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

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

You spin me right around, Baby.

Well, they say a picture is worth a thousand words. So here, in a nutshell, is my Monday. Or at least my Monday at the day job.


This graphic shows all my mouse movements for most of Monday at work (click to embiggen). The circles represent where I parked my mouse for some time (size of circles are related to time spent there, so those were the lunch, getting a bottle of water, bathroom breaks, on the phone, etc). Hmm, I wonder where I put the main open windows for apps, the floating pallets, and open screen reality?

Art accomplished with I/O Graphica. (I believe there are apps for the different platforms).

Random thoughts on the morning commute

Peddle-bike taxis in the Congo, going up and down hills. Peddle-bike taxis would make more sense than foot cabs in San Fransico. Should change that over.

In the first paragraph, Avram needs to see the Relic's batteries as being low, and relate that to his own faith. Those two things need to happen in that first paragraph, and there we've set up most of the story. Also, I should include more of his feelings toward Grace when I first introduce her. That will make Avram seem more sympathetic.

"La Barbie" is arrested in Mexico, and he's a US citizen. I wonder what it would be like during an outer-space alien invasion, would there be those who would cross over cultures like that?

Writing, it's not just a passion, it's a sickness.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Story Bone

Nobody talks about the long suppressed Fourth Law of Thermodynamics. The one that exempts dragons from the first three. The dragons, of course, have long known about their speciality.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Sunday coast

Got some sleep, slightly better. Still a little twitchy.

Next week we restart the madness of classes, work, and government meetings. Plus trying to catch up with chores at home.

How's your weekend?

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Story Bone

but even with all that, ideas still come.

Son of Sin.

The sins of the fathers cause the curse to be passed down to the 3rd generation. Through no fault of their own, they are condemned to hell. All because because of their grandfather's transgressions. And, their own children would be free of the curse. What does this do to their psychology? Are they good for goodness sake even though no Santa is ever going to visit them? Or do they act out, compounding the original sin?

And what is their life like knowing that no matter what they do, they're going to hell anyway?

Maxed out

Here at Context and I've hit the wall early on Saturday night. I want to be anti-social for a few hours at least. Exhausted to the point of not even being able to join in with a party, which I used to be able to easily. Small talked out. I want to be someplace quite with me and the voices in my head. Hell, free alcohol at the party, and I can't gear myself up for that.

I usually don't feel this way until Sunday morning. But all day today I've been forcing myself. And not doing a good job. I get a few sentences into a conversation and then I go silent. I'm sure it's exhaustion, and I'm not able to tap into the energy of others, but instead being around others is draining me faster. Again, that's not the normal way of things.

There are times I keep feel I'm screwing up, and I'm sure I am. I'm not able to jump in or be entertaining. Heck, I've had moments where I should have said, "Why, yes, I do have a novel past the first draft," and my brain shuts down. Instead I feel like a poser. Sure, I have work out there, and stuff in submission, and novel in various states of revision.

What I need is a weekend to myself. And because I came with a friend, I really can't have a moment to recharge all by myself. Maybe that was my mistake this time. I was no where near as rested as I should have been and I left myself no time to decompress and recharge. It's a dark wind again. I do not want.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two for a Friday

Because I'm taking a short lunch today, only a few links.

Rachelle Gardner has some words about having a target on your back. She basically has two points about living life in the public eye (as writers with stories/books out in the wild, or as blogger), grow a thick skin and think before you criticize others. Pretty good advice.

And, because the spin will be ramped to insanity levels this weekend, a little onion humor. Tests are biased against students who don't give a shit. Not only a great piece of satire about education process, also a great send up of the "pundit roundtable" philosophy of "news."

edit This is just too cool, an animation about the discovery as asteroids for the past 30 years.

If it weren't for those meddling kids

Many proponents of Tea Party and the far right Libertarianism are trotting out the concept of laissez faire as an economic idea. You can see this in the current call for "get the Government out of (insert pet industry here)" sentiments and the general "less regulation, dismantle government agencies" arguments.

But, again, we've tried that as we grew as a nation. How did it work out? Not as well as the proponents would have you believe. Of course, they also give the reason that "we didn't try hard enough." Because there was some limited involvement of the government (like a central bank and early trials with income taxes, tariffs and charters) before abuses became so great that all these government agencies were created to help regulate the businesses. You might also see that Unions were created at the same time to protect workers from the most egregious work conditions. The "we didn't do it all the way" is the same as Peter Pan imploring us to "clap harder" so Tink will live.

So, how did laissez faire practices work out? Strident monopolies (rail, oil, textile, steel), labor abuses (child labor, 12 hour work days, factory towns/store/script), the stifling of innovation and entrepreneurship, physical intimidation as a business tactic, environmental degradation, the amassing of wealth in the top 10%, and eventually the Great Depression. That last one was the final nail for what remained of laissez faire attitudes, which we had already begun to move away from by the beginning of the 20th century (yes, there's an argument to be made that early regulation brought about the GD, but most economists will tell you it was also government interfering in the economy that got us out, finally).

What people tend to forget is their government, for the most part, is a reactionary vehicle. All those government programs like Civil Rights, Social Security, and Medicare and the Departments of Labor, Energy, Environment, Education, etc didn't form from a "wouldn't it be nice" philosophy. They came into being, kicking and screaming, because of the need to correct some wrong (or at least perceived wrong) that was happening. You may remember the fuss and consternation over the creation of the Department of Homeland Security. And heck, that only took a dramatic attack, a few thousand dead, and almost two years to enact.

However, people tend to forget that we had this time in America. Or look back on it with some fondness while ignoring all the terrible things that came with it. Again, nice idea, doesn't work in the real world.

Unless you want to go back to the conditions of having everything owned by the company, being paid in script that was useless outside the company store, and working until you dropped dead (literally), which then your family would be thrown out of the company owned house. Oh, and don't forget the price fixing and other monopolistic activities.

History, it's a bitch. And the liberal bias of reality intrudes again.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

It's a kinda magic

Conservatives these days have warped up the reality distortion field and increased the shields on their bubbles. And, just to mix my metaphors, have begun shouting at the masses to clap harder because their Tinker-Bell ideas lay dying on the floor.

First up, the Bush Tax Cuts. Way back when there was a Republican majority in both houses of Congress, they held the Presidency, and they were stocking the courts with activist ideologs emerging from their decades long program of raising them in a bubble. And they decided to try their ideas of Lower Taxes and Less Regulation. So they passed the Bush tax cuts.

Now, if you remember these cuts were sold on the premise that lower taxes helps create jobs, brings wealth to everybody, and would increase tax revenues from all the prosperity. If you don't remember that, hey, just turn on the TV and listen to the conservatives these days. Why? They're touting the same old line and saying exactly the same thing. You may also remember that the actual CBO projections were so bad that, even with a majority and having the Presidency, they couldn't stomach the financial disaster of making those tax cuts permanent. You may have heard about "making them permanent." Yeah, it's another line the conservatives, especially the Tea Party supported conservatives, like to spout off.

But here's the thing. We've now had a decades long live experiment with that ideology. So, how did it work out?

Zero job growth for the decade (Washington Post and as a side note, look at that chart, actual job growth was greater when tax rates were substantially higher. In fact, they start to slow after the Reagan tax cuts, which strangely enough were sold with the same tired line). Also, real wages declined and wealth concentrated at the top end of the scale (Business Insider article I linked to before which pulled together several charts from other sources, and Alan Greenspan). As to tax revenue, do I need to find links about how we went from a surplus to record deficits (and ran that way since the first tax cuts)?

So, that ideology is demonstrably wrong. Reality. It's a bitcher. It also has an obvious liberal bias. Don't believe me? Hey, the tax cuts are here. Right now. We're living with them. See all the new jobs created by them? Neither do I.

The ideology is bankrupt, and it's nearly bankrupting our country. And we now have a wave of people who think that the real problem is that we didn't try hard enough. That's magical thinking. It's also the definition of insanity. And it's the reason why the advertising logic of "buy more, save more" still works. So if you ever wonder why I get so stabby at times, here's your answer. The whackaloon quotient keeps going up.

Things that make me all stabby in the morning

Eric offers a little help on how to be a political blogger. Hahahahahaha. Happy little penguin, happy little penguin, deep breath, happy little penguin. Just put the knife down and write the blog.

I so relate to that because I continually run into things like this. The whackaloon quotient goes up, again. I would say this is rank pandering, but I've come to realize these people actually believe these things to be true. And notice, this is a conservative who has finally admitted that he doesn't reach across the aisle. For all that blustering about "locking the Republicans out of the discussions," you now see the real cause. No matter how much the Democrats reached across the aisle, tried to include the Republicans, people like this made that impossible. You may remember several committees having to postpone and cancel meetings last year because they lacked a quorum. Guess which side was missing. Of course, the only reason he's admitting it is that he's under the impression the House and possible the Senate will swing back to Republican control. You remember those days. When John Boehner said, "50% +1 is a majority and a mandate" and proceeded to believe in the "permanent majority" and his actions would never come back to bite him in the rear and so shut out anybody not "pure enough" (you might remember the RINOs).

And a follow up on the Anthem rate hikes of last summer (hopefully they'll provide the whole transcript soon). You may remember that Anthem wanted to raise rates in California by 39%. Well, fortunately California has some strong regulations on rate hikes including a consumer advocate office that has to approve those rate hikes. You know, that godless commie idea the conservatives are all up in arms about and want to make sure our federal government can't do a similar thing for Health Care and now the Financial segments of business here in the US. Well, it seems Anthem had a little problem with their math, which the advocates called them on. So Anthem comes back with, and the advocates approved, rate hikes of only 13-18%. You know, only above the inflation rate by a factor of 10. To all who think that markets should regulate themselves without obstruction of the government (ie. the Free Market), and propose that companies have their consumers' best interests at heart, that should be a warning bell that they don't and that they shouldn't be allowed to regulate themselves.

More proof? Okay, see all those eggs being recalled? You may have missed that during the previous administration much of our food safety programs were gutted in favor of "industry self regulation/policing." You can see how well those programs have worked for us. Or say all the drugs now being pulled from the market that had FDA approval during the highly politicized and "business centric" years of the FDA. It's the liberal bias of reality rearing its head again.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Two tu-es walk into a bar.

Sometimes writing is a matter of carving out the time, and sometimes it's a matter of just getting the damn words out of our heads and onto paper or into a file. Here's a little book that might help called, Making Ideas Happen. I haven't read this book, so I can't recommend it, but I know that I certainly fall into the write up about it.

Okay, now this is funny. Seems that some people, especially those who shout about how they want a Constitutional government, are now sponsoring readings of the Constitution. Understand, I fully endorse this action. Heck, they might want to also invite Constitutional Scholars to speak on it. I hear the President is pretty good at it, being a Constitional Scholar himself and having taught Constitional Law at the graduate level for a prestigious law school. So, since they're reading it as "originally written," I wonder if they'll actually include all the amendments in their reading, or just the original document. I also wonder how many people will be shocked that our Founding Fathers didn't think Senators should be elected directly by the people? Doesn't seem very democratic, does it?

If he didn't say he would deliver it, I wouldn't be on this high horse

John Boehner says the Republicans are ready to lead, that they're the party with the new ideas on how to make the economy work, get people back to work, and end big government. Well, since he helped break it, he should know how to put it back together.

Teacher: So, John, have your report on all the new ideas you have for making the government work better?

John Boehner: Um, my dog ate it on the way out this morning. I'll print you out a new copy next year. But I do know we shouldn't do this stimulus.

Teacher: Your dog? You don't have a dog. But, okay, I'll give you an extension.

the next year

Teacher: Okay, John, you're extension is up. Do you have that paper?

John Boehner: My printer was out of ink this morning. I do know we shouldn't do this Obamacare bill. And I've decided that we need more research on what the people really want.

Teacher: Having you been saying you're the party of people, shouldn't you already know? ::sigh:: All right. I'll give you another extension.

the next year

Teacher: Okay, John, it's been a year and a half. Do you finally get an ink cartridge?

John Boehner: Yes, and it turns out the people want tax cuts, ending social programs, reduce regulations that protect them, and have the Republicans back in power. You know, instead of this horrible stimulus that hasn't done a thing.

Teacher: Do you have the paper?

John Boehner: Um, no, because all this is so new we and haven't had time to figure out how to make it work this time.

Teacher: ::sighs:: You know with each extension I'm lowering your grade by a full letter? Okay. Well, those aren't really anything new are they? We've had a decade of those ideas and had wage stagnation and the worst GDP growth since the Great Depression. But I'll grant you one more extension. You know you now need to write an "A" paper to even get a passing grade, right?

the next year

Teacher: Okay, John, it's been two years now. Do you finally have that paper of new ideas ready?

John Boehner: I'll turn it in after the election. But the President should fire all his advisors because they're just mucking up our story telling. He should hire in all the bozos we had who couldn't organize a two car parade. Because government can't work for the people. I mean doesn't work.

Teacher: ::head desk::

Really, John? It's been two years and no real new ideas than the same tired rhetoric that got us into this mess. After all you tell us that these major bills that have been passed have no Republican ideas in them (even though they actually do). You're medical reform bill was all of two pages, a half page of which was "tax cuts." You're like the joke "Horse Doctor Manual."

Broken Leg: Tax Cuts

Sick: Tax Cuts

Split hoof: Tax Cuts

Broken Withers: Tax Cuts

Needs Bath: Tax Cuts

You've had two years to do your home work, John. And nothing to show for it.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

How are Blagojevich and Boehner alike?

Each one keeps promising next time they'll tell their side of the story. In Boehner's case it's, "We're going to tell you our ideas RSN." They're the consummate tease artists. Always promising to show us the goods, and when it comes time to show up, they promise next time they'll deliver.

Seriously, Boehner looks tan and well rested because he hasn't done squat for two years except cajole his membership into voting no. That takes all of a half hour every day. It can't take much longer to convince people to not work.

Three on a lunch dime

A long piece on how authors really make money. A decent read. I'm about halfway through so far. A good quote so far, "Despite the industry-encouraged myth that print has no margins, a hardcover book sold for $20, assuming no graphics or color, can often be produced for less than $2 a copy." Understand that is the cost of the physicality of the book. The rest goes into royalties, upfront costs, and margins. Although his link to Author Solutions bothers me. I think I remember something not so good about them, but can't call it up quick. Use at your own risk. (grokked from Tobias Buckell).

Mer Haskell has a new story up at Strange Horizons. Mer's good. You should be reading her.

A piece in the New Yorker on the Koch brothers. I think I've talked about them before, and their names come up all the time in my sourcewatch searches. (grokked from Jay Lake)

Mark Williams, bye bye

Seems Mark Williams is having diarrhea of the mouth. "Read a book"? Really, Mr. Williams? You know, you're not the smartest person in the room, it's time you learned that. See, most of us know that a racist can be found out by their actions and their words. They hardly ever admit it to even themselves.

How about you get a frickin' brain? Or maybe start on Ritalin. You, out of the gene pool!

Monday, August 23, 2010

And after a long day...

It's up for a little "Murder by Death," while I do some recreational and informational surfing. I mean, Alec Guinness as the blind butler, Peter Sellers ad a Charlie Chan rip off, Peter Faulk as a Sam Spade imitation. Just an amazing movie. And Truman Capote as Lionel Twain. Ingenious.

The writers group for the most part found my little story "Grace" interesting. Of course, they had many questions and ideas for fixing some problems. Most people got that the one character was an AI, although I didn't make it clear what his motivation was. The other main complaint was the protagonist was very likable. And then there are the continuing issues of not getting to the crisis fast enough, and that the idea is more of a novel idea. Yes, the more I write the more I realize that I am a novelist at heart.

At work I need to learn the modern of process of submitting press releases.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Flat out

Busy weekend is over. Back home from the writers group. Ended up not having to announce the parade. The person who normally does it had been planning a camp out. With the rains on Saturday night, they got washed out, so she was available. But had to run from there to the group.

Hopefully this week might be a little slower and I can get rested before the weekend.

So practically nothing to report except that I survived.

Friday, August 20, 2010

WIPping it out

On through to Chapter 5 with the rewrite. I did a new tally and we're up to 76776 words. The problem is, the first five chapters are the ones I've rewritten about five or six times (the files have the number 7 on them, but I think one of those was a reordering). I'm not into chapters I've only made a cursory edit over. So the slog will become a little more molasses like.

And tomorrow there's the company picnic of which I am the "offical" photographer. Then on Sunday is the parade and my debut as announcer. Right after that is the writers group, which I have one story to read.

Busy, busy weekend. Hope yours is a good one. If you're relaxing at all, relax for the both of us, will ya. I was a long week as well.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Here a brand, there a brand, everywhere a brand, brand

Reading widely can always help. One of the secrets of my career is that I read many business information articles specifically geared toward women and minorities. Why? Because those articles explicitly explained the things I was supposed to already know as a white male (information I never received as a part of the working class). The articles targeted to those markets knew they had to bring up the base level of knowledge and also had to show where their audiences fit within those "unspoken" rules, or ways to exploit them to their advantage.

Just because an article is targeted at a different demographic doesn't mean you can't learn something from them.

To that end, here's an interesting little article on positioning an in-house design team as a "Vendor of Choice." It's something that's a little on my mind. But, it has a little discussion about "Branding" the internal team. And her main points for doing that are:

  • Part of the Corporate Culture

  • Lower Costs than Outside Agencies

  • Experts in Company’s Brand and Messaging

  • Proven Performance Metrics

  • Demonstrated Success

  • The Intangibles (trust, partnership, commitment, close involvement)

Notice there is no discussion about internal logos, t-shirts, mugs, or any of that other crap. There is nothing about "product." Sure, all those things affect the "product" (or are effected by the product) but it isn't the product itself.

So when I hear writers talking about "brand" and they think that's their book, I have to internally sigh. No, the book is your product. Your brand is your reputation. That's a simplified word for it. What are you known for? If it's your book you're in for a world of hurt. If it's because of the entertainment people get from your book your in a much better position. If your brand is that people trust you to take them someplace blindfolded because they know it's going to be an entertaining ride and they're in good hands, then you've got something.

And yes, there's a nice corollary to being taken for a ride blindfolded and picking up a new book. In each case you need to trust the person driving. Building that trust, letting people become comfortable with you, letting them know you know what you're doing, all of that builds your brand.

Once you understand that part, then we can talk about how you build your brand. And that comes down to some other simple rules; exposure, consistency, reliability, and readiness. Most people understand the first part of that, but don't realize those other three parts need to be in place before that first one will have any effect.

To give an example. When I read American Gods I could tell I was in the hands of a story teller. (Spoiler Alert) When he killed the Shadow three fourths of the way through the book I nearly threw the book away. Nearly. By that time I had come to trust Neil Gaiman to drive. So I continued reading through my frowny faces. And you know what, by the end of that book I knew I would read whatever Neil wrote. I could trust him. He doesn't disappoint. That's his brand. Hell, I read The Graveyard Book which is specifically not targeted to my demographic. All because I know he's going to give me a good time. That's Neil's brand.

Same with Steven Brust. In his Vlad Taltos series, by the time (spoiler alert) Cawti leaves and Vlad goes into the wilderness, I would still continue to read his books even through that turn of the story seriously pissed me off. And Vlad's stories get deeper and more fun since that point.

You may ask yourself… TMI?

I have to remember to drink more water. When I was at Modern I was often joked about for bringing in four to five bottles of water a day. Lots of "Thirsty, eh" comments. Well, no. It was a way of keeping hydrated and knowing how much I should be drinking during the day.

At the current job we have bottled water available in the office fridge. Instead of the "Spring water" I normally buy, this is "purified water" (which means tap water, but we run it through some filters). Okay. I can deal with that. One because I'm not paying for it, but two because water is really H2O and that's what I'm after (this isn't a life style thing).

But without a visual reminder or the heft of hauling it in, I find myself drinking less. Which I think is leading to me eating more (the hyperphagia I talked about). Many times, when we're thirsty, our bodies interpret that impulse as being hungry. Another symptom I notice is on the other end. While the colon (your large intestine which consists of the Cecum, Ascending, Transverse, Descending, and Sigmoid colon and then the Rectum) is there to remove water and liquids from the digested food, you still need to be hydrated to pass out the stool. Which I've also had trouble with lately. TMI?

So, yeah. Need to get back into the habit of drinking more at work. It's a little hard when things are as stressful and fast paced as they are now. I've got so many balls in the air I'm having difficulty remembering them all. No wonder than I find myself at the end of the day having only consumed two bottles of water (about 1 liter). Not good.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Two Quick Writing/Book Linkee-poo

Tobias Buckell posts on chapter structures. I now understand the whole "leave the chapter on a cliffhanger" idea a lot more. I do that intentionally in some chapters, but I have a feeling that there are chapters that I've finished up some of the threads, and made a dull transition. As I rewrite I'll need to check that. On my first write, I did approach the chapters as distinct short pieces. It was a away of breaking up the novel into a smaller, more easily digestible pieces.

Some blogs give away books. Elder Signs Press is giving away a Kindle. Sure, you could friend things like "I like Hearts" or whatever on FB. But they're not going to give you a chance at a Kindle.

If I was an ol' rabbit I'd run too.

I've really been trying to avoid posting on the politics. Although, I know some of you read other blog I read and comment on as well. You may have noticed one of my refrains these days is "And the whackaloon quotient goes up." There's a lot going on in the world and in the politics of this country that I disagree with. Not so much from seemly benign intent of individual actions, but the culmination of many actions.

Take for instance the gaining popularity of "Strict Consitutionalism." That we should read the Constitution as the Founders originally intended. Thing is, it doesn't mean what you think it means. Many of those who are proponents are "small government" and "less regulation" types. Thing is, we tried that. It was called the Articles of Confederation. Weak central government, states rights, no taxes, pretty much what the strict Constitutionalists want. Unfortunately it didn't work. Which is why we now have the Constitution. But here's something interesting. There's a part of the Constitution which caused great consternation, Article I, Section 2, paragraph 3. The first sentence of which was the subject of a later Amendment. That sentence, of course, is the one about counting the people, other than Free People, at three fifths a person.

The Amendment that changed that sentence? Why that would be the 14th Amendment. You know, the one those same Strict Constitutionalists want to roll back. In the name of self defense, of course. (And, as an aside here, I also feel the call to repeal "birth right citizenship" is a nod to the birthers. You might remember the whole thing about Obama's birth certificate and that his father was Kenyan. "Louie Gohmert, white courtesy phone, Louie Gohmert, white courtesy phone.")

And many people support that on those concepts because they have no idea what is really going on.

See, many years ago Ronald Reagan gave the first speech after his nomination at the Neshoba County Fair. Which is just down the road from Philadelphia, Mississippi. His speech was about "States' Rights." Sound familiar. Yeah, that's another of the calling cards of the Strict Constitutionalists, states' rights.

Which is also what was cited by the Confederacy States for breaking away from the Union. You might remember that we had a little war over that. Said war redefined the Constitution and how we read it, and also brought about the 14th Amendment (also the 13th, to be fair).

You might want to read that wiki about the Neshoba County Fair speech. Now, I'm not saying that everybody that spouts this stuff believes in the same things. However, most people in public office have a very big interest in history, both making it and knowing the past. Which is why there is the controversy around Reagan's speech. And yes, Reagan knew exactly what he was saying and where he was saying it. You may remember that before Obama, Reagan was considered the president in recent memory who gave the best speeches. Those people in positions of power, current politicians and former (disgraced) politicians who are attempting to stage a comeback, are very well aware of what they are implying and who they're implying it to.

Welcome to the new Southern Strategy.

Now, some can believe in all of the above, Strict Constitutionalism, repealing the 14th Amendment (which has more than just the "birth right citizenship" clause, some of which are pretty interesting and thought provoking), and States' Rights because they honestly believe it will be better for everybody. There are also those who fly the Confederate Battle Flag because of the honor and tradition of the soldiers of the Confederacy. But they are the vast minority and have put blinders on to avoid all the other baggage that flag comes with and what it means today.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

WIP

Working on chapter 4 of the novel doing rewrites. Sprinkling world building details and more of the interior landscape of the protag the way Jackson Pollock applied paint to canvas.
As long as the families didn't abuse our positions, the balance maintained and nobody who didn't need to be hurt got hurt. A live and let live mentality prevailed. Not that it was or would always be that way. That the families kept bladesmen, the embodiment and defenders of their honor, spoke in a louder volume than a police blotter ever would.


Story Bone

It's not so much a decent into madness as a release from oppressive reality. Darkness is easy. It requires no energy. Unlike the light, which takes effort to continue. Darkness is the default of the universe.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Micro Submission Call

Jeff VanderMeer is having an open call for micro submissions to his latest Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities. One hundred to one hundred and fifty words. Hmmm. Open till Sept 7th. Enter by commenting on the thread.

Hmm. Melville's Scrimshaw, Witch Bone, Turtle Shell of a 8 Legged Species, Hecate's Apple, Coin from the Eyes of Washington's Corpse... Yeah. I think I might have something. Just not the ever famous Splinter of the True Cross. Never that.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Run, rabbit run. Dig that hole, forget the sun.

Somewhat wasted day. Got maybe 300 words out on the Steampunk Cthulhu. I know the basic story, but I don't know exactly how to tell it without just doing expository. Granted, much of HP's work was also exposition with some badly formed dialog sprinkled in, like shattered candy glass on a squamous ice cream sundae.

And this is my last free weekend until classes start up. Next weekend includes the company picnic at which I'm the "photographer." And then on Sunday is setting up the speaker system for the village parade. And, oh yes, I got roped into being the announcer for the parade. Lucky damn me. The next weekend is Context, which I haven't even looked at the website to start thinking about exactly who will be there and where I'll be going. If there is a bar in the hotel, I'm sure I'll be there for some of the time.

Oh yeah, next week is also the writers group meeting.

Busy. Busy. Busy.

And, oh yeah, lots of things coming up due in the next few weeks at work.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Submissions

Rewrote the opener on A History of Lightning to get to the weird faster. Chopped out 300 words of world building that would work well in a novel, don't need to be in a short story (one of the lessons I learned finishing a novel - contrary to the average advice, I've learned how to write novels by writing short stories, and I've learned more about short story writing by writing a novel). And then submitted it to Tor.com. Good luck, little story.

Daddy's Little Girl is off to Strange Horizons.

Prince Wanted is off to Flash Me for their SF/F/H special issue this fall.

"Rag-a-Bag" is off to Asimovs.

Well, that's a full day of submitting. Maybe one more later on. Maybe. We'll see how the rewrites go.

Edit At a little after 11pm I got Shadows Over Raas Xaafuun mostly edited and off to High Seas Cthulhu 2. It's probably the story in the earliest phases of writing that I've sent out, but I wanted to get it in before the antho closes. I don't think I'll be getting the Steampunk Cthulhu done in time (and yes, it also take place on the Seas).

Writing while waiting for the storm

This morning I woke up and decided to not turn on the internet, and instead wanted to do a rewrite of Grace. It went surprisingly well. I didn't cut much, maybe two hundred words in all. On the other hand I added in about eight hundred or so to bring us to a total of 4100. Pretty good for a short story. Okay, for my short stories. When I started this thing I swear I couldn't write a story less than 8000 words. And that was the first draft. As you know, Bob, I'm an adder in not a taker outer for my second drafts. (and yes, I wanted to rewrite that line to remove the snake reference, but decided it works better that way)

Some of those eight hundred words included this line. "The thing that weighed him down as a stone holds unwanted kittens under water." I must have deleted and retyped that line a dozen times as the gremlins and internal editor argued with my writer self. Is it too cruel? Will people think I'm a monster? Does it just not work right?

And then, after much debate, my writer self pulled out the best argument. I am, after all, the writer who wrote a ghost story about the death of an infant. And that story visibly upset some of my first readers (not so much from the horror in the story, there is relatively little, but from the subject matter).

So the line stays in. It clearly defines the relationship Avram (the protag and POV, third person omni) has with the Relic (the antagonist, well, one of the entities in it is). Or at least his perception of that relationship at that moment.

Grace is now up on the bulletin board of the writers group for critique next week. And now on to submissions and maybe getting some of my Steampunk Cthulhu story out.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Story Bone

In a Casey Kasem voice, "And now, at number 3 with a shovel, it's Zombies in Love with their zombie-rock sensation I keep burying my number, but you keep digging me up."

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Out on the plains we gave him hell

This morning's fog was a tricksy one. Around the house there wasn't any. However, Orwell is the high spot of the local area. Once I left the village it was like driving into night. If night was a dark wall of mist.

By the time I reached Pymatuning Lake, the mist had retreated, and broken into areas of light and dark patches. Clearly the top of the mist was like a cumulous cloud hugging the ground. Visibility on the lake's glassy waters went about a hundred yards across the water, with maybe 30 or going up. The light dimmed on the causeway and islands loomed in shadows out there. It was the kind of atmosphere where you expect to see the lake monster's long neck gracefully arching out of the water.

Into work and the buzzsaw.

Last night I sat looking at a blank computer screen (okay, a blank window on the computer, but you know what I mean) for about twenty minutes waiting for the words forming in my head to line up and pour out my fingers. It wasn't so much writer's block, I know what I need to write and what I want to write, it just wouldn't flow out from the head. Sometimes I get parts of a story that the editors inside my eyes say, "you shouldn't say that" or "that's just mean" or "people will think you're weird because you put that to paper." Those are the gremlins as they gibber. There's also rust along the channels.

It bothered me. And obviously my brain struggled with it overnight because I woke up with the answer right in front of me. My guilt stack. I haven't been reading fiction lately. There's been way too much job related (search and research), economics, edumacational and political stuff. So I just found out that wearing headphones at work is not considered a no-no. Also, for the first time in what feels like ages, there's a fiction book in my briefcase ("Zoe's Tale" by Scalzi, if you need to know, I've been in the middle of it since Viable Paradise). Writers are first readers. If the first rule of Write Club is "everybody must write" (thank you Tobias), one of the top five would be "writers are readers."

So here's hoping I get back into it. And just as a "we're talking about it" kind of thing. I really want to get the edits to this book done soon. Because I have a bunch of books lined up to help me through the next one ("Post-rapture Industries" - or Inferno Redux). Christopher Moore's "Fool", the humorous anthology I got from Random Michelle, and a few more. And then once I'm through with that, I have a tome of Glen Cook's just waiting for when I'm ready to get back to "A Company of Ravens" (the novel that kicked my ass so many years ago, I feel it itching in the farther recesses of my mind).

With that, here's a political link. I'll need to keep reading the edumacational stuff, and I'll keep on the politics stuff (because I feel we're approaching a watershed moment that will culminate in the 2012 presidential election, which, BTW, the campaigns have already begun - and it's a moment that I think will be exceptionally painful for a lot of people - the process, not the outcome).

To that end, one link.

You know, you expect this kind of behavior from people trying to punk Conservapedia, not from one of the founders of the thing. My guess is that this really started as a "but you don't have anything against the other scientific 'theories'" conversation regarding evolution. And Andy took that concept, and ran to the ridiculous goal post with it. Touchdown. Whackaloon quotient goes up, again.

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Two quickies

Paul Krugman on America Going Dark, as a small town elected official, I can only say, yeah, he's right. One of the things I think that infuriates the right with the election of Obama is we're now at the culmination point of "must cut government" programs. And Obama, at least his politics, threatens to swerve the ship at the last moment. And while we might avoid placing said ship high on the rocks (please, Zort, let us avoid placing it high on the rocks), we've been scrapping bottom for a long while (see the anemic GDP growth of the past decade) and the ship's haul is now compromised. If we go down or make it to a dry dock for repairs all depends on how well and how much the bilge pumps work. And while the right has been screaming about "printing money" and how that brings about inflation, we're actually facing a much worse outcome. What's one of those tools the Fed has to avoid those rocky shores, it can print more money. This was one of the major concerns during the debate on how large to make the stimulus (and one of the reasons much of that money hasn't been spent yet is much of the stimulus was tax cuts, which haven't been used/claimed).

And, the whackaloon quotient goes up again.

And speaking of Cthulhu

The good people over at Eldersigns Press are having a Haiku for Cthulhu contest.

Here are some entries I've submitted:

a million years dead
stars realigned in orbits
meaningless time wakes

in the deep midnight
gibbering insanity
solace too little

Yawning chaos spawn
Scamper amid the mindscape
Corrode wakeful dreams

Ah, some light lunch time diversions. YMMV

Faces come out of the rain

Sometimes reality doesn't feel real.

This morning's commute is an example. Today's commute time forecast, pea soup fog. And boy did it deliver. Contributed to an extra long commute and late arrival time. So for future notes, I need to adjust travel times for foggy mornings. On the previous commute, by the time I'd reach Rt. 6, I would have climbed out of any fog (or climbed into fog as it happened sometimes). That was about one quarter of the distance to the old job. On the current commute, when it's foggy out, it's foggy enough to slow travel until I reach 422, which is about half way distance wise, but three quarters of the time. That's a big change.

And before we go forward, just a shout out to my fellow Ohio commuters, turn on your gorram headlights when it's foggy. Seriously. I don't care if you can see. I can't see you. Fortunately none of my turns involved that bit of asshattery, nor did the one time I had to pass someone. But I saw enough oncoming traffic sans headlights. Having your headlights on allows people to see you through the fog before they'll see your vehicle. That extra 3 seconds is important.

But back to the fog. This was the type of fog that clings to your windshields. The kind that the insect invasion uses to mask its approach and landing. That kind of fog.

And it brought home to me that I've been floating, the drive mirroring my own internal landscape of the past month. Where things loam out of the mist and I deal with them, but not really being able to tell if that's just a shadow in front of the car in front of me, or another car.

And the thing is, I realized this emotive behavior yesterday. So last night I found my bottle for Wellbutrin, made sure I had a refill left, and put it in my briefcase for refilling today.

And right now I'm thinking about issues about why this is necessary, and what that means going forward. See, I had been a little happy about having been off Wellbutrin since almost the beginning of the unemployment and not feeling this way. Now I'm not sure what to think after having a job for two months and realizing that I may need it's help.

In the past few weeks I've had moments of polyphagia (wanting to eat too much), and wanting to just curl up in a ball, and my weight has also been becoming a problem. Since I did my last update on weight, I've broken above 300. The bad part about this is that almost all the weight gain has been belly weight (the worst kind).

I'm hoping this is just a little soft patch and we'll get past it.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Hoped to get some work done

But only got some chores done. But now don't need to do those chores again for at least a week. But didn't get any writing done. But did get like 50 words over lunch on a new short story, which I have about a hundred on the pad next to the bed.

But tomorrow is another day. But I also have Village Council tomorrow night. But I did some of the paperwork on the way home. But this is the first meeting in like three months.

But then Wednesday is looking better. But it's two days away.

But...

So far under, daylight is just a tease

So two quickies while I pretend I'm not blogging.

On history, Cordoba, and leaving the ruminations that Mr. Gingrich actually teaches history in college up to the reader. (Grokked from Jay Lake).

Hmmm, well, there goes another myth we tell ourselves. This one is about how unregulated industry is better than regulated industry and how the moratorium on deep water drilling is costing jobs. (also via Jay Lake)

Saturday, August 7, 2010

Where two or three are networked

At 3350 words, Grace is a rough draft. There's lots of work that needs to be done on it, but that's for tomorrow (or next week). But, hey, short short rough draft completed. That hasn't happened for a while.

Friday, August 6, 2010

Final Grades

Okay, well, I guess I shouldn't have changed that one answer, because I only got one wrong on the test. Damnit. So that's 149/150 or 99.33% for the final. Overall that makes 328 out of 330 points, or 99.39%. Overall there were 5 extra points you could make, so really I had 328 out of 335, which is 97.91%.

Have I said how much I like math and doing numbers?

The question I got wrong? What is the meaning of the prefix "dia-". I eliminated two of the responses right off the bat and was left with "flow" and "complete." I thought it was complete and marked that first. I also put a tick next to the question which tells me to go back and check my answer after reading the whole test. There was no other help on the test so I tried to remember all the words I could come up with, such as dialysis, diaphragm, diaspora, etc. I had a transient thought of dialysis meaning "complete breakdown" and how that wasn't really what we did in dialysis, and thought I remembered that being discussed in class (many medical terms aren't reducible, some are historical anomalies like phlebotomy and orthopedist, some are just not close to what the root and extra parts mean). But then I thought of diaphragm and diaspora and thought they described a "flow" and changed my answer to "flow." Well, as we all know now, "dia-" means complete.

So, a little disappointing after the 103+% in the previous class, but still, nothing to sneeze at. In this class I don't have any comparison to others. There wasn't as much student interaction during class other than "Hey, how are you" and "Did you do well on the test." I didn't hear any "I've just gotta get a C in the class" conversations like I did for the previous. So there's no knowing how well I stacked up against the other students in this or the other classes this professor taught (in the earlier class the prof let me know that in approaching the final exam there were four of us who had already earned Bs with the points we had accumulated).

Thursday, August 5, 2010

The Final Exam

Well, final exam is over, and because you know I like the math, here we go. An "A" is 91% or greater, total points are 330 (180 in quizzes/tests and 150 final exam). So overall I could miss 29 (well 29.7). Leading up to the final, I was down 1 point (because of extra credit). That means I could miss 28 (81%) on the exam and still get an A.

I know I missed 1. It was one of the questions I kept going back and forth on. Unfortunately I switched it from the correct answer to an incorrect answer. Dang it. One the plus side, I did switch others that would have been incorrect.

In other news, I missed a deadline to register for the HOBET/NET test. So now the next test available is in September. Which will delay my application for nursing and radiologic program. Damn.

Hyperventilation Thursdays

Sometimes I feel like such a slacker, he said facing his comprehensive final, something worth 50% of his grade, this evening and is going to talk about not writing.

My friend, Mer, talks about this a little on why people give up. Now, I should say I'm not giving up. But I have to be honest, since I got this new job I haven't been burning up the time trying to write and edit. Heck. I have three rejections sitting in my inbox that I haven't dealt with yet. And they've been there for a month at least. And I have a novel that while isn't the next Dashiell Hammet breakaway book, isn't chopped hepatocyctes either. With another round of edits using the notes form the novel workshop two three months ago, I think it would be in good shape to go agent foraging with.

The self-doubt, the gremlins that gibber in the witch's midnight of my mind, have they worked out a new tool? Those sonsabitches. I'll bet they're behind this.

Or maybe it's as Stephen King says in "On Writing" that smart people are generally the more lazy and are more often prone to shipping oars and drifting when they can get away with it. That may have something to do with it. This job takes much more of a toll on me than I originally thought. So when I do have time, I really just want to relax. And it just hasn't been the writing that I've been ignoring. There's also the Village work I haven't really been paying attention to as much as I should. That part, however, actually does feel a little good. I am looking forward to the closing of my position in a year and a half.

Yes, I too know why the freed bird sings. And I know why the caged bird sings as well. I know the many reasons the caged bird sings.

So after tonight, there's a bunch of "living" stuff that needs to get done. Including scheduling other things for the retraining (which, just found out, a test I need isn't offered until the middle of next month when I thought there were two more test dates this month - margle). As well as cleaning, and petting the cats, and getting ready for fall, and yard work I've been ignoring, and all that other stuff. I need to get to rewriting the novel and getting some of these short stories out.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

And some more politics

Sometimes, if you watch the crazy long enough, the truth will out. Remember when Sharron Angle was the darling of the conservatives and the Tea Party when she was ahead in polls and looked likely to unseat Harry Reid? Yeah, not so much these days (even though the polling is still close). Also see here, and here. okay, well, that last one is just cluelessness.

And yes, Rep. Charlie Rangle is gone, baby, gone. What I think is very funny is how actual actions by the Ethics Committee is being spun as "the dems have not changed anything after promising to 'drain the swamp'," by people like Rep. Boener. Oh really, Johnny boy. Let's see, we have an actual working Ethics Committee that has the balls to bring down a chairman. Say, how did the Ethics Committee work when you and Hasteurt were in charge? Oh yeah, it didn't. Or do I need to say bad words like Vitter and Ensign who are facing criminal charges relating to their inability to keep it in their pants, all of which occurred on your watch. Or say, how about Jack Abramoff, just how well did the Ethics Committee under your rule work on that? Oh, right, they didn't because you gutted their office and didn't actually assign people to work on it. Tell ya what, Johnny boy, I'll take all the Democratic representative scandals of the past four years and stack them up against just the Gay Sex Republican scandals. I still think I'll come out on top.

I was working up a post on this one, but the Washington Monthly beat me to it. It seems strange that those who say they love and honor the Constitution as it was originally written would be working so hard to amend it on so many points. And then there's this Washington Post editorial on political amnesia. (both grokked from Jay Lake) All those wonderful conservatives and their small government and no deficit spending. Yes they all forget about how this coming "tax raise" is actually a programmed end to tax cuts because even at the time of a Republican President and control of both House and Senate, they couldn't stomach the financial problems of making those cuts permanent. And that when those tax cuts were initially brought it, the former VP himself, the Cheney Man, said "Deficits don't matter." Yeah, the people who more than doubled the government and brought about greater deficit spending than any previous administration, let's put those people back in charge. Um, wait a sec, couple their previous transgressions with the worse GNP growth over a decade since the Great Depression, and maybe we ought to rethink those policies.

Just a clarification on the Wikileaks

Apparently some right wing whackaloons are advocating the death sentence for the Wikileaks people. Really?

Okay, I'm on record with my condemnation of the wikileaks posts. However, I understand that leaks are a vital asset to keeping our government transparent (see, Eric, we're not all that far apart). My main beef with them is that they put people in jeopardy for no good reason. That is, the leaks didn't give us anything new, say like the Pentagon Papers which proved several things about the progress of the Vietnam War that the Nixon (and Johnson) administration(s) denied. Like the bombing of Cambodia. As I remember, nobody was really denying any of the "secrets" in the wikileaks documents. And all they did was get people who helped us into serious trouble (including maybe being targeted by the Taliban for elimination).

So, I'm up for jail time, or maybe a oneway ticket to Western/Southern Afghanistan for an all expenses paid week long trip. But the death penalty to meet with some of the people they outed? Not really seeing it. They just need to learn their job and that "just putting it out there" has consequences.

story bone

"Please use the spaces in between the words you're saying," I said to the person who answered the phone.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Tuesday at a clip

Today was just manic. And the first part of tomorrow will be cleaning up and correcting what was done in haste today. Sigh.

Tonight was the final chapter test/quiz in Medical Terminology. I got at least two wrong, and there were no extra credit. So that's 38/40, or 95%. My lowest grade so far. An A in this class is 93%.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Do this make it less biased?

Well, now that Alan Greenspan says it does it make these charts (that I linked to previously) slightly less suspect? Probably not.

And the final quote in that first story keeps rankling me. Diane Swonk says, "We've seen enormous political backlash, and there is no comfort for anyone who's wealthy, if they've got to deal with a pretty big class warfare, at the political level, via taxes or anything else." Yeah. My heart bleeds. Not.

My God, it's full of links

Elder Signs Press is having a "Haiku for Cthulhu" contest going on. Come on, you know you wanna. Plus, three prizes, all include books. What's not to like?

On NPR last week there were several stories about book publishing. First up was a literary agency publishing their backlisted author's ebooks. While there are points to be made all around, and I trust the agency to do a much better job at ebook publishing than the hackers and rippers out there, I do see the argument from the publisher's side. What the agency is pushing is also, to some degree, the product of the publisher as well. Just a reminder that book publishing is not like how it's portrayed in the movies and tv shows. Don't believe me? Ask your favorite author about "editorial letters" and see what you don't know (both about the process and the mental stability of the author).

And because I haven't processed all of the ramifications, yet, free books for donations is noted without comment.

Michelle Sagara West on something that is "what she said" worthy. And yes, I too am guilty of meeting famous writers only to start the conversation with, "I'm sorry, I haven't read your stuff, yet." The fabulous L. E. Modesitt, author of The Magic of Recluce (which comes highly recommended) I'm thinking of you right this moment. Michelle also quips something about only avoiding her if you really don't like her. How can you not like Michelle? I haven't read any of her books yet (which also come highly recommended), though. But hey, the only moments I got to spend with her was while she was standing at Larry & Sally's booth going over just how they managed the logistics of selling books at cons. And Michelle even made that fun (okay, I have to admit, I had been thinking of the exact same questions in previous months, so there was the guilty pleasure of learning about Larry and Sally's business).

Another reason I hate Microsoft.

And just because it was relevant to an IM conversation, the Gumbys. And with that, I fall in love with the internet all over again. "My brain hurts."

Sunday, August 1, 2010

One of the reasons I don't watch much TV.

So, because I was bored and there was nothing else on I saw an episode of Top Shot on the History Channel. This was the episode with the long bows and crossbows.

Okay, so I'm sure there's a bunch of editing and selection of the photo shoots that drive the story, but really, what a bunch of whiny little girls. Yeah, competitive bullcrap abounds, but the whole "WTF is this with bows, I just, blah blah blah." Really smarty pants, then get your asses out there on the line and practice until the sun goes down instead of sitting in the house and bitchin' about how it's such an unfair requirement.

Really, I'm in a skills competition and I'm not on the line throwing lead (or wood as the case may be) down range until I can barely see? Is there some rule that prevents them from practicing? Eating is something you do when your hands hurt and you need a break (or you start shaking from either protein or glucose deficiency).

And they perpetuated a myth. And that myth is that the crossbow was more advanced on the field. It wasn't. The yew bow (aka English Long Bow) was. Now, they did it right that combat long bows had 150-200lb draw weights. You typical current era long bow has a 40lb draw weight, and hunting compound bows have a 60lb draw weight.

Crossbows are very old weapons, having seen service in the Greek Army and were a way of balancing the power of the composite bow and the ability to aim it. And while the long bow is just as old, the advent of the yew bow was a late arrival on the battlefield and slightly post-dates the arrival of the metal composite crossbow. No matter what, the crossbow was only just a strong short bow. The determining factor was that the yew bow was just as powerful at close range (yes, the yew bow would put a steel-tipped shaft through platemail, knight, and pierce the back of the mail at close range), twice as effective at a medium distance, and had a long range of 300-500 yards, which the crossbow couldn't match. Also, a skilled crossbowman could shoot 5-8 quirils in a minute and required extensive training. This is why in the middle ages most crossbowman were mercenaries. The long bow, on the other hand, could put 15 shafts per minute down range and didn't require the extreme training (although English Law required yeoman to train so many times per year), and were also able to use their short swords and pikes.

The yew bow gained prominence in the 100 Years War (late 14th century) and most importantly gave Henry V his victory at Agincourt. Well, that and the French losing their minds and feeling over confident by outnumbering the English 5 to 1 (in mounted knights). Then French brought 1,500 crossbowman to the field (Italian mercenaries). While most accounts of the battle talk about how the French longbowman and crossbowman were shuffled to the back, what is less well known is the Italian Mercenaries quit the field in the onslaught of the English Yew Bowman in the forest of Tramecourt.

While the crossbow became the template that was used to integrate man-portable firearms into battle, it was the competition of the long bow that caused firearm adoption