There's battle lines being drawn.
Nobody's right if everybody's wrong.
Young people speaking their minds
getting so much resistance from behind

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

The day is shot

And at various points I wish I was as well.

We're back to a more normal work load at work (which means people are and will be upset that I won't be able to work on their non-billing projects in a speedy fashion). It also means I'm back up over 450 unread blog posts. My lurker-fu powers grow.

Probably not going to get all my research for this weekend done in time. I've been trying to find good references online to review for some of the topics, and it just ain't working so well. Oh google, why do you taunt me so?

Had to say "No" several times in committee meeting tonight. Had an argument over a $100 PO for t-shirts. T-shirts! $100! WTF! (not that the t-shirts are $100s, they're $10 per printed shirt, but that I had to argue about $100) But then came discussions of bigger numbers and projects. When I had to say, "probably not this or next year" I had to remind the person that we just argued about $100 for frickin' t-shirts (and the other money pinching we had to do earlier with a "must have" system). How other municipalities allow themselves to go into the red I just don't understand (I understand how they can, I just don't know how they let themselves get there).

Didn't have time for lunch today (fortunately a vendor brought bagels, felt like a heel taking two), and didn't eat dinner until 9:45pm. Why did I want to do this?

And not getting any writing done. Had a few panic moments this past week about submissions (not having enough, wondering where they are in process, wanting to get a story into WotF contest this year, wondering if the submissions are moldering because of inattention, etc).

At the Doctor's appointment yesterday I was up 1 lb. I blame the "Fall Fest Luncheon" at work on Friday, high calorie low value food which I try to avoid. And Saturday at Mom's ("feed 'em until the pop" is a family motto). Plus didn't evacuate (if you know what I mean) well because of the bad food. That didn't happen until today (thank you very much, stupid intestines).

I plan to take the laptop with me to ConClave and blog about my experience there. So far nobody has volunteered the money for an iTouch, so it's lugging the laptop around (actually, I love my 7-year old laptop).

So, how have you all been?

(::waves at Camille, who I see by the comment emails visited me today::)

Oh, and because I'm thinking about it, the show House? Yeah, doesn't work so well for me. Why? Because as a smart doctor he doesn't know how to use a cane. As someone who has had to walk with one (my broken leg), you do not use the cane on the same side as your bum leg (unless you want more pain and problems). You use it on the opposite side to take the weight off the bum leg. So my suspension of disbelief goes right out the window. I'm very surprised that nobody has pointed this out to the producers and actor.

Monday, September 29, 2008

The spice must flow

WaMu struck out. In the warm up pen swings Wachovia. Who is going to be left to fund the Sunday Morning Talking Head shows?

Profit is a monthly, quarterly, and yearly benchmark on the progress of a business. The day to day operations, though, survive on cash flow, the regular breathing in and exhalation of cash a business has. Some businesses must balance their books everyday (banks for instance). Some days you're up, some you're down, but in the end you need to be balanced. If you're down you need to borrow money; corporate paper and over night loans. If you're up you can provide those pieces of paper to help balance those who are down. Tomorrow the business that was down maybe up, and vice versa, and the loans go the other way.

The spice must flow.

In the current climate people have been concerned that they wouldn't get paid back on those quick loans. Interest rates go up, what used to be ten minutes of calls to secure debt now takes hours to line up the cash to balance the books. What had people panicky, particularly Hank Paulson, was two weeks ago, corporate paper and over night loans not only became hard to find, they stopped.

The spice did not flow.

Think of it like having a heart attack. Most don't knock you to the ground, most are small, and they build up scar tissue until the big one hits. This was a mild heart attack within the economic system. So you know what that wild eyed look was now, the thought of "will this pass, or should I go to the hospital?" It's always better to go to the hospital. Correcting the problems now can prevent having to have open heart surgery.

There are over a hundred reasons why this happened, but most are focusing on the holdings of "mortgage backed securities." I won't belabor what those are (really, how could you not know by now). However, they aren't the problem, they're the symptom. One way to prevent a heart attack is to thin the blood, and that's what this bail-out package is going to attempt to do. The other real reasons for this problem include businesses unable to fairly asses the value of these pieces of paper (a product of being to smart for your own good) so they can't fairly judge if a company is credit worthy (ie. we'll get our money back), businesses feeling that maybe they should increase their cash positions beyond what is required by law (thanks to deregulation these are very low) so they'll keep more of the upday's flow, lack of oversight to see that the spice is flowing evenly, and a pervasive attitude that "greed is good" (wasn't that so 80s?).

The spice must flow.

Most news organizations played Nancy Pelosi's comments from yesterday. Actually it was Barney Frank that made the case. To sum up what he said, nobody wants to do this, we all agree those on Wall Street need to eat their own dog food, but if there is no action taken this crisis will spread and affect all the tax-payers and middle-class people. Regular businesses will fail from lack of credit, or at the very least be unable to expand (which can lead to failure). Consumers will have to pay much heavier interest rates for loans (remember when home loans were typically above 15%?). We'll all pay the price one way or another. Consumer spending is two-thirds of GNP. If consumers can't spend (ie. run up their credit cards), GNP will crash.

The spice must flow.

As I said way back last year (I think it was last year) to correct this problem and to save the average person, those who were greedy must also be saved. It's not the ideal course of action, but it shows how upside down our economy is. And really, anything that would help Joe Average will trickle up (that's the way the economy really flows, not in a trickle down fashion).

I haven't read the bill, but I am heartened by some of what I hear. Executive pay controlled, golden parachutes nullified (a little late, but what the hell), stock positions in the companies, and the promise of investigations (the FBI is already looking into Fannie, Freddie, and many of the banks) and re-regulation.

All this means that the party isn't so much over, but now that the indigestion has backed up and the partiers had the scare of of a heart attack, we've turned down the music and will more closely watch our intake, maybe stay away from the rumaki . This bail-out plan (I'm sure they'll have a good name for it by tomorrow) is only the taking of a few aspirin, maybe a hit of pepto. It's a start.

The spice must flow.

Edit First try at the bail-out plan fails. Finger pointing ensues. Stock drops over 700 before rebounding to around 500 down (as I type).

The spice may not flow.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

ConClave Schedule

For those of you going to ConClave 33 in Romulus/Detroit next weekend, you'll get a chance to watch me face plant fly strong in my first outing as a panelist. And, apropos of the tradition, my schedule:

8pm-9pm Apollo
Fantasy of Mythology with Steven Climer, Ida Briggs, and Dave Klecha. Where we will wax rhapsodic about about more than the Hero's Journey and Celtic influences (hopefully).

10am-11am Atlantis
Writer's Workshop: Open Writer Q&A with M. Keaton, Merrie Haskell, Dave Klecha, Jim Hines, and Ferrel "Rick" Moore. I believe I'm the junior member here, so I'll probably be taking as many notes as I try to regurgitate all the advice I'd ever received. First rule of Write Club, all members must write.

3pm-4pm Atlantis
Authors Who Edit with Christie Halle Devlin, and Ferrel "Rick" Moore. Joining a professional writer's group has been the best thing for my writing. Oh sure, I get good advice from the others, but the most I've learned is from editing others and hearing others critique their works.

4pm-5pm Br8
Gee, I wish I thought of that. Where do writers get their ideas? with Tiffany Aaron, Merrie Haskell, and Daniel J. Hogan. How many ways can you say, "I have no friggin' clue" in an entertaining way? I guess I'll find out. :)

10am-1pm Br7
What?! You don't pick your own cover art? with Michelle Sagara, Tiffany Aaron, Jim Hines, M. Keaton, Daniel J. Hogan, and William Jones. Well, here's where I bring my non-writing talents to bear. First issue, you've sold your book, it isn't solely yours anymore.

3pm-4pm Br7
Dialogue: How to Make Your Characters Talk Like You Do with Tiffany Aaron, Michelle Sagara, Michael LaFlamme, Michael Poe, and Gary Braunbeck. I'm told I give good dialog. Here we'll see how much I can dazzle with fast footwork or baffle them with the other things.

So, there you have it. Come on by and say hello if you're in town. See if I collapse in a ball of quivering jelly by Saturday Night's bar crawl.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Belated Holiday Greetings from the Heart(land)

Some of the many jobs I do are calendars for various organizations. As such, I am a geek for the rather obscure holiday celebrations; National Karaoke Week anybody? (fourth week of April) That's why with much chagrin I must inform you that last Wednesday was National Punctuation Day (tip o' the hat to fathers' day celebrant Dan). So now I know why there's all the commas and interrobangs hanging around. I did notice an uptick in the use of exclamation marks banging all over a number of ad submissions lately.

"Business speak." Really, business people, you all need to learn English and not put four dots for ellipsis and not only is one exclamation point too many, four are right out for business communications and ads).

Anyway, I hope you all had a good one, and I, for one, had been running out of periods and do use comma splicing, and truncated semi-colons (full colons are just messy). Now I have enough periods to stop these out-of-control run-on sentences that have been plaguing my writing with their continuous digressions and sub-clauses which interfere with the proper flow of sentence structure and only serve to distract the reader while being a general nuisance to all and sundry (are we all blue in the face by now?).

And now I present my shout out to Dan. Saturday bang, bang, bang, bang. (Trust me, he's laughing right now).

When that the poor have cried, Caesar hath wept: Ambition should be made of sterner stuff

So, John McCain arrives in Washington just in time to stiffen the Republican backbone and scuttle the deal. Actually, the House and Senate Republican's have finally found a backbone after bootlicking the President and VP for the past 7 years, gee, wonder if that <20% approval rating has anything to do with it, nah, Republicans never abandon the weak and wounded by the side of the road. It must have been the salty taste that turned them off. Great. Now there's a counter plan that includes, wait for it, less regulation and tax-cuts.

I'm sorry, wasn't this a joke on The Colbert Report Wednesday night? Life imitates art. Well, conservatives have been the best thing for stand-up and situation comedy since someone decided that pre-sliced yeast and flour might be a neat thing.

Less regulation and tax-cuts. I'm sorry, aren't we already reaping the whirl-wind? Hello, brain dead party to the right. Your needle is stuck, you keep playing the same track and not moving forward. Instead you're grooving down and destroying not only the vinyl by the needle and player as well.

If I was more cynical I would say that the conservatives, facing a distinct possibility of having their minority position in government erode even further this year are intentionally keeping everybody in Washington instead of campaigning in an attempt to hold ground.

Oh, and John Boehner, yeah, time to smoke more and faster dude, your lungs having filled up with cancer yet. 'tard.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Conversations at work

"So, why are the Chinese building their own space station instead of going in on the international space station?"

"The Chinese realize they're in a Cold War with us and so are demonstrating their technical superiority."

"How much trade do with do with them a year?"

"Somewhere in the range of a gazillion dollars."

"That seems stupid of us."

"Well, the good thing is that Vietnam is rising as an even cheaper source of low and high-tech labor. Some factories are moving form China to Vietnam right now."

"Soon we'll all be working for the Vietnamese."

"Wait, wasn't that the Domino Theory?"

I'll leave it up to you to decide which part I played in this conversation.

Hush, hush, I heard someone calling my name

Deep breaths, deep breaths. Must. Not. Post. Political. Stuff.

Okay, so some writing things.

Listened to Pseudopod 106: Jihad Over Innsmouth yesterday. One, cool story. Two, man it set the neurons aglow (I have to recheck if the Innsmouth Dagon worshipers/Deep Ones are spawn or Elder God creations, I think they're Elder God creations, which then makes the Cthulhu ties silly, but I might be wrong). Although I had that moment of panic thinking, "Oh sure, this all fits into your current Cthulhu Worldview and stories, yes it would be cool, but do you want to be that guy who writes those stories." And then I think, "Well, you know, it hasn't hurt Charlie Stross one bit now has it?" Oh yes, me precious, there will be more Cthulhu and the squamous Project C-Thru. The Ichor must flow. (insert maniacal laughter here)

Looked over my schedule (or the last one I have) for ConClave and I think I'll be in good form. I need to do some research on Myths and Fantasy, and some general writing tips, but I think I'll be in good shape. Might be on an Asprin panel, which I'll be out of my league, but I can add how reading the Sanctuary shared-world novels and the Myth Inc. books formed my sense of humor and writing style (and not in that order). Not to mention my RPG personalities (ie. swords are for using, they aren't decorations). It's been a long time since I've read either (and I know there's some newer Myth Inc. books I haven't read) so I'll be real weak there (most of my books have been lent out and lost).

Also, the organizers of ConClave send word that the room block closes out this week and they're a little short (or were three days ago), so if you're going, reserve your room today or tomorrow so the Con doesn't have to cover the difference (if room blocks aren't filled, depending on the Con Contract they either have to pay the difference in room rates, or they have to rent the remaining rooms, either way, not a good thing for most Cons that run on shoe-string budgets).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Paging Mr. Obama, random thoughts on the President's speech

Um, nothing on the deregulation and lowered capitalization rules the Republican put in place five years ago. No, that couldn't have been any problem. It's all those "outdated" rule put in place so long ago. Not anything with the rules they updated.

And it was interesting on how many of the changes now discussed because of the outrage of the populace are now a part of their plans (such as limited compensation).

And the major thing? Wow, they are really scared Obama is going to shine strong in this debate on Friday. Obama is called out twice in one day. "Please Mr. Obama, abandon your debate preparation and spend time showing up in Washington," is what I'm hearing. First by McCain's gambit (see previous post) and now by the President wanting to have a "meeting" with McCain, Obama, and the other Senate and House Leaders to talk about this.

Um. Didn't that happen on Monday? Wasn't there a meeting on Monday? Or am I on drugs again.

What's the purpose of this meeting? To shake the concentration and game plan of the Obama Campaign and waste his time in a cynical attempt to skew the debate results or force him to be a noticeable no-show. To talk about the problem we've all be talking about for the past week.

We were on a break

So, McCain pulls a unilateral after the (Obama) campaign suggested a mutual statement and so goes off the Straight-Talk Express to roll up his sleeves and get back to the Senate. Three days late. And while Obama had already cancelled his appearances to prepare for the debate (on foreign policy). Which the McCain campaign also wanted to postpone.

And this is leadership? It has nothing to do with the McCain campaign finances having already topped out (by accepting matching funds), and spent out (media blitzes). Nothing to do with realizing that he may have to prepare for the debate (let us see how much time he spends working in the Senate, or sequestered in his office). Nothing at all to do with trying to gain the higher ground on an election issue he's seen as weak. Nothing to do with trying to take notice away from having employed (and floated the balloon of a possible Treasury Secretary) Phil Gramm whose policies more and more people are beginning to blame for this debacle.

No, it would have nothing to do with those things at all.

So now it forces Obama to react (or at least tries to force him to react), which makes him look weaker, or mean.

Story Bone

Here's one bone and some miscellaneous factoids that may help some of you. First, the bone.

"Silence filled our relationship (life) the way water fills the lungs (of the downed)."

And the random factoids for today.

"Fireball, fireball, fireball." - radio code for detection of hostile missile launch.

"Mark India" - intercept

Remember the Lake Erie, the Aegis Destroyer that launched the missile that "killed" the wayward spy satellite last summer. Yeah, that system was an anti-missile launch platform. NPR story. (on the story, note that this test was of a initial stage "kill", or "launch kill", which is an easier target than midrange or reentry target)

Your love is like bad medicine

I've really been trying to not comment on the bail-out, um give away, um, um, economic stimulus plan for investment bankers. For various reasons, not the least of which is I know of at least two readers here that will be pissed with me by the end of this post.

Let's just say that there are several changes I would want to make to the legislation. Beyond tossing Section 8, which IIRC is the clause that removes any oversight and/or prosecution for the Federal Reserve. When voting out that clause, Paulson needs to be on the floor of the House or Senate to have the members point at him and laugh in unison. Seriously, did you really expect that one to get through? It's an insult to my intelligence.

First off, want the money? Fine. Your top 15 executives can not be compensated more than $400,000 a year (note, that's compensation which includes bonuses, true market value of corporate benefits such as jets, house, etc, it also includes stock options, gifts, and the $5 the chairman spots you to get a coffee) for the next 8 years. Failure to comply is a class one felony with no less than 4 years in minimum security for the executive, the CEO, and the Chairman (if they are different people), forfeiture of any licenses and professional memberships (such as NYSE privileges and seats), and a fine equal to two years of compensation (for all involved).

Oh, all "golden parachute" clauses in your company are null and void, permanently, for any sitting executive above "manager." Failure to comply (see above).

No bonuses for four years (see restrictions on 15 top executives which is more restrictive). The Board will be reconstituted following some rules allowing for independence and control (here I would have to read more of the various shareholder initiatives that have been lately floated).

If your CEO, CFO, or chairman has resigned in the past year (with a "golden parachute") your firm is disqualified from this program. Also, if your nominal headquarters (or headquarters of record) is off shore you are likewise disqualified. Period. No taxes, no money.

Would this be hard? Yes. Tough. Deal with it. The argument about "losing the high caliber people we need to turn this around" is crap. These are the same people who got us into this. Their "qualifications" in my mind are highly suspect. You say you can't live in NYC with such a small amount of money? Tough. Your high pay is what ran the cost of living so high. Welcome to the top 8% of the economy (instead of 1%).

The bad part about my plan? Much of the NYC economy is based around the year-end bonuses of a few people. Those bonuses do trickle down to even the doorman who makes sure your door is open for you and closed to me. That these people (doormen, maids, maintenance workers, etc) will be hurt more by the lack of bonus pay is regrettable. However, in the effort to "keep good people in the correct positions" their pay may be adjusted up to where it should have been instead of keeping them in economic serfdom. Good for the goose, good for the gander.

Also, given the immense debacle of money sent to Iraq (Remember pallets of bills which took out room for munitions on C-130 flights? Remember "and bring a duffle bag" being said to people that the month before didn't even have a passport and now they were to "rebuild Iraq"? Remember the billions of dollars unaccountable?) I am very suspicious of this plan, overall, because of the "no oversight or prosecution" clause.

Oh, and have I made the argument for avoiding "moral hazard"? Think my proscriptions for pay and prosecution are tough? If I was worried about the "moral hazard," which was the argument against "adjusting" individual mortgages, I would simply say, "Let 'em crash."

I say, buy the "illiquid assets" at bargain basement prices (I don't like reverse auctions, but here I would approve, hey, Wall Street has already adjusted to these papers to being worth zero, that's why we're having this problem, go it? Also, of the $700+ Billion only so much will be spent every quarter, so there's only so much money to buy those assets which will give incentives to bid down the price) rewrite those mortgages that are untenable (which, frankly, irks the shit out of me being someone who bought half-as-much house as people thought I should, and I would have liked, because I was living within my means, and will hopefully pay off 10-15 years early, but I don't see a way around it that wouldn't hurt the average home-owner more), and then resell the papers back into the market at as high a price as possible.

Oh, and if this doesn't work and we need to do something else, I recommend not just getting "warrants" for stock from the companies we bail-out, I say they come under an umbrella government management company that we as tax-payers would own the majority of stock (say 60% of all stock - numeric and preference - such as A, B, and C). Fire the CEO, CFO, remove the board, after voting in an abdication of "golden parachutes" as the majority holder, and then sell off their assets or manage them to the point of selling them back into the private market.

And at the end of all, if there can be no agreement to harsh (and yes, they should be harsh) terms. Well, let them fail.

Finally, there's talk of the Lehman execs getting bonus pay. Let's just say that the term "class action lawsuit" was made for a purpose. If I held stock in the company, I'd be warming up the lawyers. Your bonus will be mine.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

A conning we will go, a conning we will go, high ho the merry oh...

One of the major pieces of advice I give to new writers, writer wannabees, and the ravening masses of fans that want "MORE!" is to go to conventions. Yes, the cost can be prohibitive (and if you far from the domed cities of industrial progress, even more so because of travel and lodging). I understand that very well, this being a year of living as a very poor bear. But you really want to make the effort.

Going to cons gets you to rub elbows with like minded geeks people. For those of us from the hinter lands this is the same as finding your community, although standing at the registration desk after having put on your attendee badge and shouting, "My people" is not the way to win over friends. Just saying. Going to cons, for the writer, is more like going to a business function (although do not, Do Not, DO NOT! go with only this goal in mind) where you can meet the rising, shining brightly, and flamed-out stars in the genre. While you may need to practice your sharp elbow technique to get close to the likes of Neil Gaiman, working your way through the throngs of groupies the way sharks work their way through a bait ball, most writers are no so fortunate as to be plagued with such maddening crowds.

Heck, the first time I met John Scalzi (or John Scalvi for you very savvy people out there) I simply walked up to him as he held court (there was an opening at the end of the circle, no blood shedding was required), waited for a break in the conversation and him to acknowledge I was there and then said, "Hi, I'm Steve, I comment on your blog." Well, actually John was making a comment about how he could put anything on his blog and get responses and how entertaining and frightening it was. He could, say, make a post that only said, "My big toe hurts" and get forty-five comments in the space of an hour to prove this point to a radio interviewer. I raised my hand and said, "I think I was post number three on that one."

Now, and here is a big hint at behavior at cons, which is why I broke it out into a separate paragraph, in that circle were (IIRC) Karl Schroeder, Jeff Beeler, Catherine Schaffer, Jim C. Hines, and three other people (including a late arrive Tobias and Emily Buckell). I was way, way out of my weight class. The only writers I knew there were John and Tobias (Tobias I had met before, John I only knew from his blog and reading one book). I met a whole cadre of other writers whom I'll probably miss one or two so I'll just say it was a bunch of them, and I value talking with them all the time (at last year's Confusion I spent a great deal of time drinking and talking with them, Mer Haskell is one of those). I quickly realized I had not done my proper homework and was flubbing the pop quiz I had just invited on myself. At another year's version of Confusion I found myself sitting at a table with David Kletcha, Paul Melko, Jim Frenkel and Patrick Nielsen Hayden. John Scalzi came and sat for a few minutes. To say I felt like a feather-weight that suddenly found himself in the summo ring would be an understatement. But, in both circumstances, I did my best. I learned from them (Karl Schroeder is especially a very cool person to shoot the breeze with, just ask him about his day job, if you aren't impressed, you didn't hear him correctly). In all those circumstance be yourself (very hard when your personality starts whimpering like a scared puppy), be engaging, be humorous, and ask them about what they know. Do not only talk about writing (it'll come up, don't worry, and if it's organic you'll learn a whole lot more). Never, ever, pretend to be something you're not.

Also, while running into the heavy weights is fun (and listening to them is even better), one thing about cons is finding people. Just. Like. You. You have a Star Trek uniform, want to wear it, but you know your coworkers would laugh? They won't at a genre convention (although you may get critical analysis, such as wearing the wrong insignia on a particular uniform style). Heck, at last year's "Costume Ball" there was one person who wasn't wearing much more than electrical tape (and not a lot of that) and flashing lights. Wearing a trek uniform is tame. Seriously, it's a time to get your geek on.

So, if you can swing it, go. If you need more advice, here's some excellent tips called Erin's Tea and No Tea Guide to Convention Etiquette (via Jay Lake's link salad). She has excellent advice. Read and do thou likewise.

And the last piece of advice (at least for now, there are other tips like budgeting) about going to cons? Have fun. Seriously. If you're not enjoying yourself at a con you're doing it wrong. Also, expect to be exhausted at the end of it.

And yes, I am thinking about these things because I'm starting to freak out that I'll be on my first convention panel in two weeks time.

Her picture might just be on the cover of the Rolling Stone

Mer Haskell's writing is positively on fire. I can't keep up with her, you'll have to go to her LJ to find out all the details.

And no, I'm not doing this just to Jones-out the best pizza slices at the end of next month. :) What? I wouldn't do that. Not ever. Well, maybe.

But still, I'm so psyched at her accomplishments these past two years. Ah, sometime in the future I'll go to Confusion, and I won't be able to have a drink with her because of all the groupies.

The stars are stacked against you girl, get back in bed

Today is one of those screwed up days. For about a week now radio reception has been deteriorating. Now, for my daily commute I have the choice of 3 NPR radio stations and two repeaters for those stations. One of those repeaters is no more than 19 miles from anywhere on my commute (WKSU, I normally pass within a mile of the tower about midway through my commute). Two stations I can pick up for 20 miles during that commute (WYSU and WCPN). So you'd think I would be set for radio reception. This morning it was easier to pick up Michigan Public Radio (89.5) that it was to hear any of my local stations. Last night the CBC out of London was a clearer signal than the KSU tower I was passing. Screwed up days.

I prefer to blame congress.

Monday, September 22, 2008

... see ya next Fall

Welcome to Autumn. Doesn't seem much different than last week, does it?

This weekend we saw the nephew get married. Good luck Brittany and Josh. Marriage isn't the goal, it's the journey.

Being the non-blood related uncle you'd think it would be a relatively stress free environment, but you'd be wrong. It meant we would have to deal with the father-in-law, which is never fun. Not only is there dealing with the actual event happenings, there's the week to two week build up of anxiety. Not so much for me, my stress is second-hand. Mostly the stress is from Bette and the sister-in-law. He only did one thing, though, so that was good. Although I guess he stared at us through the reception.

The nephew go turned out, though. The music was way too loud (seriously, was in the back of the hall, and we had to shout). Plus, and I mean this with all love to my nephew and niece-in-law, white people can't dance. Making the music louder doesn't help. And when I say "can't dance" I mean "not even getting the chicken dance right."

The ceremony was short and sweet, which was also good. I think the niece-in-law was bouncing only because she was vibrating so much. If it had been longer, there may have been passing-out involved. Not a good thing.

We had planned to come home early (part of the avoiding dad-in-law), but ended up staying to (almost) close the place. And I got to spend way too short of a time with my other nephews and niece (there was only one). One nephew just started college, the other just started grad school, the niece is a senior in HS. Just not enough time to catch up, do general festivities and meet new people. So we got home very late.

On Sunday we had the writers group, which met early. Opps. Didn't have everything read when I went to the meeting. Fortunately, the meeting started slowly (we were at a local park) and I could be anti-social and finish my critique. But then, that also meant that Sunday was a single event day as well.

It was good to get back to work to relax.

Friday, September 19, 2008

Me Treasure Chest

Ye full bloggeroll, and in no particular order (except for how they are listed in my RSS Folder in Safari)

My favorite littlebird, Camille's current blog
Todd Wheeler's digs
Tobias Buckell's blog
Writer's Wife
Dave Kletcha's Bumscoop LJ
Merrie Haskel's Road of Rue & Wormwood
John Scalzi's Whatever
The Nielsen-Hayden's Making Light
Catherynne Valente's LJ
Justine Larbalestier's blog
Scott Westerfield's westerblog
Jay Lake's website and his LJ
Jim C. Hines has goblins ringing out
Cherie Priest's Heretic Spire, a Damn Lie
Jeff VanderMeer's Ecstatic Days
Joshua Palmatier's Creation of Wrath Suvane
SC Butler's LJ
Karl Schroeder's blog
S. Andrew Swann's Genrewonk
Steven Brust's Words Words Words
Charles Coleman Findlay's Prodigal Blog
pllogan's (whom I used to know his real name) We Can Always Dream
Diana Peterfreund's blog
Ken McConnell's My View
Anna Genoese's LJ
Matt Jarpe's Feedback
Steve Goble's Swords Against Boredom
Tamora Pierce's Random Thoughts
Juloia Buckley (may be defunct)
Matt Mitchell's Unabashed
Weird Tales
Matt Stagg's Enter the Octopus
Wil Wheaton In Exile
Richard Parks' Den of Ego and Iniquity Annex
Michael Swanwick's Flogging Babel
SF Novelists
Greenyflower's Lyfe so short, craft so long
Jim Wright's Stonekettle Station
Janiece Murphy's Hot Chicks Dig Smart Men
Nathan's Pilybloggimous
Shawn Powers' Brain
Random Michelle K's Randomness (which for some reason I can't get a good RSS feed)
Jennifer Jackson Et in arcaedia, ego
Colleen Lindsay's Swivet
Kate's Amnesia
Writer Beware Blog
Eric Reynolds' LJ
William Jones' Ramblings
John Joseph Adams (aka Slushgod)
Sam Tinianow's Rotating Bear
Mur Lafferty's Mur Verse
Adventures in SF Publishing
Publishers Weekly Genreville
MH Bonham's Shadowhelm
Tor's Blog
Backstairs at Tor Books
Shamus Writes
Mary Robinette Kowal
Graeme's Fantasy Book Review
Schlock Mercenary
John Farr's Farrfeed (I think John was the original blogger that I read)
Kanrei's Home for Wayward Lemmings
Leaf Branch Bark Root (really, need to post more)
Dan's Saturday!
Defense Tech
Endicott Studio (maybe defunct)
Writer's of the Future Blog (wish they'd fix their RSS feed)
Slush Master
Dr. Phil (of physics fame)
Terri Windling's Studio
(these are down here merely to remind me to update my at work RSS feeds to include)
Chris McKitterick Stars My Destination
Kristin Nelson's Pub Rants
Jason Sanford
Neil Gaiman's Journal
Nick Manatas' LJ
Elizabeth Bear's They Must Need Bears
Kathryn Cramer
Charlie Stross' Diary
Cory Doctorow's Craphound
SF Scope
Science Fiction Awards Watch
Tessa's Silence Without
Joshua Bilmes' Brillig
Anne Zanoni AZ Shea
Barry Eisler
Graham Joyce

So, did I miss anybody?


Aye, tis International Talk Like a Pirate Day today, it be. Dontcha be fergettin' alls about it, now. Rolls yer R's and grit yas teeth. And the bordin' of wayfarin' sails instead of "getting in your car." Aye, who talks like dat? I'm a ridin' these tubular waves of this here internet and swabbin' the decks wit' the udder poor drunkards, so's I don't haven the time to be waggin' my tongue with you alls too much untils later. Be good pirates until then, and the wind be wit' you.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

The colors of my sea

First off, this is so not a story bone.

There this story line that keeps coming back to me, and I keep pushing it off because I don't think that it's a viable world. The main character has become my most fleshed-out character ever (knowing just want makes him tick), and I've types out stubs of two different stories (I think they are), but never finished them. And I really want to get on writing the novel. But let me ask the great internet brain.

Oh great internet brain, how about this? Stories take place on a post Chinese invasion, post cataclysmic earthquake, post Chinese abandonment of the West Coast of the US. The actual US government is in no condition (financially and politically) to retake the land west of the rockies. In the vacuum a mix of city states ruled by an alliance between republic democracies and an highly organized yakuza. In this mix of Asian and American cultures, the use of Changlish (Chinese and English, like Spanglish) is common place (for the sake of the story telling, it's more English than Chinese), but open markets and street life has taken on a distinct Asian flavor.

Main character is a "Bladesman." Which means he carries a sword and works for the higher levels of the criminal side of things (they're the only ones who can afford it). The progression of enforcers starts with "Thumpers" (basic thugs, most common, they use blunt force weapons, wide range of skill sets and levels), "Gunboys" (those that are allowed to carry firearms, smaller group, more exclusive and troublesome), and "Bladesmen" (highly trained elite, use bladed weapons, very specialized, when one comes calling you know someone with a lot of money is very interested in what's happening). Thumpers are a dime a dozen (although good ones are highly prized). Gunboys are used for inter-crime-family squabbles and for protection. Bladesmen are very expensive and very good at what they do. Within the city our character lives in there are only three Bladesmen (one for each "family") and a handful of apprentices (our character is the youngest/newest, and only because his "sensei" was assassinated). Think super-spy, ninja (hey, people with guns, you don't challenge them to a dual, you kill them quickly and sneakily), dualist, and the embodiment of bushido and honor all rolled together. Again, when a Bladesman shows up, one of the top crime bosses has taken an interest in what you're doing, and is willing to spend a lot of money to let you know it.

On top of these are the mythical "Magicians." There are none known on the West Coast (which means, of course, our character will run into one at some point). These characters are very expensive to keep (hence, nobody on the coast can afford one), but use "sorcery" and "direct magic" as their weapons so they are highly feared.

Just like most famous people everywhere, our character puts his pants on one leg at a time, messes up, and has to live somehow. While he is paid well for what he does, it's not enough to live in the top tier of society (after all, he is a working stiff, not a crime lord). Killing is aprt of the job, although sometimes it gets to him. Mostly he's there to intimidate or to send a message that "one does not do (this) in this town and get to walk away." There is a mix of high-tech and street vendors who sell steamed (and flavored) rice rolled in office paper, CNG cars share the road with rickshaws, buskers, various criminal types, "legit" society, and people just trying to get business done (like crime lords in charge of shipping food and the city food markets - the places where the groceries and restaurants buy their produce). Think Gotham mixed with the LA of Blade Runner, but set in a Noir Pacific NW.

The three crime families live in a changing landscape of uneasy truces with each other. Neither could make a go at running the whole city, but territories could be gained or lost. The City Government tries to play the families off each other, while providing basic services (and trying to protect their own territories), and makes some semblance of "law enforcement" (which can sometimes mean "contract enforcement" between the families). All fours sides know if they overstep or aren't able to provide for their constituents (which overlap), they'll be out of power quickly.

Life isn't exactly cheap, but at the level of game our character is in, can be paid for readily. Most of the work gets done by Thumpers, Gunboys and wannabees dot the landscape and need to be dealt with. Punch and counter punch is the name of the game, sudden escalation/end-game is par for the course, and betrayal (done correctly) is within the rules. Some martial arts, exposition about the functioning of "the world," cold-war thinking, an attitude that our character is not living in the world he would like and is unwilling to deal with crap (either ignores or eliminates with prejudice), and the very real possibility of death waiting right around the corner, sometimes from comic justice.

Sound like a world you all would like to read about?

I broke everything new again

My political snark for the the day (and yes, I'm going to try and keep it to just one), "Gee, I didn't know the Department of the Treasury and the Federal Reserve were reassigned to the Faith-based Initiatives cabinet position."

Yesterday I heard the best line, "This is all Clinton's fault." I laughed in their face and said, "You know, after seven-years I think you could have come up with a better excuse by now."

And then I saw the Daily Show repeat of Tuesday night's show, where Gov. Palin talked about "fixin' the economy" by "getting government out of (it)." Um, yeah. Maybe she's missed it that the current crisis was the outgrowth of relaxed regulations.

So as the DJI dives for cover, and banks are charging each other higher interest rates than they have for the past 9 years, Wall Street in general is duck and covering waiting for the next shoe to drop, what we really need to do is continue the Phil Gramm plan and completely deregulate.

Everything old is new again.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

1, 2, 3, what are we fighting for...

I'm really trying to not write about politics, but I can't keep my mouth shut because I just heard the lie repeated once more.

Many conservatives of the type that are apologists for the current administration (including people like Glen Beck, who really should go back to drinking, IMHO, and those saying the current economic crisis is "Clinton's Fault" - seven years and you can't come up with something better?) like to say, basically, "sure, we've done some bad stuff, but we haven't been attacked on US soil in over seven years, so we must be doing what is right." (which this was an adjustment to "not having been attacked in seven years" because of what has happened in Afghanistan and Iraq, not to mention AQ attacks in Europe and Africa).

I could argue that on so many levels, but it's no longer true. Al Qaeda attacked our Yemeni Embassy this morning. They made it on to the embassy grounds (unlike their mortar attack three months ago which hit a school next to the embassy). Embassy grounds are considered the sovereign ground of the country that occupies it. That is, the ground within the walls of our Yemen Embassy are US Soil. Al Qaeda made it there and attacked us.

So that makes that statement that "we haven't has an attack on US soil in seven years" a lie. Of course they'll start spinning this to "no attacks on the continental US" by the next news cycle. Keep redrawing the line like this and I'm going to start making Khadaffi=Bush jokes.

Interplanet Janet, she's a galaxy girl

Friend and fellow stock-watcher Dan sends this link showing the first (possible) image of an exoplanet orbiting a functional star. Yeah, it's only a few pixels (not like there's a sign saying "Killroy Was Here!" to make out), but still very cool. Of course they're saying that the planet is way to far out for our current models of planet formation. So they'll need to see if it is orbiting the star before giving David Lafrenière, Ray Jayawardhana and Marten H. van Kerkwijk of the University of Toronto a whole bunch of awards. But still, even if it's, say, a brown dwarf in binary orbit (what would the difference between a brown dwarf and this, only mass), or a free floating planet (oo, so SF) it's still pretty neat.

Shelter from the storm

The good news is that we should have our new furnace installed tomorrow. Just in time. Our house holds the heat pretty well (one of the few things our builder did right). So, even though temperatures have been near 50 at night and only in the mid 70s during the day, we haven't had to run the heat yet this year. Also, the contractor asked for a hefty down payment, which had me worried.

The problem with having good appliances to begin with is there's not much you can update to. When we did the water heater, we did see a good change (in both hot water available and in gas usage). But with the furnace we're going from 92.5AFUE to 95.5AFUE, not much difference. Our current furnace has a single speed blower and the new one has a four speed, so we might see some difference in the electrical usage. The new furnace also moves 25% more air, which also should help. I did look at getting a DC motor (significantly less electrical usage), but the cost for the upgrade was too high for the budget; so was a two stage burner (savings in gas). Just like the hot water heater, I could have upgraded to a greater extent, but the cost of those upgrades were too high.

With the dishwasher it's still too soon to notice a difference (except for sound, man this one is quiet compared to the old one). Although energy and water usage and where part of our criteria. I don't think the one we got was the most energy efficient (although it was close), but it should use less water overall, which will help us.

When I build my own home from my specs, I will go to these better options (tankless water heater, insulating the hot water pipes all the way from heater to outlet, and a multiple stage burner, DC motor-variable speed blower, high efficiency furnace).

Next up in the appliance wars is the washer and dryer. Currently the washer isn't draining as fast as it needs to, so it's not spinning enough. I've checked those things I can check and I've not been able to see anything wrong. My guess is the "self-cleaning filter" isn't so much anymore, and I'll try a higher and longer dose of CLR to help (from what I saw it did help the first time). I can also replace all the hoses (which I probably need to do anyway). While our washer/dryer combination isn't the most efficient (they were gifts, just like the AC), and we could probably upgrade a little, the best efficiency products are a little out of budget (unless I start getting OT like last year again). While a top loader washer can run between $200-600, the front loaders start at $800 (for a brand I don't trust). Also, while looking at washer/dryers while shopping for the dishwasher, most front loaders weren't rated for energy usage (or the sales people took off the tags). So this will probably have to wait until mid next year. I'd also like to upgrade the AC, should have done it with the furnace, but just didn't have the cash. We were also looking at installing a wood burner this year, and that won't happen.

On the "I have a dream" board is adding skylights and extending the house. The furnace will handle what we're thinking of. But without a loan or major OT increases, probably several years down the line.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Four randomness

We'll start with the writing. Shouldn't we?

One of the classic advice lines to new writers is read everything you can get your hands on. Inside and outside your genre, you should be reading. I'm going to expand that to watching and listening as well. Ninety-nine percent of it will be garbage (someone's law, can't remember who, said 90% of everything is dross, given today's media I'd up that a little), but there will be gems. Here's one from this morning's commute (the less said about that the better). It's a story about white-water guides. There are so many gems of stories in it that it was like an unbelievable gift from the heavens of NPR. Really. I've already thought of how I can incorporate some of what was in there into "The Wreck" story, and I can feel other ideas squirming around under the cloak of my subconscious. All because of one story in a million.

Listen and read voraciously.

Now to other political stuff. I'm really trying to get off the political stuff. I really am, folks. But they sure make it hard, don't they.

And now there's news (via Jay Lake's link salad) of new charges of "voter caging." The other night I was also subjected to a robot push poll (I hung up after the first few questions, but they sounded suspect to me). And I guess I'm not the only one.

Back to the reading and listening. I've been going on podcasts for most afternoons these days. The latest Escape Pod comes from that wonderful woman, Mer Haskell, called Reparations. You all should go listen to it.

Back to busy busy this time of year. And since the Xmas Decorations are starting to appear in stores now, you know what time it is. That's right! It's nearly Halloween. My favorite holiday. And, oo, the pickin's on decorations are good this year, my precious pets. They are delicious. But I don't have the budget to buy them. Which makes me a sad Trick or Treater. Which then also reminds me. Candy, candy candy! Bwahahaha.

Monday, September 15, 2008

Weekend of Storms

So, after I finished up that last post, I ate dinner, and then debated if I should recharge the laptop or work until it went out. The lights had been flickering for a few hours. They always do that when we have high winds. As Bette and I were preparing for the week (making extra rice, cleaning up after dinner, etc), the lights went out. About 15 minutes later there was an attempt to bring them back on, but it just made everything flicker. Too late to recharge the laptop. I took it as a sign from the universe and just shut the thing down and read a book (shout-out to Todd for that excellent booklight in the winning package last year).

Now, you'd think that having the power out would lead to a stress free sleep, wouldn't you? Nothing of the sort was in our cards. Our wireless weather station has an alarm, and it runs on batteries, so I set that to wake me up at the proper time. After starting to sleep at around 10 (hey, it's a work night, gotta get up early), the cat needed comforting. So I spent half an hour or so petting her. Try to fall asleep while planning how to get the garage door open without power, how much hot water in the heater may be left come morning, etc.

Then at midnight, right after the point where you know you're asleep, our CO Alarm decides that the battery is too low. This provokes an alarm beep which repeats three times. Every half hour. Not enough time, after having woken up, to determine which alarm is sounding (as it sounds exactly like our fire alarms when their batteries run down). So, we wake up at midnight. Then at 12:30, figure it's the fire alarm in the hallway, replace the battery unable to properly make out the diagram for the correct +/- alignment, but guess. Put alarm up, doesn't sound, go back to bed. To be awoken at 1am. Finally figure out it's the CO Alarm, unplug it and remove batteries (alarm moans as it dies). Too tired (and pissed) to replace batteries, will fix in morning.

Then there was the power spike at 2:30am, which turned on the light I had left on (so I would know when the power came back) and set off the fire-alarms (which screeched, then beeped twice, then went silent again). So just enough power to set everything off, and then it died again.

Finally at 4:30am the power came back and stayed on. Of course, light goes off and the fire alarms squawk, and beep twice. Set my regular alarm, think about just getting up, but decide that I can sleep in until 5:30, so another 45 minutes (at this point) of sleep. And then the fire alarm, because I put the battery in backward, decides that there is no battery installed, and so begins beeping, just as my head hit the pillow.

I did restrain myself and didn't rip it out of the ceiling. I disconnected it, took it into the kitchen so I wouldn't disturb Bette too much, reinserted the battery correctly, did a test (to clear out the error codes) while trying to muffle it the best I could, and then reinstalled it.

Now, since power was off, I really wanted to wake up in the middle of the night and go look at the stars. However the sky was cloudy, until the 4:30 am wake up call. And at that point I just wanted more sleep, and the street lights were back on anyway.

I'm better than some, there are swathes of the country that don't have power and won't for at least a week. I had hot water and electricity to get ready for work. I didn't have to disengage the garage door opener to get the cars out.

But I am tired and grumpy. Tonight I'll check the roof (kind of hard in the darkness). I didn't hear anything big hit, just acorns. Lots and lots of acorns. Like it was a Squirrel Armageddon going on out there.

And good thing Ike kept us all from watching the other storm this weekend. Lehman Bros. and Merrill Lynch faltered. Merrill was bought by Bank America and Lehman filed for bankruptcy this morning (having failed to find a buyer after the British Bank backed out). Yeah, if it weren't for Ike this would have been all over the airwaves.

So people in Texas and the midwest emerged this morning, blinking in shock at the devastation wrecked around them just like the financial sector workers emerged in NYC this morning, blinking in shock at the devastation. Oh, it's going to be a great week.

In other news, my money troubles are over. Apparently my email address has been doing more traveling than I have. Specifically to Europe where it has won 2 million euros. But I think it's not legit, because I got the same claim number on three different email addresses. That can't be right.

But I did win a caption contest over at Jim Hines' place. I'm going to be on the bookplate (well, at least my caption is). That set the smile back on my face.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Submission Boomerang

Spent much of my writing time today rewriting Daddy's Little Girl. Went from 2836 words to 2606. Eliminated most of the "was" phrases (there were three I couldn't figure out how to change without changing the story or leaving something important out).

Did a quick Duotrope search and picked Doorways Magazine as the best option to send to. So with the remnant's of Ike battering my trees outside, which in turn are pelting my house with acorns, the story is back out.

Also did some freelance stuff (which we have final approval on, hurrah!). Did a lot of walking around the house. Only did a little work on A History of Lightning which I wanted to finish up today (maybe later tonight).

So right back out.

Rejection Weekend

Jude-Marie Green, Associate Editor over at ABYSS & APEX, sends word that she's passing on Daddy's Little Girl. It was a personalized rejection letter, and I sent her a thank you, but they're closed for submissions and I received back an email saying that the submission will be deleted. So I'm hoping she does a little googling and finds this so I can say thanks.

With my new editing skills I've learned this summer I'll go through the story again, but I'm coming to a conclusion that I'm just not a short-story writer. When I started I did set out to write novels, but found I was so bad at telling a story that I should try to perk up my skills. That's when I switched to short story writing. It's a more immediate form, and (IMHO) I'm a much better writer now than I was all those years ago. If I would have gone through this learning curve with novels I think I would have given up. When I think I've been very successful at shorts, I get responses like, "we felt the story was just starting," "we wanted to know what happened next," or the "nothing explained, not a satisfying resolution." I write out more and get the "too wordy," responses. So I'm thinking it may be because I'm more adapt to novel length works.

Good thing I have a few novels I can work on.

Delicate Sound of Thunder

Work work work. Hint to all those who freelance, ask for a good price up front. I've found that the most egregious use of changes and revisions come when the price is too low. For the freelance work I think I'm really close to minimum wage now with the edits. Wasn't to far ahead of it to begin with.

Last night I did get some words out. I went through "A History of Lightning" and firmed up the copy. I connected a few pieces and amplified the language. Went on a furious hunt for "was", routing it out from deep in paragraphs and rewriting the sentences to make sure it would never come back in.

I think I have two more transitions to complete and it'll be at draft v1.1. I think my going through the earlier copy constituted a rewrite of what I had. Currently it's 3463 words. I have a feeling well end up in the 4500 word range.

Went to be very late last night, and couldn't sleep in too long this morning. So I'm back at it. Hope your Sunday is going to be productive too.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Rainy Saturday Working

Was planning on writing, staring at the screen until my brain cells either screamed in death-throws or cranked out some wordage. But I ended up doing freelance work after checking email. While it was for only a little money (I'm a sucker for start-ups and females owned businesses, it's my weakness), it was probably for more than what I would make for the daily word count. Hopefully tomorrow (or later tonight) will see some word output.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Right Back Out

Sent "What the Sea Sends" to Weird Tales. They only publish a few poems, but what the heck. Nothing ventured nothing gained.

What's a Query?

Well, Josh Palmatier answers that question. With examples. You should go familiarize yourself with it (I intend to re-read it more thoroughly this weekend, which is also why I link to these things).


Goblin Fruit sends word they're passing on "What the Sea Sends."

With all the various and wide argumentary about saying what editors put in their rejection letters, I'm debating if I should continue the practice. Until I reach a firm decision I should probably lean toward the "not saying" side.

The rejection was not a form letter, which is nice. Can't argue with their determination (and it would be fruitless anyway, see prior comment on them being the editors).

Thanks for the good rejection letter. Now to find another market to inflict submit the poem to.

Oil Redux

Just so we all can see the numbers together, OPEC called for a 520,000 barrel a day cut in production from their members to stabilize the price per barrel at $100. OPEC believes they are producing too much.

Remember that if we open up the off shore drilling and drill in Alaska's ANWR we can increase our domestic supply by 300,000 barrels a day, just a little over half what OPEC cut this time. And those cuts are easy for them to make.

So, first, why $100 a barrel when ten years ago OPEC was concerned about stabilizing the price per barrel at $25? The prices are actually the same, on the world economy. That how far the current administration let the value of the dollar fall (fortunately they've made moves to shore up the value and our economic woes are starting to affect other economies which are also declining, which makes the dollar stronger on comparison). The value of the dollar has dropped to 50% of what it was worth in the summer of 2007. So OPEC is pegging their target to the price of oil in relation to other currencies.

Next, I wouldn't worry too much about an OPEC cut. As it is there is too much oil on the world market. Supply exceeds demand (the exact opposite you hear from Washington). But OPEC member nations know they can sell all the oil they can pump. They'll reduce production in the short term, to comply with their agreements. Then in a few weeks they'll go back to full production and sell the extra on the spot market, just like they've always done.

As for drilling here, there are some new developments. You might have heard about the scandal in the Interior Department's MME Denver's office, the office that handles the leases and payments to the government from oil companies. If it got lost in the 9-11 hoopla, you might want to go read that and get familiar with it. Note that the whistle was blown by another MME employee, not the industry. The oil industry is slobbering at the prospect of having new leases. One, because they under pay what they need to for the right to pump oil, and two, because they want even greater heights in stock prices (see reasons and discussion about oil companies not drilling on land they already have leases on, even when there's a good amount of oil available).

There is now a (possibly) viable process to extract oil from shale. However, it involves a large amount of water and energy to convert that water to steam. There's not much water available in the places where the shale oil is at. The water would come from underground aquifers that replenish at rates measured in centuries, and much of those have already been promised to farmers (which have depleted the resource at an alarming rate already). Then there is the energy needed to extract the oil. Remember, energy in must be less than the energy from the oil extracted for it to be really viable. Oil industry execs say they could bring in the oil for around $25-35, but that's based on getting the water and energy for practically nothing. And, all oil is sold on the world market, which means it still will be sold for around $100 a barrel (if it was available now. I'm still trying to find more information about this (my guess is that it really is just a PR stunt aimed at positioning claims for when we might have an actual process, and this is the same process that has been shown not be be economically viable).

Shale oil, though, is a game changer. Setting aside the environmental concerns, if we could extract oil from shale cheaply and on a large scale, that does have the opportunity to wean the US from foreign oil imports (not completely, but it'll put a big dent in them).

So, OPEC does a temporary cut that is almost double our potential output increase if we open up everything and a possible new process (that sounds like an old discredited process) to extract shale oil. I think the oil business has officially entered the spin cycle.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Some Help for Our Conservative Friends

It seems that no one in the Republican Party, or at least those that were at the Convention or at Sarah Palin's speeches knows what a "Community Organizer" is (I know some other Conservatives who actually have a brain, but those were in short supply there).

Well, I'm sure they don't have that definition on Conservipedia, but here's a Wiki Page (which I see is having a dispute over the "balance" of the article). Since I know most of them wouldn't soil themselves to look at something that Fox News hadn't washed first, here another comparison.

A Community Organizer is kind of like that guy in your gated community that makes sure everybody uses the same color and style of Xmas Lights in their outdoor display every year. Only the people the community organizer helps actually want to talk with them and they do other things like bring groups of people together to make sure there is police presence on the streets, the interests of those people are made known to local officials (like mayors), a local quickie mark owned by a big conglomerate doesn't charge three times as much as they do in their suburban supermarket for a gallon of milk, pool resources between groups to help in a greater or better fashion (like Pastor's Councils), or that a business is actually OSHA compliant so their employees stop losing fingers.

You're welcome.

Try to remember the kind of September, when life was slow and oh so mellow.

Another anniversary and still there aren't heads on pikes. For that, and that alone, I blame the President.

I'm going to be a little heretical now (and really, haven't you noticed that I am normally heretical?). Just how many public memorials do we have to December 7? Well, to be fair, one is on the drawing board and the USS Arizona hosts many visitors every year. I've not been to Ground Zero, or the Pentagon since the attack, but I have been to Shanksville. I've seen the make-shift memorial wall there and walked through the little shack the National Park Service erected, and stared out across the field toward the tree line. But in all honesty, the actual site is just a hole in a field. This hole has now become a place of modern pilgrimage, just like Ground Zero and the Pentagon which has the first in-tact permanent memorial dedication today.

I can see how this has come about. The cynical use of the memory, and the constant beating of the drum by the current administration, tied with their impotent response and lack of bringing those responsible to justice have consigned us to this Groundhog Day like existence every September 11th.

Out in the country we have seen the growth of descansos, or roadside memorials. These are normally crosses with plastic flowers, although some have become very elaborate in a weird competitive "my grief is greater than yours" way. While these used to be temporary markings of the place where someone was last alive, many are now more or less permanent emplacements, regularly updated and refreshed.

It's easy to understand why. The people who place these are still hurting. They have no closure and are unable to let go of the dead.

The same is true with the continuing veneration of 9-11. Is it a day to remember? Certainly. We all remember just what we were doing when we first heard of the attack. But a two-acre memorial park outside the Pentagon, and National Park of ten acres in Pennsylvania, and a permanent memorial/museum in NY? For all the sacrifice of towns across this country during WWII, most have simple stones with the names of the dead inscribed.

Why not instead dedicate ourselves to living better and more fully? Why not instead of concrete and steel firm up heart and soul? Why not, when it's a bright clear morning, feel a moment of sadness remembering that September when life was slow and mellow, remember those who have passed, and then get on with our lives here and now? Remember those who were doing nothing other than working, and the sacrifice of those who ran to help them and take those lessons with us.

Because we have no closure, no healing, no justice. We are stuck on that morning, unable to move on. The bells ring, heads are bowed, widows, widowers and orphans cry as the names are read aloud, and the hurting continues.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Catch Phrases Are Out of Bounds?

Fair warning, I get a little ticked off in this post.

Christ on a pogo-stick, don't we have anything better to talk about? Obama tosses out a phrase that both sides of the contest have used, "a pig in lipstick is still a pig" and the conservatives get all frothy on how it's a slam against Palin. Get real. If he had said, "Put lipstick on a pit-bull and you still have a dog" that would have been a slam against the governor. Obama used the phrase to categorize McCain's policies and "Same Old White Guy, Now With Change!" campaign as more of the same. McCain used the exact same phrase to criticize Hillary Clinton's health care program. It's a common phrase. Pretty soon the neo-cons will be claiming that Obama's campaign of Change is really stealing McCain's campaign ideas.

Neo-cons are expecting an attack. Here's one. Gov. Palin is lying to you about the "Bridge to Nowhere." She was for it before she was against it, never talked to the US Congress, and in the end took the money that was earmarked. She's lying. Not "putting a spin on it," not "mis-remembering," not "showing it in the most positive light." She's lying. That is an attack.

Oh, and in case you missed it, not only is Paulson punting by pushing off any attempt to solve the pending economic meltdown (let's call it what it is) to the next administration, so is Defense Secretary Robert Gates by saying that any troop reductions in Iraq will be postponed until the next administration. I don't have words that explain my contempt for these acts of fiduciary and managerial acts of malfeasance. That there is at least 30% of this population in the US willing to give this party another four years at this just astounds me. Are they so wrapped up in worrying if everybody else maybe having a good time that they can no longer deal with objective reality? I still have problems believing that (because I know many people in that party that I accredit having a high degree of intelligence).

The call me Mister Scratchy

I'm growing my beard again. After nearly half a year going as "Baby Face Buchheit" (and here Steve cringes hoping that name won't stick), it's time to get my whiskers back. They're now long enough that they move independent of the skin beneath, and while still scratchy I'm on my way to softness. Smooching shall restart shortly thereafter.

Told the guy to order the furnace last night. Here's a link to what I'm getting, in case you care. Energy star certified, single stage, 4-speed blower, 40,000 BTU, hot-point ignition, aluminized steel heat exchangers (lifetime warrantee), 95.5% AFUE, a slight improvement on what I currently have. I thought about upgrading to a DC motor, but the cost differential didn't make it worth it, the four-speed blower should help though (current furnace is on or off). Only a 3% increase in efficiency won't be giving us a good ROI, but it's higher than the other options we had. It'll blow about 25% more air (at full blower speed) than out previous, and the BTU's are the same (I have a small house, the furnace is centrally located, it's kept us warm enough), so we should be as warm as we want to be. As I'm sure you've all noticed I over-think and over research all my big purchases. This is the fastest I've ever spent $2822 of my own money, so part of my brain is still wary. But things are going to be very tight this fall as far as budget goes. Good thing I cut my own hair.

Last night was not only our general council meeting, but also the County Commissioners were at our place beforehand. The mayor and I gave them a piece of our minds concerning the timing of rolling out the new MARCS radio system. That was somewhat cathartic, but since we are the only community in the SE corner of Ashtabula that has our own police department, the other township trustees could only give us some moral support (and it was probably the first they had heard about this). There's another meeting later this month that we can go and express our displeasure and desire to slow down the transfer (so we can get past the New Year, where we can qualify for grants, also new fiscal year).

It's been a while since I've talked about the big D. I'm doing better, thanks. At least now I feel stressed, instead of thinking, "Why am I doing/behaving like this? I must be stressed out." Feeling the emotions again is a good thing. I sometimes dip back in to big D, like slipping beneath the waves. Fortunately those episodes only last for a day or two. I'm sure I could be doing better with talk therapy, but when do I have the time for that (see stress comment before)? So we continue limping along, but we're better. It's easier to see myself objectively, and to perk myself up. Although I still have behavior that one part of my brain is yelling, "Don't do that, do go there, stop that, don't get that extra helping, etc" but I still end up doing it anyway. Although the other night I did stop one stress-behavior/bad habit from continuing. So progress on that front. I've only called myself an idiot a few times in the past week, so progress there too.

It's the end of the world as we know it, and I feel fine.

The Hadron Super Collider is online. Protons have been fired. The world is still here.

Although, you know, no collisions have occurred. Yet. So there's still a hope that the world will end and we won't have to watch or listen to the screaming and gnashing of teeth that is sure to proceed our Presidential Election. So, Higgs Boson or annihilation, either way it would be cool.

This reminds me that a few years back I read an article on how some astrophysicists were looking at some seismic anomalies. How the seismographs recorded some highly local events that look like an asteroid strike, of the size that would leave a crater, but no crater is found. And that at predictable times, there is another similar event on another part of the globe. How it looks like something with decent mass had passed through the Earth. While they didn't quite know what it could be, one of the theories is micro or mini black holes passing through the Earth.

So even if the Hadron Collider could create a micro-black hole, it'll only have the mass of a few protons. Not really something to get all bothered about. You experience more gravitational pull from the computer screen you're looking at right now (which is throwing off a few hundred thousand protons and is made up of more).

Which brings me to the alternative title of this post. "OMG, it's made of mass!" (Here's a link to a video that explains why some of us are giggling). And here is another link, you know, just in case something bad might happen (just check that URL out, physics humor, love it).

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Boy, you're gonna carry that weight, carry that weight a long time

Well, Hanna moved through the NE today, so now I'm thinking about everybody I know there, including family. Hope you're all doing well.

Coverage of the storm seems to have been blown away by the Freddie Mac/Fanny Mae announcement today. Nothing to see here. The economy is doing well. Don't worry. No need to panic. Everything is under control. Oh, and by the way, Paulson punted. Did you see that. He said it was up to the next president and next congress to fix all this. Yo-ho there Mr. Paulson, me thinks this President and Congress has three more months they could be working on this. But, true to form, the neo-cons can get us in trouble, they just have no friggin' idea how to get us out. You know, the old-cons actually had plans, neo-cons have white-papers. And then the line about, "we're preparing for this action, but only if we really need to." Uhm, yeah, heard that one before. Like when Congress gave approval for the funds to back up this move. Oh, and FDIC took control of another bank (that makes 14 now?). Happy Christmas.

Mowed the lawn, caught up on design work, did a little home maintenance, read all the brochures on the furnace and developed my questions, turned over the compost piles, and lazed about some more.

Not really prepared for the week, but when is that anything different. Hope you all had a good weekend.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Weekend Researching

We used the dishwasher for the first time last night. It's much quieter than our old one. And its one and off cycling was a little disconcerting (but the manual says that it's normal operation).

Going through the specs of the heaters today. They mostly seem about the same, although the Airflow CFM ratings are different (one is 800, the other 1200). I can't find much about this (you know, except for cubic feet per minute and check Manual J for specifications, which then have to be run through a computer program). Time to pull the old manual and see what it says. Sigh.

Lawn needs mowing, but it rained a lot last night, which we needed. Hanna is battering up the East Coast. It's over NJ right now, so I'm hoping that all the people I know there are fine (Hi, Rog, yeah, I need to email you). Hope all of you are safe.

Friday, September 5, 2008

Some More Random Things (maybe I should call myself Random Steve from now on)

Most bestest SPAM headline EVAR?! "Shofar Blowout."
::falls on floor laughing::

Still sick, it's moved to my chest and I'm coughing more than sneezing (cough is from drainage, not in my lungs).

Does anybody else find it cute when the talking heads on Fox News bash "the media" for not covering "these stories" or for never talking about "these issues"? Clue-bat to Fox News, you are "the media." By talking about it, you can't claim the media isn't talking about it. Duh! (said with 3 syllables) And after the roll-outs at the campaign, the Right continues in their persecution complex and pre-emptively fires off that the "liberal media" is attacking them. Uh, yeah, seriously, there's drugs that can help with that.

In case you didn't see The Daily Show Wednesday night or the Thursday replays (when I catch it) you missed something special. Cool guy and all around hoopy frood Dave Kletcha has a clip over on his LJ blog. Check it out.

Also cool guy Matt Staggs informs the sad crowd that he's no longer going to do his linkfest of love he called bookosphere. He says it takes too much time. Fair cop. But I'm going to miss it (like I have the time to read all those links). Thankfully we still have Jay Lake's link salad.

Way too many of my friends have had sales lately, and I'm remiss in calling them all out. Mer, Todd, Sam, and everybody else, I'm a bad blog friend. Sorry about that. While I'm catching up, my favorite littlebird Camille continues to blaze a trail through the writing and publishing business and posting about "slushdates."

Also, brain on fire from a comment. Have written a hundred plus words of potential rewrite of story. It might make the story more kick ass (as long as it keeps going).

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Well people like that reform. Maybe we should get us some.

Because I'm drugged up, mixed up, clogged up, and somewhat plugged up, my thoughts wheel through arcs within arcs and I'm freely associating.

edit Yes, the dishwasher is in and it looks fabulous. He used a PVC connection for the water (WTF? I could have done that). So no more water on the floor. Yeah! end edit

So, do you think sometime tonight at the Republican Convention that there will be a moment where they shake off their blinders and realize that they've been in charge of the Whitehouse for seven years, and except for the past year and a half, were in control of Congress for fourteen years. And that all this "grabbing the establishment by the scruff of the neck and shaking" or "changing the way business is done" or "changing the permanent bureaucracy" any of the other "we're gonna start the revolution" kind of talk is directed directly at themselves? No, probably not. They spike the drinks kinda hard. Winters are long in Minnesota.

Then there's the new Microsoft commercial, the one where they tout the "new system," Mojave, only to reveal, after people say "wow, it's sick," that it's really Vista (Slashdot). Notice how none of those people are actually using the OS, they're only looking at the screen (the new kicker screen-saver maybe?). Sure, it looks good, but you can't use it. I just found that very funny.

On top of that is the Duracell commercial with the mother and child at the park. The kid is right behind her one second, and when the mother turns around he gone. She then uses the BrickHouse Child Locator to find the child before she blows a gasket (yes, I know, this is one of those fears and I shouldn't be making light of it, it's the drugs talking)(Reuters article on how the BHCL sold out after the commercial start). Anybody else key into Star Wars Episode IV where Luke comes back from dinner and uses the wand to shock CP3O and he pops up from behind the evaporator? Or is it just me?

And finally, apparently Sarah Palin is a freeze-dried wack-a-loon. No, this isn't about her kids. It's about the Iraq War, the one her son should be training for, but instead has a staring role at the convention. Then there's her lying about the environment so polar bears wouldn't be classified as a threatened species. Well, I guess given the previous administration denial complex this would be considered a Presidential Qualification.

And now it's time to take some more drugs. Oh Nyquil, how we love thee.

Five random things making a blog post (the brain-fog edition)

I have a cold. It's one of those summer head colds and I blame all the little precious germ factories I was around over the weekend. Those little booger-headed kids left behind their demon spore, and I had the unfortunate luck to pick it up. Bastards. But oh the joys of Nyquil.

Note to Joe Biden, you're going to come off as the dick in the debate, no matter what you do or how nice you try to be. Accept that you'll be the bad guy, you can't escape it. Embrace it and mop-n-glo the floor with Palin.

Also, listening to the delegates and the speeches at the RNC (not much, after awhile I can't stand the spinning of the room), wow. Persecution complex much? Seriously, you all, get help. And people talk about Steve Job's reality distortion field, I can see the waves of reality distortion spreading out from the convention like those mutagen waves that came off the Statue of Liberty in the original X-Men movie.

They're supposed to install the new dishwasher today. We are to be first on the list. We'll see. We're slowly working toward the new furnace. We have two options, one just below $3000, one a little over. Because we have horizontal venting, we need to go with a high-efficiency unit, which is okay because that's the way we would have gone anyway. The smaller unit, which will require the most sheet-metal work, but is also the less expensive unit, is also Energy-Star compliant, where as the larger unit isn't At first blush, both will put out the same BTUs and move the same amount of air. I need to look at the technical papers a little closer.

Did I mention I have a cold? Oh, yeah, I did. Little booger-faces. This weekend I don't have anything scheduled (that I know of) so I'm going to spend most of it relaxing. The past few weekends have all been a little crazy. I need to finish up some plans for the fall, re-examine the budget. In the mean time I have to mow the lawn (damn rain last week), clean up, and prepare for the general council meeting next week.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Story Bone

There was another political post that came out, but I'll spare you all. Instead, here's a line in search of a story. The two had nothing in common.

"The difference between being put on a pedestal and being lynched is where they drape the rope."

I, for one, welcome our new Babelfish overlords.

Because they provide gems like this one. (tip o' the hat to DanB, good friend, frequent IMer, and good Dad by warping his kids humor). Groked from here.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008


Writing is like smoking. It's something a lot of people do, and some aren't proud of it. It's something that at first you're going to do in secret. Not everybody does it well. As you get better at it and stop choking all the time, you start doing it out in the open. Eventually you just don't care who knows that you do it.

Most of your family will try to dissuade you from it. They'll tout the health hazards, that all writers are known drunks and will die from it. Or they die from suicide. With love they'll implore you to quit before it's too late.

You'll start with a few hundred words a day, or every other day. You'll only do it socially, maybe a witty blog comment. Eventually you'll move on up to three thousand or so words a day. You just won't feel right unless you get those words out. And you won't care if anybody else is around. Then you'll start skipping social gatherings to get the words down. You'll write with the door closed so nobody will see you.

Being a writer means you're a social pariah. The rest of the world may accept you into what you'll call your "day job." But soon you'll find yourself huddling with other writers, out in the cold, just to get away and get your fix. You'll take little breaks at work, nothing big, just like other people have a cup of coffee or lunch with friends. Instead you'll be writing. You'll miss calls, people will ask where you've gone. And when you go back to normal society you'll reek of writing. You can't wash it out of your clothes. It gets into your hair and skin. Even using soaps with high perfume levels, someone standing close to you will be able to detect the scent of writing pouring from you.

Not everybody can be a writer. It takes a certain aptitude to start off, not everybody has that. There's a short adjustment period as you become acclimated to writing. This is where peer pressure comes in. They'll tell you to just try it one more time. It'll be better the third time around. And by your fourth ride with that monkey on your back it's too late. You're hooked.

There are also small skills one has to learn to master the art of writing, and once internalized you don't need to think of them openly. Your hands will automatically hover over a keyboard in perfect position. You'll search for the uses of "was" in manuscripts almost automatically.

Just like cigarette smokers have their brands, so do writers. Only you'll call them genres. And you'll stick in your genre as best as possible, enjoying the smoky flavor. But if you need that fix and you're out of your genre, you'll bum anybody else's to get that buzz. Sure, you'll long for that cool menthol of high fantasy but you'll suck on the harsh unfiltered memoir if that's all you can find.

You'll start denying yourself other things to continue your writing habit. You'll justify these deprivations with, "I only need to do this for a while, and then I can write whenever I want to." Food, friends, going out and having a good time will all be secondary to you so you can stay at home and write. You won't buy that gallon of milk, but blow you're last five dollars on reams of paper.

And then you'll know. It's got you hard, baby. You'll fool yourself by saying you can quit anytime you want. Ken Folliet quit after writing four novels. There are quitters all around you. But you know it's too late for you. You need that hit in the morning, after meals, and right before you go to bed. You're hooked, baby, and it's set deep.

If you're able to break your writing habit, you'll always think about writing. If you're around other writers you'll feel the itch that only hypergraphia can scratch. You'll find yourself getting into the same habits again. Going into stores and seeing blank pads of paper (lined or unlined) you'll feel that need. Your hands will involuntarily start making circle movements, plots and characters will enter your head unbidden. And it's only a matter of time before you start up again. It'll just be one. You'll stop after one.

Then, once you do it again, you'll realize that this is what's been missing. Like the best lover of your life and you get to cheat with her all the time. Once you're a writer, you're always a writer. You can only stay in recovery, you'll never be cured of it.

What the Duck Said

Hope you all had a good weekend. Mine was exceptionally busy (and that's a comparative statement after a summer of busy weekends). Spent Saturday at Mom's place. Grilled hamburgers and hotdogs.

Grilling is a full contact sport in my family. Fortunately I was grilling before some people showed up, so I only had to suffer from my mother's criticism ("There's a lot of smoke coming out of that grill"). I wasn't watching my fire closely, so the burgers got a bit crisp on the outside. They were still juicy inside, so I didn't have to relinquish my grilling spatula. Didn't get home until about 1:30am. After long drives I can't fall asleep quickly, so it was a very long day.

We went to the Great Geauga County Fair on Sunday. It wasn't our normal day, so things were kind of off. There wasn't really anything at the grandstand we wanted to see (although tractor pulls are fun, once you realize your hearing is important, they aren't that fun).

We always go around the animal barns, Bette pets the cows and I get the annual, ritualized arguments of "Pygmy Goats (llamas, alpacas, mini donkeys) aren't really farm animals." We're not allowed to have livestock. Zoning. Bette misses having big animals around. Although in the poultry barn there was a guy holding a duck. It was a very Gary Larsen moment.

We had milkshakes made of whole milk (yum), lemonade made by "Cocktail" wannabees, got felt up by the politicians, looked at all the geegaws for sale, avoided the carnies, and walked ourselves silly. I did take pictures, but I don't want to promise anything.

We were going to go to the fair on Monday, they have a flower auction which not only can you find great mums for $2 a planter, the auctioneer makes a real show of it. Instead the Sunday paper had a $4 coupon to see Vatican Splendors. It wasn't really what I was expecting. It was much less. Much of the artwork was 16-17 century and later (much of it was from the 20th Century). There were some standout pieces, though, but I'm glad we had coupons.

The crowd was interesting. Very much of the "we go from listening station to listening station" and not really paying attention. At the beginning there were some paintings (two very interesting ones, "John the Baptist" panel from a tryptic and a "Mary" that had never been shown publicly before) and a reliquary in the middle. Most people were crowding the walls so I went to see the reliquary which had bone fragments from Simon named Peter and six other saints. When I say fragments, I mean real little chips of bone. There was also a fabric swatch from a bag used to carry reliquaries (which of course is also supposed to be infused with the full power of the saints it carried, just like the chips of bone). After a bit I commented to Bette, "Peter has been spread pretty thin." There was one room that had the things I expected to see, but they were all from the 20th century. There were some chasubles and other garments, a few crosses, and some of the ritual objects. These were very interesting. A number of them had dragons incorporated in the design. Hippogryphs, ducks, griffins, and a unique winged half-man half-serpent character on a water pitcher used to wash the hands of the priests during the ceremony. None of these objects were in the catalog, which is the reason we didn't buy it.

And in even more important news, I won Todd Wheelers reading contest. Woohoo! I didn't get much fiction reading done this summer, so I was very surprised at me winning. As Todd said, it's better to be lucky than good. But now my number is retired for Todd's contests. I've won too much.

So September is off to a good start. Thanks to Todd. I certainly hope this is a turning of the tide. This summer hasn't been all that good to me and will go down as the summer when all our appliances went bad (me: hot water tank in January, dishwasher, and furnace; Mom: roof, furnace and AC; Sister-in-law, dryer, it's a long list). I certainly hope this Fall is good to us all.

Good people

Good people are not like you and me.

Good people get passes in life. They have things said of them like, "Oh sure, that was bad, but they're good people so we know they really aren't like that." Good people endorse abstinence only sex education when it's such a failure. Instead of seeing it as a failure, they feel that those that have fallen have had individual moral failures. When it doesn't concern good people, they can be righteous in their condemnation.

Sara Palin is good people.

Good people do good things, so everything they do is good. There are no wrong actions or failures of morality, only good things. Sara Palin can state that she is a feminist (with qualifications) and get a pass from the social conservatives of her party, who would normally spit on the word feminist. When her un-wed daughter becomes pregnant, the social conservatives trip over themselves to say she's doing the right thing, because she has involved her parents, is keeping the baby and the boy has said he will marry her. There is no condemnation for sex out of wedlock, underaged pregnancy, failures of personal character, or hiding the pregnancy. The social conservatives that foam at the mouth decrying all of those things for you and I are falling over themselves to say how Palin's daughter is doing the right thing. Good people aren't criticized for such trivial things.

The word is duplicitous.

I call these social conservatives for their moral failures for not seeing this for what it is, so concerned they are with getting another Republican administration. These things that they would be calling for a reinstatement of the Scarlet Letter if it were anybody else (except another Good Person) gets a pass. You all should be ashamed of yourselves. You have lost your moral high ground, willing abandoned it.

A world made of good people.

This is the world the social conservatives want. Where there is one standard for the Good People, and another standard for the rest of us. It is a desire for an aristocracy and monarchy, their Anglophilish wet dream. For the saved, all is bright and wonderful. For the saved there is no sin, because they are saved. The other people, the unsaved, are a brutish lot and must be treated as misbehaving children.

Good people are not like you and me.