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

Sunday, May 31, 2009

Point Writers Leftovers

I think I promised some photos from the Point Writer Group Workshop. I had a great time there. Thanks for bullying me into it, Mer. Hopefully we can do this again next year (and I have either the full Bladesman done by then, or even better, the Apocalypse novel).

I think it was Friday night that had the spectacular sunset. It looked like we would have a sundog that night, but it never appeared. But the sun setting through the trees on the far shore, with a cloud bank mounting over, that was good enough.

Here's the rocks outside the window that we all avoiding dashing our dreams against. Or as Mer put it, nobody jumped in the lake after our critiques.

I've cleaned up a lot of the extra files I had going for Bladesman, so I can continue on. The last chapter still sucks, but not as bad. I would rewrite it, but I want to keep going.

In between I also have parts of Shadow Over Raas Xaafuun coming out, and another story that I wrote out the idea for four years ago (tentatively entitled, Sins of the Father). The first 300 words sloughed off my brain Friday night, keeping me from sleep. So I wrote it out long hand and have yet to key it in. We'll see if it continues to haunt me. It would also probably be the first short story I've ever written where I know the whole plot before I begin.

And just because the universe likes to taunt me, tonight's Chinese Fortune Cookie fortune? "Doing little things well is a step towards doing big things better." From that little slip of paper to my internalization of purpose.

Cat Blogging Sunday

Because I can't follow rules I'm cat blogging on a Sunday.

Here's Vivian and Cleo together to show their relative sizes. Our Vivi has become a little barrel cat, and the vet says that's as large as Cleo will get, which is only slightly larger than when we got her (at 3 months). Lately Vivian hasn't been treating her daughter so nicely. We're trying several things, including petting them both when their both around, some herbals (for Vivi's digestion) and a homeopathic. It's helping a little. After the homeopathic she's good for about a day.

Here's Cleo being the cute little thing she is. But before you get all "awww, cute kitty..."

Here's how such a small cat can take up so much space on the bed. Yes, she sometimes sleeps like this.

Hopefully that satisfies my quota of cuteness to the internet for May.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

Fixing a hole

Spent the day spending my back putting in three rhododendrons, sweeping off the roof (to clear the gutters), cutting some wood pieces for my wife's crafts, trimming off the bottom of the shed door, and tossing some dirt around.

The good news is that, even though we had massive roots to cut through, digging the holes for the rhodies we were surprised to see that out good dirt depth is now three to six inches. This is back in among the trees, which we've turned into a large area compost pile for leaves (we have a fenced in area for the rest). In the fall we haul the leaves to the back and spread them out adding in some compost starter. We've also transplanted worms (which we none of when we moved in) and other little animals that work on crewing up dirt. Most of our "soil" is clay, and I mean the type you could probably make into pots (we have a lot of brown, but there are good patches of blue clay out there). When we moved in the good dirt depth was about half an inch. Of course it was a bitch cutting through the root mass and there were plenty of trout lilly bulbs tossed aside.

With the cutting, I had enough scrap wood to cut all the pieces from. I also had all the right tools to get the job done. For woodworking advice, sandpaper isn't as good as planing and a simple block plane is good enough for most applications. I also had the right tools to cut the bottom of the door, but I didn't use them. I should have removed the door, laid on a table and used the circular saw or planed it down, or used the reciprocating saw on it while it hung on the hinges, but I used the jigsaw because I had it out.

Tossing the dirt around was just an ongoing project moving the eight yards we had delivered two weeks ago.

So there was a lot of digging below grade, twisting in strange ways, and hauling loads. And now my back is telling me I over did it. Hope you had a better weekend.

Friday, May 29, 2009

I just want to say, I love Elizabeth Bear...

(her livejournal) for pointing this out.

OMG OMG OMG! It's sooooo true.

It always feels like somebody is watching me

(Grokked from Ken McConnell)

Here's a photo essay of Where I Write by photographer Kyle Cassidy. As most writers know we all have a prurient interest in How Other Writers Do It. We usually just can't get enough of this stuff.

Okay, maybe I'm speaking for myself, but he has it under it's own URL, so I don't think so.

And just my general comment on the photos, these people clean up their spaces way too well. Mine looks more like Chip Delany's place, but not as neat and organized.

I know we did this as an exercise on Genre Benders, talking about our writing spaces, but I can't remember if I posted any photos (there or here). Hmm. It's supposed to rain Saturday afternoon, maybe I should rectify that.

The Summer of Healthcare

Most of you know that healthcare and the cost of healthcare are very near and dear to my heart. It's something we as a nation will be discussing this summer as the President has laid down the law saying that if we are to get health care reform done, it needs to be done this year. After that, the pressure to change may lessen, slightly. The cost of healthcare is a lion clinging to the hindquarters of the cape buffalo of the bull-market economy. It may not necessarily be the lion that ends up bitting the neck, suffocating the beast, but it is the one that makes it possible for a weaker, slower lion to do the job. Sure, we might shake off this first "Troubled-Asset" lion that's been squeezing our economic windpipe, but unless we get that other lion off our ass, something else is going to kill us off, like the "Energy Cost" or the "Trade Deficit" lion.

Here's a New Yorker article on "The Cost Conundrum" (groked from Jay Lake's link salad). The money shot?

"Providing health care is like building a house... Imagine that, instead of paying a contractor to pull a team together and keep them on track, you paid an electrician for every outlet he recommends, a plumber for every faucet, and a carpenter for every cabinet. Would you be surprised if you got a house with a thousand outlets, faucets, and cabinets, at three times the cost you expected... Getting the country’s best electrician on the job... isn’t going to solve this problem. Nor will changing the person who writes him the check."

As you read the article, pay close attention to the "for profit" and "not-for-profit" tags. Also, near the end there's a conversation with Dr. Dyke about changing the payor of health care that you should read. It may seem that what he's advocating is an HMO, but it really isn't. What he's advocating is a business practice and professional organization. That's a fancy way of saying "Professional Union," but that last word gives many people too high a squick response to work well. In Ohio, as we limited healthcare malpractice awards in an attempt to lower the increases in malpractice insurance (because "allz our doctors is gonna leave us", which didn't work because that wasn't really the cause of high insurance rates, and the doctors haven't increased their retirement rates), we also discussed opening up a database that patients could search to see if their doctors had malpractice claims or professional black marks on their records. That part of the bill died pretty quick.

For our village, as well as many of the local businesses, we've been discussing healthcare programs. The most prominent idea that's being pushed is the healthcare savings program. This is where you set up a savings plan, have automatic payroll deductions to match up to a specific plan deductible (a very high deductible, normally on the order of $5000 and above). The individual is then responsible to spend the money out of the savings plan wisely. The actual insurance part of the plan is essentially a catastrophic plan (something that used to be the norm before we did the surveys that preventative care was more cost effective).

I can't tell you how much I hate these plans. Not so much for the patient (except that it's a way to shift more costs onto the individual from the company benefit side), but for what it will need do to the rest of the industry. I'll say this here, if you want the consumer to make decisions based on cost for health care, the providers will need to provide price sheets for common procedures and provide estimates for the rest. The system based on consumer choice cannot work any other way. And yes, I'm talking about a McDonalds' menu board style price list out front, before I see the doctor and start incurring costs.

Right now all the arguments I keep hearing are about how to control costs and who pays for what and to whom. As the article explains, no matter what we do on that side of the argument will have any real impact. What will have an impact is taking the profit incentive out of healthcare. I'll probably write a whole other post on why that's going to face a tough battle, but it's been done. Germany, Sweden, and Switzerland all have private health insurance, private doctor systems, and controllable costs systems (that all sides feel are too tough), and they've done it by removing profit from the game plan. Insurance companies are by law non-profts. They must insure any applicant, doctors must accept the insurance, and everybody (as much as possible) needs to be insured. These countries also have structures that remove much of the profit incentive (or outside plausible reasoning for high costs, like providing free medical schooling). Our system costs more per patient, and provides less care (by outcomes such as infection rates, hospital stay lengths, mortality and morbidity rates).

When I was in the ER on Monday, they started to wheel me out to do a CT scan. At the time, the logic part of my brain was saying, "Wait, shouldn't we test the urine first to see if there's blood before we use the machine that goes 'Bing!'?" But at that moment I wasn't in a position to argue, and I doubt that my wife wasn't going to stop treatment for something that she knew was exceedingly painful to me. Now, in the end, they would probably have done the scan anyway to see how large the stone was, and if there were any others waiting in the wings (4mm, and no, it was a single). But if I had a health savings plan, I might have argued. Because I'm a cheap bastard. I might have also said, "I'll only take the second shot of morphine if you discount it, because I shouldn't need a second dose only 25 minutes after the first one" (they believe the stone moved to a more painful spot, which made me glad for the first dose because it got just as painful again).

The time to worry about costs is not when you're in the middle of treatment. Unless you think blackmail is an acceptable business model. As a consumer, I'm buying the insurance. Part of that payment, part of the insurer's job, is to control costs. Or, as I've told my fire chief when we moved from all volunteer force to a token hourly payment for our firefighters, "I don't want to get to the point that you're telling fire fighters who've responded not to get on the truck because we're worried about costs."

And I'm going to give a shout out to Hot Chick Janiece, who sometimes comments here, to write her own post on healthcare giving us the knowledge she accumulated doing the report for her class (at least I think it was on healthcare).

Thursday, May 28, 2009

An Idea Saved Isn't an Idea Earned

One of the things I've gotten over since I started writing (I think this came in as either the second or third Big Writing Revelation(tm)) is saving ideas. At a certain point in the writer's life, you realize that you're creating crap, but that you have to go through that woodland crap to get to the glade of good words. And then like blue jays screaming through the woods come these gleaming moments of non-crap and you need to decide what to do. Now, this new stuff is good, having handled crap for long enough you know when ideas and words have that different feel to them. The new stuff fits into what you're working on, but the rest of what that work is crap and you know it. Do you put these chunks of gleam into the crap making the gleam craptapulous or do you hoard your gleam until you get better and that gleam can shine with the other shinola you'd be producing then?

And the young writer, like a pack-rat dragon wondering when he'll get his next hit of gold-plated meth, will think "I'll hoard the gleaming things until the pile will shine forever."

Resist this behavior. With all your might, resist. The only idea that shouldn't be put into the story you're writing is the idea that doesn't fit. You can't horde the good words, they don't behave like that. And ideas, if hoarded, grow stale and die, losing their gleam. Then they begin to stink. The bright leaves flare and fade into the forest floor.

Here's the secret though, just because you use it once doesn't mean you can't use it again. So throw that idea, or those words, into the big pile of crap that is the story. You might have to scoop them out later when you're killing your darlings, or they might impart some shine to the rest of the load. They may even inspire you to polish up the rest of it. Who knows, it might make the story successful. Even if it does help your story get published, that still doesn't mean you can't use it later.

And if you stop the flow of gleaming ideas by hoarding them, then you get idea constipation. And the ex-lax for that condition isn't any fun at all and ranks right up there with a unicorn enema. So roam through your woods plopping out the craptastic and the shinola with great glee and abandon. Soon you'll see more shinola than crap. And eventually you'll get to the editing point where you'll be cutting the crap out instead of the gleaming parts to make the writing smooth.

Ideas work better when they can rub up against other ideas in a story. Keeping them herded off doesn't help anybody.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Rejection, the kidney stone of the soul

Heard back from the editors over at Shimmer on A History of Lightning. They felt the story opened too slowly. Fair cop. But, hey, personal rejection letter. One that told me they had read the story to the end, so score! Thanks, Shimmer, and let me say I'm glad to see you're back to accepting submissions. I know I submitted to their Pirate Issue, and I think I had submitted once before, I also met some of them at World Fantasy in Saratoga Springs and they're very nice people.

After a quick search, A History of Lightning is back out to ABYSS & APEX. I've had some good luck there with personal rejection letters. Maybe this one will be the charm. Good luck little story.

Today I restarted the novel. I worked on the next chapter (11, chapter 10 is still being put together, but I wanted to restart fresh). About 1000 words of prime suckatude came out. That's okay, I can fix suck later. I can't fix a blank page. I'm starting to get confused about places and names, so I'll need to review the notes I've been keeping. This is the chapter at the end of Act I, where you find out that someone who was thought to be out of it is really in the thick of it, and some of the big picture is figured out.

So here's to getting more out that sucks less. And then even more that sucks even less.

Monday, May 25, 2009

It was THIS big - how I spent my long weekend

Okay, so 4mm may not seem so big, but it is when it's a crystal trying to pass through the ureter. In fact it's only 1mm short of seriously talking about surgery. So yes, Steve has a kidney stone. I don't know who got it for me, but once I find out I'm going to send them a nice thank you beating.

The pain woke me up at around 5:30, after we didn't get in until after midnight the night before (visiting Mom). The pain gripped along my left back, right on top of the kidney. My first thought was I was having a reaction to Splenda (Mom likes to cook with Splenda now). After going to the bathroom, I was able to find a position where I wasn't in much pain and went back to sleep. Until around 6:30, when the pain woke me up again. This time I thought it was gas. The pain had increased, and felt a little like bloating. It took a little longer, but I found a position that didn't hurt so much and felt back asleep. Then it was 7 when the pain got me again. All this time I couldn't pass any gas or have a bowl movement. So I tried eating a little breakfast of mini-wheats, which usually helps me go to the bathroom, still thinking it was just a gas attack. Continue this cycle until 11 when I couldn't sleep any more, and I tried eating the left over fruit salad and let Bette know things just weren't working all that well. We tried some beano and looked to see if we had a left over enema from when Isis needed them. A little while later and the fruit salad came back up. And just when I thought that might help, the real pain began. The kind of pain that makes it hard to breath. Where you move, not because you want to, but on the vain hope that some position, somehow, would lessen it. Nothing did.

I've experienced pain before. Severe cramping diarrhea as a reaction to the metformin. Shattering my left fibula requiring 14 screws and a plate to put it back together, four surgeries to make it work. This one set a new pain level 10 for me. I could barely walk, had difficulty thinking. Bette suggested I try some of the local stores for an enema, ad that's when I let her know that I didn't think I could drive. I'm not sure she believed me. Then I told her I had thrown up the fruit salad. That's when she asked me if I wanted to go to the emergency room. Frankly, I didn't think I could make it. This was a little past noon.

So Bette drove me to the hospital through Memorial Day traffic, slow pokes and Amish buggies. Every jolt hurt worse than the last. I almost didn't make it. This was now almost eight hours after the attack had begun. They put me in a wheel chair before I fell down and rushed me back in to a room. I could barely open my eyes the pain was so great at this point. My only good part of this was I could feel them putting in the stint for the IV. If I could feel that pain, that I wasn't to bad off.

My Grandfather has appendicitis. They operated on him on his mother's kitchen table, removing his appendix, without anesthesia or sterilization. So, as the pain migrated to the front of my stomach, that was a possibility in my head.

When I explained the pain, where it was, how it started, what we tried, the emergency room quickly came to the diagnosis that I had kidney stones. Had I ever had them before? No. Family history? Not that I am aware of. Have you been able to urinate? Yes. Well, pee into this urinal. Umm, I can't right at the moment (well, with trying to force a bowl movement, I had pretty much expunged everything from me. Well, with the IV fully open, that wouldn't be a problem for long. And they added in a few extra niceties to help with pain and nausea.

The blood tests came back normal, except for kidney function, which was a bit high. Still no pee in the urinal, so off to the CAT scan for me. But first, would you like some morphine? Why, yes I would, thank you very much. The orderly wheels me down the hallway, and with the lightheadedness of the morphine, it's kinda fun watching the ceiling tiles skim by. But the orderly removes the urinal form the bed and leaves me there to wait my turn in line for the CAT. I start having images of me fountaining while in the machine. Joy. So for the past half hour I had been thinking of waterfalls, rivers rushing by, rain storms, etc. And now I have to hold it until I get back to the room. And still we wait for the room. Finally we make it in.

Have you ever been in a CAT scan? You have to stretch out, hands over head, and go through breathing exercises. Something not a lot of fun when you have to pee from nearly a full bag of ringers solution. Fortunately I make it though without springing a leak and am eventually wheeled back to the room, where I was finally able to use the urinal. And my pee is somewhat greenish yellow. That can't be good.

Well, the end result is yes, there's blood in the urine, and the CAT scan showed a 4mm kidney stone trying to work it's way down to the bladder. I had another boost of morphine, and visits from the PA and the doctor. The guy next door goes blue line, and they are able to bring him back. I feel a little stupid about being in the emergency room (the pain killers masking the memory of how bad the pain was). The nurse and the PA assure me that 3-5mm kidney stones can feel as bad (or worse) than child birth (at 5mm they start discussing surgery, at 4mm they said a second trip to the ER wasn't out of the realm of possibility). They set me up with a prescription for flomax (to help pee), ibuprofen to help open the ureter, and percoset for the pain, a filter I need to pee through and a specimen bottle to hold the stone , and a referral to a urologist to see if these stones are preventable (if I can capture it) and for follow up. We're back home six-hours later, finally able to have some food, wishing I had accepted that last morphine injection. So I take my meds and now I feel a bit goofy. I don't know if I'm going to be able to drive this way tomorrow.

So, for a while, Steve is going to be in pain. I'm sure there's a few hundred typos I didn't catch, but until I get my head back, that's the way it's gonna-haveta-be. I'm going to go for a lie down.

I had a much better post planned for Memorial Day, but I can't do that level of writing right at the moment. Sorry.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Oh that Amazon

Noticed in Amazon's Friday Sales. Please note the category; Health and Beauty.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Deep into the night

Trying to catch up with all that other stuff I let go by in April and May and feeling itchy about not getting new words down. I think it's mostly because I've been burning the candle at both ends far too long and can't quite get my stride back. I feel the words rumbling there behind my daylight stunned consciousness. There's a wall of stubborn cellophane between the fingers and the flow.

And the pressure to publish again grows like a cancer in my brain. A cure of chemo and targeted radiation just out of reach. I distract myself like a drug addled oxycontin addict, powdering the markets and sniffing for faded highs. Using google like a heroin junkie uses methadone. Is there a Bette Ford clinic out there for users like us?

The work cruises across the the ocean of life in the same way an iceberg cruises the shipping lanes. Looks harmless enough from afar, almost serene with it's wind sculpted ridges, until you decide to tackle it. Then what's underneath rips your day open and sends you to the bottom, drowned in the cold unforgiving sea of responsibility. In the darkness of the waves beats the heart of the universe. That pounding in the ears, reminder of life going on.

So you learn how to breath water, eat salt, and swim with leviathan.

Those fun personality tests

The Manga Geek (QLBM)
Quirky Liberal Beta Male

You scored 1 on Maleness, higher than 83% of your peers.
I have a penis. Gotcha.

You scored -4 on Normality, higher than 27% of your peers.
Well, I could have told you that.

You scored -1 on Tradition, higher than 22% of your peers.
Tradition, that's a song in Fiddler on the Roof, aint' it?

You scored 0 on Dominance, higher than 19% of your peers.
Okay, I don't see this at all. What do you think?

First of all, we can't help but notice that you spend an awful lot of time reading Hentei. Other than that though, you have a gentleness around women they find attractive. Seek out ones as quirky as you and you're golden.
Well, no, can't stand all that much of japanese cartoons. Hell, I get hives just thinking about Speed Racer. And that "gentleness" thing, I guess that's why Steve was the confessor of choice for most of my life.

You are more QUIRKY than NORMAL.
I mock normal. Really, I do. Normal is what uninteresting people are.

You are more LIBERAL than TRADITIONAL.
If by "traditional" you mean "mouth-breathing Bible thumper" then, yeah, I see your point here. Or compared to the "Puritan ideal" oh way sure. Those people were idiots. Their continuing existence (in modern mythology) is proof of the phrase, "God favors the insane."

You are more PASSIVE than DOMINANT.
Again, not seeing it. Maybe I misunderstood something. Or, if this is compared to someone in a leather mask and ass-less chaps or someone who berates their wife in public for a minor offense, well, you got me there, Sparky.

When picking a date, consider: The Rarity (QTAF), The Renaissance Faire Wench (QLAF), The Librarian (QTBF), or The Emo Girl (QLBF).
Emo Girl? You've got to be kidding me. And who doesn't value the rare, librarian wench. You'd have to be nuts not to.

Well, all the cool kids were doing it so I thought I'd try it out. What Kinda Man/Woman Are You.

As the tag line says, "This test will analyze your personality, values, and interests based on a few easily misinterpreted questions. Then it will use this insufficent data to make biased and innacurate assumptions about you and offer you unsoliceted advice. Prepare to be labeled for life!" Well, I guess it lived up to the advertisement.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

The virtuous circle of fairy tales

Via Matt Stages linkage posts

There's a Guardian story about a scholar that denies fairy tales come from oral roots. As you know, Bob, I have more than a passing interest in fairy tales.

Now Dr. Ruth Bottigheimer is no piker in this argument (no, seriously, just do an Amazon search) but what I think we have here is a basic sandbox conversation. Some fairy tales do have their origin in printed material and specific story telling, even if those tales were sold as an "as told by" kind of fashion. To deny that many of what we consider modern fairy tales (ie. those that have been or could have been Disneyified) don't owe their "tradition" to the various publishing centers and groups (such as the Les Contes des Fées) of Europe is to be silly. And not all of those tales were of "oral descent." Many were fabricated out of bits and pieces of existing tales and brought together (Disney wasn't the first to take a idea as template and hang a story around it, and if you don't know what I'm talking about, you might want to read any of the Disney fairy tales in pre-Disney texts).

But then to take that idea and make a blanket statement to all fairy tales is also to be silly. You'd have to ignore the preponderance of evidence against it, such as ethnographical sources, tales that specifically go against the values of those who were publishing, older echoes of tales withing the tales that come down to us (this is like identifying books that no longer exist by the references made in books that still do exist), and the ongoing creation of fables and tales by the general population (although in this modern day of mass communication, cross talk between folk and media is inevitable, but just thirty years ago it was possible to make bright lines between the forms). I'll just note that I sometimes do posts about the modern myths we tell ourselves (like the internet is "instant").

Now, of course, I could be making the argument that the elderly gentleman did after having it explained to him in detail that there were no little people in the TV and how TV worked when he replied, "Okay, I understand, but there still must be some little people in there." However I think I'm on pretty solid ground. Heck, there's a show that (somewhat) is devoted to these things called "Mythbusters" (when they're not specifically doing "movie myths"). Urban legends are just a form of folk tale.

And here is where knowing about other disiplines comes into play. Classical music (actually Romantic or Barroque) also has some ties into "folk" music. The composers lived in a world surrounded by live music, not all of which was "composed for the stage." They took the melodies they heard and wrapped them into thier compositions. Which would be heard by the common people, who would then wrap them into their own folk music. It's a cycle that feeds itself.

When we write, we have history. We've been reading, listening, soaking up all that makes humanity for however many years, and all that comes back out on the page. You can't stop the signal. It's the common baseline, the archetype of life and existance. So to take one side and say an author writes including only what they've read is to be silly. You can't turn off all the conversations you've had since you were a child, all those come into play when you write dialog. Everything you've seen if grist for the visual mill of story. And once it's out there on the page, and somebody reads it, their world is changed. The words give frames and meanings to things. It's a self-feeding cycle. Our brains are wired this way.

So to weedle out where one starts and the other ends is to travel the mobius strips that are our lives. Each one will end up with proof their concept is right and the other side is wrong. And their booth looking at the same side, but talking about different things. Although the use the same language, which is our frame on life, so we think we're talking about the same thing.

Things I kinda knew about myself

(groked from Eric Reynolds' LJ)

Your results:
You are Jean-Luc Picard
Jean-Luc Picard 75%
Leonard McCoy (Bones) 70%
Geordi LaForge 70%
James T. Kirk (Captain) 65%
Mr. Sulu 65%
Worf 65%
An Expendable Character (Redshirt) 65%
Will Riker 60%
Spock 57%
Beverly Crusher 55%
Deanna Troi 55%
Data 48%
Mr. Scott 45%
Uhura 40%
Chekov 35%

A lover of Shakespeare and other fine literature. You have a decisive mind and a firm hand in dealing with others.

Click here to take the "Which Star Trek character am I?" quiz...

Although the high affinity for generic red-shirt has me worried.

Rough winds do shake the darling buds of May

It's the 400th anniversary of the publication of Shakespeare's sonnets.

If you can't be a ham and do Hamlet
They will not give a damn or a damlet
Just recite an occasional sonnet
And your lap'll have honey upon it

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Story Bone

This is probably the shortest bone I've ever posted.

A psychic Grendel.

Have fun.

Hail Atlantis!

Way up next to the Hubble, where I wanna be, she may be.

In case you have no idea what I'm talking about, go read. And before the gnashing of teeth happens five years from now, we installed the last of the parts we had for the Hubble. Even if we have a launch vehicle to go repair her, this is our last trip to Hubble. She's on borrowed time from here out. And, yes, there is a replacement planned. The Web may not make as spectacular images as the Hubble, but it will be a more scientific instrument.

So while we have both, hail Atlantis. Hail Hubble. Safe journey.

And since it's somewhat related, a video of galactic-core rise (groked from Jay Lake's link salad).

Monday, May 18, 2009


Now that I'm home I was able to get my submissions back in order. The flash piece Prince Wanted is off to OSC Intergalactic Medicine Show. A History of Lightning is in the inbox at Shimmer. And the poem "Rag-a-Bag" is off to Chizine, since they're probably going to buy "Scrimshaw Man." Maybe lightning will strike twice there. Good luck little stories and poem, make Daddy proud.

Monday Saddling Up

Steve got a new toy today! It's a Dyson DC07.

I've lusted after these babies since I read the Dyson story in an industrial design magazine ten-years ago. It may seem strange that a boy would lust after a vacuum cleaner, but these things are very cool. They are also very high-tech pieces of kit. They are what other bagless vacuums want to be when they grow up. The DV07 is one of his older models, but they still manufacture it. I bought a refurb, which is about the only way I could afford one. Their price point has kept me from purchasing one the last two times I've needed to buy a vacuum.

The last one I bought was a Royal/Dirt Devil. I used to have a Big Red Machine, which were excellent little vaccums, well designed and well built. But they no longer make them, which is a pity because what they are making now aren't near the quality of design, manufacture, and use. Which is a sad statement. At the end we were replacing the belt every third of fourth time we used it, and it started leaking grease. Never mind the clogging filters, the annoying way of dumping the thing out, duct taping the hose back together, and that how they designed the power cord lead it to being chewed to hell. I've re-taped the thing, well, I forget how many times. At least five.

I put the Dyson puppy together and did a trial run. First impressions are it's about half the noise level of other vacuums we've owned, and it picks up pretty well. It's a little awkward to use the tools, but that's an acceptable trade off. I love that when upright the beater bar doesn't turn. The hose looks better constructed, and it has an excellent feel to it. So far I think I made a good choice.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Soon to be on the road again

Wrapping up thing in the workshop. Car is packed (except for me and the laptop). Hopefully the drive will be only around six hours long today, as I got up early and couldn't fall back asleep, even though I'm tired.

And then, tomorrow, the day job. Which I haven't talked about too much. As (some of) you know, Bob, my first college major was computer programming (including working in computer labs as a work study program). Then I ran away from that (my choice to leave) and thought I had put myself far from those maddening shores.

(Insert universe's evil laugh here) (or a coyote barking, it sounds the same in my head)

Then came the desktop revolution and while I've done some board work, most of my professional life has been centered around working on and with the computer. Well, that wasn't so bad. Macromedia Director was okay with scripting, because I was being the cool multi-media artists. Then came the Web Revolution, which meant learning HTML. Okay, it's a tagged page description tool, sorta like postscript, so I can handle it. Then was Javascript and Java. That's when the squick factor returned. CSS, Flash, and XML and my discomfort levels went back up. And soon we're to acquire a new tool at work that I feel will involve, not heavy programing, but more deeper and complex scripting.

Other people are haunted by ghosts, I'm haunted by computer programming.

But, I can do it, it pays, and it allows me to do the other things I want to do. Sure, it's bartering with soul-taking stakes, but I think I can do it. I've played that game of chicken before, I think I know when to swerve before we hit the soul-sucking crash.

And, damn it, I just realized why the trickster had been so silent lately. Bastard.

Saturday is just like Sunday

Well, I'm still up so this is still Saturday. Yeah, yeah, yeah, clocks, international date line, meridian, I don't buy it. It's Saturday damn it.

We blasted through all the critiques today, so tomorrow is going to be a light schedule. Out for brunch, packing and cleaning, making our good-byes, and driving like a madman back to Ohio. At least the trip back should go a little faster as I won't be stuck in rush hour traffic being rerouted off the main highway. Yeah, that was fun.

It was a good group and we the comments were all good, or so it seemed. Everybody seemed to appreciate the feedback, the new perspective on their novels. Good discussions followed. And then good food.

Time for bed, and then tomorrow, we feast! Or something like that. Yeah, I'm tired.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Day of Knives

So today was the critiquing day for my novel, and I was first up. Wee! It went well, there were good comments, and a lot of things came up that will definitely help and it clarified some choices I was making (and will reverse some of the ones I already made). Not really anything big that would derail me. I'm really happy about that. Of course I haven't read the notes, yet. I have two more to give critiques on tomorrow.

Later in the day I worked on the short story, Shadows of Raas Xaafuun. Now I need to go back and reread The Shadow Over Innsmouth to get the timing down. I think the Deep Ones come on the full moon, but there's some niggling thought that it was the new moon. Dang it. And today a kid said, "Dagon akbar" while handing our main character a bundle of khat. I've been going back and forth with "that's so cool" and "that's going to get me into trouble." For right now I'm keeping it. After all, in the Cthulhu universe, there are no gods, only aliens that appear to us as gods. And in some other stories I'm using the mythos as a solid wall to throw the characters' modern religions at to watch them splat. I'm an equal opportunity offender.

I also realized that I haven't put together all that much of the novel since I submitted it to the group. I've written about three more chapters, but there in different stages and I haven't "tied them in officially." And I don't have all the pieces with me (two pieces are on my other USB thumbdrive).

Tonight we played Cranium as a group. Not to tout my own horn here, but Mer and I lead out of the gate, fell behind, recovered and kicked some butt to win the game. Don't ever have us do the humming clues, just a hint. There were also a lot more club cranium clues this time than I remember other times playing this game. So with the win, and the smell of 'smores lingering in the air, it's time for bed.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Week of Rejection

Oh, keep forgetting to mention, this week saw three rejections for Rag-a-bag, A History of Lightning, and Prince Wanted. I think with form, semi-form, and mostly not form letters respectively. Although some of these markets are the first time I submitted to them (at least in the form I submitted), so I might be wrong.

I can't do much right now, without my notes. And I was a lazy slacker and didn't do a search when I was home. So next week will start with new submissions.

Alive, and in Michigan

Here we are, just in time for the midgies. The ride extended longer than it should have, with the closing of I-94. Fortunately it was closed right at the exit I needed, but sadly that meant traffic was backed up for miles. Joy.

So, we're back from dinner, where I spilled on my shirt. Sigh. And now I'm procrastinating before I get back into critiquing stuff. I have 60 more pages to go through. Hint to other writers, if you have stuff to critique, start as soon as possible.

Tomorrow starts the slinging critiquing of each others work. After we clean up the blood finish, it's time to get back into the writing. There's the novel and the short story waiting. I'm still really psyched about both.

But now I have to say goodbye to the broadband (Broadband!) and get back to work.

Expect sporadic blogging to continue through the weekend, to resume normal posting by next week.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Question of the Ages

So, do you eat your pop-tarts raw, toastie, or burnt offering?

Tried something different this morning and went to burnt offering. Mmmm, carbon-ie.

Monday, May 11, 2009

So you're back, from outer-space

Not yet. Still busy, busy Steve. But I'm alive and hope you are too.

Since it's a topic near and dear to my heart, health care is back in the news with various events this week. Expect the usual blathering "Need to Change vs. OMG Socialized Medicine NO!" Keep a weathered eye out on happenings. Already it's been interesting with some of the HC Industry promising $1 billion in cuts to costs every year for the next 10 years so we keep things exactly the way they are now. Can you say "panic bribe"? I knew you could. Look, the HC industry makes the Energy industry look like punters. It's time to break their strangle hold on the economy.

Two novels down, midway through a third, one more to get to by Thursday. Meetings on Monday, Tuesday (and probably Wednesday). Also juggling home stuff.

Hey, I mowed my lawn this weekend so the Dandelions no longer are requesting fiscal aid. Cut those bastards to the ground I did. Need to shake up sentence structure have I a great need for now (ha! Diagram that puppy!).

Well, time to take a breath and dive back in.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Are you pondering what I'm pondering?

"Holy crap, it's almost Memorial Day and we haven't started raising gas prices! What were we thinking?!"

Do you also get the feeling that conversation took place in several boardrooms this week?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

We're all headless robots here

Sometimes it just feels that way. Forget the bozos on the bus. That, at least, sound exciting.

There's more work than there is time, including the fun and wonderful extras. I wonder when I'll get approved overtime in the new position? Should be soon.

So tonight is getting new oil in the car (Oil can! Oil can!), writing reports, and continual critiquing. I'm getting the hang (somewhat) of not bleeding red on every paragraph on the page. Maybe there's a 12-step program somewhere just for me. "Hi, I'm Steve. I go through red pens like candy when I critique and edit. I accept there are editors greater than I. I must let go and let them direct me." Or something like that.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

The Seldom Sighted Steve

Sorry to have been so scarce of late. Way too much to do in real life. I am far behind in critiquing. The current book is going much slower than I expected, and I expect the next one to be slower. Sigh.

A question for all you writers out there. With these critiques I've noticed I tend to write more on the manuscripts than other people do. I could probably go faster if I didn't make marks in every paragraph. So what would you like in a critique, an in-depth analysis offering word and rewrite suggestions, or a 50,000 foot view pointing out the major issues in a manuscript? Red ink spilled over the page, or a set of notes at the end?

I think if I could switch to the 50,000 foot view type, I could get through these much faster. I have noticed that as I go along in a novel critique the farther in I go the fewer marks I make. Now if I could just disengage the writer brain that keeps saying, "oo, oo, this would be so much better here."

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Rumor has it it's the end of paradise

Yesterday was spent doing family things. Specifically going to see my niece in her Senior Spectacular, which is a performance of high school seniors, mostly from the choirs. And let me say here, Skippy, you were fantastic. I really wish we could have seen more of your concerts an dI wish you the best where you're going. You've allowed an uncle to be very proud of you. And I think I said this once, but let me say it again, you really get performance. And that's a rare gift.

So, today I'm going to discuss performing. I have some experience here. Since I was in grade school I've performed in plays, written plays (for both church and for high school, and have been selected for performances), played in bands (concert, marching, stage, and a garage band or two) and performed guitar as a busker and on stage for my own high school's talent shows. I've given readings, reports, was a certified organizational change management leader (at E&Y, don't ask). I'm trying to be a successful writer. I've been in front of microphones, tv cameras, given personal interviews to reports, lead mobs, and written this blog for how many years.

All of those are performances, btw. Some of them you might not think of as performing, like blogging, but really it is. At a convention a few years ago, I signed up for a breakfast with John Scalzi where he held court with about eight of us on several topics, one of which was blogging. As John said (and to paraphrase here), "I'm always surprised at the people who think they know me (and Krissy and Athena) because they read my blog. The blog is only what I choose to show the world, so nobody sees the times Athena is being a normal 10 year old, or Krissy and I have a problem. So people get a distorted view of my life." We then had a more indepth discussion of what successful blogging is. And just to be clear here, it always means telling the truth about yourself. It also means you don't have to share what you don't want to share. And so, blogging is a performance art. Just like public speaking.

So here is something you probably don't know about me. I'm introverted. Not as deeply as some friends I know, but it's still there. Another author (who will remain nameless here, but I've mentioned him before) I had the fortune to see at a conference "putting on his game face." Afterward I talked with him and mentioned I noticed him doing that. He's also an introvert. We shared a moment of connection as I told him I recognized the action because I do that myself.

This doesn't mean we're being false. But it's a recognition that we're about to perform. And now I'll get to what that means.

To dispel some myths. The people you see performing are rarely the best at what they do. Performance is hard work, no matter what the movie/recording industry wants to portray about "talent." As John Lennon RIngo Starr shouted on Abbey Road The White Album, "I've got blisters on my fingers!" Most people who perform are doing things they love to do. And when you love doing something you do it if somebody's watching and you do it when nobody is watching. And you do it until you get blisters. And then you keep doing it. Nobody just walks up on stage and performs like they're a star. Everybody who has karaoked has sung in the car to the same song. See how good they do up on a stage? The woman from England who took everybody by surprise? Yeah, she belonged to a choir and I'll bet she practices singing as she walks around her house (or flat). And she does it because she loves it. Also, for those people who are out there performing in clubs and bars, they know they've all met people better than they are. People who don't perform anymore. Perseverance is the name of the game.

And when those people are performing, they aren't doing it for themselves. At least the good ones aren't. Performing is about giving. Giving to the audience, the other members of the troop, to the art, to someone who may not even be there. As Stephen King says in On Writing, most authors are telling someone their stories when they write. For him, it's his wife. He's trying to impress her and make her laugh (and yes, his stuff is funny). That's his goal. He tells the story about an author he knows who is writing to someone whose been dead for many years. Performance is all about the people you're performing for. If all you're doing is going up on stage and reciting a song, well, that's a form of mental masturbation. Artist who are all about themselves rarely make it far, and their self-indulgence comes through their performance and leaves most people wondering just what the heck is going on and the performance goes flatter than three-day old beer. But those who go up there and give it all away, those are the artists you remember. I should state here that performers are (mostly) consummate liars. If you ask them, many times you'll get the "All about me" answer. Watch them on stage, though, and you can practically see the energy flowing into the audience. And if it's done right, the energy flows back.

And we do it because we love our audience and we love what we're doing. When Jackson Browne sings, "So just make sure you got it all set to go before you come for my piano," that's what he's talking about. You've all come out to see us. In some cases you've paid good money to do so, given of your time and energy. To give ourselves to you is the least we can do.

It takes a lot out of you if you do it right. That's the whole satiric point of Dire Straits' "Money for Nothing." If you've ever seen musicians after a show, they look rung-out. Because they are. Not only were they playing the songs, they gave of themselves to their band and projected that out to the audience.

So that's the secret of performance. It's not about the talent, the skill, and the ability. It's about love. It's about giving it all away and hoping it comes back. It's about not worrying about saving something up for another night, because it doesn't work that way. Pour yourself out into what you're doing, give it all to one person or to twenty-thousand screaming people. It'll come back. It'll make the hair on your neck tingle to touch that live wire. And do it because you love something, someone, someplace.

And yes, I do this because I love you. Stop looking at me like that, you know what I mean. :)

Edited 05-04-09 With the help of Todd, who set me straight (apparently there's some doubt that it was Ringo, but he's the one who claimed it, and I got the album wrong).

Friday, May 1, 2009

Story Bone

Causality loops in time traveling stories all have the loop being closed in the past (causing the "You can't kill your Grandfather" problems), close one in the future (go forward to kill your grandchild).

And then there's the whole, "We can't pollute the time streams" mantra and meme. Screw 'em. I have a short story in progress (might turn it into a short short now, maybe 2000 words, I haven't worked on it in years though) where I deal with this in both directions (how going back in time won't pollute the time stream and create a "Sound of Thunder" like story plus going forward to create a new and better future, and it involves a whole bunch o' hand-waving stuff to make it work that I won't get into here - temporal-calculus, that's your only hint). Now, most stories (and I believe these are cliche by now, so don't do them) involve going back to stop some horrible problem of the past, like killing Hitler (although one story, I forget the name, does it a little better by rendering the Brown-shirt movement powerless by convincing the HIndenburg Government to take it seriously and keep them tamped down). I want you to really pollute the stream. How would you re-engineer the past?

And here you want to think fully. See, killing Hitler wouldn't change much. However, polluting the stream right at the end of WWI could destroy any chance of the Nazi and Fascism elements gaining power, or even thinking up those forms of government. See, to kill Hitler, don't assassinate him, kill Hitler's grandfather. Burn that line to the ground and then plow under the ashes. Don't poison the cup, poison the whole well.

Story Bone

"Reality doesn't need your belief to keep functioning. That's why religions aren't based in reality."

As a response to the cry I'm sure you're all hearing, "I can't believe it's May already."