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Far over the misty mountains cold
To dungeons deep and caverns old
We must away ere break of day
To seek the pale enchanted gold

The dwarves of yore made mighty spells
While hammers fell like ringing bells
In places deep, where dark things sleep,
In hollow halls beneath the fells.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Linkee-poo goes to the doctor

and this is what he say… not my Achilles Tendon, but where it joins to the muscles. That means no surgery, I'm okay with putting weight on it and driving (yippie, what I had been doing anyway), I should wear my boot (from leg break), and use crutches to support my walking for a while. No dancing, but good news. I'm looking at a few months at most (supposedly). So yeah.

But since I had a long doctor's appointment today, my internet time is almost all used up.

The rules of magic for many of the well known fantasies. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Kameron Hurley on the self-sabotaging writer. Lots of good things exposing a lot of neurosis writers face and the difficulty of accepting success. Hmm, missed her at Confusion, but then I missed a lot of people at Confusion. Her latest book did get some buzz play, though. (Grokked from Jennifer Jackson)

Some ol' timey steam heaters for your Steam Punky goodness.

Writer Unboxed is looking for your vote on their logo. As a design snob, I'm not entirely in love with any, but I can see which one I like the most.

A letter from a former slave to his old master. (Grokked from matociquala)

Monday, January 30, 2012

Things that burn my ass

Gee, it couldn't have been about raising money, could it? And it's not like Gov. Brewster ever got things wrong before. Look, we can disagree all we want, but can you imagine the conservative outrage and blustering if this had been a Democratic governor and a Republican president? I mean, Rush would have had to go back on the oxycontin after blowing an artery. Fox News would be running it 24/7 about how "those dirty liberals disrespect the office of the President" (how do I know this? because I lived through the aughts and I have a memory of when they said that). Now? Crickets. Well, no, actually it's getting play that Gov. Brewer gave it to the President good. Tell me again how this isn't a show of hypocrisy? Tell me again how this isn't dog whistling? 'Cause I keep forgetting.

Actually, I just keep going back to this.



Linkee-poo for a gimped out Monday

Ken McConnell talks about using repetitive tasks to facilitate daydreaming. Using prayer beads can also induce the same state, it's a form of "waking" meditation (or, in the case of Ken's lawn mowing, "walking meditation").

Karl Schroeder talks about one of his day jobs (that is, being a futurist). Specifically in regard to future scenario planning and Shell Energy's "Scenarios to 2050". And then how that research should be applied. This is good for both the writer, and as an insight into the energy struggles we see all around us these days.

John Scalzi reminds us why print is called ephemera. I point this out one, because John is a Very Smart Fella/Gal™ and two, it's one of my obstacles on the next novel. I think when I decided on Bladesman I went into the project with the mindset that is wasn't going to mean much. With Post-Rapture Industries I'm reaching for the brass ring that Douglas Adams left for us. I've already accepted I can't do Douglas' humor (it is very much based on a "magical SF" premise I can't bring into my story). Now I just need to get my head around, "It'll be fun for me. Might make some friends laugh. That's good enough." Instead of the "ZOMG, best. novel. EVAR!"

Another article on the ocean acidification. But this time, we now can see the extent has gone beyond natural variability. Also note the paragraph that discusses plakton's need for calcium carbonate, which is directly assaulted by more acidic waters. Say, what happens when the plankton population crashes? (Pointed to by John)

Ferris Bueller gone commercial. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Sunday, January 29, 2012

It's time we stop, hey… WTF?

Gingrich telling you to be wary of all "those elites" in Washington and elsewhere (most notably, Mitt Romney) is like the wolf warning you about the foxes in your barnyard. Gringrich, if you'll remember, once had a half million dollar credit bill (not credit available, but stuff he and Calista ran up and then paid off) at Tiffanys. You know, the store that's right next to the TJ Maxx. Not. But part of that is an attack on the President, who was a Constitutional Law professor. While Newt was a History Professor. Or, you can think of it that Obama taught the class most lawyers will use regularly in their professions and Newt taught the class you had to take in college to get your degree, but never really liked and complained you'd never use. A PhD in history makes you uniquely qualified to, what, teach other people to have PhDs in history? Who is the elite here?

Linkee-poo gimps to the beat

On declining book advances. While some of those people they're talking about would skew Tobias' advance survey toward the top end, I have a feeling the entire industry is skewing downward. Goes to prove the old adage, don't quit the day job. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

A businessweek article on the truth about the rich and job creators. "The annual earnings of people like me are hundreds, if not thousands, of times greater than those of the average American, but we don’t buy hundreds or thousands of times more stuff." And it's the consumers who help create jobs. Also there is the discussion about how taxing the wealthy to give breaks to the middle class and to create infrastructure builds the economy, and so the profits that go to the rich. Also there's a lot in there that I've pointed out before about how the historical data disproves the lie of "taxing the rich less creates jobs and prosperity." (Pointed to by Sheila)

Tobias Buckell talks about what happens when you drink pop.

Well, it appears the GOP finally realizes that Citizens United is a bad decision. Too late. I'm sure once their wives and daughters' lives might be in jeopardy from ectopic pregnancies and other birth problems they'll also decide to go forward with the abortion even though they've help trash any abortion rights in this country for everybody else. Just like Ricky Santorum did. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Linkee-poo hobbles through the day

A discussion of writing with, around, because of, and inclusion of music.

Because it's important to me now, Chuck Wendig's 25 things writers should know about agents.

And this just in, still no voter fraud in South Carolina. Look, it's becoming clear that voter ID and the other "anti-fraud" voter laws going around are only there to suppress voter turn out (among mostly Democratic voters). Can't we all call it that way now? Of course, it goes against the stories we tell ourselves that the one party that claims to be true Americans, and democracy's greatest defenders are actually the ones who are more than glad to dismantle the whole system to get their way. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

John Scalzi points out the flaw in the American Pricing system. It's examples like that that come to mind whenever I heard some business apologist talk about how companies aren't exploitive, provide product at the lowest cost possible, and are on the consumers side because "if they (screw the consumer over) they would be out of business." See also "free market economics."

Paul Krugman on some obvious things, which apparently are not so obvious to the reality disfunctional conservatives in our midst. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Things aren't exactly the way conservative wing-nuts think they are? Could have knocked me over with a feather. There's this concept in some urban fantasy were two world (fairy and the real world usually) overlap and some people can see both. More typically they mistake what's happening and merge the two. I have a feeling a lot of this conservative blathering is exactly like that.

And just why do conservatives hate liberals so much (if you want to debate the point, go google the GOPAC memo first and then try and make your point)? Well, it could be because of this. (Grokked from Absolute Write) And here I'll point (again) to Eric's great post on defining liberalism (and libertarianism).

Tobias Buckell shares a lecture from Neil Degrasse Tyson demonstrating how much the US has fallen behind in the basic research of innovated science. Wake up call? Yes. But only for those people in a science based world.

Pop goes the calf muscle

Well, that wasn't any fun at all. Last night, while bending over to give a welcome home kiss to Bette, my calf muscle popped. Not good. When I wasn't able to move my foot in a dorsiflexion manner while standing up without massive pain an hour later, it was time to go to the urgent care (before it closed).

Fifty dollars (our copay) and an hour and a half later and I have a prescription for Tylenol #3 and an order to see my orthopedist. The urgent care doc was pretty sure I did something to the Achilles Tendon, but couldn't determine the extent of the injury. But at this point we're discussing a healing time (and crutches) between a few months and half a year with possible surgery. Since I don't have weakness, we're hoping it's not going to be surgery.

I hate being laid up. And using crutches in the house sucks. Not to mention, it's my right leg, which means driving is going to be a problem. And did I forget to mention that since it's not been cold enough, the predominate weather condition on the ground equals slush. And all my classes are on the upper floors (but fortunately there are elevators).

Friday, January 27, 2012

Linkee-poo pets the wolf at the door

Mary Robinette Kowal gives the month of letters challenge. I have to admit, I still get a thrill when I get a letter in the mail. (Grokked from Kelly Swails)

John Joseph Adams gives a run down of professional writer workshops.

The first episode of Helljumper based on Tobias Buckell's novella "Dirt" is live. Go watch if you like 1) military SF, 2) HALO, 3) semi-pro movies. It's just amazing what you can do these days without a large budget. Now, to my eyes, I often see the FX in movies, even the big blockbuster films. So I'm probably not the best person to judge, but some of their FX are pretty damn good.

Nathan pretty much nail the Newt, "Shocked, shocked I am…" response to being asked about his former wife's contention he asked for an open marriage (to validate an illicit affair that had been running for 6 years at that point). I wonder if all his "close friends" we the same ones who didn't tell his wife that Newt was screwing a staffer behind her back?

More urban archeology, this time on an abandoned theater in New York. (Grokked from Camille Alexa)

Repeat it with me, using the voice of stoner Jeff Spicoli, "Carbon-dioxide is an acid, man." (our A&P prof used to have us do that) Specifically, it is the first two (out of 3) reasons we breathe. To expel CO2 and regulate our pH. See, the ocean is this great big buffer for heat and aerosol chemicals. But here's the thing about buffers, while it takes a whole lot more acid to affect the pH level when a buffer is present, there comes a point where the buffer is all full up. pH drops precipitously right after that point. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Since I bash the TP for many things, I'll praise them when they work toward their goals. Here's a story nominally about Newt Gingrich, but it's more about how the TP is changing the Republican Party. Now, here I could remind people about how the TP initially said they weren't party people, or conservatives in general. Or bang on about how Newt is dog whistling he way through the primaries. Instead, "Hey, look, the TP is changing the way the GOP operates. So they're sorta achieving one of their goals." (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Linkee-poo was killed by a cellular phone explosion, they scattered his ashes across the ocean

EPIC Confusion epic link wrap-up. And finally, because it's my blog and this is all about me (damnit), Dr. Phil took a great pic of me in "relaxation mode" (see earlier link), but I like this one of me photobombing Christian Klaver the best. In fact, I think when I see someone photographing me in public (that tricky Al was sneaky and got me when I was looking for a few others in that collection) that I'll go for the photobomb look. (note to self, ask for permission to use photos as icons)

Cherie Priest wins the internets. How cool is that to have a tactical vest with "writer" on it? Now, if it was flame-proof, we should all just hand over the keys and go home. I mean, a lot of us lusted after one since dreamboat wears on on "Castle", but we didn't put the cash on the line as it were. Not that I think labeling yourself a writer will really help in public, in fact doing so might require wearing a bulletproof vest.

Jodi Meadows on why I ditched my draft. I'm facing the same issue with PRI. And I think that's part of my stalling. I know I should start from scratch, but just can't get over that hump. (Grokked from matociquala - whom I also wish I could have spent more time with at Confusion)

Part of why I loved HOW Magazine was their annual design salary survey. These days there's lot of tools for that (for regular salary, see indeed.com, which is also a cool jobs aggregator site), but for real specifics you have to go to industry sources (and design is notorious for underpaying people).

And speaking of income, kicking off what I hope will be another informative season of sharing, Jim Hines shares his writing income. Thanks, Jim.

Eric goes with the funny again, posting Newt Gringrich's appearance rider (a list of rules for Newt to appear).

And speaking of Eric, he let's us know there are a couple of fruits inspired people creating a Randian community. So, I have just one question. Instead of voting people off the island, can we vote to send people into the "Gaultian Years"? Also, I predict that "some salt-flat land in Texas" will soon replace "swampland in Florida" and the running real-estate joke.

Look, conservatives, when you keep doing this it's hard not to paint you as racists. "Oh no, the Arizona Immigration Law isn't racist." Okay, time to call bullshit on that. Because, when they came for the Latinos, we all had better speak up or it's us next. (Grokked from Rae Carson)

All that damnable government regulation interfering with business, how's an airline to make a profit when gubberment keeps standing in the way (of them ripping off the public with misleading ads). I mean, what's next, requiring food to not contain pathogens? Madness.

The GOP's crackpot agenda. Because I read it in the Rolling Stone. I think I've pretty much hit on all these points throughout the year. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Tweet of my heart:
@neiltyson: Of course the volume of that pizza is: V = pi zz a "@Maz_Man_Utd: what about pizza volume if radius = z and thickness = a?"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Linkee-poo has a new computer and a bright future in sales

Hard work versus working hard as it pertains to writing, the history of writing and novel, and to other things in general. Slightly on the side of "wtf are they doing with all those words when only 150 would do", but entertaining and somewhat enlightening. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

On creating languages in fantasy. (Grokked from Elizabeth Shack)

Nick Mamatas with ten bits of advice writers should stop giving to aspiring writers. As with all writing advice, YMMV. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

The 8-bit Generation. Back when we wore bearskins and used flint knives to put our bits together. (Pointed to by John)

And speaking of 8-bit computing, do you have a little hacker in the house? Well then, you could do worse that get them the maximite computer. It's like the computer us warheads used to use back in the day, but updated for modern peripherals and less than $10. And it comes with a BASIC compiler. (Pointed to by John)

Urban hacking for the sheer joy of it. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

Evolution, the greatest show on Earth.

When design goes bad. Have the aspirin ready to view that logo. It's going to hurt. Hey, whomever vomited that one out, um, you might want to look at color theory and realize what causes visual dissonance and why that can hurt your eyes (it's a feedback loop of signals in the eye). Anyway. Bad designer. No cookie. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell who sent it from Ferret Steinmetz)

Oh no, Citizens United couldn't possibly help one party more than another, could it? And Justice Scalia continues to remind me why he's a d-bag. Sorry, Scalia, there was a ban. But because you happen to think that the corporate fiction of personhood should extend all citizen rights to said corporation, mixed in with your radical philosophy that money=speech, and you helped create this madness. You don't get off the hook that easy. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

"He made Alinksy sound like a Republican." Not Obama, but Mitt Romney's father. (Grokked from Jay Lake) And if you want some other info about Saul, here's a Marketplace interview about him. Shouldn't be read by those who wish to have a boogieman to fear and have problems with reality. "Bob Bruno: You know, the Tea Party is definitely a very interesting phenomena. In many ways the leaders of a multitude of community groups have been trained in the theories and strategies that were developed by Saul Alinsky…" Heaven forfend.

We are the true Americans. Thanks, Mitt, for giving the satirical song from Christine Lavin more truth.

Tweet of my heart:
@splinister: Reminded of excellent quote from Get Shorty: "I once asked this literary agent what kind of writing paid the best." he said, "Ransom notes."

A Confusion of Pictures

I is tagged! And I tagged right back, only harder.

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Well, the Mayans did think the world wouldn't end anyway

Actually, the Mayan calendar resets. But, for those of you feeling smug because you already knew that, do you know what the actual Mayan prophesy for the coming cycle really is? It isn't a fun time. A horrible leader arises who takes society down and dark road of war and economic ruin. And, no, I'm not making that up. Of course, they have 12 years to do it in. And thinking of such…

It's been noted that with Ginrich's win in SC last weekend, Democratic operatives have been having wet dreams for the last few days thinking about the prospect of Newt leading the ticket. Of course, I have a few thoughts. One, we shouldn't get cocky. After all a serial adulterer who is so far up into Washington politics he "get's tickled" every time DC has it's prostate examined (according to Jon Stewart) won a state that's highly social conservative and family oriented by running as the outsider. That, my friends, is some serious crack. Two, Romney took home about the same percentage as he has always been polling (mid to upper 20%). Newt's "surge" was a product of "the other Non-Mitt" candidates falling by the wayside. And finally, for my conservative friends, all your front runners are morally and politically compromised. Seriously, this is the best you all can do? Hell, save yourselves the money and just concede now.

Linkee-poo pretends it knows what all these little flashing lights mean

Still way behind.

Paul Mcauley brings us some insight on how word processing altered how we write and why you should finish the first draft before revising. Again, as with all writing advice, YMMV. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

A judge rules you can be compelled to decrypt your files. This is an interesting case. I tried to find if the courts have ever compelled someone to decrypt ciphers on documents that were a part of a criminal case and failed to find out if such had happened. So is forcing a defendant to decrypt a laptop a violation of the Forth or Fifth Amendments? I would say if they were forced to disclose the password, that yes, that would be a violation. But in this case, the court is asking the defendant to decrypt the hard drive in a way that wouldn't disclose the password. As first blush I would say that this is a valid court order (it being a criminal case, and there is a specific warrant for the information on the hard drive). I know there are greater legal minds than my own who could shed light on this. (Pointed to by John)

Sandworms in the sky! Oh, wait, it's just another weird UAV design. Meet the Argus One, a blimp UAV surveillance platform. You're welcome, Toby. :)

A high-school student devises a scheme to target cancer cells and release drugs directly on the cells. Pretty darn interesting if it works in humans. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Well, it looks like the Republican's managed to create more jobs. For government bureaucrats, which they profess to hate. If and when the Keystone Pipeline project is resubmitted, which the conservatives tried to hold Pres. Obama over a barrel (get it?) and he did what was responsible (because all the findings weren't in yet) by saying "no" to the plans as submitted, it will start the review process all over again. So more work for the EPA, DoE, and State.

Monday, January 23, 2012

In case you were wondering

Dear Universe,

Yes I did have a fun time this weekend. I had a great time with friends. Yes, I didn't go for the cheapest thing on the menu and I had two beers each night instead of one.

You can cut this shit out right now, though. When I asked a coworker, "So, is it me or is it crazy today." She responded, "Nope, it's more like fucking crazy."

I do not like being driven to stress eat and hearing myself yell inside my head, "Don't do it," as I pick up the jalapeno potato chips in the snack room. Or the thoughts of, "Damn, I need another beer today." Cut it out, I say.

Me

Linkee-poo is playing catch-up and got hit with the ball

You all were busy, busy beavers cranking out the good content while I was off doing the convention naval-gazing. Still working through the backlist. Until I get through, here's some cool stuff.

Oh, BTW, link salad and linkee-poo met and shook hands over the weekend. That the world didn't explode was a good sign. I'm still waiting to hear from NASA if we caused any planetary perturbations or if we'll see Comet Lake-Buchheit come wizzing by in 2015.

UPDATE According to SpaceWeather.com: "RADIATION STORM IN PROGRESS: Solar protons accelerated by this morning's M9-class solar flare are streaming past Earth. On the NOAA scale of radiation storms, this one ranks S3, which means it could, e.g., cause isolated reboots of computers onboard Earth-orbiting satellites and interfere with polar radio communications… ALMOST-X FLARE AND CME (UPDATED): This morning, Jan. 23rd around 0359 UT, big sunspot 1402 erupted, producing a long-duration M9-class solar flare. The explosion's M9-ranking puts it on the threshold of being an X-flare, the most powerful kind… This is a relatively substantial and fast-moving (2200 km/s) CME. Spacecraft in geosynchronous, polar and other orbits passing through Earth's ring current and auroral regions could be affected by the cloud's arrival. In addition, strong geomagnetic storms are possible, so high-latitude sky watchers should be alert for auroras." And yesterday's "JAN. 22ND CME IMPACT: Arriving a little later than expected, a coronal mass ejection (CME) hit Earth's magnetic field at 0617 UT on Jan. 22nd… the CME strongly compressed Earth's magnetic field and briefly exposed satellites in geosynchronous orbit to solar wind plasma. For the next 24 hours, Earth's magnetic field reverberated from the impact, stirring bright auroras around the Arctic Circle." And you though I was being facetious.

Jeff VanderMeer offers some good advice on how to handle a writing career.

Jim Hines posts his own con neurosis.

The slightly humorous s*it designers say video. Dudes, really, this is all you could come up with? Okay, well, you all look young. And I didn't even hear the word "juxtaposed" anywhere in there. Not trying hard enough.

Carol Elaine with some cool art production using a manual typewriter and special ribbons.

The legendary licked book of Epic Confusion. And, in case you're wondering, yes, this was talked of in hushed tones during the barcon. As in, "Legend says a warrior will come from the land of the rounded Hi, and he shall call forth and gather the saliva and ink…".

An NPR story on the myth of serotonin levels causing depression. This is what science looks like when money is involved. This is also an insight into how science evolves finding more sophisticate and elegant solutions, how science (especially pharmaceutical and medical science) can be blinded by the "but it has to be one thing" mentality, an expression of how science often doesn't work in reverse (the serotonin level relationship is like the melatonin relationship to sleeping, I believe I covered that earlier) and the power of story in society. The good thing is I expect a much more nuanced definition of depression (big-D) will come out of this. Also, that we'll see depression put on a spectrum scale (tip of the hat to Christine Purcell for that last one).

In case you're still belaboring under the notion that liberals are all swishy on muslims. Yeah, not so much. I would make the point about how this isn't just an action that could only occur in "Islam" but I've seen Christians pull the same shit. Being an ass about one's religion seems to cross all cultural boundaries. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Janiece talks about her community become more diverse. As someone who lives in a predominately white community, yes to this. Considering that Don King's prime training camp is just a mile south of the village (within the township), it still feels strange when I encounter the vapid racism in my community.

Just who are the discouraged workers? I have often wondered just what I would be doing if I hadn't found this job. And how do people who become "discouraged" make ends meet? Of course, we need to add in the stories of people who "pulled themselves up by the boot=straps" and the person who took any job available because it was the only job available. Can't destroy too many of our cherished "stories we tell ourselves." (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Tweet of my heart:
@tnielsenhayden: Overheard in doctor's office this morning: "God has always blessed me with great insurance coverage."

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Amid Confusion

Every con I've been a part of, there comes a time that happens. It's just like the middle novel doldrums. And I'll say here this isn't a cry for attention or reassurance.

After bs'ing my way through panels and hobknobbing with my friends who are also writers, discovering just how woefully under-read and under productive i am that I feel I'm playing the pretender.

I know it's not really founded on anything more than my own feelings of inadequacy. All these people I look up to we're at similar places in their careers at some point. They were all knewbies and unpublished. It's not like John Scalzi sprang full formed, armored, and published from the riven skull of Patrick Nielsen Hayden.

But what is the difference between me and some super fans that are in the audience. Hell the guy in the Star Wars Stormtrooper getup with the amplified voice box feels like he's given more blood to the temple of writing than I have. Well, at least his sweat, probably.

Again, this isn't a call for reassurance or pity (I've got enough of that somewhere in the well of my soul). I'm putting it out there to share so others who may have the same feeling won't think that they're the only one in the crowd with the false mask of confidence and bragdagio.

Friday, January 20, 2012

Hello Confusion

Moderated my firt panel and it didn't suck. So I think I'm off to a good start. Now safely ensconced at the bar. I'm in the cubicle to the far right if you want to say hi.

Linkee-poo the lost edition

Here are two links I found from the lost edition. And that will be it for today's edition because of travels.

Elizabeth gives the perfect reason why there are outside-major required courses. I've told my nieces and nephews this, you never know where life is going to take you.

  Okay, so, as I've said before, I'm really into decorating. But this is a little out of my league. Oh, those crafty Japanese. Who else would have thought to marry Festivius and Godzilla Appreciation Day.

Let us pray

Oh Lord, if you're up there, it's me, Steve. Please, let it be Newt Gingrich. Because that would be fucking hilarious. And it would pretty well secure Obama's reelection. I mean, we'd just let the Newt talk all he wants. Not to mention the self written attack ads. Oh, wait, that would be the evening news repeating what he said that day. I mean, the opposition research wouldn't have to do more than have a TiVO fired up.

Abut the only thing better is to keep up the rope line conversations with the Mittster.

Thursday, January 19, 2012

Scenes from a Morning Commute

Red morning, sailors warning. And now, it's snowing to beat the band. Those darn sailors.



Linkee-poo skates through hurdles and jumps fast over thin ice

Yesterday's linkee-poo didn't happen. Sorry about that. Seems that the Universe loves to make my life crazy just before I do anything for me (see earlier stories about Viable Paradise and note this weekend is Confusion). So busier than a one-legged man at an alligator farm. Or, something like that.

This is what the future of the web might bring with HTML5. While nice for a demo, it also has some interesting content. (Pointed to by Dan)

Patrick Nielsen Hayden expounds on SOPA/PIPA. Smart man he is.

25 things writers should start doing. From youknowwho.

The new American Family infographic of a Pew Poll."A new 'marriage gap'… is increasingly aligned with a growing income gap. Marriage, while declining among all groups, remains the norm for adults with a college education and good income but is now markedly less prevalent among those on the lower rungs of the socio-economic ladder. The survey finds that those in this less-advantaged group are as likely as others to want to marry, but they place a higher premium on economic security as a condition for marriage…" So, if you're a conservative who wants to "save marriage", I guess you need to line up with those who are for balancing out the income disparity, like OWS. You know, unless you're just blowing smoke about it and really don't care. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

In case you think we're all post-racism, think again. Having lived outside of Cincinnati (and worked inside) I can't say I'm surprised. (Pointed to by John)

Ah, the best health care system in the world at work. And just as a reminder, the ACA really won't change much of this. Except that instead of COBRA, you could get somewhat decent prices for individuals on state health care exchanges. While I haven't had the same problems to the same extent, I have dealt with the same problems with my own employer based health care (ie. not as a "former employee"). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Romantic Comedies

Okay, one of the problems of some writing advice is it can lead to the story of the caterpillar who was asked how he walked with all those legs. And so. Now thinking about it, wasn't able to walk.

As you know, Bob, the next book is going to be a romatic comedy. So I've been going through that whole "Hollywood Formula" thing for the plot. I'm at the point of dissecting other successful romantic comedies. And here I have to admit that it's a genre I'm woefully under educated in, and what little I have is from the movies.

Now, I have "When Harry Met Sally" down pretty well, but what other romantic comedies should I be studying? Movie or book recommendations are welcome.

Linkee-poo squanders his youth for a pocket full of dreams

Susan MacGregor talks about writing violence. In her case, from the point of horror. There's plenty of violence outside of the horror genre. Heck, my book is filled with some pretty harsh stuff, and the body count gets pretty high. But I think what she's saying here, in a long about way, is the violence in our stories needs to mean something. It can't just be violence for violence sake (the shock of gore and spatter).

Fake movie posters for real movies and real actors but not the same people who worked on those movies. This is what designers do with their free time (mostly, some of us have other pursuits). (Pointed to by Dan)

Michael Gazzaaniga talks about the narrator in our heads. This is why we're drawn to story. Our brains are built to enjoy and process it. And here I'll note several studies on how much affects cognitive behavior as well, because we (most of us, anyway) are hardwired to process the musical rhythm and harmonic structures. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

And since we're talking about the brain. "According to research on expert performance by the psychologist Anders Ericsson, the best way to master a field is to work on the task that's most demanding for you personally. And often the best way to do this is alone. Only then, Mr. Ericsson told me, can you 'go directly to the part that’s challenging to you. If you want to improve, you have to be the one who generates the move. Imagine a group class — you’re the one generating the move only a small percentage of the time.'" And I'll concur that this is how I do my best studying. Which has led to some friction with my class mates who want me to joint their study group. Study groups don't work for me, in fact they often do my learning harm. So I'll help out when I can, but I don't normally go to the study groups. However, this article is making generalities from specific cases. And so, it's suffering form the same malaise it's decrying. Groups work for some people and some tasks, not so well for others and other tasks. Brainstorming, when done appropriately and moderated successfully, works magnificently for some tasks. It fails miserably at others. What the real problem here is attempting to fit an all or nothing solution to something that isn't one or the other. And considering the article calls the amygdala "a small organ in the brain" when it's part of your brain (which is an organ by itself) let's me know how in-depth this research has been. Of course the article isn't much more than a PR push for the author's new book. And now speaking of books, this is how a lot of writers write. At first, it's just them (individual in seclusion). Eventually they send it out for critical feedback (which starts the group phase of the project). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Whenever the whole issue of women's rights comes up specifically in discussions of the treatment of women in islamic cultures, it's often misperceived that it's the religion that's at fault. If any of you have seen my argue on this topic, you should know by now that it's really society's mores that are the problem, not the actual religion. Case in point, the treatment of women by ultra-orthodox jews in Israel. You can also see the same things in social conservative evangelicals in this country ("Right to Life" isn't so much about abortion as it is about rolling back the sexual revolution and feminism). It's the cultural legacy of the dominance of patrilineal customs that rarely have any foundation in the actual dogma of a particular religion. (Grokked from Jay Lake, my interpretation is solely my own)

Here's an interesting article on a researcher being arrested for filming killer whales feeding. Only, she really wasn't arrested for filming (the writer chose this angle to make the charges seem even more silly), but for "feeding" the whales. Which, granted, is a felony, but I think they best case they could really make is that she "tampered" with their feeding (which might be a felony as well). The "tampering with evidence" charge (by giving the authorities an "edited" video of her normal activities) is an example of why you want a lawyer to help you when you're questioned by the authors, even if you feel you've done nothing wrong. But I will agree with the final premise of the article, most laws are written in a way that creates a lot of confusion for the average lay person (and being an actual marine biologist means she has at least a bachelors degree) and the law will use that ambiguity against you. This article also takes the position that you, the reader, won't really know how "research" is actually done. My guess is this scientist didn't have the proper permits to do this research, and that's what the charges stem from. You see, scientist don't just go wandering about, waiting for something to happen. There's a whole routine to set up research, acquire the proper permits and licensing (which can be just "yes, I'll let you gather things on my property" to the forms filled out in triplicate with stamps and ids), make sure all the authorities are notified, etc, blah blah blah. Veering off those permits, licensing, and timing even for "a once in a lifetime opportunity" can land you in hot water. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

Andrew Sullivan on Obama's long game. Not to be read by those who have problems with facts and actual history. It takes on the major criticisms of the Obama Presidency and puts truth to the fictions. As I said before, the conservative mind set seems ever more unhitched from reality these days. (Grokked from Eric)

"'Romney is not a moderate. He is a liberal. He is almost as far to the left as Barack Obama,' Phillips, who organized the first tea party convention in February 2010, said." Well, yeah, that kind of happens when you don't understand the words that are being used for rhetorical flourish. Obama is actually a moderate conservative (see earlier linkee-poo about how he's governing in that fashion, co-opting much of the conservative agenda). Now that he's been labeled a "liberal" all "moderate conservatives" are "radically liberal." (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Well, seems like there's more trouble for Project Veritas' latest "sting" video. One of the people they claimed was dead isn't. And not in a Monty Python "Bring Out Your Dead" way. Not to mention that going to the polls and requesting a ballot under a false name is a felony. Even if you don't actually cast a ballot.

Tweet of my heart
@fivethirtyeight: This is not the climactic week of the GOP nomination. It's the week when the show got canceled and all plot twists are hastily resolved.

Gulp!

Fortunately, not my gas total (this is what was on the pump when I got there).

Monday, January 16, 2012

Linkee-poo will climb in its own way

A short one for today.

Lego Saturn V. A friggin' 19 foot tall Saturn V rocket built of Legos.(Grokked form Tor.com)

Georgian conservative who sponsored bill requiring all welfare recipients be subject to drug test fails breathalyzer and field sobriety test after running a red light. Ah, the "all for me, none for thee" mindset emphasized by the real life examples of "do as I say, not as I do." (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

Sacre bleu. We's all Europeans now? And "ZOMG, he speaks French!" (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Ah, that compassionate conservatism. That's a video of Romney being confronted by someone who has MS and for whom medical marijuana would help. And that's Romney saying he's against medical marijuana and walking away. (Grokked from Jim Wright)

White washing the US. Or, at least, Arizona. Tell me again how these conservative cultural progroms aren't racist. I keep forgetting. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Sunday, January 15, 2012

The Universe Strikes Back

The power adapter for my ancient laptop just failed. Fortunately I can still get a replacement, now on the cheap. So I bought two. Just in case.

I have a lot of things backed up, but not everything. So, the book and writings are backed up, but I don't have a copy of my submission files or synopsis. Sigh.

We'll do a complete backup once the adapters arrive. Also. Ight try to jerryrig something in the mean time.

Linkee-poo runs out of time

Spent most of yesterday at Al's funeral and catching up with relatives. Last night and today spent a lot of time trying to solve a neighbor's problem with their new iPad (can't seem to get out of the registration cycle - when they get back I'll try connecting it to iTunes and hold down the power and menu buttons - which seems to be the only solution I can find). So not much but some reiteration and commentary on links from Jay Lake.

This coming week will see the start of Spring Classes, which means my "free" time is over. and on the other side I haven't had time, yet, to do research on my panels for Confusion. And there's a big meeting on Wednesday for the day thing, with a "20 minute talk beforehand" by the boss. So another stressful week up front. And in case you haven't noticed with the story bones and other things, I'm also trying to get the next book moving.

And in the "let's find something even more crazy than Solyndra", I can't wait until this hits Fox News. Using dormant volcanoes as a source of geothermal heat by drilling injection wells and pumping them full of water. As Jay Lake says, "What could possibly go wrong." Just like deep frying a wet turkey. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Just in case you're thinking that Mitt Romney would be a progressive's nightmare, you're right, but not for the reasons you think. Paul Krugman asks the legitimate question, "… (I)s there anything at all in Romney’s stump speech that’s true?" Pretty much not. G. W. Bush redux. More examples on how divorced from reality the conservative mindset has become. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

More Paul Krugman on Romney. Here he channels my thoughts about the Romney "I like to fire people" brouhaha. I understand what he was trying to say. I know that the quote will be used out of context. But, you know, most "normal" people don't think this way (see article). Also, when they do, they typically use the words "options" or the big conservative word, "choice." They don't reach for "fire" as their metaphor. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Say, remember part of the conservative mantra of lower taxes = higher revenues that people will be less inclined to not report taxable income or attempt to get out of them all together. Well, if you remember the GE Tax Story, you'll know the later statement is false. Turns out the former statement is false too. People still don't report all their taxable income (and if I remember an NPR story correctly, the problem has grown since the Bush Tax Cuts).

Life is an object lesson

On the ombudsman article in the NYT asking if they should report the "truth," here's an example. The BBC is reporting processed meat 'linked to pancreatic cancer'." (Grokked from Jay Lake) Note the quotes in the headline. This is a way of saying, "well, 'some people' are saying there is a link." Now, if you read that full article there's a hell of a lot of dancing going on in there. Is it the processed meats, is it red meat itself, or is obesity? The article and the people interviewed go round and round. Why? Well, because they all have their interests to protect.

Now, here's the truth, all three of those are linked to increased cancer risks (high intake of red meat, processed meats, and obesity). But all at different levels and for different types of cancers. And the research the BBC is reporting on links increased cancer risk to "processed meats." That means they normalized the results to compensate for those other factors. So while you could say, "this is just one study, and a small one at that," saying it could be something else is obfuscating.

Because here is the truth. Now, obesity brings about it's own problems, and a well selected sample study would eliminate that variable as a problem. Processed meats would have the same occurrence of cancer as red meat consumption except for one thing, what we add to the meats when we process them.

Nitrates have already been linked to cancer. Nitrates are used in most processed meats as a preservative. Nitrates are cheap, and are used as more than just a preservative (they're also used as bulking agents, or fillers).

So, you could lose weight (sure, it's a "good idea"), eat less red meat (protein is good for you, and meats are a good source of proteins), eat fewer processed meats (also a good idea, but I love 'em), or find processed meats who don't use nitrates. Which means fewer profits for the meat processors, and the destruction of an industry that is rarely talked about, the industrial chemical industry (and in truth, lower nitrate sales would just mean lower profits, not destruction, but in their mind it's the same thing).

So, what's the truth here? Well, it isn't the finger pointing that is going on in the article. More than likely it's another example of nitrates causing cancer. But that would require a reporter to 1) have encyclepedic knowledge of the subject they're reporting on, 2) and editor with memory, 3) fact checking that could find linkages and 4) not reporting "every view point" as valid.

So, what at first blush looks like a well rounded article is actually meant to leave the reader with the impression that nobody really knows what is going on. And that way the organization keeps both their advertising (when it's advertising driven), keeps their legal department happy, keeps their "contacts" within industries, and doesn't burn any bridges. It's perfectly safe.

Saturday, January 14, 2012

RIP Alvin Delau

Goodbye Uncle Al. I'll miss you.

One of my memories of Uncle Al is that he gave me my first digital watch. This was before the time of LCDs. You had to press a button to see the time. And it was a very expensive watch back then. Al saw me looking at it during a family get together and he took it off his wrist and gave it too me to take home. That was Uncle Al; generous, smart, with integrity to spare.

Friday, January 13, 2012

Linkee-poo goes like this, the 4th, the 5th, the minor fall, the major lift

Dear 16 year old me. A PSA about malignant melanoma. Having had a sarcoma removed earlier this year, yes, this (it wasn't big enough or old enough or the kind that the dermatologist thought it was necessary to do any other checking and just froze it off). Check your skin (I'm almost OCD about checking my ears now). If you're in an intimate relationship, check your partner's skin (also, check for breast and testicular cancers). If you do it right, it can be a good thing. Fuck cancer. (Grokked from Jay Lake) Interesting synchronicity with today's graphic design post highlighting a poster to increase prostate cancer screenings.

Related to a recent story bone, Joshua Palmatier (aka Benjamin Tate) talks about magic systems.

The 50 things every creative should know. Yes. Dealing with #5 right now. For young creatives, #14, Never Take an Unpaid Internship, I can't emphasize enough. And, for me in my career, #24 "A good intern will find their reputation precedes them. Jobs are nearly always offered on this word-of-mouth evidence," has been a solid piece of advice. Your reputation is your brand. Nurture it. Also, after 20_ years, #39, "Clients fear arbitrary decisions — they want problem solving. Have a reason for everything, even if this is 'post-rationalised'," is so very true. I don't often explain a project, but I will explain how I arrived at the solution and how it will work for the client (even if I have to BS one or the other of these). (Grokked from Catherine Schaff-Stump)

The Science Fiction Oral History Association. Doesn't look like they've updated in a while, but there's some good older stuff there. (Grokked from Jeff Beeler)

Jim Hines has a follow-up to his poses post where he answers the common questions and has links to others of a similar vein.

Tobias Buckell shares the surprising truth about motivation and creativity. I've seen those studies before, and there is a lot of truth to them. In the audio the speaker gives two very important clues (that, IIRC, weren't included in part of the animation). First of which is that money not being a motivator for high cognitive tasks only works when the subject is already making enough to support themselves (ie. the task and reward involve don't mean the difference between starving or shivering in the cold). And all the creative fulfilling work exampled at the end comes after the job that pays the bills. Well, maybe that's just one point. Or, as explained on the Drew Carey Show, "We'll pay you $645.30 to (do this act that compromises some ethics)," says Mrs. Lauder. "Why that amount?" asks Mimi. "Because we spent millions of dollars to figure out what poor people like you consider a lot of money," replies Mrs. Lauder.

Also, I'll state here that for some time I tried to work to get that right level of exhaustion so I could enter a fugue state that is supposedly the "most creative state" (ie. the waking mind, or right before you go to sleep). You're more creative when you have had plenty of sleep. What I think both of these things show are once the Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs base levels are taken care of, you can get to the higher functions.

An inside look at the legacy and stigma of Guantanamo. Because you can trust the government. Just as the closest Indian or whale. As part of the political process I find it hilarious that those who advocate most vociferously for GITMO and it's processes are the same people who also spout off at the drop of a hat how government can't do or get anything right. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Lisa Bufano, the Spiderwoman. A multiple amputee who takes advantage of her situation to make unique art and performance. (Pointed to by John)

Jay Rosen give a longer and more thought out essay on the subject of yesterday's open letter. (Grokked from Ferrit Steinmetz)

I can personally attest to this, we in the US are eating less meat. For me, it's just a desire level. I really don't yearn for a big steak (although I do like a well prepared steak, but those are expensive). Plus, for me, there's the prevalence of making the meat fattier (like fatty chicken, sure chicken always had fat, especially right below the skin, but lately I've seen big chunks). I tend either towards leaner cuts (and here I'll note that "marbled" beef is an entirely marketed concept, before the advent of feed lots and cheap corn, getting "fatty" meat was an anathema, but then the meat industry sold us on marbled meats because they were cheaper) or processed meats (grounds, sausage, formed patties). If I do have a steak, I cut out all the major fat and marbling. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Readers Point the Way: Correcting Untruths

And open letter to the NY Times on their public call for comments. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell and Ferret Steinmetz)

Dear Arthur Brisbane,

“(the reading public) worry less about reporters imposing their judgment on what is false and what is true… (i)s that the prevailing view?”
In the main, yes. Because, in the main, people understand that the supposed “biasness” of reporters is a false statement that typically comes form people who are biased.

“And if so, how can The Times do this in a way that is objective and fair?”
Don’t let anyone squeak through the cracks. Or start articles with, “the statements made by (person) have not been fact checked.” Also, do it BEFORE posting the story. It helps no one to post a story of an event, only to publish a “well, they were embellishing and misrepresenting” a week later. And perform this function on everybody, no matter what their position, political affirmation, or status. In other words, be objective and fair.

“Is it possible to be objective and fair when the reporter is choosing to correct one fact over another?”
Possible, but leads to charges if being biased. See earlier answer on not letting them get through.

“Are there other problems that The Times would face that I haven’t mentioned here?”
Oh, a host of them. Like doing audits to see how well you’re doing the checking. Checking the checkers. Not to mention decoupling the Times from the spouting of “news” leading to being “scooped” by other news outlets. And we’re not even discussing the costs associated, the huge “time suck” this would produce, and the extra people needed to pull this off, or the price of reporters who can do more digging, know where to dig, and come with an ability to remember history, fact, and trivia.

But, you know, one of the reasons people have been moving away from “established” news outlets and getting their information from elsewhere is that they see no difference between places like the NY Times and the Drudge Report. They can get the same quality of “news” from other places, and be entertained by them.

Stop being “blessed stenographers” who do little more than repeat what is told to you (usually in a mass communications way). Question the veracity of “experts.” Fail to play the games those who have the information/newsworthy want you to. And do the damn job an independent press was meant to do.

Are you going to lose in the short run? Yes. People will be pissed. Newsworthy people won’t give you press credentials. Some people will refuse to be interviewed by your reporters. But in the long run you just may regain the respect of the populace who will come to see you as a trusted broker and source for news. Once that happens, the other stuff will melt away.

Linkee-poo never mentions the word addiction, in certain company

William Gibson holds forth on his process. Frankly, I think part of his description and reasoning is, "we have to be entertaining during an interview." (Grokked from Warren Ellis)

Jay Lake shares his outline for Mainspring. Actually, I think it's more of a synopsis, but still an interesting peak into another author's process.

Because it pings on my day job and night passion, Philip Jose Farmer's calling cards. (FYI, calling cards are slightly different than business cards) Proving, yes, you can have humor in your daily communications. (Grokked from Joe Hill)

"Nothing good gets away." A letter about love from John Steinbeck to his son. (Grokked from Camille Alexa)

Yo, is this racist? Or, if you have to ask, or start a comment with, "I'm not sure if this makes me racist," you can bet your last dollar, it's racist. (Grokked from Catherine Shaffer)

Another in the long line of friends lost to "the greatest healthcare system in the world." This is what it means to not have a universal healthcare system, people die before their times and alone. Like Random Michelle says, there's no guarantee that with screening our friend wouldn't have died, but it does mean that she wouldn't have died the way she did. Being poor means hoping the pain goes away. Fuck cancer.

And speaking of long lines, another new "promising" diet-in-a-pill. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Evolution explained pretty damn well. It's the luck of the draw, there is no plan, and it follows the tautology of "what survives, survives." Just as side note, in a later paragraph there is the mention of one human point mutation that causes sickle cell anemia and how it's a "terrible disease." This is true in one sense (it's a very painful, debilitating disease that can lead to necrosis and death), however sickle cell provides natural immunity to malaria. So, another lesson is that sometimes a mutation can help, but still be a "bad" thing. Also not discussed is the various ways bacteria and (and early single celled life could) "trade" genes, which is another form of mutation. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

The Rush sees the problem with attacking Romney for being a greedy capitalist (because, that's pretty much 1 - his business plan and 2 - goes against the "GOP, we like rich, white people" slogan). Well, Rush, yeah, we can do better than that when we make our attacks on Romney ("Corporations are people, my friend" and "I like firing people" - the man writes better than we can outsource it). "'Newt is not sounding like a conservative when he’s making these attacks,' Limbaugh said Monday." Yes. Newt is attacking someone for being a corporate raider/1%er who was more interested in lining his pockets with crisp Benjamines every quarter instead of taking the long view, helping all boats rise, and growing businesses, jobs, and prosperity for all (or at least a larger percentage). I agree with Limbaugh here. That tact is very definitely not what conservatives are all about. You have to coddle the corporate raider/1%er, and screw everybody else. That's the conservative mandate.

And speaking of using conservatives own words against them. Sure, conservatives are all against government making the connection between inaction and commerce when it's the ACA, but when it was about marijuana growing, they argued in the opposite direction. While the article says this is to "box Scalia", I think they've quickly forgotten that shame, stare decisis, and logic have been excised from the conservative panoply.

Arizona has some money burning a hole in its governmental pockets, so it's going to buy its government buildings back. On the plus side, the real estate market has improved for Arizona, having sold their capitol in 2009 for $81 million (in a total $735 million deal), the company that owns it is willing to part with the property for a mere $105 million. The article doesn't discuss how much the State had to pay to lease back the properties for the past two years. Tell me again how Republicans are better business people (all this done under Jan Brewer and a Republican controlled legislature), 'cause I keep forgetting. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

A long but interesting look at South Carolina, the Tea Party maturation, Mitt Romney and the upcoming primary election. There's a lot of interesting psychology going on in there, all along the lines of "One of Us or Not One of Us." It's the absolutism and moral rectitude that I find so repelling in the TP. "As we sat in leather armchairs on either side of a coffee table, Loftis (S.C. State Treasurer, swept into office as a TPer) explained to me that, now that he was actually serving in elective office, he had come to understand how important it was to choose a candidate who could actually do the job in question, rather than one who said all the right things about slashing government and all of that." Strange how when you get more involved with something, a lot of the extraneous BS falls away and you look for ways to get things done.(Grokked from Jay Lake)

Story Bone

"It is a simple system. If you mess with it, it will simply kill you. And then it will simply fail to notice it had done so."

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Linkee-poo sees if this will swim

An excerpt of Arctic Rising by Tobias Buckell. and if you like it, you can try to win an ARC here. Be the first kid on your block to know what happens next.

Jim Hines tries out posing like women on fantasy covers. And we'll put here that the covers are from books that are nominally "pro-strong-female" types and not ones that are exploitative (as their primary motivation). I don't think I can look at Jim in the same light again. Confusion is going to be interesting (btw, Jim is Toast Master this year). Also, I'll note here, this is actually one of the exercises that is used to "cure" people (mostly men) of "porn addiction" (that is, having the patient pose in similar positions as the models). As someone who knows (a very limited number of) fashion models, even your magazine and catalog poses can approach some of these problems (models holding their bodies in exceptionally painful and demanding poses). Not to mention what can be done to "enhance" (ie. retouch/photoshop) the images which makes them even more unreal. As a final note, I'll say here it's disheartening after some progress to normalcy in the middle 2000's that fashion photography seems to be heading back toward the "meth chic" look, and the 70s "violence toward women" aesthetic (granted, I'm not paying that close attention to it these days, so my impression maybe off).

What our logos would look like if comic sans was the only font in the world. And now you know why us designers hate it when a random computer screen font is used for actual printed materials (I'm look at you IKEA and your mistaken use of Verdana). We shall not discuss Arial.

Karl Schroeder has just one word for us, plastics. Polyethylenimine sounds pretty good. I'll have to look at it more closely when I have time because I'm reminded of a medical truism, "all drugs are toxic." At the very least they hammer your kidneys (nephrotoxicity), at the worse they can lead to a faster death. What you look for is an acceptable trade-off between the risks and benefits of the solution.

Just in case you still don't think that the conservative fuckery of the past year has had any effect. Fortunately it hasn't derailed the recovery, just delayed it. Except high heinous fuckery in the next few months. Why? Because it generally takes a quarter to half a year for people's emotional perception of the economy to change. So if a "good" (for relative values of good) economy is going to help Obama this fall, it's the economic news of the next 6 months that will make or break the impression of voters in the booth.

Paul Krugman makes my point about wanting a business man to run the country (or the "my business 'success' makes me uniquely qualified to be President" fallacy). Plus, you know, we tried that one before with the (shhh, don't say his name) Bush Presidency. Didn't work out so well did it? How are all those governors that were "business men" (like Ohio's own Kasich) work out this year? As you get to local politics it works better. Even on the Governor level it's not so bad. At the Federal Level, it's a handicap. Plus, you know what, all my life I've dealt with "successful business" types. I barely trust them to run a boy scout troop. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

What the Universe Wants

Like yesterday, sometimes I complain to the Universe about what it's trying to do to me. There's several tricks the Universe plays. Like when I buy something nice for myself (ie. not something that is absolutely needed, typically more expensive that $25, and/or could be purchased to make my life easier - an example is I need new glasses) the Universe sends something that either 1) costs a whole lot more money and needs to be done (ie. car/home repair or something health related) or 2) bad news of some sort (like being informed that an employee has resigned, or needs to be fired, and I need to hire in the next person - although, ha ha, Universe, I don't do that anymore :: gives the Universe a raspberry ::).

The Universe also has this habit of trying to distract me from things I like to do.

Here's an example. I've listened to the Writing Excuses episode discussing the "Hollywood Formula" with Lou Anders a few times (episode 6:18, 10-02-2011). This morning I wanted to listen to it again and take notes (as this will help me keep the lesson in my head). I started trying to do this at 8:30am (I listen to podcasts and audiobooks while working, which is why sometimes detailed things in the audio get lost as I focus in on actual work, not what I'm listening to). Since then I've had 5 phone calls, had to go to someone's office twice, was interrupted in person three times, three IM conversations, and a few other things. The podcast is 20 minutes long. I've gotten 2 minutes in with all the distractions.

Understand I can go for weeks at a time without a phone call. The only times I normally go to someone's office is for information I need (instead of them calling me to their office). While I do get interrupted in person several times a day (ie. people coming to my cubicle), it's normally first thing when I get in, near noon, 3pm, or end of day. The IMing and email is ongoing, but much of it wasn't really about me, but other people's crisis (and other things).

I can hear you asking the question, "So, Steve, just how did you get time to write this post, then?" That's because this last time I came back to my desk, I didn't put my headset on. I didn't try to restart the podcast. That is, I'm not doing the thing I want to do to improve my writing (the Universe can be a bitch about my writing times and attention). So, because of that, it's now been the longest stretch of time today where I haven't been interrupted (about 10 minutes).

This is what I'm talking about.

Update in the 10 minutes after this post, I've had 8 emails, 2 immediate requests for help and 1 new project (which will bump back all the other projects). Because the Universe figured out I also like blogging.

Update 2 In the past 5 minutes of restarting note taking, 8 emails, one of which needs me to "call (someone) right now to solve problem." Which I'm about to do.

Update 3 It's now 2:20pm, finally finished the 20 minute podcast taking notes (I had to rewind a few times).

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Dear Universe

Okay, so it seems that this year is not going to be easy. You want to pile-on and see how far it can go before I crack. I understand.

Uncle.

You can stop it. Now.

I've had two weeks between major scheduling and the restart of classes and you decided to fill the empty spaces. Yes, thank you for the little text you sent my way. That's what I was more of, please. Not this other stuff.

I mean, sure. Okay, some of it is necessary. But there's plenty of this that is just gratuitous. Please stop with the extras and get back to the words.

Linkee-poo is like a restless wind inside a letterbox

Sorry for the lightness lately. With everything going on, time to read has been sparse.

Rick Ferrel Moore on why we should spend time creating our characters. And not, you know, just paste them on the wall to throw plot darts at.

Benjamine Tate (ne. Josh Palmtier) and place as character.

Remember those "tipping points" of global climate change? Remember how one of those was when the snow/ice packs would grow darker, absorbing more solar energy and accelerating their melt? Oopsie. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Stephen Colbert on the Senator Frothy didn't say "black people" controversy. I really wish more people were paying attention as the GOP dog whistles their way through the primaries. Dear GOP/Fox, you slips are showing. Let us not discuss the rampant homophobia on display as well.

Rehabilitating the legend of Japan's "lost decade." It's an interesting article with some deep economics (interesting because Japan's "Lost Decade" is a plot point in my novel, albeit an historical one). The headline and premise is a little wonky, IMHO. Japan's economy in the late 80s and early 90s was in bad shape (a result of a quick turn to austerity measures after a "failed stimulus" - sound familiar?). However, it's now 2011, some 21 years since Japan's economy hit the bottom. Also note on page 3 how Japan has used this perception to their advantage (and profit). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Monday, January 9, 2012

Linkee-poo is still tied to that kitchen chair

Jim Hines wins for the best "vote for" Hugo/Nebula blog post. With attendant link to Mary Robinette Kowal's post on self-promotion and award season.

Fellow VPer Kay Hankinson has a new blog. Good luck, Kat.

Tor.com has an excerpt of Ashes of Candesce by Karl Schroeder. I had a chance, several years ago, to hear Karl read from his Virga Series (I left late from a con to attend which made me late for other appointments, it was worth it). This is one series that I've been wanting to read for some time now.

Vince shares a cover of "Hallelujah". I think this is the song I've heard the most covers of, and it's a damn good song (that it survives such a wide range of artists doing their take on it is testament to the song's strength). Although, I'm not quite sure it's a true "Christian" song (sort of like singing "Mrs. Robinson" at church camp because it has the line "Jesus loves you more than you can know"). Although, it is a great song about the creative process and sorrow in love.

The "best" of the climate deniers of 2011. With ample (and easy) counter evidence to show them to be wrong, politically and financial motivated, and just trying to screw us all over so they can make an extra buck. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

It's a dog pile on Santorum. Okay, just reread that and "ew." A lest we forget the elephant in the room, the excised GW Bush. Hey, you know all those things the current crop of GOP hopefuls like to spout at the guidable conservative voters? Yeah, tried them. This sucky economy is the result (lower taxes, less regulation, aggressive foreign policy, denial of rights for women and minorities). Been there, done that. Can't even afford the t-shirt. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Paul Krugman with a little sunshine on conservative economic intentional lying falsehoods. Oh, and how are those European economies that voluntarily embraced "austerity" measures (England, Germany, Spain) doing these days? (Grokked from Tobias Buckell, I think)

Wizards of the Coast are soliciting fan feedback for the 5th Edition of D&D. COnsidering I haven't played since the 3rd edition, I'm not sure I'm good for this. But you may be. Hey, look, a company that's listening (hopefully). (Grokked from Tor.com)

Story Bone - In the Grip of Stronger Stuff

This is a story bone of a sort.

I've been catching up with my Writing Excuses feed. One of the shows I finally listened to (and I think this was from back in November) the writing prompt was to come up with a magical system. And my brain has been cranking on that ever since. So I'd thought I would share some.

For Bladesman, there is a magic system. However magic is very rare, especially on the west coast, and magic is hard. Those kids who show some little magical talent are in for a rough ride if they decide to pursue that course. The plus side, if they survive, is to become exceptionally powerful and quite wealthy. So here is how the magic works. First off, the person needs to show some native talent. Wild ability is very week, akin to bending spoons (only for realz), but not that powerful. If the child (or more likely the child's parents) decide to follow that path it means 12-15 years of training and the application of full body tattoos the old fashion way (a needle on a board that punches ink into the skin). It is a very painful experience which tends to warp the mind of the magician. And then you need to do something to juice up the batteries. Magic is human powered and magicians need a steady source of energy. That energy can be had a few different ways. You can kill people (not with magic, the laws of thermodynamics apply here) which is a very strong form of energy, but the magician needs to be the one that kills the person, and it's very fleeting. Most magicians go for sex magic. For this, they need to be around people having sex, and they soak up the energy pouring off them. What do you get at the end? Well, you join a very elite cadre of enforcers that are paid quite well and you get to bend the (classic) elements to your will. Typically you are bullet proof at that point, and phenomenally tough to kill. The Achilles Heel? The spells are the actual tattoos, you need to recharge the batteries, and iron and steel can negate your powers.

But I've been thinking of other systems.

Like, what if magical use was transferred the way vampirism is transferred? Or maybe like lycanthropy. I like that last one because of what werewolfism stands for within the literature, the release of the pure ego (Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is actually a werewolf story). But it's considered a curse, one which society would like to stamp out.

What if magic was something akin to highly addictive drugs, like meth (something is saying that this has been done already, and not just by Robert Jordan). At the start magic is very exhilarating. It provides a feeling of being more alive and triggers the pleasure centers in the brain. However, the more you use it, the more you have to use, the less satisfying the result is. And it's killing you all that time, robbing you of life and health (see, "Faces of Meth" for examples).

What if it's like shamanistic magic. Being a shaman isn't something you choose, it's chosen for you. Typically the proto-shaman experiences a life-threatening event (disease, loss of blood, sever trauma, etc) that results in a near-death event. Because the person has experienced the spirits (passing over and returning), they're seen as the conduit for those spirits to either help, translate, see the future, whatever. In this case, the profession picks you. What if magic users are only those who have "died" and returned? Are there a subset of people trying to enter the profession? What are they willing to do to get there? What happens if they fail?

What if magic was like bipolar disorder? In the manic phase you're able to perform magic, in the depressive phase you can't. If you've ever experienced this (seen it or experienced it yourself) you're already thinking, "That's pretty close to how you feel in the grips of it anyway." Well, yeah. That's kind of the point. For some people who suffer from this, the high points are too good to give up, and they remain untreated. Unfortunately, the down parts tend to take over after a time. What if it was reversed (the magic comes in the down phase)? Or you could use almost any mental disorder here. Would the cure be worth it to the individual? To society as a whole (here, think magic use tied to sociopathy)? Would the individual suffer through the disease to be able to tap into that magic?

I guess most of these end up with the question of if the price of magic is too much to bear? What if to gain magic use you had to lose yourself (family, friends, personal identity)? Remember here, that when Capt. Kirk was given the opportunity to do it all over, to be the captain, to go out and seduce all the green-skined ladies, to have his shirt ripped in every episode, to save the planet, he chose not to (Star Trek Generations).

Sunday, January 8, 2012

By the time we got to Woodstock

My Epic Confusion schedule:
  • Friday 7pm Salon F, Fantasy and Horror with Steve Buchheit, Peter V. Brett, Ferrett Steinmetz, Violette Malan, and Howard Andrew Jones.
  • Saturday 11am, Salon H, Killer Parties with Kameron Hurley, Cat Rambo, Steve Buchheit, Myke Cole, and Michelle Sagara West
  • Saturday 2pm, Salon H, The Shared Universe with Cindy Spencer Pape, Cat Rambo, Elizabeth Bear, Steve Buchheit, and Tobias Buckell
  • Saturday 4pm, Salon H, The Lure of the Undead with John Scalzi, DJ DeSmyter, Carrie Harris, Steve Buchheit, and Ferrett Steinmetz
Looks like I'll be busy. Come and see us if you're in the area. As a bonus, Jay Lake will also be there.

Linkee-poo wants to paint it black

This won't end well. First cases of totally drug resistant TB are diagnoses in India. Good thing that evolution thing is a bunch of bunk, or we'd have to worry about stuff like this. (Grokked from matociquala)

To the guy in the big diesel truck with the bumpersticker "Annoy a Liberal, Get a Job" fuck you. Look, it's a damn stupid talking point. Here are those dirty, liberal, teachers who are wrecking our youth by filling them with liberal talking points like "we shouldn't pollute", or "smoking is bad for you," or the infamous, "i before e except after c…" You might also remember this past summer those horrible public workers that are driving us to socialism who continued to work, inspecting airplanes and airports after the Congress refused to reauthorized the FAA. And hence they worked and paid their own travel costs to make sure airplanes didn't fall out of the sky. Have you ever seen a conservative work without compensation (or promise of compensation)? Yeah, neither have I. (Grokked from Absolute Write)

It's amazing what can happen when you take the money out of politics. Not that everything the Connecticut government has done has been wunderbar, but it's a damn site better that what's going on elsewhere. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

The inside of an abandoned Soviet era rocket motor facility. So you can get your urban archeology and uberbigthings fix on.

On the "they's can't make us buy that damn dirty health insurance", "Others argue that the Constitution's framers could not possibly have envisioned a congressional power to force purchases. However, in 1790, the first Congress… required all ship owners to provide medical insurance…in 1798, Congress also required seamen to buy hospital insurance… (i)n 1792, Congress enacted a law mandating that all able-bodied citizens obtain a firearm. This history negates any claim that forcing the purchase of insurance or other products is unprecedented or contrary to any possible intention of the framers." A cogent legal discussion of the ACA's chances in the Supreme Court from the NEJM. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

The Guggenheim digitizes a lot of their out-of-print books and offers them for free on their website. I'm not sure I agree with how they did this, but free art books from the premier American collection of modernist art.

Hey, you know who the climate deniers like to say about how the world is too big for us to effect? Yeah, not so much. Seems the new study links human pollution patterns to stronger tornadic activity. And for those deniers who like to say, but that's only one study. Well, there is an older study that show why the east coast has rain on the weekends more often. Strangely enough it was also directly linked to human pollution patterns. Or the study that showed with our holding more water a higher latitudes (damns, pools, etc) was causing the Earth to spin faster (milliseconds difference, but still measurable). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Friday, January 6, 2012

What Steve did on his Holiday Vacation - Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Over my extended vacation this past holiday, we went to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to see their exhibit, Women Who Rock. I think I've said it before, some guy dig women with guns, women on motorcycles, women who like football, but for me there's very few things that can top a women in a rock and roll band. Fronting, playing guitar (of any stripe), drummers, whatever; they're damn sexy. So I totally expected this show to be fantastic.

Unfortunately it was full of fail. Not the women themselves, not even the local photographer's pictures that weren't displayed with the actual show, but 4 floors away in a side room, but the actual displays, which mostly consisted of dresses and album covers. Now, I'm sure the curation, research, and organization were just fantastic, but you really couldn't tell. See, they put the show on the top two floors (which used to be the actual Hall of Fame part, which was much better when it was there, BTW) which are the smallest spaces they have. Just one of the galleries on the lowest level hold more square footage than both top floors (the place is a pyramid, they were big when the place was designed and IM Pei was trying to redeem himself from the Louvre glass pyramid controversy). So it made for a very cramped space to hold a major show. With the number of people viewing the displays, and placing the actual informational text at the bottom of the full length displays, it was nearly impossible to read all that curation stuff. Then, because of the cramped space, objects were severely overlapped so it was difficult to see the album covers, sheet music, and other random artifacts displayed on the walls behind the dresses.

Plus, it was so cramped it was difficult to move around. Didn't you all at the Hall expect this to be well attended? I mean, you cut off half the entrance way by a pop-up scrim, which also decreased the natural light flowing into the space. And the Hall has been open for, what, over a decade now and you haven't been able to solve the heating problem on the top level? Seriously, it was broiling up there. Put in adequate ventilation, that would solve the problem. And placing the two video screens (noticeably inadequate compared to other displays) in exactly the wrong places and positions so people viewing what was on the screen blocked other people trying to view items in the display cases behind them (there was no place else for the people viewing the video to stand), fail.

And since we're talking about the physical space and traffic flows, just WTF were you thinking with the minimal spacing between the display cases in the middle of the floor? Also, I know there's another exit from the top floor that leads back down to where you now have the HoF. I couldn't find it. And I knew it was there, but I had to go back down through the display to leave. I wasn't the only one.

And then there were the display graphics. Really? Putting the major advances of women in R'nR on 12" paper "records" and pasted at different heights along the wall? Are we in grade school? Are we doing a bulletin board at the local YMCA? And did you forget that at the top of the circular stair there are no lights so you couldn't read the last few? And then there's the quotes along the stairwell wall on the top floor. They stretch too far around the circular low wall that you can't read the entire quote from one standing position, and they often run behind the standing display cases, so you can't read those. Then the sitting platform that runs around the wall was the only sitting spot in the show. When people who were tired of climbing and affected by the heat would sit down, they would block the quotes even more. People sitting on the seats obviously were often bored because they peeled off some of the letters, which again made them hard to read. And the screen on the top level slowed down the traffic circling in the cramped space which made the heat worse as well as trying to see the actual displays. Then there was the lack of indication of which way we should go to leave the exhibit.

Look, this stuff isn't hard. I know you have professionals on staff, did you let the interns run wild on this one? It was very amateurish. The flow of people in the exhibits, the design of the exhibits, the lighting, the sound space, and the access to the space - fail, fail, fail.

That's all before we get to the prize of your show, the Lady Ga Ga Meat Dress. Not impressed. Especially with painting it "to make it look fresh." It didn't. In fact it made it look completely artificial, like it was plastic. I know the drying processes darkened the meat to a jerky like appearance, but that would have been better (maybe with a photo of it "fresh").

Then we get to the general Hall flow. I appreciate that with the escalators (hey, there's 6 floors, you need to use them a lot) you wanted people to walk the long way around so visitors will look at all the exhibits or something. It kept throwing me off. I expected to get off the escalator, make a 180 turn and get on the next one going my way. Instead, while going up say, the escalator right next to the top of the escalator going up was the bottom of the escalator coming down from the floor above. Instead you need to walk the long way around to the opposite side of the escalator column to get either the next one up, or to go back down. This goes against every other escalator set up I have ever used. It's called "learned behavior" and you're screwing with it. Again, I wasn't the only one who had this problem.

That the final down escalator dumps you into the gift store really isn't a problem, although by that point it's like the final insult, instead of feeling "natural." And then lets talk about the gift store. And here let me say I know you outsource the actual running of the store to FYE (formerly Camelot, IIRC). But, it's still in your building and is allowed to represent you).

While I normally wear sold color t-shirts, I really do love a good designed t-shirt. And you had some excellent ones. Not in my size. And yet there were some t-shirts in my size (so it's not like you don't offer 4-5x sizes, just not in the t-shirts I really liked - like the lightning guitar shirt). And then I wanted a show t-shirt. Okay, you're graphics for the show weren't all that good (at this point that was the least of the fails, hey, I'm available and I'm relatively cheap), but like I said above, women in rock and roll = roawr roawr. But you didn't offer a show t-shirt for men. You only offered a princess cut t-shirt for the "Rocker Girls." Fail. Didn't you think that there are actual guys who like women rockers? Did you think only "the chickeroos" would come to the show? Fail. Fail, and did I mention, Fail. Oh, and how long ago was the Elvis show and I can still buy items for that one?

Then no postcards of the show, no mugs, no magnets either. And then when we ask a sales person, he explains that, "we had them, but we sold out, and the show only goes for another week or two." Fail. Major epic fail because at that time there were still two months of show time (so, fail because you didn't have enough stock and/or enough brains to reorder and fail because the staff don't fucking know the show went for another two months, not weeks)

I know I screwed up because at the time you were building I didn't spend the $100 to get a lifetime membership. At this point, I may be willing to pay twice that. See, at the time I was just starting my career and $100 was a bit steep (just a note to show you how much we love R'nR, my Mom bought a lifetime membership). So now every time I come to your house, I have to pay the $22 a piece. When I pay more for entrance to someplace less than an acre and that can be gone through in a few hours than I would pay for a single entree, I expect a little more. You're other displays show me you know what you're doing. Why couldn't you have come up to 50% for a Special Exhibit (ie. "come and spend your money with us again"). Display graphics are damn cheap. How about full wall size displays wallpapered to the open areas? Custom wallpaper has been available for over a decade now. How about using the head space for other information (instead, except for the top floor video display, all that space was wasted)?

As a staunch supporter of the R'nR HoF being in Cleveland (hey, NYC, if it wasn't in Cleveland it should have been in Detroit; NYC and LA don't have as strong a claim), it's really disappointing. My guess is it'll be several years before I go back.