Though I saw it all around
Never thought I could be affected
Thought that we'd be the last to go
It is so strange the way things turn

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Pissing and moaning

Let's watch Steve as he mixes his metaphors like Tom Cruise in Cocktail.

I knew this was going to happen. After Spring Semester I was able to get in a weekend of being a writer again. Sure, I know, once a writer always a hard drinker, or something like that. But I was able to focus on getting words out and didn't have to think (to much) about classes or the day thing. However with the 72-76 hour weeks (between class, clinicals, and work) there hasn't been much time to write.

And I miss it. I miss it the way a heroin addict does their next hit. The anticipation of release and homecoming. Stories I've half finished grip me by my mental sweetbreads, their hooks sunk deep. And there I quiver, a side of meat waiting to be cut, dancing on air.

I need to breathe, but I'm drowning. It's the wrong kind of air. Did you know most drowning victims don't have a lot of water in their lungs? As the iced cold touches the pit of their soul, the trachea spasms shut and then doesn't open again.

It is a hell of searing heartache. A fire that spoils the appetite and sours the mind.

I come from a tradition that says if you love your art, you will find a way to make it. And I've looked. I've tried. And when I have the moments the well goes muddy then dry, choked with the dust of desiccated dreams and the words won't flow. The only thing that comes is sleep, black and yawning to pull the final straw from the Jenga tower.

I pour all this data into my head like the milk into the newspaper cone trick. And I try it again hoping this time to make it stick. More and more I jam the numbers and angles through my eyes hoping they stick somewhere in the back. The more I shove in, the less I feel of me in there. Day job, numbers and techniques, slight of hand and keep skating across the thinning ice. Faster, jackrabbit, faster. Night job, numbers and techniques, throwing myself at the problems until I knock the walls down.

As I thought I was finding my life, relearning to have fun like a quadruple amputee learning to walk, I do this to myself. Self inflicted mortal wounds that will slowly leak me away. The tears hide in my eyes, afraid to pour forth lest I lose even that hope.

And what is this? Anything more than methadone? Quem deus vult perdere, dementat prius. Lots of time spent writing words that don't add to the fiction count.

Don't mind me, I'm just cranky. I needed to get some things off my chest.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Linkee-poo, some try to tell me thoughts they can not defend

On the benefits of being a slush reader. If I wasn't already over-scheduled (and really have been for the past decade, although lately has been the most extreme), I would have been working hard to become a slush reader. Many of the writers I know personally who have "broken in" did some slush reading.

Terri Windling on the green man/woman. And another good post on the dark forest.

We have always been at war with Eastasia. SF has been the quintessential phoenix of literature. There is always a new wave waiting in the wings, the purifying fire questing to burn down the ramparts. And like the western (and eastern) forests the fire quickens the seeds and clears their path for growth.

"If you’ve been successful, good on ya. I’m thrilled when any artist breaks out to making a living. But genuinely understand that survivorship bias means there are plenty of people plugging the same formulas and not getting results that look even similar." Tobias Buckell on cutting through the crap and getting to the data about publishing.

Because I gratuitously link to content on his site, we're giving some link love to Chuck Wendig. His new book, The Blue Blazes is out today and he's having a contest. That a nice stack 'o books there.

Fifty writing quotes, (actually quotes about writing).

There's an axiom of writing, "Write what you know." If we all adhered to that line literature (including genre) would be exceptionally boring. The collolory to that is "learn new stuff to know it." And sometimes you have to write what other people know. Here are five good tips on getting someone who has expertise you need to submit to an interview. Sure, it's written from the perspective of getting interviews for your blog, but the skills transfer. I guess if you also want to blog interviews (which you could do worse things with your time, and I think the number of people I've seen going from interviewing writers to being a writer who is interviewed would require me to remove my socks to count).

Google is deploying blimpnet to Africa and Asia. Gotta do something to increase those ad revenues. Yea, that was snark, considering there are some big swaths of country in the US that could use that technology as well (but I guess the FAA would have a problem with that, especially after the Comcast and Time Warner checks clear). (Grokked from Neil Gaiman)

"And that means that scenes from this B-movie — inventions dreamed up by Matheson, ad-libs by Daley or Kendrick or Robinson — will eventually take on the status of holy writ, of scripture. Jokes written for Rapture-Palooza will, a generation from now, have been absorbed into the folklore of premillennial dispensationalist 'Bible-prophecy scholarship.'" Rapture-Palooza, aw crap. Although what Fred Clark talks about here, how what is written or in movies becomes folklore and winds its way into orthodoxy. Especially when it comes to the Rapture (premillennialism), it's all a product of this process as the Rapture itself doesn't appear in the Bible. You have to shred the Bible pretty well and then glue Old Testament and New haphazardly, add a dash of inference and a willingness to see connections where none exist to get to the Rapture.

Will she sink? Like a rock, sir. Some proof that the new ways aren't always better than the old ways of doing things. (Pointed to by Dan)

Death in an individual journey, but it's not a virgin path. Millions have trod the road. Jay Lake is walking that path right now. I don't often point to his posts where he ruminates on his position. Sometimes I feel like the worst kind of voyeur while reading them. But I do so for the same reason I read a lot of the blogs of writers in different stages of their career. They're someplace I know I will be. Seeing how others fare will hopefully help my own journey on that road.

"While (Rep. Stephen Fincher, R-TN) interprets food assistance for the needy as 'stealing,' he has not similarly condemned the Farm Bill’s massive agricultural subsidies. In fact, he supported a proposal to expand crop insurance by $9 billion over the next 10 years. Fincher has a great personal stake in maintaining these particular government handouts, as the second most heavily subsidized farmer in Congress and one of the largest subsidy recipients in Tennessee history…" Tell me again how the conservatives aren't the party of "got mine, screw you." That never gets old. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

The problem with short term cuts is they tend to become long term liabilities. While the article Tobias Buckell points to is all about infrastructure spending ("In the GOP’s masterful move to 'save money' they have cost tens of millions more than the initial price tag") the same is true about social spending. Most people don't remember why we have food stamps and Head Start. There have been breathless news reports about how Head Start kids lose their advantage by 3rd grade all the while missing that Head Start was never meant to give kids an advantage, but to level the playing field for the less fortunate. This in turn lead to lower poverty rates and lower criminal prosecutions. SNAP (food stamps) were meant as a way to not just end hunger, but feed kids when their brains are most vulnerable thereby decreasing dependence on government programs. And both programs were successful beyond the hopes of the law makers who initiated them. But since we no longer remember why we did these programs (because they solved the problems) we're no destined to run into the same problems because of short sighted politicians, especially the conservatives.

"Why are temperatures warming faster in the Arctic than the rest of the world?" (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Weekend Linkee-poo is lost and alone, and sinking like a stone

Ten podcasts for writers. Yep, I have a few of those in my queue. Might need to look at some others.

Dr. Doyle discusses how to set a plot in motion. Okay, well, one way. Strangely enough, this is exactly the main plot of the WIP. The problem is, well, how do I do that?

Understanding book publishing paths.

"Half the world is full of women, but it’s rare to hear a narrative that doesn’t speak of women as the people who have things done to them instead of the people who do things. More often, women are talked about as a man’s daughter. A man’s wife." On the dearth of the knowledge of role models writing women into positions of power. A lot on the power of narrative and the stories we tell ourselves. To paraphrase the title, women have alway fought. Here's something Kameron Hurley doesn't bring up in her story. When the West was Wild, the Americans pushing into "virgin territory" (as Eddie Izzard says, "Thank you God for these empty lands… wait, who are all these people here") we had a progrom to integrate and defeat the American Indian and it involved killing almost all the men. What the Eurocentric and masochistic minds missed was that it was the women who carried the culture. So by killing all the men we did nothing but kill lots of guys. And this struggle to finally bring women out of the shadows of our history isn't exactly a new thing either.

The comprehensive guide to the references in Good Omens.

Think you had a big box of Lego blocks when you were a kid? How about having enough to build the 23 ton X-Wing model? Yea, didn't think so. (Pointed to by Dan)

Jim Hines looks at the claim of how "being gay" violates Scout Law. As he says, bullshit.

An unarmed Minuteman III missile creates an expanding halo of light in the darkening skies over the Pacific. The things we do. (Pointed to by Dan)

Scott Westerfield has a great posts on how you can't trust photographs. Especially beauty shots. Especially model head shots.

Tesla Motors pays their government loan back early, story gets ignored by the press. Of course, their story doesn't fit into the narrative of "ZOMG, Obama bad President, loses all our money on crony capitalism" (while also being a socialist). Also noted, our government stands to make a nice profit on our support of GM, but you're not hearing about that either. Your liberal medial at work.

Patent trolls beware. Now if we could only get cyber squatters and spammers. (Pointed to by Dan)

"Now they're just messing with us… experimenters in Israel have shown that they can entangle two photons that don't even exist at the same time." Wrap your head around that one. (Pointed to by Dan)

Just when you thought push-polling was a thing of the past. Well, obviously South Carolina is the past. (Grokked from the Slactivist)

"But, y'know, I'm not in favor of gun control because of an irrational prejudice against firearms. I have a wholly rational prejudice against firearms, matter-of-fact." Eric is smart on gun control and the latest attempts of the gun-lobby to tell us how wholesome and friendly firearms are.

I made the comment the other day about conservatives having to twist history and reality around to make it work for their mind set. I forgot to mention they also need to fabricate the present. Seriously, photoshopping images for your political position is just ignorant of the world we live in where someone will find it out. (Grokked from the Slactivist)

"Oklahoma’s senators, James Inhofe and Tom Coburn, voted against relief for victims of Hurricane Sandy in New York… They don’t care about people like you, living through the aftermath of a natural disaster…Inhofe’s special pleading that Oklahoma’s disaster is ‘not like Sandy’ strikes the rest of the country as disgusting… You do understand that the rest of us have to support Federal relief aid for you in order for you to get it. We won’t hold you hostage to Inhofe’s small-mindedness, but we don’t appreciate your voting for him when you want our help." (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Be a dick and get handed your ass. Ron Paul loses his appeal to the WIPO to get ronpaul.com and panel finds him guilty of reverse domain name hijacking for filing a complaints to get ronpaul.org after owner offers it to him for free. (Pointed to by Dan)

For the most part, austerity programs haven't helped the countries they were supposed to help. This drives even bigger budget deficits which fuels more cuts which drives… which in turns causes suffering for everybody. Want to know why many companies are keeping their funds abroad, sure, tax avoidance but also converting those funds to US$ cuts their effectiveness and value (because of the strong dollar). Also makes exports from the US that much harder. (Grokked from the Slactivist)

"In other words, the guy raising the specter of Obama using 'weather weapons' to kill Oklahomans is the same guy helping influence several Republican policymakers in 2013." I was writing a sarcastic post on how I'm sure the conservatives were going to start blaming Obama for the tornadoes in Oklahoma. You know, because reasons, I guess. Now that it's actually happening, it kinda takes the wind out of the joke. Freeze-dried whackaloon quotient goes up again. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Linkee-poo may be the last time, I don't know

Too far behind in my reading, but here's some links before they get too stale.

Break glass in case of emergency.

Diana Peterfreund talks about her website changes, but mostly makes the case for smart banding. As I've stated many times before, as a writer your brand is not the book. Hopefully because you, like her, will have many books. The book is the product, your brand is why people will buy the product.

A Shorpy photo of Linotype operators of the New York Times. Back when type was Type, and meant pouring hot lead into moulds creating lines of type. My little designer's mind quivers with excitement just thinking about it. (Grokked form Jay Lake)

Every known piece of space schmutz orbiting our plants in one helpful graphic. Time to find some noble alien to cry next to the ISS to get us to clean up that stuff. (Grokked from Tor.com)

"And now, thanks to this question, whenever I look at the Moon, I’ll notice the Sea of Tranquility, the Sea of Serenity, and the Sea of Crisis, and I’ll think: Finger holes." XKCD and the really, really big Lebowski. (Pointed to by Dan)

In search of the impossible to break encryption. In this case, using a modern version of an old technology. The one-time pad. I disagree with the conclusion that this encoding method is "impossible to break" (at least as described here), but still interesting. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Mark you calendars because this doesn't happen very often. I agree with Sen. Rand Paul. Seriously, having worked with tax accountants and lawyers, the Apple tax story is a big frickin' yawn. Companies lobby Congress to put in these specific loop-holes. And then Congress gets in a both because companies take advantage of Congress' inability to do their work (see also, "IRS not given instructions on 504(c)(4), makes up their own rules to weed through the mounds of applications they have, then Congress gets pissed about those rules"). Look, one party deliberately set out to make government not work (which they explicitly made clear that was their goal). And they had eight years to put their plan in place. Welcome to the results. (Pointed to by Dan)

Six scientist overlooked for their contributions because of sexism. Also I'll note here that just because the Nobel Committee makes sexists decisions in awarding the prize, that's no excuse for our history books which also have discounted women's contributions to science. And while there's a lot of talk about "how it was back in the day", it isn't that much better now. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Also, the narrative of that hearing is changing.

The Bible as interpreted in Lego bricks. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

You know when pay-day lenders come under regulatory scrutiny they tend to squeal like stuck pigs about how much they add to the economy? Well, turns out someone is finally starting to look at the actual numbers. "Specifically, each dollar in interest paid subtracts $1.94 from the economy through reduced household spending while only adding $1.70 to the economy through spending by payday lending establishments." Which means they're actually sucking money from the economy. Is there a need for micro/fast loans? Given the stagnation of wages over the past decades unfortunately there is a need. But charging people what amounts to 392% per year makes even hardened loan sharks blush in embarrassment. Protecting them doesn't help our economy at all.

Want to know what some of that government largess bought? Safety for economically impacted areas. And now, because Congress can't get it's collective shit together (except to hold show votes to tell the people back home about), people are being hurt and crimes are going unpunished and unprevented. Tell that woman who called 911 as her former boyfriend was breaking into her house why because you think debt is too high that she had to be raped because there were no law enforcement officers available to answer her pleas for help. Living in a county that has problems with staffing with the sheriff's office (do to various things, but also because of the cut backs in federal and state money to local governments), yea, this. Fortunately, I worked very hard to keep our local police department going and fully staffed (and it ws a struggle). Because, frankly, we also don't see sheriffs around here. I'm so filled with rage over this, I really hope nobody talks to me about cutting government spending and "waste" anytime soon, 'cause I might introduce their nose to my fist.

What if we never run out of oil (and are never forced to come up with alternatives)? As the climate deniers like to say, "the Earth has been warmer in the past than it is now." And they're right. But guess when all that coal, oil, and natural gas were laid down. Then guess what happens when we release that carbon dioxide (and other gases) back into the atmosphere? And then realize that at those temperatures, we won't be able to survive. (Pointed to by John)

"And when the groundwater runs out, it is gone for good. Refilling the aquifer would require hundreds, if not thousands, of years of rains." That, BTW, is talking about our breadbasket. You know, the southern plains that used to produce the crops that fed a hungry nation as it expanded westward. Once that nation hit the Pacific, that land then helped feed the world. And now it's going dry. Sure glad we don't need any of that conservation stuff or try to halt global climate change anymore. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

"In an April 28, 2011 statement while he was a Senate candidate (now the Republican nominee for lieutenant governor in Virginia), conservative minister and lawyer E.W. Jackson held up the three-fifths clause as an “anti-slavery” measure. The context of his statement was to attack President Obama after a pastor at a church service he attended referred to the three-fifths clause as a historical marker of racism." Wow. That's some industrial grade ignorance right there. Considering that E. W. Jackson is African-American, it's stunning. Pointed out because of 1) "we had some black people at the rally so the TEA Party can't be racist" and 2) conservatives will twist history and reality into knots no pretzel maker ever dreamed of to square off their beliefs as being "rational". (Pointed to by Dan)

Alligator Quotient: It's alligators all the way down (and up).

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Weekend Linkee-poo Redux

Because in the only weekend since the beginning of January that I didn't have class, work, or some prescheduled event, I was able to get a lot of reading done. Also as a reminder, starting tomorrow Steve will have very little unscheduled time for the next 8 weeks. So if it looks like this blog has gone dark, I'm still here, just no time to read or post (now, like all past prognostications, I'll be completely wrong and probably make several posts everyday… nah, I don't think so either).

The 2012 Nebula Award Winners.

The abandoned Star Wars set decaying in the desert. (Grokked from Camille Alexa)

Terri Windling with the importance of breathing. There is a long tradition in buddhism in focusing on the breath (actually many spiritual traditions have this focus). We are reminded when we hear a bell that we should breathe. Also, I think it was Toulouse-Lautrec who was once asked what he did during a polite dinner conversation. He replied, "I breathe."

"(A)ccess to the deathbed has been barred. No one seems to linger long there, conversationally or otherwise: too often, a death is treated like an embarrassing fact, a regrettable failure of life that is best hushed up." There's also an un spoken bond between people who have experienced death up close and personal. Just this week a friend lost her mother. It wasn't unexpected, although it was sooner than expected. She and I have talked about it before. We both know each has faced death before, so conversations are a little easier. We know we don't have to lie to each other to preserve the fragile lies surrounding death. The more we talk amongst ourselves about death, without falsity or avoidance, the better we're prepared to face what is the ultimate, natural conclusion of our lives. Also, just like everything else in life, people have both a right to privacy (they don't have to share if they don't wanna) and a right to their own experience and feelings. The rest of us don't get to dictate how they live or die. (Grokked from Morgan J. Locke)

The rise of mental illness in children. Mental health problems affect an estimated 20% of children. Do I think a lot more attention needs to be paid to this aspect of our children's development? Yes I certainly do. But before we hit the "ZOMG!" stage, if you look at the breakdown, most of that growth was in diagnosis of ADHD. One of the things that isn't discussed so often is the use of ADHD drug to calm students in the classroom (you may have heard this in the stories about, "Are we over drugging our children?"). Also, parents of some means have been working hard to have their children diagnosed with ADHD so that those children get benefits in school, such as extra help on tests, access to tutorial services, and even longer times to take their SAT/ACT and advance placement tests. In the "competitive" environment these parents act in, that extra help, they feel, can mean the difference between getting into their college of choice or having to go to a state college (scholarships are also on the line). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Are there going to be any jobs left? While the article is hopelessly optimistic and tinged with the various dreams William Gibson wrote about in The Gernsback Continuum, it's some of the thought process I went through when I went back to school. "What can I do that still will be a job in 20 years?" The problem with "transformative technologies", or as we used to call them, paradigm shifters, is that you can never see them for what they are until after the transformation/paradigm shift has happened. The author also hasn't contemplated the fundamental economic ramifications of what he thinks will happen (hint, if nobody has a job that can afford the product or services, no one is going to be able to produce them). Also, there is a lot of automation happening within health care (which the author kinda discounts). And while I quibble with some of the generalized statements the author makes (like most of what we consume now wasn't made 20 years ago is only true when you look at the SKUs, not at the actual product, and oh, BTW, most of what we consume is food and energy, which, while produced differently, is pretty much the same) it still something to think about, especially if you have decades of your working life ahead of you. (Grokked from Jason Sandford)

Know how all the climate deniers like to talk about just how costly transforming our economy to deal effectively with climate change would be, and then who stands to benefit from that spending? Well, yea, it's already costing us money to not begin that transformation. Not to mention, the longer we delay the greater both the disruption and final cost will be. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Just like who with think discovered DNA isn't who actually did the key findings, who actually did the hard work of solving Linear B isn't who got the credit. (Grokked from MrsTad)

A photo tour of Ft. Irwin's "Box". The simulated cities and towns our troops train in before going over seas. This is the part of training that has been prioritized in the face of the sequester. Ft. Irwin isn't the only place these towns exist, but it is the most extensive training facility we have. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

"'House Republicans' budget hypocrisy knows no bounds,'… the Democrats’ leader on budget issues, told TPM. 'This Obamacare repeal vote … exposes the mother of all budget gimmicks — the fact that the Republican claim of balancing the budget depends on the savings and revenues from Obamacare. The minute they vote to repeal the law, their budget is out of balance — they can’t have it both ways.'" Not that it's ever stopped conservatives before. Besides, as it's become painfully clear, these votes are nothing else than a way to pad their conservative credentials on their newsletters to their constituents.

"The GOP tried to put lipstick on this pig of a so-called 'scandal' by forging texts and sending them out to the media. Luckily for us all, CBS actually does fact-checking, and the culprits were caught with their pants down. Their credibility with the reporters is mud from here on out." If only that last part was true. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

"Carolyn Compton, who was granted divorce from her ex-husband in 2011, is facing a forced separation from her current partner Page Price with whom she’s been in a relationship with for three years… Locked in a custody dispute over the two children… Compton has now been slapped with a 'morality clause' that says anyone who isn’t related by 'blood or marriage' can't be around the children past 9 pm." Ah those good morals of the conservative set. (Grokked from lnmorton)

Tweet of my heart: @WritingQuotes_: "Being a good writer is 3% talent, 97% not being distracted by the internet." Anonymous

Friday, May 17, 2013

Weekend Linkee-poo is just an ordinary average guy

Mindy Klasky shares her synopsis. Always good to see other people's work.

Catherine Schaff-Stump with that other d writers deal with, despair. I've been wallowing in the swamps of despair about my wright for the last 10 months.

Terri Windling on the lure of the woods and the fall of the oral tradition.

Tor.com is going to start a reread of Glen Cook's Black Company. And they're offering a special ebook price on the first volume. Insert crazy fan-boy squee here. Although, I have hard copy. The only two of this series I didn't like were the "look back" books, after the Black Company had left the North. I love me some Glen Cook. If you think you're a fan of military fantasy and you haven't read them… seriously, what are you waiting for? The first novel I made a full attempt at writing was in that style. It's still kicking my ass, but one day I want to get back to that.

George Takai responds to traditional marriage protestors' signs with signs of his own. Thanks, I needed that. (Grokked from Random Michelle K)

The new and old Merida. Really, Disney? I remember when Walt made the animators take the nipples off the female centaurs so they wouldn't be so racy. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Jim Hines with some job hunting tips. Yes this. Also, learn what employers (and their computers) are looking for on your resume. Back when I was young, things were very, very different. For this last job search I had 3 standard resumes, which I would then select one for each position and then customized that for submission. That means, every resume is customized to the job.

Oh look, that Benghazi email the GOP echo chamber has been going nuts over for the past week turns out to have been faked by the GOP. While their version was "close" to what had actually been written, they added a bunch of other context which changed the focus of the comment. Say, which side are the liars on in your personal moral compass? (Grokked from Jay Lake)

"Here’s the lesson: marketing and promotion should never be a kick to the face. It should never be unearned or unasked for. It should not be unavoidable… This goes to any website that has anything that auto-plays ever. Sound. Music. Movie. Animation. If I’m sitting here at the ass-crack of dawn, sipping coffee, and I go to your website and get a blaring loud commercial for fucking Floor Wax and it wakes my toddler up I will find your house and shit on your pets." Chuck Wendig is smart about promotions. I'm looking at you pop-over ads and the becoming ubiquitous "sign up to get more" notices whenever I hit a website.

Twelve tips for people who have a chronic (or terminal) illness. Even for people who don't, it's pretty good advice. There's times for everything. You know those times when a friend is having a bad day and they need to talk, but don't really need you to fix their problems? That's really one of the ways you should think about dealing with friends who have chronic/terminal illness. This movie ain't about you. They don't need you to fix them. If you have something salient (just today I was able to help a friend who lost a loved one and was wondering what to do with the left over medications) you can help. But don't expect the other person to listen to you. Again, this movie ain't about you. And the "friends come and go" thing, I find, is sometimes that hardest for people to deal with. Some people don't handle these things well, that's all. While this movie ain't about them, sometimes they need to be in their own movie. It doesn't make them bad people. Also, you're allowed to feel the way you do (contradictory feelings and all). This goes for the sick person and the friend. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

The ten commandments of web design. Just like writing advice, use if it works for you.

"Aerospace giant Northrop Grumman has completed a lunar lander feasiblity study for the Golden Spike Company, which aims to begin ferrying paying customers to the moon and back by 2020." Bwa? "The company originally pegged ticket prices at $750 million per seat, but revenue from media rights and merchandising could end up cutting that by perhaps 30 percent, officials have said." Oh. But hey, 30% off sale! (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

If only someone had a gun in the house. Oh, wait. Plus while it sounds like the mother was idiotic looking on WebMD for how to treat her son for a gunshot wound, my guess is the mother knew exactly what would happen when she took him to the emergency room and wanted to avoid that. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

GOP senators and congresscritters of all levels are using sweepstakes and raffles of AR-15s as fund raisers. What the what?! Also, a local little league and girl's softball league. Considering these organizations support children of about the same age as those killed at Sandy Hook, exceptionally in poor taste. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Know why the conservatives in Congress had a collective shit-fit when the idea of Elizabeth Warren being nominated for the Consumer Protection Bureau was floated? Well, it could be because of things like this. (Grokked from Tobias Buckell)

So, have conservatives come back from the brink and are now willing to work hard to fix the issues of the day, like maybe tackle jobs, the economy, immigration, doing an actual budget and appropriations that work instead of sequestration? Nope. That makes, what, the 37th vote to repeal Obamacare? Okay, time to call it, John Boehner is the worst Speaker in recent history. And he was up against Newt Gingrich. Not exactly a high bar to clear there, Johnny Boy. Or maybe you thought the game was Limbo instead of high jump?

Because conservatives are all about competition and the free marketplace, in North Carolina the conservatives there are trying to pass a law forbidding Tesla Motors from selling cars there because, you know, it's all about competition and the free market or something. You may need to know that Tesla sells their cars directly, not through dealerships (that is, what looks like a dealership is actually a company owned store). (Grokked from Neil Gaiman)

Jurassic Puddle. Okay, well the water trapped in bedrock under the Canadian Gold mine is way, way older than the Jurassic Period. But they're checking the samples for microbial life because of the presence of high levels of hydrogen. Living in the future.

Oh look, something else the right-wing media echo chamber can get all frothy about. You may have heard that scientists have figured out how to make a viable embryo/blastocyst that uses genetic material from a donor's skin cells. They call this cloning, and technically they're correct, but it's not the cloning that most of the public thinks they understand. As the researchers say, with this technique they've tried to create full grown clones of the mice and monkey tests with the results not leading to viable babies. There's a whole lot wrong with this advance (the ethics of paying egg donors, things like that), most people will freak the frock out about things that this doesn't do. Cue the right-wing freakout in 3… 2… 1…

Also, turns out the secret to human cloning is caffeine. "The magic signal is quite complex. It includes an electric shock, a cocktail of chemicals and a splash of caffeine." So, besides seeing the 1950's set of Frankenstein to deliver the electrical shock (if there isn't a Jacobs Ladder somewhere in the lab I'll be sorely disappointed), anybody else think some grad student spilt their Monster drink on the lab table? So, yea, we may be able to clone humans, but they'll all be coffee fiends from the womb.

Bread and circuses. That's all it took for the Romans. Apparently what we need is "scandals" which aren't ones, but we can all be thoroughly upset. In this case the IRS brouhaha.

Fred Clark pretty well sums up why most religious people and institutions don't really have a dog in the game regarding same-sex unions. They may want to argue, but they don't have a doctrinal leg to stand on.

Family Radio, the Harold Camping network, seems to have hit the reef, finally.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

A Benny shaved is a Benny urned

It's been long time coming. Well, not that long, but I've been meaning to do it for a while. I just changed my 401k allocations.

Here I'll remind everyone, I'm not a professional investor, I'm not a financial planner, I'm just some schmuck trying to wade through the crap that is the modern retirement programs. So, before you decided to change your investment strategy, consult one of those professionals, your spouses, beneficiaries, gods, whomever you think you should talk to about these things.

I think I've pointed to This PBS Frontline special on the Retirement Gamble before. If you haven't watched, please do (also note just where the professionals put their own money). For me, it's been something I've been thinking about for years, and most recently when we changed our 401k provider and "they were so helpful in choosing which plans my money should be transferred to" I've been meaning to review it all. Because, you know, Grue forbid that we should pick our own funds and investment strategy. In my previous allocation I chose pretty darn carefully to match how I wanted my money to grow and how much They would suck my money away. I didn't get that chance with the new portfolio. So for a little over the year I've been getting halfway through the process of choosing my own mutual funds and then running out of time.

Well, I just sucked it up and did it.

So, what's my strategy? Well, I choose index funds. I'll note here that most funds "try to match the performance of Jim-Bob's Fortune 1 Million Index" or some such. But I would suggest choosing funds that are actually 1) indexed (that is the fund buys the stocks in the index) and 2) is an index you've heard of (or is in the news often). Also, check the fees listed for each fund. Previous to this change my average fees were 0.65% with a 0.5% management fee on top. Now? Average is 0.05% with a 0.02% management fee. Yeah, you're going to look at yours right now, aren't you?

If you can get it, chose one that's indexed to the Dow Jones Industrials (I have one, but with a former plan, so I can't continue to contribute to it, sad face). I can't recommend this highly enough (as long as the fees are low, and they should be because no one at the investment firm is really doing research or anything). Why? Here's the dirty little secret. The Dow Jones has a handful of actual stock, so you're not diversified over a large base (yes, that's the opposite of what they'll tell you in all the 401k education programs, it's called "contrarian thinking"). And the big one, the Dow Jones is engineered to go up. The DJI is a marketing tool. The people who pick those stocks do so to get people into investing. Yes, stocks can always go down (any stock can lose money). In fact the DJI crashed in the last financial crisis. Did you know it's been hitting all time highs lately? Ever notice how many times you hear that phrase, "The Dow hit an all time high today…"? Ever notice you hear about how the DJI is not reflective of the wider economy? It isn't an accident. Wink, wink.

Unfortunately I don't have that option with my current mix, but I do have one fund that's indexed to the S&P 500. Take a guess where 80% of my contribution is now going? Now, the S&P 500 isn't as good as the DJI. The S&P 500 was created to take a broader pulse of the stock market because investors weren't getting that from the DJI (hint, hint). But, again, look at how much less my fees are and the performance isn't all that "worse" (with the reduction of fees, my guess is it'll actually be better).

The remaining 20% is now going into a bond fund that is doing about 1% worse than the PIMCO (which was the old fund), but, again, the new fund cut my fees by factors of 10.

So that's it. That's Uncle Steve's 401k strategy. Use at your own risk (I'm not a pro… blah, blah, blah).

Linkee-poo is what it is until it ain't anymore

Can you tell I'm on break between Spring and Summer semester?

Hey lookie, my friend Mer Haskell is up for a Mythopoetic Award. So psyched for my friend. Plus, you know, you ought to go read her book.

Some more information on writing the synopsis with a paragraph by paragraph suggestion. Mostly.

John Scalzi on Dan Brown or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Words.

Chuck Wendig with 25 things you should know about outlining. I'm slowly, slowly learning how to outline the way I need to. Although when I start a story, I'll pants it.

Some very vintage book jacket art. Ooo, bright colors.

Jay Lake on how he puts his Link Salad together. Hmmm, I wonder why the linkee-poo looks a lot like his Link Salad (you know, beyond the wholesale grab of links I tend to do)?

"Breast cancer alone kills some 458,000 people each year, according to the World Health Organization, mainly in low- and middle-income countries. It has got to be a priority to ensure that more women can access gene testing and lifesaving preventive treatment, whatever their means and background, wherever they live. The cost of testing for BRCA1 and BRCA2, at more than $3,000 in the United States, remains an obstacle for many women." Angelina Jolie on breast cancer, testing positive for BRCA1, and her bilateral prophylactic mastectomy (with reconstruction). :: Stands and claps for her bravery in coming forward :: More about BRCA1 and BRCA2, note caveats of how the studies were done. Also I'll state here that breast cancer is much easier to spot than ovarian cancer (which is why most ovarian cancers are not detected early). (Grokked from Terri Klecha)

The Skylab 4 mutiny. Some things of which I have a hazy remembrance of during my ill spent youth. Reminds me of the Big Bang Theory's episode where Howard's toilet goes to the ISS. "Uh, Houston, this is a courtesy call we are basically out the door." (Grokked from Tor.com)

"Pablo Pantoja, who previously served as the State Director of Florida Hispanic Outreach for the Republican National Committee, has defected to the Democratic Party." Strange what happens when you actually start looking at conservative ideology up close and personal like. I feel for you, Pablo Pantoja. I've been down that road, although in my position and at that time I wasn't subjected to the massive amount of hate that's coming your way (if not now, very soon now). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

On the importance of ritual (mostly in a non-religious way). Ritual is an effective tool, and we create them all the time. And they work (not so much on the summoning of magic, but allowing us to relax and perform tasks better with a higher degree of confidence). (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

"Photographer dresses daughter as five heroines to celebrate her fifth birthday." Fabulous, as well as excellently posing her daughter to match the photos. (Grokked from WannabeWriter06)

So, who's the highest paid employee in your state? Chances are it's a sports coach. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Jim Wright on the Benghazi hearings.

War is hell. You know, it's not like that Syrian rebel commander that cut the heart out of a loyalist soldier and then bit it doesn't have a very long historical precedence behind his actions. But in this day and age, yep, that's a war crime. Not helping your international case there, buddy (although I would guess he shored up his command presence with his troops). But (again) it's not like there is an abundance of international help pouring in that you could lose.

In this second term of President Obama, how's the Right-Wing Media Circus doing? Still batshit crazy it seems. Well, can't make money if they were rational actors (gold anyone? anyone?). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Just in case you're still laboring under the dellusion that the 1% are just like you and I, now they're hiring handicapped people at $130 to skip long lines at Disney. Well, you know, good for the disabled, but pretty crappy exploitation. (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

More on the ridiculous claims of climate change deniers. A good bit on how they cherry pick their data samples to show the opposite of what is actually going on (as a for instance, it was exactly this kind of shenanigans that created the whole 70's "ZOMG, we heading into an ice age" falsity). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

"When the sequester started kicking children out of pre-K, Congress did nothing. When this stupid policy denied low-income seniors the benefits of Meals on Wheels, Congress barely noticed. When sequestration cuts put new burdens on cancer patients and cut housing aid to struggling families, most of Congress shrugged its shoulders… But when business travelers ran into flight delays on Monday, a unanimous Senate approved a fix without breaking a sweat on Thursday." To say nothing of the "opps, you mean meat packing businesses might have to go to 3 day weeks, how will I get my steak fix?" budget fix as well. (Grokked from the Slactivist)

"First… the groups were not targeted in a political vendetta — but rather were executing a makeshift enforcement test… for IRS employees tasked with separating political groups not allowed to claim tax-exempt status, from bona fide social welfare organizations. Employees are given almost zero official guidance on how to do that, so they went after Tea Party groups because those seemed like they might be political… The second is that while this is the first time this kind of thing has become a national scandal, it’s not the first time such activity has occurred." Also, I'll point out, the vast majority of people didn't hear about this under two weeks before the final report on the investigation (a year long, IIRC) is about to be released. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Tweet of my heart: @JamesSACorey: @MykeCole My first writing teacher told us, "Other writers aren't your competition. TV and naps is your competition."

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Linkee-poo has three passports, a couple of visas, doesn't even know it's real name

Save Trent's teeth fundraiser. While the description is a bit light on the consequences, losing you teeth (or actually having them rot away) is a life-threatening event. The tops of your back molar reach into your maxillary sinuses. Infection there (and because of that) can quickly spread to your ethmoid and sphenoid sinuses (all the sinuses are connected). And then it's a short trip through the thin back walls of those sinuses to your brain. Also, losing teeth means no tension on the maxillas or mandible. No tension (impact, force, whatever) leads the bone to atrophy. Again, infection, sinuses, back to the brain. That is a very serious thing. This is also why you want to follow your dentist's suggestions about your bite, it's why after getting work done on the top of your teeth is so damn interminable (because they need to make the bite correctly). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Commander Chad Hatfield sings Space Oddity (with some lyric changes) while on the ISS.

The OED wants to know, have you seen this book? They're looking for a copy of the Meandering of Memory by Nightlark. (Pointed to by John)

How much can the body take. A NatGeo quiz piece about the limits (height, depth, temps, food and water) that the average human can withstand. Now, what I'd really like to see is an article on just how much physical punishment the body can take. Although I already know that's highly variable. Get hit with a fist in the right place and you'll die (typically exploits and already present vulnerability), and then Gabby Giffords and James Brady (and others) have lived with a bullet through the brain. (Grokked from matociquala)

The possible futures of the past. How our space age may have been different had Darrell Romick published a few months earlier than von Braun (which did shape our space age). (Grokked from Tor.com)

Using automated video processing technology to find colon cancer polyps. And interesting use of image recognition for processing huge amounts of video created by the new "camera pills" that have been developed. Also some insight into two different professions preferences and processes colliding. For computer science, generating "false positives" is a no-no and to be avoided even as the expense of missing a positive hit or two (it's a valid mind set given the history of computers and the thought that having 'bad data" might crash the system). But in medicine, we'd rather have a false positive show up (which can than be retested to eliminate that possibility) than to miss one positive hit (which equates to dead people). So the people developing the software err on the side of not having false positives, but then are only able to get correct hits on 80% of the polyps. What needs to happen here is to calibrate the software to get all of the positives in the queue at the expense of having a few false positives, which can then be weeded out by human observation (of course the alternative is if there are so many false positives that it's not much better than viewing the whole video, the project becomes pointless). So if you could winnow out at least half of the video, I think you've got something there. And if you could weed out 90% of the video, you've got a best seller. It's early on in the project (although video recognition software is becoming mature), so expect the rate to get better. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

On the use of credit reports in job screening. Want to know why companies do this? Because they can. It's the same thing with electronic resume screening (which doesn't work either). It's the result of "we've gotta do this faster/cheaper" and "conference room think". Again, the rise of the MBA strikes. For me, the good thing is that I have an excellent credit score (and I'm pretty sure that was a point with my current employer). But there for the Grace of Ghue goes us in the form of Mr. Carpenter. Also, see argument about "greatest healthcare system in the world." (Grokked from WannabeWriter06)

The problem with mythologizing history, like trying to say the Civil War was "The War of Northern Aggression" or "America was founded as a Christian nation", is that you raise a generation that believes your lies. We're not the only country that does this. But then the Japanese have a culture that believes in their own dominance and supremacy, like many Americans believe about their own country. And just like this Japanese politician saying that "comfort women" (ie. foreign women pressed into service as sexual slaves) were "necessary" and to be offered "kind words" when you drink the kool-aid, you end up doing stupid things. History is a harsh mistress, and she will cut you like a knife. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Speaking of history and politics, here's a new video from Newt Gingrich. Try not to hit your head against the desk too many times as he tries to figure out what to call a smart phone and then how he says that this will help us communicate better and be more interactive with government. For some reason I'm reminded of GHW Bush's amazement with UPC scanners at a bookstore checkout. While he has an academic point (if you go deep enough, but then the "horseless carriage" had also been called an "automobile" before it was called a "horseless carriage"), the same is true with what we call a "computer" (it's more than that), your digital phone (functions very differently than the phones I grew up with, back when super long cords were all the rage) and a host of other things that we all take for granted (hell, you still "dial" a phone, when was the last time you used a phone with an actual dial?) And just think about this, Newt held the second most powerful elected position in our government (Speaker of the House), and he wanted to be President (ran more than once) and try to control your shivers of horror. Newt, here's your sign. (Pointed to by John)

And in case you want an example closer to home, "'In my past experience when we got into these situations (talking about Benghazi) — especially after 9/11 — we were always there, locked and loaded, ready to go on 9/11,' (Dick) Cheney told Fox News Channel…" Wow, now that's revisionism. Also, hey, just a little nod toward the Truthers there. (Pointed to by Dan)

Watch as 32 out of synch metronomes come into synch without outside assistance. The title says "discordant", but that word doesn't mean what they think it means (in music). Still, order from chaos. Because SCIENCE! (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Cosmos is getting a remake nod. Okay, it's by Fox, but still it'll start Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson. Excuse me while I clean all this squee from my desk. (Pointed to by Dan)

Bang with friends. Although started as a way of getting past the playground taunting, I could see its tech being used for much more than which friend you'd like to sleep with. But, isn't that what conventions are for? Anyway, not sure how practical this is once you understand just how Facebook, Instagram and the rest make their money (hint: they sell your data and likes). (Pointed to by John)

"If you think that Congress has sort of been asleep (on gun control)… you are wrong… They have been doing a very good job of weakening the laws to make it easier for gun dealers to have the least amount of responsibility." For most "progressive" issues that's always the case. In this case, the gun lobby has been hard at work since the 80s to derail, scuttle, and make toothless any laws regarding guns. Case in point, the AFT director must be approved by the Senate (very rare for a non-cabinet level appointee) and they have conveniently not appointed someone for almost a decade now. But, "Pediatricians are puzzled that the statistics aren’t speaking for themselves." That's because there's no clear "government" statistics (because the NRA made sure there couldn't be) and because politics is no longer run on a rational level (see the satire of Stephen Colbert). And you know how conservatives were all "don't get between the doctor and the patient" recently? Well, yea, bullshit. "The NRA has sponsored legislation to stop pediatricians from asking parents about guns in the home…" (Grokked from Jay Lake)

The declassification engine. (Pointed to by Dan)

"More than half of common plant species and a third of animals could see a serious decline in their habitat range because of climate change." This isn't a "far future" prediction, this is within our lifetimes. And in case you think it's a bet alarmist, I'll remind you we are already seeing habit changes (moose and elk are moving farther north, brown recluse spiders are not "native" to NE Ohio, but we've have several bites in the past few years). And if we're not careful it could be a very major problem (besides the chaos effect of the rapid loss of biodiversity), some of those "common plant species" are what we eat. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Tweet of my heart: @Wolfrum: "Run the government like you'd run a business" is just mind-bogglingly stupid. it's like saying "Play baseball the way you play checkers"

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Linkee-poo is radio, radio, radioactive

If you're going to write, best to do everything on purpose. But you should really do these things on purpose. As a writer who is currently attempting three of four (humor, ambiguity, offense, conspicuous alliteration, internal rhyme, or recognizable meter). Well, okay, on the last one I try not to make it conspicuous, but one of the most recurring positive comments about my fiction writing is how lyric and bery close to prose it is. You know, obviously, not something I do for blog posts. And because Dr. Doyle points to it, John Scalzi's line about "The failure mode of clever is 'asshole.'"

"So, your thought for the week is this: published writers are not necessarily better writers than unpublished ones; they just managed to do what they set out to do. And some targets are harder than others." Yea, that. Get all upset that Dan Brown will sell a metric butt-load of Inferno and it doesn't matter because he got published and you didn't. Sure, you know your nouns from your predicates, but he knows what sells and how to sell it, and man does he sell. Same thing about Stephen King, Stephanie Meyers, JK Rowling (who, IMHO, is much better than the critics know and more than she leads on), and any other of the very commercially successful authors that everyone loves to hate. (Grokked from Morgan J. Locke)

"Health insurance companies in Oregon are trying to lower their premiums, in order to compete with each other, ever since the state started publishing a policy-by-policy comparison online, per the requirements of Obamacare." Obamacare fueling actual free market forces? Why, that's unpossible. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

In case you thought grave robbing was a thing of the past, think again.

Where were you when you heard the ice crawling through your house. Wow. I've heard about ice "going out of the lake", but I don't think they meant an ice flow actually going out of a lake and swallowing houses. (Grokked from Warren Ellis)

That email on the Benghazi attack that you wanted released because it showed the "coverup" for "terrorists"? Yea, doesn't show what Boehner thought it showed. Look, I appreciate the right's batshit craziness over this. And, if all the things they say "if this happened" were true, it would be a big scandal. However, even if all those ifs turned out to be true, it still doesn't match up to the President subverting democracy (Watergate) or violating the laws they themselves signed by trading arms to Iran and then using the profits to fund death squads (Iran/Contra). But the thing is, all those "ifs" haven't panned out. (Pointed to by Dan)

Using live, radioactive Listeria to hunt down and kill metastatic colon cancers. Huhn. That's an interesting nuclear medicine technique. As a side, there was a recent report from the ASRT about how school enrollments were starting to sag (well, the wait times are going down) for rad techs. Also buried in that report was the over abundance of nuclear medicine techs and the dearth of jobs. Strange synchronicities. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

“We migrated key functions from Windows to Linux (on the ISS) because we needed an operating system that was stable and reliable.” :: points, jumps up and down, shouts "ooo, ooo, ooo!" :: (Grokked from Dan)

If when all you have is hammer, everything begins to look like a nail, when all you have is a polemic of good and evil, everything begins to look like Satan.

"(M)any basic research projects in every field supported by the NSF would likely not qualify for certification under this bill." They're talking about the bill that would require the NSF to certify every grant they gave would be "of national interest or groundbreaking." And as a final irony, to prove that statement, the grant application would be denied under the new rules. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Jim Wright's latest installment in his Bang, Bang Crazy posts. The short version? Can't fix stupid. But Jim is more loquacious and eloquent about it.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

Night Fell

What is past is past, what is the future we cannot say

Grades are finally in for the last semester. I had a lot of troubles these past 5 months. I'm not sure how much I've shared here, but I struggled a lot to juggle the classes and 16 hours of clinical time with a 40 hour (at least) work week.

Clinicals are set up to test our knowledge and get us prepared for our new jobs. they can also be seen as a two-year job interview where you work on actual, living people, many of whom either don't want to be there or are in pain. There's a lot more variance there, but those are the main categories. Part of our clinical time is spent studying, a very little part of the time. Most of the time we are watching the other techs, assisting, and as we gain skills and "competencies", do the actual work.

Competencies, as a quick explanation, are a way to test our skills. There are a number of "procedures", and we need to show our ability to do them at a specific rate during the semester. We do things like "chest, pa and lateral", "wrist pa, lateral, oblique, navicular", things like that (every bone has at least 2 views, every joint at least 3). First we have to be exposed to the procedure in class, then we can watch/assist a tech doing it, then we "pre-comp" (where the tech can help us), and then finally we "comp" which means from beginning the patient, taking their history, positioning, setting technique (just how much radiation we're going to use), process, escort, hang the "films", and close the patient we do it all ourselves. The only time a tech is allowed to interfere is if we're about to make a major mistake, or if we need to repeat an image (both are automatic failures). Once we comp (for the most part) we can do the procedures ourselves without a tech (although a tech needs to approve all radiographs).

So, starting out I was doing good. This past Spring we needed 12 comps, 3 re-tests (redo a comp from the group of comps, like one out of the lower extremities), and 3 film critiques (where we discuss our radiographs, prove our knowledge, and critique ourselves for quality). Not to mention employment like reviews. In the first 4 weeks I knocked out 6 comps and I forget how many pre-comps. And then I couldn't find the crest of anyone's pelvis (the top of your hip) to save my life. So I was shooting high, and shooting low. And I started failing comps. So I took a few weeks off the pace I had set (class, first time I see procedure I attempted a pre-comp, and then right after I'd attempt the comp) and just worked on my basic skills. But I never got back to the pace I had set earlier (while the other 1st year with me continued to rack up comps, next to him I look like a slacker). And I Was failing with "little things" (relative term), not for my rapport with patients, or basic positioning, or setting technique, but small stuff (many of my fails were scored >90%).

I know why (because our actual classroom experience leaves out those "little things" and every tech has their own pace, patter, and positioning tricks). But it's not that much of an excuse. There was also a personality issue, but I think that one got tamped down by the end.

Then there were the two classes. For the one, it dealt most with computer and math stuff this semester, so it wasn't that hard. I was pretty confident I would get an A and I did. The other was positioning class, which was what I had scrapped by with an A last semester (94%). This semester I was sure I would get a B (was hitting right along the 94% with my tests, made the mistake of not double-checking a lab exercise the whole lab did together - 87%, and my lab practical which was an 87%). But somehow I managed to pull an A out of the air (probably 93.6% or something). For clinicals I got a B. Fortunately, clinicals was only a 2 credit hour course, and the other two added up to 7 hours. I think that gives me a 3.7 for the semester. Which brings me to 3.95 over all. So I won't get that "graduate with a 4.0" feeling (some part of me is disappointed, but not a lot).

In another week we start Summer. That's 8 weeks of 1 class and 32 hours of clinical time for the first 5 weeks, then 40 hours the last 3 weeks (class only runs 5 weeks). Plus, you know, my 40 hour a week day thing. I have my schedule worked out on paper, and it's a killer. Basically 16 and 18 hour days Monday through Saturday (hopefully I'll have my Sundays to collapse in a gelatinous mass and get the lawn mowing done). But in that 8 weeks I need 14 comps. The good news on that front is that I start with 4 in the box already. But with juggling schedules, I have a lot of evenings at the hospital, not our major productive time, also not a lot of chances for surgery, fluoro, and bone study cases. My Clinical Instructor, regular instructor, and myself believe that this will be a big disadvantage come this fall (which, BTW, has 9 hours of classwork and 24 hours of clinicals, plus the aforementioned 40 hours of work).

So, one, giving you advanced notice that I won't be posting much during those 8 weeks (watch me post every single day now). And two, I may not be alive at the end of it.If this blog goes dark by July 12th, you'll know what happened.

Linkee-poo puts the blame on VTR

There's so many things you can say to someone facing a terminal illness, attempting to convert them to your religion isn't one of them. I also understand where religious people come from, post-middle ages there's a good percentage who come from the "you don't wanna go to Hell, do you?" side of the argument. So when people ask, "have you gotten right with God", sometimes it's from a loving perspective of "we want to see you again in the after life, and you need to (whatever) to get there." And that's a pretty selfish attitude, but it does come from the, "I want you in my experience" stance. However, there is the other darker side of "we have to win you to the team, because if we don't it sort of invalidates our experience/beliefs" part of the argument. In that case, if you believe in a God who will send people to Hell (or, as Revelations teaches us, throws them into the Lake of Fire to have their souls consumed), maybe your issue isn't with the person who doesn't believe that, but with the concept of a loving God that would toss people willy-nilly into a Lake of Fire, but would also give them the Monopoly "Get Out of Jail Free" card for signing up at the last minute.

Cory Doctorow talks about improving book publicity. Yea, what he said.

Rochita Loenen-Ruiz on writing the other. Other people's cultures aren't window dressing, especially not to them.

Why, as writers, we don't learn as much from good books as we do form bad ones. Which is pretty true until you get to the point of saying, "Why am I studying bad story telling?" There's a point where, once you learn to step back from the story, you can say, "that was brilliant! How the hell did they pull that off." And then you figure out how they did it.

What is the draw of Faerie and the Fey? A number of authors supply their views in this SF Signal MindMeld. While I think they get close, most skirt what I believe is the real issue. The Fey allow us to figure our way forward as we face intense social, political, and economic pressures. (Grokked from Tor.com)

Ever heard the phrase, "stimulate your mind, read a book"? Well, we now have the fMRI studies to prove it. Words have real impacts on your brain. Especially the written word. Also the act of learning a written language changes our brains, it forms new connections and activates lots of areas not normally associated with language (typically meaning "spoken word"). (Grokked from Mer Haskell)

The history of typography in video form. Not bad. I have a few quibbles with their history (Guttenberg didn't "invent" type, nor did he invent "blackletter", he didn't even "invent" movable type - that was the Chinese-, he just put a bunch of things together in a commercial package and standardized "slug" type) and what they're focusing on (don't get me started about what they left off on their discussion of Old Style/Transitional/Modern type, but all of that could - and has - taken up multiple heavy volumes of books), but overall, a good primer. Having cut mask to airbrush type onto a page, I love their work with cut-paper type and appreciate what it takes.

Eschersketch. For those time wasting needs. (Pointed to by John)

Kristen Lamb talks about the Good People™ problem. And it is a problem. Plus, just so you know, whenever I say "good people" you can pretty much view me saying that with a sneer.

Imaging cells using squeezed light. Or… getting your quantum goggles on. Of a related note, you may have heard about how micro-processor chips are made through the use of photo imaging technology. That is, they use a film negative of the image of the circuitry and project that onto the prepared silicon substrate (a "sandwich" of many materials). But did you know that the circuitry is so minute, we can't use visible light for this because the width of the wave in visible light is too wide. In the visible light spectrum, the lens used to project the image is opaque. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

What can happen if you don't read the full prospectus? Well, you could invite someone to your organization to talk about piracy. And then, because you have an internal contest of whom can dress more appropriately, you all show up wearing dime-store pirate gear only to find out the speaker was going to talk about how he was captured and held captive by Somali pirates.

Hey look, some 30 years after Ronald Reagan proposed it, we have a mobile laser platform that can destroy missiles. Well, almost there. And it's not like the missile was 1) incoming and 2) directed at the installation. (Pointed to by Dan)

It sucks when someone actually reads their Bible and knew you in High School when you're trying to ride your high horse. Especially when you're trying to judge others. There's something about a reciprocity clause in there, isn't there? (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Of relation to the abduction story in Cleveland, and related to the discussion going on in fandom, an NPR story on what sexual coercion says about a society.

Fred Clark also has some thoughts in this direction concerning men believing they have a right to control women's bodies. "It is not surprising that sexual traffickers and other predatory men are able to harness this toxic purity culture for their evil ends. That’s what it was designed to do. That’s what it’s for."

Dear Heritage Foundation, it's called vetting your researchers. You might want to look into it. But I'm sure they did, they just didn't think anyone would link one of the authors of their new study saying "ZOMG! Illegal Aliens!" with their previous, highly racist study report. Of course, nobody is breaking out in laughter over the "it'll cost us $6.3 trillion over 50 years!" claim. Fifty years? Really and truly when Congress went to 10 year studies for the impact of policy decisions it was roundly criticized for the complete fiction of such a long-term study. After 5 years, the variables pretty much create too wide a divergence to have any legitimate credibility. And now the Heritage Foundation takes it to 50 years (so they could get a big scary number). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

People are constantly underestimating renewable energy. Yea, I've had conversations that get to the whole, "the solar hot water heater Jimmy Carter put on top of the White House didn't work" argument. Um, yeah. I also have a natural gas hot water heater that doesn't have a pilot light, and I'm pretty sure those weren't to available in 1977 either.

"An FBI report released in October said the reason (Arizona Attorney General Tom Horne) didn't stop after the accident was because he was having an affair with Assistant Attorney General Carmen Chenal, who was in the car at the time." Uh, yeah. Horne later says that if he had known he had left "just a paint scratch" that he would have left his name and handled it. I think you could read that as, "If I had known someone could trace this back to me and expose the fact that I was having an affair, I would have just thrown money at you." (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Stephen Colbert and his Catholicism. You may also remember when he did the bit on the the Daily Show called "This Week in God." (Grokked from the Slactivist)

"So, how did these young men become terrorists?" Yep, that's one of the processes. And note that religious extremism (actually, any extremism) isn't solely the provenance of Islam. Not by any measure (*cough*Tea Party*cough*). Once the ideals of the group (not what the group actually does) becomes more important than everything else, we're down the rabbit hole. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Had we but world enough, and time

Prince Richard: (King Henry is) here. He'll get no satisfaction out of me. He isn't going to see me beg.

Prince Geoffrey: My you chivalric fool… as if the way one fell down mattered.

Prince Richard: When the fall is all there is, it matters.
Jay Lake got the terminal diagnosis. Several metastasis sites, multiple tumors. So right now, as he says, the course of treatment is to take Regorafenib until that stops working (if it starts working), and then palliative care. There's the chance for stage one clinical trials. There's a reason why those are the last course of action.

Excuse me while I go outside and yell at the Universe for its unfairness.

Back. I think I just used up my yearly quota of "fucks" in all its varients. The Universe didn't much care.

Jay, thanks for your courage sharing your journey and your stories. I just wanted to say that early on because there are better things to talk about and better people you'll talk about them with later.

These days it may not seem all that strange, but when my grandfather had his first cancer diagnosis we talked about it in whispers. The more people say, "this is my life and death with cancer and you don't get to co-opt it" the less our culture thinks that cancer is embarrassing. The less we think people with cancer should vanish from society and stop reminding us of our mortality. The more we are able to connect to each other and share our real lives, the less these things seem strange and terrifying. It really wasn't all that long ago doctors wouldn't even tell their patients if they had a diagnosis of cancer.

For me, I will mourn for Jay Lake when he is dead. And not a moment earlier. As the Irish saying goes, "There's time enough for resting when we're in the ground, there's to much work to do before then." Or was it "too much drinking to do". Or maybe it was Warren Zevon.

Also, our culture loves to talk about the survivors. The brave souls who never gave up and "beat" cancer, as if all was required was a firm conviction. Like the link shared earlier, the dirty secret is people still die from cancer. In fact, most of them do.

Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Linkee-poo ends the semester

Jay Lake's cancer update. Fuck cancer.

The Leonard Nimoy and Zachary Quinto Audi commercial. Hahahahaha. Only could have been better if it was Walter Koenig getting out of the car at the end. (Pointed to by Karl)

Chuck Wendig with some tips to maximize your word count. Use if they work for you.

And on the opposite end, Jason Sanford worries that writerly obsession with word count can be killing writing. I've seen this argument before. In some cases, I can totally see their point. On the other hand word count is the major metric writers can point to. You can see my tallies, which haven't changed in nearly a year, just to the right. But I also talk about the counts during rewrites and edits. It's little difficult to track those. I'm good with counts though (part of the designer thing). Also, some writers do qualify their metrics (however many good words today, lots of words but they'll all need to be rewritten). Also I think the rise of NaNoWriMo can be tied into this. Also, one of the major pieces of advice for writers is to turn off the internal editor and get the words out. Word count is a way to say, "I'm doing that."

The plot structure chart. Well, at least one of them.

Why the boob armor is a Bad Idea™. See, there is a whole science to the thing. But then people still believe fullers are "blood grooves" instead of a way to 1) use less steel (a very precious commodity) and 2) lighten the sword (important if you want to fight for more than a few minutes). There are also people who still believe in a fair fight a ninja would defeat a samurai (that's why they cheat), knights in plate would defeat archers in boiled leather (see Henry V), crossbows would defeat longbows (ibid), and cavalry were always better (not until the introduction of the stirrup by the Mongols, and then even before Mel Gibson as William Wallace there were ways to defeat cavalry with foot).

US Air Force measures potato cannon muzzle velocities. Because… well, why not? (Grokked form Jay Lake)

Adding monsters to thrift-store paintings. (Grokked from Dan)

Janiece's rules for life.

Shortening telomeres can affect gene expression. So, instead just the fuse to cell self-destruction, as they shorten (each time the cell divides) they can cause new genes to turn on. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Um, yeah, I'm sure the resemblance is entirely coincidental. (Pointed to by Dan)

And four more low lights from the NRA convention. But I'm sure all those speakers would have an answer for some guy cleaning his gun and firing off a test round killing a 10 year old. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Fred Clark has a good run down on why the Post Office is in such financial "trouble". Completely manufactured crisis perpetrated by those who have had much experience doing so (ie. conservatives in Congress).

Tobias Buckell shares a story about tracking hospital charges. It's crazy. Like I said, if you want to use the free market to control these things, health care offices will need to publish their prices like fast food places do.

"Yet even after so much disaster, it seems the woman who’s benefited most from Komen’s charity is still Nancy Brinker herself." Yea, they're not going to be getting any more money from me. Having breast cancer in the family, that's a hard decision, but it's looking like they're suffering from the "people thinking too highly of themselves for their own good." (Grokked from Jay Lake)

Yes, they are coming for your birth control. (Grokked from the Slactivist)

The Texas fertilizer plant that when KFB (ker-fucking-boom!) only carried $1 million in insurance. Say goodnite, Gracie. Yea, we don't need no stinking regulations or corporate oversight.

New Look

'Cause the old one had been here for a while. Hope you like it.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Ray Harryhausen

Some of you aren't old enough to remember the time before CGI (or motion-tracking cameras and blue screen). Way back in the caveman days of color cinema, special effects had to be done the old fashioned way, with clay models and stop-motion effects and paint on glass and masks (not the thing you wear on your head). In that day of wearing bearskins and hunting the buffalo with flint knives, no one person was better at this than Ray Harryhausen.

I have a complex relationship with Harryhausen films. My brother tormented me with watching them when I was young. But as I grew older I was able to appreciate the art that was the b-movie special effects extravaganzas he helped produce and animated. Things like Jason and the Argonauts. Who doesn't have some memory of the classic fight with skeletons (expect to see clips of that on the news about his death). The immortal Sinbad movies. He and his comrades of garage animators did tons and tons of special effects for other flixs (giant radioactive ants anyone?). Our current love affair with special effects comes directly from the work Ray and his compatriots pioneered.

Mr. Harryhausen was such an icon, the restaurant in Dreamwork's Monsters, Inc was named after him. And when they make nods in your direction from animated films, that's when you know you've made it big.

Thanks, Ray, for all those movies of my youth and for being the inspiration that allows us to enjoy the movies of our tomorrows.

The redbud




I just love my redbud. And she's in full bloom.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Linkee-poo's future looks quite bright to me

Not exactly balanced, but this is getting too long. So time to push the publish button. This is finals week. Plus the day thing has decided to go crazy. It'll be a fun slide into the weekend. You know, for certain values of "fun".

Why parents should leave their kids alone. You know, when they're ready for it. Fortunately I haven't encountered major helicopter parents at the hospital, yet. Although some have been close.

To counter the argument of "you can find everything online, instantly", the ten classic TV shows you still can't watch online. And, before you ask, they were all in heavy syndication at one time or other. (Grokked from Dan)

For some markets, ordering groceries and having them delivered is a greener solution than everyone driving to the store. I think that might work well for canned and boxed staples, but I would still want to select my own fruits and veggies. Plus, sometimes I buy muffins. Some of them the sprinkle extra sugar on the top (partially melted chunks), others they leave bare. Same flavors, no different on the label. So things like that would also be tricky. But then, I guess I could use fewer muffins.

The story of Harvard Professor Niall Ferguson's intellectual dishonesty and complete bigotry just shows how low the bar has been set for people to be "respected" and given a microphone. But Juan Cole pretty well calls it. "Ferguson’s outrageous polemic is an example of the ad hominem fallacy. Instead of demonstrating that Keynes’s theory is faulty (which no one has yet done), Ferguson attempted to smear Keynes and deprive him of standing in intellectual debate by calling him a deviant." When you can argue with facts, go for the cheap shot. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

I guess F*&ckface Von Clownstick hasn't heard advice about how to respond to these things. Well I guess when one is a narcissistic blowhard with a glass ego it's hard not to respond to "defend your good name." Oh, hey, so when are we ever going to hear that "amazing things" his crack team of investigators found in Hawaii?

What to do when you're a conservative and you see your signature legislation to reduce renewable energy go down to defeat? Why, you just don't count the votes when you reintroduce the bill. 'Cause conservatives are the party of "count the votes" and "every vote should count." (Grokked from the Jay Lake)

The Slactivist would like to remind you, "In 1952, Congress passed a law establishing the National Day of Prayer as an annual religious observance. Quick: give me another sentence that uses the words 'Congress,' 'law,' 'establish' and 'religion.'" Yea, that. Saw the Newtster on the talking head shows being incredulous that anyone could believe that there should be laws against imposing anyone's religion on anyone else (couched in the "religious freedom means we don't have to sell or provide service to 'teh gayz', or give our secular employees contraceptive coverage" argument). The same Newtster that's pushing anti-Sharia laws. Try and get your head around that one. The only way I can is to add the expander, "the Newtster and his ilk are asshats". Then it works.

Nobody likes drum circles. Helen Mirren, dressed as the Queen, tells a drum circle that stopped behind a bunch of theaters to "shut the f#$% up." Ah, Helen, if only you could have been at a few conventions I've been to. Look, the concept of drum circles, and the cause for which this drum circle was playing were all okay. But understand, when you parade around, it becomes a nuisance. Some of us want to relax and have conversations, or watch a play. (Grokked from Dave Klecha)

"Three in 10 registered American voters believe an armed rebellion might be necessary in the next few years, according to the results of a staggering poll released Wednesday by Fairleigh Dickinson University’s PublicMind." That survey also includes 18% of Democrats who believe it might also be necessary. When absolutism becomes a guiding philosophy, sometime people will take those people at their word.

Not to mention things like this. Time for the aerial spraying of Prosac to begin. (Pointed to by Dan)

The flips side of the stories we tell ourselves, it's the stories we consciously ignore. Sometimes cancer kills. Actually, it happens more often than we like to talk about. "So if you’ve ever considered whipping out the talk about miracles or just keeping a positive attitude or some other unhelpful tack in a transparent attempt to keep your own terror of death at bay, that’s actually a pretty crappy thing to lay on a person with a serious disease. Please don’t do that." 'Cause here's the real deal, if you're over 25, I don't care how well you work out, or how well you eat, you're in the process of dying. Some people just have a better idea of how, that's all. (Grokked from Jay Lake)

And in this vein, I point to two posts from Jay Lake on his dreaming self. He also links to this account of someone else who died of terminal cancer. As well as a post about "Death Cafes." "'They’re a place to talk about the issues surrounding death while drinking tea and eating delicious cake.'" There's something about people who have seen death before, their own or someone close to them. They can talk with each other about things that cause other people to be nervous.

Yea, banks don't need no stinking regulation. Yep, they foreclosed on 4 million homes by "mistake", and then when they settled the complaints by paying each of those home owners (who are out their homes) $300 to $5000, they bounce the checks. I'm sure their executives' bonus checks were drawn off a different account.

I scored 15 of 15 on the Pew Forum's Religious Knowledge Quiz. How well can you do? (Grokked from Jay Lake)