an abbreviation can mean several different things, it invites confusion and error. And now that medical terminology is used in the public sphere, the terms keep changing.

Oh, and overall I have 101 out of 100 points so far.

Two for a Wednesday

Okay, I give up. When this kind of thing shows up, it means the culture is dead and about to be overthrown. That is the very definition of decadence. It happened to the Romans. Near the end of their run their columns and monuments became nearly indecipherable. Type became ornament. As in all of it became ornament. Same with the Greeks, Asyrians, Egyptians, Mayans, Aztecs, etc. It's a symptom of cultural decay.

So, is Breitbart next up for the "We don't know who you're talking about" (aka Mark Williams) treatment? Probably not. Seriously, you didn't see this happening when you posted the (admittedly) edited video? Sorry, just not buying it, but I guess it's a good story. Much better than Williams response. Well, I guess you could say that when you have the world view Andrew does. "Woe, poor is us because they're all against us and nobody else has to meet these standards, we are put upon," it can make sense. Strange how the world isn't exactly they way he thinks it is. Note to Breitbart, it's called a bubble, and you're living in one.

And given the kerfluffle over the 2007 Onion piece on internment camps, sometimes I don't think live in the same reality as some people.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

It's Tuesday, so it must be a Kindle

Well, I'm willing to be corrected, but there's a little hijinkery going on here. I'm talking about the news today of e-books out selling hardbacks at the Amazon store. Yes, expect to have the "Publishing is Dead, All Hail the New Format" folks doing happy dances all over the internets. Unfortunately, the news isn't all that good. First of all, this is just Amazon (and while Amazon is big, it's not that big). Next, it's just hardbacks, and if you read the whole thing, paperbacks are still the biggest sellers. Thirdly, for the past three years Amazon has had the Kindle at the top of it's home page. Also, there is no breakdown of if the books sold were new releases, or the $0.99 books. Or even the free ones offered by some self publishers.

As a secondary note, please see the whole, "When the iPad came out, Amazon slashed Kindle prices, which increased sales." Amazon also offers free Kindle readers for the iPhone and iPad. However, they aren't releasing numbers for their Kindle sales.

So good news for e-books. But not the world shattering news they want you to believe it is.

edited 7-20- 2:30pm Speaking of Amazon, here's an interesting look at the e-book kerfluffle of this past year. Not so good for the Amazon side. Warning, it's a long article (heck, I haven't finished it yet, but then I'm at work). The arguments about choice and "perspective" though are very informative. Also, lots of publishing as a business napery. Very good article.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Some midday writing thoughts

S. Andrew Swann has some very poignant things to say about a writer having a web presence. At this point, for the writing, this blog is it (and as I said in a previous blog I seem to be getting on a political jaunt instead of talking about the writing).

There is a reason for that political bent over the writing, being that I haven't been writing much as of late. Take the old job with the Census which really was an "on all the time" kind of position, even though it was sold as "when you can" (the difference between marketing and reality - deleted political comment here), new job which takes up 55 hours a week (40 hours of work, 5 hours of lunch - which, yes, we'd like to reclaim for writing RSN - and 10 hours of commute), and retraining (thankfully I'm down to just two nights a week - but after three weeks of class this is the first week I find myself wondering what I can do with my newly won back Mondays and Wednesdays). There's been some wordage along the way, but not much to talk about. Maybe 10,000 words all put together over the past three months (not including blog posts and comments - those don't count, see Steve's comments linked above, and I agree with that).

The gods, but I need to get back to writing fiction (just ask my friend Dan). It gnaws at me like a squirrel mainlining meth in the middle of a walnut grove near harvest time.

Monday Mumblings

And I realize I've been being more political than writerly lately. I think it has to do with the fact of feeling like being under continual assault. And that's the difference, I think, between liberals and conservatives. Liberals mostly just want to live life. Conservatives are continually trying to convert the masses (a by product of rampant evangelism). So to give an inch is to lose a mile. Part of it concerns the times I try to watch Fox News and I get thrown off quicker than the kid that comes late to the tilt-a-whirl ride. And especially when it comes to this. Of course there are whackaloons aplenty all over. However, why does it seem there are more on the conservative side of the aisle losing their shit in public and acting out inappropriately? Could it be their leadership ferments such actions with their talk about evoking a Second Amendment action or talk of "the struggle to take back our country"? Nah, that couldn't be it.

However it bothers me that I'm talking too much politics. I need to readjust. Maybe hit a reset button somewhere.

And here, let me point out that I'm happy that many Tea Party groups and getting out the ten-foot pole to measure their distance from Mark Williams. It gives me hope for the movement. Yes, Cassie, I said "Hope." As you may have noticed, my personal view is we have a more vibrant democracy when people let their voices be heard, even when I disagree with what they are proposing and think it's misguided.

Some interesting commentary on the dearth of advice for mid-career writers. That's a blog post that links to others. And yes, I agree with most of their thoughts. At this point I'm very comfortable in my voice and style. I do need outside help to point out where I go astray in the story, or when I leave out whole sections or parts of the story people would want more of. On a related note, Jay Lake holds forth on Talent, Ability and Voice.

The best refudiation of Sarah Palin I've read so far. Yes, as someone who is mildly grammatically challenged and prone to both creating his own words (Margle, for instance) and to incorrectly use existing ones, I'm am far from able to cast my own stones yet for the beam in mine own eye. And yet, I can giggle as others do so. Plus, this blog post does a nice job of tearing down the whole fuddle (wait, that's a real word?) of "America is a Christian Nation" bullpuckey. Yes, the Founding Fathers didn't want religion within a square mile of governance. They understood the thousands of years of history that showed how detrimental that path was. Our nascent country had enough troubles to start her way without being co-opted and corrupted by religious ideology.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

So, So Sunday

So, it looks like the cap is holding. And people are celebrating that it's all over? Really? Um, you know it took like a month and a half for the oil to reach the beaches. Guess how long the oil will still continue to hit the beaches, you know, best case scenario? And there's plenty of oil still out there, including subsurface blooms. Also, the ecological damage will take years to be known. And just how long do you think it will be before anybody trusts oysters, shrimp, and fish from the gulf (okay, how long do you think they'll be testing it)?

So, more extended heat waves and I haven't seen Fox News commentators say, "Hey, I guess we were wrong about that global warming hoax thingie." Although, let one good blizzard hit and they're all about the how the weather disproves the climate. Just a hint, global warming can mean very intense winters (just shorter in duration). After all, winters in the last ice age would be considered mild (average temps in the upper 20s). It really was the cool summers that allowed the glaciers to advance (average temps in the low 40s).

So, it turns out Mark Williams really isn't in charge of anything in the various Tea Party organizations anymore. You know, having made his resignations last week. But for one of the organizations he used to help direct, Our Country Deserves Better PAC, he's now listed as a "spokesperson." Um, you all might want to rethink that position. Seriously, doing the written version of a black-face act in response to having the NAACP calling out your organization for racist elements, probably not the best PR response possible.

So, we now see exactly where all those new ideas for better governance that the GOP called for has gotten them. And gee, it's cut taxes, eliminate regulation, and reduce social security. As Yogi once put it, "It's like deja vu all over again." Say, and notice just how much those Bush era tax cuts cost us. A whopping $700 billion. Hmm, what's that to the deficit? Oh yeah, it's all those nasty people who defaulted on their loans bought by Fannie and Freddie. Hell, just this year, just for the estate tax (aka "death tax" - your politically correct GOP term), and just for four people who died this year (in the print version they had a chart), there's over 3 billion in taxes. But let's make sure those people unemployed don't get benefits because we can't pay for them. And did I mention the GOP is also wanting to both roll back any new regulation and continue to roll back long standing regulations?

So, to reduce costs on health insurance insurers are reducing the number of people you can go see and reviving the full "managed care" ideology (see Kaiser Permanente plans as examples of what's in store). So glad we got rid of that pesky public option and continued to let the private insurance companies dictate the business process and future plan growth. So, after all that hullabaloo about the government taking away your options (which was never the case), instead we'll let the private insurance market and market forces do it to you. Great.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Friday is all mixed up.

Because this shit happens. That's a link to an article on the list of "illegals" that was sent to the local media in Utah. The good news of this is that it's the document creators that are coming under investigation. And, gee, they included people who are here legally? Why, I couldn't see that happening? Shocked, shocked I am to discover...

Another one of those posts about the myths we tell ourselves. This one is on how Pres. Obama is just letting illegals over-run the country, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, strange how doing audits which 1) cost less, 2) penalize the employer and 3) end the employment of illegals actually, you know, works better than making big raids and arresting/deporting illegal aliens. Just to remind everybody, if the illegal aliens didn't have jobs to come to, and those jobs didn't pay better than they could get in their home countries, they wouldn't come. Just like if you get people to stop using drugs (like in the suburbs where the majority of drug use happens), we wouldn't have to have so much interdiction and foreign entanglements (to stop drug production). Strange that.

I had a whole semi-post on the TPE vs. NAACP, but really, Mark Williams is the leader of something? As Gene Hackman said as Lex Luther in the 1978 Superman movie, "It's amazing that brain generates enough electricity to move those legs." Sorry, Tea Party, you're losing the argument. You as individuals may not be racially motivated, but your leaderships' slip is showing.

Changing topics:

Noticed and passed on without too much comment other than my Mom is a breast cancer survivor, and as a male, we can also suffer from it (or it's close relative protate cancer) Save the TaTas (no nudity, but might not be work safe for your place of employment). Wonder if I should design a "Save the Cajones" shirt? What is depressing is that I could probably sell more of them. (Grokked from Dan)

There's a whole bunch of buzz about the I write like site. As exampled here on Making Light. Yeah, just seems like it's vocabulary. For the current short story, "Grace" I write like "Kurt Vonnegut." Which is cool, and I wish. For the first 50 pages of Blademan I write like Raymond Chandler. Again, cool, and I wish. To quote Teresa Nielsen Hayden, "Wanted cool; got balonium."

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Two is almost a magic number.

Serious SF-al napery, done lightheartedly. Don't look up now, there's a few million insects overhead. Close you mouth, one might fall in. And not just those with wings, but spiders and aphids. If this kind of NPR story by Robert Krulwich doesn't make you go, wow, I don't think you're paying attention.

A.M Dellamonica on how to soar when you're already in flight. And interesting little piece on a phenomenon I've notice and has been commented on with the Feral Writers. There's a lot of advice on starting to write, and some advice on the other end of how to handle being very successful, but not much in that wide Sargasso of having a little success to being a mid-list. Actually, I think I've made a comment to Tobias Buckell about waiting for his sequel to "Getting Past Being Joe Blow Neopro" (which I just tried to find a link to his new series, which is also about starting, and the GPBJBN pieces, but can't find a link from his site. Hmm, may need to bring that up when I see him.)

Curse Sir Walter Raleigh, he was such a stupid get

Another late night and no post form yours truly. Not even a "3, it's a magic number" post of links. Didn't see much of the intertubies today (Wednesday, for those that are counting).

And being that it's 1:30am Thursday, having just arrived home, there's not much hope for a coherent post tonight.

So, get the to a bed-erie, or something like that. Hope your weeks are going a little smoother.

Oh, before I forgets, got a 41 out of 40 on the quiz/test on Tuesday (she had 4 extra credit questions, which means I missed three, pretty sure I screwed up some -emia and -uria terms by not paying close attention).

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Reason 1231 for retraining

I haven't talked much about the day job.

There's a lot of things going for it. One, most people seem normal. They also value their vacations (I like that in a company). Plus, free pop in the break room (which I had two today, which were two too many).

However, I just got home. And it's from trying to cover for someone else's poor planning. Really and seriously, I want a job where I don't have to do this. I'm tired of educating people on how to not wait to the last moment for no other reason than they have no other way of working. Really, really tired of it.

I did lay down some of the law before I left in an email to those concerned. In it I also reminded them that tomorrow 1) I have a class, 2) I have a quiz, and 3) I was talking a lunch to study and will be leaving on time. And that I have grave concerns of where the project is at and the time left. Not to mention the version control issues I see about to hit. Well see how that plays out tomorrow.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Wait, was that a weekend?

This weekend just sort of evaporated. I remember being there for it, but much of it was taken up by "Holy Cow, it's (insert time here) already? I've gotta get (chore) done." Add in a healthy dose of studying and there's a weekend that just goes "poof."

Medical Terminology isn't like other classes I've had. Judging where I'm at is difficult. Did I really learn that term, or am I faking it with the clues? Some of it is the subject of the class, some of it is the presentation, and some of it is having spent the past several decades learning to speak plainly, I now need to reverse that course. So if you say "cardiomytosis" I can get you talking about inflammation of the heart muscle. However if you say "kidney stone" and I going to be able to come up with "renal calculus"? I don't' know. It's easier (and clearer to me) to just say "kidney stone."

So, obviously, I didn't get any posting or writing done.

On the side of "there' hope for us all," Jay Lake lake is on the other side of his chemo and feeling the musely love. Go, Jay, go. But remember the spoons.

And thinking of health, I haven't talked about that for a bit. Over the past few months I've had both a serious ear infection and a serious allergic reaction that gave me hives. I'm not sure what that's all about, but I really hope to not repeat it. My guess is that they were stress related.

I've been gaining a little weight as of late. The new day job has free snacks, free pop/coffee/tea, and with all the meetings of late, extra food in the lunch room. Definitely a toxic atmosphere for someone trying to lose the weight. I think the last time I talked about weight was when I broke below 300 for the first time. Of course then I went back up, and down. I'm glad to report that 300 is now the top of the cycle. And I'm working on keeping it that way.

At the end of last week I hit 300 again. It seems weird to me that when I was 310, 300 felt light. Now having ranged into the 280s, the same weight feels uncomfortable heavy. I think part of that is all the new weight seems to be going to my gut, which is the dangerous kind of weight. Before, as I've told other people, I was deceptively overweight because the fat was evenly distributed over my body. It bothers me that if I gain any extra weight, it doesn't redistribute that way. And, as I said, gut fat is the dangerous kind. The kind that leads to heart disease.

But hopefully I've hit the top of the curve and I'm on my way back down. It feels that way because I am voraciously hungry, which tends to be the case when I'm losing the poundage. And with each swing that hunger gets stronger.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Two quickies to hold me over until I get a brain again

Another Recession Myth Debunked. Ah, that horrible, liberal leaning reality. It keeps screwing with the myths we tell ourselves. "The rich have stopped paying the mortgage at a rate that greatly exceeds the rest of the population." Considering the whole "just walk away" movement was targeting at people who make over $0.5 million, not really a surprise at that. "More than one in seven homeowners with loans in excess of a million dollars are seriously delinquent…"

I sense a disturbance in the force. I've only had one interaction with Harlan. I hope he's enjoying the refreshable supply of maple syrup from his beloved homeland (sent his people contact info on where they can get the Geuaga County real stuff whenever he wants).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

You're the right kind of sinner

First two links and then to classes.

My friend, Porter Grand, is having a book signing for Little Women and Werewolves tomorrow, July 8th, 7pm at Joseph-Beth Booksellers in Legacy Village, Lyndhurst, Ohio. I'll be in class so I can't go, but that doesn't mean you shouldn't. Porter is a great person, and she's a former librarian (which I guess is redundant). She, if you're in the Cleveland area and ever wanted to meet someone who looks at a classic book and thinks, "You know, that would be so much better with monsters," now is your chance. Also, Porter has a great blog with reviews of just my kinds of books.

And in case you missed it (and because others are starting to point it out), and because the anniversary is in two days, I give you Starfish Prime. Not the only plan to detonate a hydrogen (or stronger) bomb in outer space, but I believe it was the only test to come to fruition. If you ever wondered where the idea of the EMP attack came from, here you have the genesis. Back when the idea was, "Heck, I wonder what would happen if we did this, let's give it a go," was still good. This is one of the reasons we no longer do that. People actually held parties to watch it.

Last night was the first quiz of the new class, I got a 31 out of 30 (2 extra credit questions). I knew I misspelled vertebrae (vertibrea). Damn these pencils not having spell check! And I also put peritoneal instead of peritoneum. Sigh. So I guess she gave me one of them (probably peritoneal). And see, that's part of my problem. Way back when I was but a wee child, school came easy to me. So I didn't study hard. The results are as you can see; my spelling is atrocious (although I've worked hard on that), and my grammar isn't always kosher. And now those crows are coming home to roost.

I did want to do a whole post on this, but I don't think I have the focus today. What I do want to talk about is how technology first killed me, but the right tech is now helping me. When spellcheck came out, it was god-sent. I love it, but it also enabled to cripple my ability. Same with "auto check" (which just corrected "cripple"). Great technology, but totally sucked in making me better.

However, the MacOS-X universal spell check is much nicer. Any "aware" application can use Apple's built-in tech which checks spelling as you type. This isn't exactly the killer part, after all Word has been able to annoy writers with its squiggly lines for almost a decade now. No, the big difference is that I can put the curser over the word and hit command-control-D and pull up a dictionary. A dictionary that offers alternative spellings.

Now, you could copy and paste the correct spelling from the dictionary ap. Instead I normally retype the word in the program I'm using and that helps me learn the correct spelling. That's a technology that actually helps. And I hope my long time readers (all one of you) have noticed the difference.

Technology doesn't save automatically. In fact it normally cripples us by giving us a crutch to lean on when we don't need it, but then find out legs won't support us anymore. The right technology, however, allows us to leapfrog. And I like the second kind.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Four on a Dime

Today is book day for Jim Hines and his latest Red Hood's Revenge. I haven't been able to read Jim's fairy princess books yet, but I have read some of his shorter works when it comes to fairy tales and I can say that I am eagerly wanting to read them. Jim does some nice things with the genre.

It's also a book day for Tobias Buckell and the release of The Alchemist and the Executionist, a combination of two novellas written in the same world (the other novella was written by Paolo Bacigalupi).

A PC World article on reading speeds vis a vis electronic readers vs. paper. Quel surpize. People read slower on electronic devices. As I've said before, the printed page and books are a nice piece of kit. They are high tech, we just don't see them as such because they're ubiquitous and you've had them all your life (although how they're made has changed). Also, this goes to how the brain perceives and processes images (no, it's not all that easy, thanks for asking). However the sample for this test was exceedingly small (only 24 participants). I'd really like to see a much larger version of this test to see how it shakes out demographically. But, yes, reading on a screen is much slower that on paper. And reading on a computer screen just sucks. (grokked from Jay Lake)

Elizabeth Bear ruminates on science fiction. The crunchy and not so crunchy kind. As other people have said, "Yes, this!" Science Fiction is dead, long live Science Fiction.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Self-evident

First of all, a writing post (because that's what this blog is really supposed to be about, more than politics, etc). Jeff VenderMeer talks about opening paragraphs using his newly release Third Bear as an example. Some good writerly neepery going on there. And just as an example of why I keep reading Jeff's blog (you know, other than it's good, except that he's been a little quiet as of late), "Why 'the third bear'? Well, because the third bear is 'just right,' and the story is meant to poke holes in fairytale like machine gun fire through cheesecloth." Read it all (with all the examples).

On the 234 Anniversary of bells ringing out that a new country has been born, NPR's Morning Edition reads the Declaration of Independence out loud. Very, very good. And this is why I love Public Broadcasting in all its forms. And, really, the Tea Partiers should really listen to this (after all, this is the document they revere and are attempting to connect themselves to). "To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid world." I think the rest of us have been waiting for just such a declaration. And, please, notice taxation without representation isn't first, second, third, fourth… In fact "He has endeavored to prevent the population of these States; for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners; refusing to pass others to encourage their migrations hither, and raising the conditions of new appropriations of lands," comes before it. Arizona's new immigration law, anybody?

So, I'll be on and off-line this weekend, but I don't promise to post anything new. You all should be out and enjoying the summer, and your freedoms. This is the holiday for us, the citizens.

"And for the support of this declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor."

Amen.

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Grades posted

I scored a 107 out of 100 for the final (there were ten bonus points possible). So, for the class, before she posts the grades for the second paper (but including those possible points in the calculation - to my deficit) I have a 100.87%. If we cut out the "bonus points" (that is take the total points possible - regular + bonus), and don't count the second paper (as we don't have that grade yet), I have a 97.3%.

edited 07-02 Got a 20 out of 20 on the final paper, overall a 103.49%.

Talent Is Highly Overrated

This past week the story of the Tortoise and the Hare has been particularly on my mind. I think because there are plenty of parallels in day to day life. And there's something in there that I can't quite touch, yet. Something I need to learn or experience.

Slow and steady wins the race. Yeah, I know that was Aesop's moral. Frankly, he's wrong. The difference is in their motivations. See, the Tortoise and the Hare were running two different races with two different goals. The Hare's goal, and hence the race he ran, was only to beat the Tortoise. That is why once he was far enough ahead, he slacked off (depending on the version of the tale you read, he did different things). The Tortoise, on the other hand, was running the race to win. That was his goal. Not, "beat the Hare," but "win the race." The difference is subtle, but crucial. no matter what happened, the Tortoise was going to finish the race.

You may remember me talking about how I was dismayed that when I found out how low the bar was for me to get an A in my last class, that my brain went into sloth mode. See, I suffer from having been the mental Hare for too long in my life. It's easy for me to learn new things, to retain that knowledge, and to make it applicable. It wasn't until my third year in college that I turned that around. It had become comfortable to just do what was necessary and not pushing myself harder. Once the Hare, it's hard to change your perception.

I've also been thinking about it in terms of advertising. Many companies, well many companies that are doomed to fail, misunderstand who their competition is and what race their running. Many look out at their competitors and say, "I've gotta beat that guy/gal/company." And they're doomed to fail. They might win their goal of beating the other person, but they'll lose the race, which is what they're in to begin with. What your competition can do is set the pace and make you fight harder. However, if all you're doing is "beating that person," you'll soon find some excuse to slack off. What the real competition is about is getting orders/sales/moving product, whatever. Do that well and to the best of your abilities and you'll win. Do it especially well and you'll see that other goal accomplished in addition to winning.

And then there's the discussion about "Talent" and "Work," especially when it comes to "artistic endeavors" like writing. See, "talent" is "god given" and can't be adjusted. We should all use our gifts as we've all been told since childhood. There's the mythic projection that those who rise to "celebrity" have "talent", which some people have and some people don't. It's an immutable property. Which is bull crap. Sure, you may have an affinity for something. Someone who is "tone-deaf" (which is an actual medical condition) probably shouldn't try to make money singing or playing music. Someone who has no concept of grammar or how to string words together probably shouldn't be writing. However, I do know of several authors who struggle with dyslexia and are still published and well liked.

Now, the Hare has a talent for running fast. You really can't deny that. The Hare has never had to work hard at that, which is part of his problem. In his mind there is no chance of him losing. So when it happens, it shakes him to the core. You can take a poll of people you knew in high school, the ones who got the appellation "Most Likely to…" in the year book. How many of them have done what they were supposed to do? Not many, at least not in real life (unlike TV shows and soap operas). High School is a place were "talent" still will get you far.

And that was my problem. My talent for learning let me coast along in high school and still get good grades (Bs and Cs). It crippled me when it came to actually having to work for a grade. And I think I've stated before in all endeavors there comes a point where everything becomes work. It's that point that separates the people who will excel and those who will relive the glory days. With the help of Bette, a desire to be better than I was, and a professor throwing down the gauntlet, I passed that barrier (which is why I was so upset those old habits still were there).

This is like writing and art. I never did take art classes in high school. I wasn't all that good at it (there was some natural ability, but not refined). However, with hard work (and it still is hard work), I've made a living at it for almost 20 years now. With writing I also had a little ability. About ten years ago now I left behind that modicum of talent and in the realm of hard work. I'm relearning things other people knew by heart (because that had to work at it sooner than I did). That leaves me crippled, but I'm determined to get past those hangups. You may have seen many of them here (homophones, grammar, constancy, etc, are all my bugaboos).

By switching to the mindset of the Tortoise I'm determined to win in these endeavors. I've seen enough Hares sleeping by the roadside, or get lost partying with friends. I don't' want that path. I'm here to win. It doesn't mean other people can't win also (and in fact, I hope they do, and I've watched many of them go zooming by me on their way to their goals). But I will win also. It may take me longer, but I'll cross that line myself.

And that last paragraph was the secret kernel that didn't want to reveal itself until I wrote this post out. Like I said, I've been thinking about this for almost a week now an dI couldn't figure out why. There it is.

So the more complex moral of the story is know what you're doing, set your goals appropriately, and get moving towards them.

It's a Big Sky Country

Still don't have my final grades. Sigh. So fourth things make a post.

Look, they say the sky is falling, again. Robert Sawyer opining on if the days of the full-time novelist numbered? In my travels I think I've met just one or two genre novelists who do it as their full-time occupation. Now writing, sure, lots of novelist make their living from writing, just not writing novels. John Scalzi has some good rebuttals (and the comment thread was decent for as long as I read it).

Dan points me toward this. They've confirmed the first extra solar planetary photo. And according to the article, there are several other photos in the running as well.

Juliet Marillier talks about how she writes slows and goes against some of the advice on writing that is out there. She talks about how her process works for her. As has been said before when it comes to writing advice, use what works for you. If it doesn't work, try something else. The major advice is your second draft should be 70-80% of your first draft. It's nearly a mantra of writing. And it doesn't work for me, no matter how hard I tried to make it work. Once I was given permission to make my second draft 120% or so of the first draft, my writing has gotten much better.

And here's were I turn in my bleeding heart liberal badge, I have absolutely no sympathy for these people. Yes, they're part of the poor affected by the oil spill, and they should get some help, but we shouldn't excuse them their past of working under the table. They took their chances and they knew what they were doing at the time they did the action (selling their catch for cash to keep it off the books and avoid paying taxes). Now it's time to pay the piper. No, no amnesty.

It's sort of how all these conservatives who still run on the platform of a smaller government, greater deregulation, "get the federal government out of our lives" and are now wailing to the heavens about how Obama isn't helping them enough. I'm looking at you Bobby Jindal and Haley Barbour. Two-faced sycophantic pawns of the media.