I watch the ripples change their size
But never leave the stream
Of warm impermanence
And so the days float through my eyes
But still the days seem the same
And these children that you spit on
As they try to change their worlds
Are immune to your consultations
They're quite aware of what they're goin' through

Monday, August 31, 2009

Math is not Magic

So, there are these guessing game websites where the computer guesses what number you have in your head. And, surprise, they always get it right.

It's because they cheat.

No, the internets don't have a direct line into your brain. Nor are they looking over your shoulder (that's the government's job, ha ha ha, just kidding, pay no attention to man behind the curtain).

Okay, here's one example: Re-gifting Robin.

Robin asks you to think of any two digit number (that's a fancy way of saying, "Pick any number between 10-99"). Then, from the number you're thinking of subtract the first digit (the tens) and then the second digit (the ones). Then they show you a grid of potential presents to regift (this is the trick, you've substituted answers here, this is important). Then once you get the gift in your head you click to have Robin "guess" your gift. And, low and behold, she gets it right. Every time.

Because she cheated. First is the basic mathmatics. Here is how the equation works: for values of X and Y from 1 to 9.
((10Y + X) - Y) - X = Z
(10Y + X) is your guessed two digit number, Z is your product from the subtraction.

Their example is guess = 25 so then you do the equation 25-2-5=18.

Then you find your gift on chart. This is where they stack the deck. Pay attention.

Notice a few things. One; the numbers go from 1-99, and the columns are 11 deep. This does two things. It confuses you (you're expecting columns of 10's) and gives you the impression there are more options than there really are.

See, no matter what two digit number you select, you can only obtain one of nine numbers: 9, 18, 27, 36, 45, 54, 63, 72, or 81. Why? Okay, let's look at the equation again.
((10Y + X) - Y) - X = Z

This can also be written:
(10Y - Y) + (X - X) = Z or Z = 9Y

That's the mathematics part: a selection between 10 and 99 will only result in 9 possible answers. Let's look at that chart again.

Guess what Robin's guess is going to be.

Now. They mix up the guesses every time, but all those numbers will be the same guess every time. They mix up the chart with all the other blocks being random to break up your pattern recognition skills. They use the 11 deep chart to break up the fix. (Why they did 90 I'll never know, my guess is they messed up the pattern because they knew the fix - you can't get an answer of 90 with this test)

Hope that helps you out. Now, if you'll excuse me, I've won this European email lottery and they want to know my bank routing numbers and I've got to get it to them soon so I can get my money.

October Anticipation

Ripe orange plumpness
breaks the leaf cover
skittering spiders over vast velds
of furry green leaves.
The scent of scratching pencils
fills the breeze
drowning out the manure
from the county fair.
The ground swallows frogs.
Nights roll in faster then a moon tide.
Insects plagues die by phantasmal scores.
Cool air comes off vacation
reinvigorated from the repose.
Clouds pile up
on their road-trip south,
jamming the skyways.

Writerly Linkee-poo

So, as someone who is writing the first novel they'll complete (I think I can, I think I can) this article on This Is Your Job speaks well to me. (grokked form Jay Lake)

The Writer's Digest (of which I no longer subscribe, sorry guys) with 7 Biggest Myths of Publishing. What she said (especially #7 - It's okay to put your book on hold).

Terry Bissons 60 Rules for Short SF (and Fantasy) which is a much faster read than it sounds.

Political Linkee-poo

Here's an interesting look at the polls regarding healthcare from talking points memo. Pretty much the numbers have moved within the "error" range (3-4 points). Now, that could mean there's a larger move going on (where the original poles back in July recorded the "low" end of the error range, and the new numbers for the end of August range to the high end - but it's just as statistically possible to be the opposite and more than likely these numbers show very little change). And the paragraph near the end on word choice, I think, it very revelatory.

And, the Justice Department dropping it's case of voter intimidation in Philadelphia is troublesome. It's difficult to find actual news about this or any official link. My guess is how it's being portrayed is skewed although without an official press release, it's difficult to gauge why the suit was dropped (or even if it was). Then again, for conservatives to cry foul over the DoJ being politicized is to cry crocodile tears.

And just in case everybody forgot, Recovery.gov. It's the site that gives lie to the "the Stimulus money is being spent in secret." Also, and I don't get out very much these days, I've noticed that I-275 here in Cleveland is being worked on with a bright green sign saying how it's a part of the stimulus money (sign is on the onramp to I-271 South from I-90 East).

Economics of debt

I've been going on about various things in politics. Of late the cries of "the debt burden" have been ringing from quarters that seemed just fine with the Bush Tax Cuts, Tax Rebates, and war of choice in Iraq. Yes, welcome to the cause, get some coffee and sit down in back, you're late to the meeting.

But here's the strange thing. See, back in the 2000s we had mild recessions that were avoidable, but took some government spending to help right the economic ship. When we complained, "Debt Burden" the other side stuck their fingers in the ears and shouted the mantra, "Lalalalala, can't hear you." Now that we're in a major recession, one that we can look at the minor recessions as preliminary shocks to the system, the government also needs to spend more.

Don't believe me? Okay, China, Germany and France are out of recession at this point. What did they all have in common? A government stimulus package of over 3% of their GNP (ours was slightly less than 2% IIRC). And now we are seeing signs of the recession lessening about a year earlier than predictions made last year (as the situation was worsening).

Are thing still bad? Oh yes, we're at the bottom of the curve. Things suck. Majorly.

But to cry about the debt at this time is to lose one's mind. This is exactly the situation when the government should run into debt. The forces out there are trying to make you afraid. Very afraid. After all, it worked for them for over seven years. Yes, the debt is something to worry about. However, people are pulling shenanigans to make it seem worse than it is.

Still don't believe me? Okay, would you believe Paul (Friggin') Krugman? (grokked from Jay Lake)

So, to review: to make the debt look scary, you have to dismiss the post-World -War II experience, even though it turns out that the 50s offer a quite good lesson; assume that in the future the federal government will have to amortize debt over a quite short period, even though it never had to in the past; compare this inflated debt burden with a narrow piece of the federal tax base; and ignore the likely growth in the tax base over the next decade.

But then there are those who are late to the fight and are mostly doing it to stop health care reform. And to me, going into debt to increase the franchise by extending insurance benefits to the majority of people is not a bad thing. Again, before the recession, although energy had us by the shorts, healthcare costs were kneeling on the windpipe of the economy. If we don't fix that (and frankly, 20% of every dollar being spent on administrative costs is not what I'd call a health service industry) our recovery will be short lived.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Well, there's more there there after all

Finished up Chapter 22 tonight. It came out at 1653 words, which brings our total to 37707. Didn't get as far as I expected with this chapter, but I think it went well. Set up some things, a little world building through inference. So I might not be in as much a pickle as I thought. I'm liking where this is going. Help is now flowing to the main characters, and they're developing their plans. Plus I was also able to work in the new background stuff about Japan being first in to help. Will work through some other of the history in the forth coming chapters.

I know there are things in the future that will set them back, but those will be fewer than before. They have what they need to make the finish, they just don't have it all together yet.

But hey, three chapters in a week. That's a good pace (although I don't think I had any the week before).

Had enough interference today with doing chores I didn't expect (along with the ones I did). The mud plaster to fix the walls looks good with the second coat. Depending on how it sands down, two might be all it gets.

How was your weekend?

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Oh great internets, is there nothing you can't solve?

So, I'm in the middle of chapter 22 when I need to know what the name for the Japanese short sword is. You know, the one that matches to the Do/Katana to make the daisho. You know, it begins with a "W" has a "Z" and "K" in it. The model for the swords the kamikazi flew with. You know what I'm talking about, right? What's its name?

And then the internet intervened. Behold the Sword Arts Wiki.

The angels sang (well, okay, not really, but it I had a bit of a giggle). Wakizashi. That's it.

Unfortunately the Wiki is only for Japanese Sword arts. You know, not like there isn't a whole world full of sword and sword like items they could encompass.

Which then there's the rant of all the people in the medieval fairs wearing swords, you know, just like they would have been killed for in the actual period they're re-enacting (unless they were nobles or men at arms). And then not even all them had swords. And the ones who didn't were also pretty damn scary. You know, like the Franks and their thrown axes/hatchets that they would skip across the ground in attack. Yeah, how crazy is that. "Oh, look, they can't throw very (THWONK!)."

Oh, hey, what's the name of that martial art of drawing the sword from a sitting position, slicing the opponent, and then resheathing in one move? Starts with an "I" has an "jutsu" in it? Iaijutsu. That's it. Iaido is the non-lethal version.

Laid back Saturday

Spent Saturday relaxing. From now until Viable Paradise it's going to be a crazy time. This weekend is about charging up the batteries. Worked on various home projects, fixed the holes in the wall from the plumbing adventure. The first coat of mud is up. Tomorrow we'll sand it and apply second coat.

Started Chapter 22. Some interesting things I didn't expect. Now I'm to the part I had somewhat planned.

But still taking it easy. Hope your weekend is just as good.

Friday, August 28, 2009

And now, a word from our sponsors

Because there needs to be balance to my screechy-monkeying of the day we bring you this newsbreak: Nation's Unemployment Outlook Improves Drastically After Fifth Beer.

Oh Onion, we love you.

(Thanks to Dan for the tip and the laugh. I needed that.)

Today just seems to be a banner day

This should have never happened. The FEC ruled that election campaign funds can be used to pay not just the candidate's legal costs, but those of aides, including former aides. This involves Rep. Pete Visclosky (D) who had a former aid work at a lobbying firm (now gone) and an investigation if some of the campaign contributions made to Rep. Visclosky might have influenced some earmarks (Rep. Murtha (D) is also involved). Now, the FEC vote (the FEC commissioners by law can have no more than 3 members of any party) was 5-1 to allow this rule. Really? Nobody there saw the ethical conflict of this? Sure, it may be a technical ruling, but Rep. Visclosky, if you do that, you should be brought under and Ethics Committee examination and your constituents should toss you out next year.

Really Bad Idea(tm).

Also, to Democrats thinking of renaming this healthcare reform bill after Sen. Kennedy, no. Just no. I liked the guy for all his faults. I appreciate what you're trying to do here (hell, I support the Public Option). But just don't do it. Now, if you had named it for him back in July, I'd be all giggly with it. To do it now is crass.

Hair of the dog

The other side of this debate continues to spew lies even after they are shown to be lies. And that's part of their strategy. Find what works and continue to harp on it, no matter what happens, including being shown to be demonstrably wrong.

See, it's not so much the result of the actual lies, it's the persistence (in the face of reality) to continue to reiterate the position. You need to repeat, repeat, repeat because your message gets through. Our side just needs to do it with the truth. To that end...

NPR has been running an interesting series this past week on Healthcare.

In Health Care Debate, Fear Trumps Logic Ah, the good argumentative side of the conservatives who will have to be drug, kicking and screaming, into a modern industrial nation.

Steele: Don't Raid Medicare To Fund Health Changes Classic double-speak.

Armey Encourages Good Manners At Town Halls Where Dick Army, a political heavy hitter, demonstrates willful ignorance on an astonishing level. Also, good thing he didn't get out there at the beginning in August, you know, he may have actually made it a civilized discussion (right now this is just a description and link to the audio of story, hopefully they'll have a transcript up).

Hey, look, media doing what media should do. It makes me all nostalgic for the Clinton Days, back when they challenged all sides and pointed out the idiocy of people as a matter of course (no matter if they were on the left or right). The "liberal bias of the media" was a lie when Pat Buchannon forged it back in the 70s to try and explain away all the attention being given to Watergate. The only ones who really believe this work for Fox, and they had to publish that view as a curriculum vitae or hazing ceremony before getting a paycheck from Rupert Murdock.

While we're on the topic of criticizing Democrats...

Okay, Democratic Party, I'm fargin' tired of this. The Republicans are beating the crap out of us and you seem to be indifferent. You send out long emails refuting talking points with actual facts, which is good. It's a step up from before. But you've forgotten the one lesson the Republicans have relearned.

The best defense is a good offense.

I want you to get out there and scrap it up. The opposition has more outlets for their voices, and they love to shout. You don't need to out shout them, but you do need to be on the attack.

The opposition paints the healthcare reform bill as having "Death Panels" or "Pulling the plug on grandma" and you roll out "Well, you know, that's not really in there, what we're trying to do..." CLICK! Wrong Approach!

You come back with, "The Republican idea of control cost it to throw sick people out on the street to die. They don't even want a panel because that costs too much. Not insured? Toss. Immigrant? Toss. Don't speak english? Toss. That's their idea of reform." And once that's out there you can explain how insurance companies spend $.20 out of every healthcare dollar to deny claims, practice rescission when people get sick, and refuse to cover people with pre-existing conditions (which should have been said at the very beginning, but you all believed that the healthcare insurance companies really wanted change this time, suckers). Then if people are still listening you can start with, "End-of-life decisions are some of the hardest choices we'll make, that's why we want insurance companies to cover the costs of discussing this with your doctor. The Republicans would have you make those decisions without being able to discuss it with anybody."

You think that's disgusting? No, this is the disgusting part, I want you to roll out the body of Terri Schiavo and say "this is the Republican ideal of healthcare." She's the ghost elephant in the room. Pull out the coroners report, and then roll the Republican Leadership statements about how we need to keep her body going (including having the Republican Florida Legislature passing legislation that the Republican Governor wanted). And then say, "This is the Republican Ideal of Healthcare." And then finish with how much it cost to keep her body alive for all those years. Does it matter that it contradicts what we're saying in in the previous paragraph? Our opposition are getting seniors to agree that Medicare is a bad program, got worse when "Gov'ment" got involved, and also fearful that Congress is also going to cut it back. Does it sound like we're dealing with logic here?

The US Chamber of Commerce is going to sue the EPA over "this whole global warming hoax." And you come back with, "It's a frivolous suit"? No, you should come back with, "We shouldn't waste the tax-payors money to have a judge come to the same conclusion the majority of climate scientists already accept as settled fact."

They want to reinstate prayer in schools? Don't fire back with, "It's against the First Amendment," you say, "Republican's want you to leave your church and join their's. They want their church to be compulsory" (and note, you're saying "church" not "religion"). Then you can say, "Oh, BTW, it's also a violation of the first freedom."

When Republicans say "The government ruins everything they touch," you need to stand up in righteous indignation and say you "won't tolerate them besmirching the honor and service of all our fine men and women in uniform."

That's how you fight. The other side is not using logic or rational thought. They're using fear. Fear is not countered by facts or long arguments, fear is countered by anger (the two are closely related emotions). Get indignant. Get smart. Play the sound byte game better. And when the other side says, "they're just spouting sound-bytes" you counter with, "no, we're telling the truth" (just like they did).

Call them on using their bully pulpit of the media and their spokespeople of Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Hannity, and Rush.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Late Updatery

Quick edit of Chapter 20 and addition of transition scene at beginning of Chapter 21 (which may need to be rewritten as it feels a little forced and quick). Total for novel is 36054. I'm roughly at the halfway for words and more than halfway through the story. I'm okay with this because I know it'll expand in the second draft. I have my notes of things that need to be added and there's all those descriptions that will be added.

So, updated the progress bar (49%).

One leap forward, one leap back

Chapter 20 is done at 1672. But it does mean a new scene needs to be added to the beginning of 21. Or depending on how that scene plays out, 21 might move up to 22. There needs to be a transition of where 20 ends (felt natural there) and where 21 began. Right now I think I know how it will, and it might only be 400 words, but there's this voice saying, "Wait, there maybe more possibility there." And last night as I went to sleep I had begun to worry that at 34000 words approaching the final act that there wasn't enough "there" there. So that voice may just be the "you need to expand a little" gremlin creeping up.

Since I haven't done it for awhile, today's lunch writing gem.

The Old Man launched into another tirade which consisted of asking me if I understood the difference between dissimilar things and could find parts of my own anatomy unassisted. I fully expected the paint on the walls to have curled from the invectives. Mr. Hernandez could be creative in his own way. After only ten minutes that felt like a hundred years, he ran out of steam. I could thank Santana for wearing him down first. He sloughed into the couch, his hands half pulling his hair out, half keeping his head from exploding. "Get out of my sight," he said.

Because I'm not a wonk

There's been some dumfuddelry on left end of the political spectrum lately. IT may seem I only bash those on the right, understand there's enough vitriol to go to the left as well.

We all expected the probe into BIll Richardson's contract awarding process would come to nothing, but the rumor that it may have been quashed in Washington is a bit disturbing. Of course, there's the counter argument that the probe was also started at the encouragement of Washington.

Remember the woman who was supposedly attacked by rabid Obama supporters but forgot that mirrors reverse images and scratched the "B" on her face to be read in a mirror, instead of how someone looking at her would have done it? Well lately there was an attack on Democratic HQ in Denver, Co. A first knee-jerk reaction would be people upset at the healthcare reform bill had smashed windows that had posters supporting it. However, it's looking more like it was the act of the radical left who are upset that Obama is governing as a centrist (you know, for being the ne-ultra-plus-right-wing liberal he is according to Fox). If this attack was sponsored to discredit the right is still to be determined (considering no press conference was scheduled, probably not).

S. Andrew Swann (who has a kicking book due out called Wolfbreed) calls our attention to a meeting to discuss how the NEA might be giving grants to advance a political agenda. Now, there is precedent for this, but not through the NEA (it was a part of the WPA - do a search for WPA Posters). The WPA was involved with healthcare by creating posters and visual communications for Public Health Offices (like, "Don't spit on the sidewalk" and the like). I'm not entirely opposed to the Whitehouse starting an initiative to use media to get it's message of service out to the public. But the NEA is not that organization. The NEA should be nowhere near this type of activity. Not so much because of Mr. Courrielche's warning of "it being used for nefarious purposes when the conservatives are in power again" but if it becomes politicized, it can no longer do it's job effectively and will probably be cut entirely in the future. Now, reading this post (I couldn't find other information about this) it could be that this group would be under the United We Serve which, if so, would be perfectly legitimate and the NEA was just called in to help supply prominent artists (which would fall under their auspices as finding a new funding source for the artists). If so they should drop out of it now.

Also, more proof that the Democrats are the party of the Big Tent. Seriously, can you imagine a Republican going so far "off message" without being called a RINO?

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Playing Leapfrog with the Unicorn

Chapter 21 came at 1259 with plenty of room to grow in the rewrite (will probably be in the 1800-2000 range). That brings my total for draft zero at 34188.

I hear some of you say, "Chapter 21?" Well, yes. I started working tonight to finish up Chapter 20 (I have one or two more scenes, I think, currently at around 1100 words). But then Chapter 21 wouldn't leave me alone, so I finished it up.

Things are coming out of order again, like they normally do. Hopefully we can keep mostly on track as we head into the third act.

A torch passes

When that I was and a little tiny boy
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
A foolish thing was but a toy,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came to man's estate,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
'Gainst knaves and thieves men shut their gate,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came, alas, to wive,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
By swaggering could I never thrive,
For the rain it raineth every day.

But when I came unto my beds,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
With toss-pots still 'had drunken heads,
For the rain it raineth every day.

A great while ago the world began,
With hey, ho, the wind and the rain,
But that's all one, our play is done,
And we'll strive to please you every day.
(William Shakespeare - Twelfth Night)

I say ye Senator Edward Kennedy (1932-2009).

Wither now, Camelot?
The lion layeth down
with the jackals.
Steel in the eyes,
fire in the belly,
compassion into thy heart.
So passes the torch
and a generation of giants.
The rain it raineth everyday.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Writerly Linkee-poo

Because you all are getting tired of me ranting, and tonight is probably going to be a stressful political one, some links concerning writing which was what this blog was (supposed to be) all about.

Dear Editor, Help, I can't seem to finish my book. As I wind into the third act this is most timely. :) And while they suggest outlining they also remind you, "It's never carved in stone." Beware the tyrany of the outline. And having just written a small twist in Chapter 20 (not big, but for a second it had me saying, "Wait a sec, it's way to late to throw this into the mix" but I kept it in because my subconscious seems to be doing better planning than my conscious brain). (Grokked from Matt Staggs)

James Van Pelt on forward progress in novel writing. He also quantitatively defines a Lake Unit of writing. (Grokked, of course, from Jay Lake who, like me, has gotten a little screechy monkey about the health care debate and has decided to take a deep breath and let it out slowly, which is a similar decision I made last night when Bette told me I was getting near apoplectic watching C-SPAN)

Ken McConnell has his new novel, Null_Pointer out at the usual places.

And then a little of what to do once you're done (you know, besides the wild nights of debauchery) from Beneath the Cover, The Writing Heart of a Baboon. Which basically says, "Sell the hell out of it." Well, yeah. (Also grokked from Matt Staggs).

Monday, August 24, 2009

Thus Spake Zara-somebody

Some healthcare links

Jim Wright is at it again with his fourth installment about healthcare reform.

Sam Butler sends an article from Ordinary Gentlemen about the broken healthcare system (ie. insurance).

Sen. Lieberman and his, "Don't do too much, wait until everything is settled and people feel comfortable to make any big changes" speech can kiss my butt. Seriously, energy costs may have kicked the economy in the nads, but it's the cost of health insurance that had the economy on the ground and was kneeling on the windpipe. If we don't fix it now, we'll be back at the same place in another decade, but by then healthcare costs will be 25-35% GNP.

As Congress comes back to work, expect to see the conservative side of the argument switch from "Make noise, rattle them up," to, "it was the Democrats fault all these whackaloons behaved badly at their town hall meetings." Oh, wait, already started.

And now, a PSA.

And I know it's been awhile, and now that we have a Democratic President who believes in participatory democracy and working with the world instead of being mad at it, that we sometimes forget that the magical unicorns that fart rainbows haven't shown up yet and the world is a dangerous place. But seriously, Hurricane Warning flags are raised for a reason. When the lifeguards, Coast Guard, Weather Channel, etc all say, "Don't go near the water, it's dangerous" that doesn't mean "Surf's Up, Dude!" It also means staying above the tide line. Preferably way above the tide line. Not only is the water dangerous, what the water has roiled up can be dangerous (including live things thrown out of their normal habitat). And no, you're not strong enough to fight the water, especially if it's a rip current.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Hey Riff, what's for dinner? Aw, meat-loaf again?

Had friends over yesterday, so the grill came out and, yea, there was the grilling of meat. Much meat. And the people did feast upon the lambs and sloths, and carp and anchovies, and orangutans and breakfast cereals, and fruit-bats...

See, my family has two imperatives of life. The first is if people come over for visiting and vittles we feed them until the pop. Or faint. Whichever comes first. The second is that grilling is a Holy Calling. One that should never be taken lightly or without proper preparation.

Also, we're old style yankees. Since we grill on charcoal we shouldn't leave much to waste. To that end, even though there were only the four of us, six Boston Strip steaks, twelve skinless hotdogs, and some sixteen or so hamburgers were offered to the Gods of Ambrosia Sniffing.

The fire? Well thanks for asking. It was a mix of charcoal and hickory (some dry, some wet). The fire, as most non-gas fires are, had it's own peculiarities. Not too many cool spots, and once we started to monitor oxygen flows it came to a nice uniform heat. The steaks came in nicely although a little on the done for those wanting Medium (ah well, Grill Chef prerogative), although with enough juices that the meat was still very moist and the fat caramelized (as it should be). The hotdogs had a a pleasant plumpness splitting in uniform lengths and golden finish (like a good, deep suntan) with only a few spots of black to show they had been grilled (and for taste). The hamburgers, well, you like them in the meatloaf style and well done don't you? Nice grill pattern on the outside with the caramelization of the fats, succulent on the inside (no pink, sorry).

Bette out did herself with tomato salad, cole slaw (made), baked beans, and various and sundry other dishes and victuals. I can't remember it all. So the fridge is stocked with excellent eating for the last week of "official" Summer (September doesn't count).

And today was a picnic for those involved with SCAD (Souther County Ambulance District) where we got to catch up with friends we don't see often and make new ones. I am the alternate delegate to the board, our regular delegate is president so I was expect to show up. We had grilled chicken and steak.

So, probably around Wednesday, I'll be experiencing a meat coma. How was your weekend?

Submission Sunday

With a quick check of Duotrope I see that Electric Velocipede is back to accepting submissions. So "Prince Wanted" is off to recent Hugo winner John Klima, cause, you know, I wants me some of that action.

Also I was happy to see many changes over at EV. First up with their partnering with Nightshade Books for publication (which I think is cool for both parties). And then there's their new nifty submission engine courtesy Clarkesworld. Very cool. Last, but certainly not least, is their Free Fiction section.

So good luck little story.

Friday, August 21, 2009

Pair of Contests

Ken McConnell is running a contest around his new book, Null Pointer.

Collen Lindsay is having a contest for two scholarship admissions to the Backspace Agent-Author Seminar in NYC! (read the entry is you don't know what this is) Unfortunately it doesn't include travel or hotel expenses.

Rejection Writerly Linkee-poo for Friday

OSC Intergalactic Medicine show sends word they're passing on my humorous flash fantasy "Prince Wanted." The letter is short and sweet, but I'm not sure it's a form (I'll have to check older rejections from them). So, sometime this weekend it's back to duotrope (and now that I think about it, it's been quite a few weeks since I've been there).

So on that vein, some writerly links.

The blog, "Pimp My Novel" has been spilling the beans about sales. Here's their post for Fantasy and here's the one for SF. They also do reports on other genres (literary, childrens, etc).

The Rejectionist with book ideas they couldn't make up, even if they wanted to. Wow. Really, if you think you're ideas are crap, you need to check out these three.

Seanan McQuire gives us some thoughts on writing. And her discussion of "Recess" is so spot on, I was misty-eyed by the end of it. (Grokked from Catherine Schaff-Stump).

Tobias Buckell extolls the virtues of Story Tracker which somewhat does something I've been looking for as well. I think Duotrope will also handle this, but, frankly, I haven't taken the time to check it out. So, another reason to get that iTouch (they're building up).

And the Blood Red Pencil continues to dish up some good content (I'm way behind my reading there).

edited to include Kate Elliot talking of Identity and characterization over on Tor.com.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

HSAs and the Ownership Society in Health Care Policy - ie. Get Everybody Out of the Way (but pay us first)

One of the ideas in Health Care reform is to introduce "market forces" into the health/medical industry. Because, you know, the market can do anything.

Basically, what they're proposing is a series of Heath Care Savings Plans. That's an individual savings account that can only be used for medical expenses backed up by a high deductible plan (like $5,000 deductible, some higher, some lower - as an FYI my current insurance plan which is considered good has a $2000 deductible). The argument basically goes along the lines that since the consumer isn't actually paying the cost of the treatment, the consumer over indulges. All you naughty people actually using your health care willy nilly driving up the costs for everybody else. To fix it then what we'll do is have the consumers drive down the costs by being selective. Unlike any other first or second world country.

The unfortunate thing is it has absolutely no chance of working to drive down costs. Except the cost to the employer and insurance company.

First off, it's a continuation of the drive away from the mutualization of the industry and leads us to an "every man for themselves" market. Which, for health care, won't work. Just look at what we have now, it's a step toward that. Has it had any effect on driving prices down? Just the opposite. What the proponents of this plan are saying is that we just didn't have enough faith, so we should go farther.

Demand, consider the supply. Everybody who goes to their doctor, signs in, and gets right in (excluding emergency) to see the doctor who is waiting in the room for them, would you please stand up. Everybody still sitting down? Okay, now, everybody who goes into their doctor's office that has a few people in the waiting room and when they finally get back into the exam room has to wait at least ten minutes, you all can keep reading. Everybody still with us? Yep, see, that's what's known and demand outstripping supply. Think that you as the consumers are going to be able to negotiate prices?

See, insurance companies bring the power of their groups to bear to negotiate prices. Take a look at your last insurance claims statement. Now look at those lines of "What your provider charged" versus "Fair and Reasonable" (ie. what the insurance is going to pay against). Without the insurance, you're paying the former costs.

Now, what will really happen.

People won't use the money in those health savings plans. They'll save up thinking that 1) they'll just get better or 2) it's not as bad as they think. So they won't get preventative treatment like check-ups, blood tests, colorectal scans, etc. Because, they cost, and you never know what you might need near the end of the year. So they won't go right away. They'll delay care. And you know what happens then? You end up paying even more for expensive acute care through the emergency room.

Don't believe me. Where do all those uninsured people go? See, they're experiencing that kind of system right now. They could go see the doctor when they first start experiencing symptoms (if we covered it through "social insurance" it would be cheapest to treat then which also would have better outcomes). So we have a model right there. All the studies I could find on HSAs don't address outcomes or quality of care (even though we've been experimenting since 2003). At most they say, "more research is needed." Since most of these are industry funded, that means "we found something, but can't release it."

This fall we're going to see H1N1 return. The best advice is if you're sick, stay home or go see the doctor. But that'll cost you time and money. At this point the CDC is making a major push to tell people to stay home if they're sick because people don't. It costs too much. So they go to work and school sick because, after all, "it's not that bad." Can you see the economic model for epidemic now? Add in the "but anti-virals are so expensive" and it's a recipe for disaster.

Consumers shop for price right now in their purchase of insurance. See, the cost of what you use is baked in. If you have a small group and lots of sick people your costs are higher (see, insurance companies charge your company to cover your costs, only if you're in a pool do those cost get spread even more).

And how can I say it. If the best way to control costs are through HSAs the insurance companies wouldn't be making a profit. No, really, they wouldn't. And insurance companies are making tons of profit. In the US administrative costs range in the 17% area. For Medicare/Medicaid and most other countries' administrative costs are around 5% (Medicare and Medicaid are 3% IIRC). When was the last time you saw an insurance company go out of business or file for bankruptcy? Which industry is bankrolling most of the anti "Public Option" campaign? Yeah. Begin to see the problem now?

As a final problem for me, HSA screw the poor and the sick. And unless we, as a community, are willing to say, "Let them die" and refuse to treat them (and that is the option here) we, the ones who aren't either poor or sick will continue to pay for those that are through our taxes and higher medical costs (currently estimated to be $3500 per family per year - this includes the uninsured and the "make up costs" for all the medicare and medicaid patients).

Health care is not like buying a car or fast food (although personally I would like to see "price charts" in doctors' offices). You don't negotiate the costs, especially for emergency care. Only through large groups of patients' buying power can you prenegotiate better rates. This is also why "co-ops" won't work. Starting from scratch they have no purchasing power.

I know I'm probably rambling and leaving out whole arguments here. I hope it's coherent. But all of the above is why I support a "Public Option." Failing that, my solutions would be completely untenable (insurance must be non-profit, must accept all comers at a consistent rate of premium, can not drop coverage for prior conditions, and must cover all medical costs). If you think a "Public Option" would be bad, the other solutions that have an actual chance of working would drive "free-market" people howling mad. The Public Option is the compromise.

KFF - HSAs and High Deductible Health Plans: Are They an Option for Low-Income Families? Read the key findings including the market dynamics of how HSAs will increase other insurance types' costs - this is an HTML version of a PDF
CBPP - HSA's Unlikely to Significantly Reduce Health Care Spending
NEJM - HSAs - the Ownership Society in Health Care
How American Health Care Killed My Father which I come to different conclusions that the author about how to fix the problems he identifies but discounts the actual solutions as unworkable - his father's death may (note, may) have been prevented by something called aseptic technique - it's something my wife teaches nurse trainees - and frankly it's criminal that doctors don't practice this consistently - which is an argument against tort reform as a way to introduce cost controls

Everything I needed to know I learned in 6 years of college (except for everything I needed to know). - On the Spot!

One thing our visual design instructors instilled in us was the ability to be creative on demand. Design (graphic, information, way-finding, etc) is a business. You don't have time to wait for the Muse to come in, she has to be on the clock. You might get a new client at 8am and have to present ideas for an identity overhaul by the scheduled lunch at noon. No, really, you've gotta do.

Sure, you're going to get it wrong (that's another post), but you have to present ideas. That means after the hour long meeting where you learn basically nothing you need to know and a lot about things that don't matter at all (like the hair gel the AD - art director - just switched to) you spend an hour doing "research" (now that means googling, back then it was sitting in your chair, head in your hands, thinking "OMG, OMG, OMG, OMFG!" over and over), which leaves you two hours to do a hundred thumbnails, twenty sketches, and three or more comps (doing this on computer now means the hundred thumbnails - maybe - and then right to the comps). And don't forget to include half an hour for paste up on presentation boards (or now, struggling with Powerpoint, merging with the sales materials being developed, and cursing BIll Gates' name unto the seventh generation).

Think I'm being overly dramatic? Heh. You probably actually won't get the assignment until 10 as the AD/Sales goes to get their second Starbucks. So, yeah, I gave you twice as much time than you really had. Now can you see why out of 24 or so fellow graduates, there's less than 5 of us still doing this two decades down the road.

The best job related functions you can learn is 1) be quick, 2) be precise (spelling fluorescent "flourescent" on the presentation to the lighting company won't keep the business, and your sales person doesn't know the difference), and 3) get the work out (all this wraps up to being competent, it's a rare job skill)

So, yeah, you can be creative when "cold." This is why it's important to be stocked with ideas and the creative pump primed by all the off-time research. Now, it's always better to allow the subconscious to masticate on something for awhile. Yes, the end result will be better with that, and if you're "inspired." The trick is being able to get "inspired" at the drop of a hat. That's a trick you learn by doing.

There are various group activities that can help you learn this trick. One is to have everybody in a group write the first line to a story. Then everybody trades and gets 30-45 minutes to spin out the full story. Now, more than likely you won't get a full story written, but you should be able to get the frame of it out (the voice, the overall thrust, somewhere at about 500-1000 words). Then everybody shares what they got. This exercise works because you're not invested in the story (it's not "your" idea - well, it is, but you can fool yourself) and there's a deadline, plus you need to share. You can see variations on the theme here (give everybody a character, a plot, a setting, etc, and have them write what they get in 30-45 minutes, pull a story from literature and write an extension/version/joke/etc based on it). Select any of the various "writing prompts" (Writer's Digest, Writing Excuses, there's several websites that have lists of them) and have at. After doing this several times you'll get faster and better with it. You'll also become more comfortable with being creative on the spot. It's like calisthenics for the Muse.

This post? I have a list of blog entries for this concept (what I learned as a designer translates to writing). I looked back at that list about 20 minutes ago and this post is a result. I can be "cold" and still write/design. That's what I learned.

Gibbering a Squamous Issuance Day

Happy happy, H. P. Lovecraft.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Is that a gun in your pocket or are you just happy to see me?

Okay, so I'm sure you've seen the jizzle about people openly carrying firearms to town hall meetings lately. And there's a lot of back and forth of "It's crazy" and "We're just exercising our rights" and "Decorum" and "Pansy" all being thrown about with abandon.

Well, I'm not a pansy. I passed my state's test for concealed carry (quite easily I might add). I'm not exactly a stranger to firearms. I believe in the second amendment as much as I believe in the first (and all the others, BTW).

There's something in me that immediately takes a dislike and distrust of someone who carries a firearm in public, and that does extend to safety forces (being Chairman of Safety doesn't help). Most of those I'm around on a weekly basis that do carry firearms I've come to trust (none of them are "civilians" when carrying though, they carry their firearms as a part of their job), but it doesn't stop that part of my brain from being very conscious of the weapon they carry. I suspect I'm not alone.

And that's what these people want, IMHO. They want attention they feel they don't get without the gun. The want the "respect" they get with it.

My attention isn't respect. My brain is functioning on the level, "If I have to disarm this person, what is the best way to go about it?" And it's constantly re-evaluating those options (I typed "firing-solutions" at first). And I feel an almost irresistible urge to disarm the person and safety the weapon. That's the part that's very conscious, I have to stop myself from doing so. Not because you (as the person carrying the gun) could really stop me (no, really, you couldn't, by the time you realized what I was doing your gun would be in my hands - I know people who could stop me, you ain't one of them, trust me on that point and I doubt very much your nylon holster would prevent an overangle draw) but because it's not polite.

But I have two questions for all those who are carrying them to the rallies. Do you really think it's such a good idea? And why didn't you carry them to President Bush's or McCain/Palin rallies and Tea Parties then?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

For Camille

And instead of chapters, my brain issues poetry. I know Camille dislikes my political ranting. So this poem is for her. (Since I make many typos, I do intend the homophone in line three)

The Debate

Fire on the beach shines
a beacon to the frothy surf.
We dissent into chaos.
Subsumed in the sea
of past assumptions
to drown
breathing deep blue history.
We flounder on the sublime
and shout warning
at the young oarsmen
in brave boats,
And one last time,
hand raised in final salute,
the waves break resolve
and claim us their own.

Chapter 19

Spent my lunch redoing the police stuff at the end of the chapter, added almost 200 words, updated the counter. Now back to chapter 20.

In case you don't believe me

Before we get to the regular post, here's this new thing. See, the "Public Option" has no chance of reducing costs because the government can't manage anything, so we shouldn't do it. And the "Public Option" would also compete unfairly by leveraging the buying power of the government to negotiate lower prices from service providers and pharmaceutical companies. Contra meet Diction. You should hang around together. Now back to our post.

In some arguments I've been making recently, I know that I haven't been as persuasive about somethings as I could have been. It's difficult for me to talk about the very deep intricacies of advanced marketing and PR skills, both of which I do have some experience at. It can sound a little "woo-woo"ish when I talk about how making that shade of blue in a background 8% more magentaish can mean a 10% increase in sales and satisfaction rating, but a 15% move in the magenta can mean a slide of 20% in both, and how changing one word in a headline can also do the same thing.

The word thing is a little easier for people to understand after all the process stories since 1994 on the wordsmithing of the Republican Revolution and the subsequent stories on how politicians choose words and phrases that poll well, but have nebulous meanings ("family values" for instance, or "public option"). So there is a cultural template with which to put these discussions in context, and I'm not the first one to broach the subject.

When it comes to some of the other more subtle marketing and PR means, the ground is less well prepared. There was a bruhaha a few years ago over "viral marketing" and how people got upset when they realized they had been taken in by somebody who looks "normal" but is actually an actor selling a product. Some viral marketing continues to be below the radar (like making sure all the "pretty people" have iPhones to play with in front of the cameras at the oscars and other award shows) and some of it has gone "legit" (like sponsored nights at certain hip clubs). A lot of it is still at the level of "seeding" people into a crowd and let them interact (and even some blog commentators are paid for their posts, not very well, but pizza money if you're in college, if you like, pick one of John Scalzi's political posts and then check the timing of the dissenting voices, if you're like me you'll begin to see the patterns, although lately I haven't been as involved with those so the spigot may have been turned off - again, not all of them, but they bring out the template and provide the framework of discussion).

It also works when you develop a narrative that hits into the public zeitgeist in the same way "urban legends" work. Those narratives then get picked up and repeated. Why? Because they're easily remembered, they ring "true", and people aren't as bright as they like to think they are. There's a little thing I like to do with people around me. I'll introduce a phrase and then see how long it takes to go around and see when it starts coming back to me. You can also check this yourself as to how quickly you pick up on acronyms and then how quickly you use them yourself. Or if someone asks you "How are you today?" instead of replying "Fine" say something memorable. "I'm higgledy piggly today. You?" See how long it takes for "higgledy piggly" to work into everybody's lexicon. Marketers use the same function.

Most of you know how pernicious "advertising" can be, but most people in "advertising" don't know how they really function (and I admit here, while I'm not the most clueless, I'm also not one of those that people spend thousands of dollars for a day to listen to my advice, and those people exist believe me). You may know that "sex sells", but do you really know what "sex" is? Sure, Clairol Herbal Essence may give you orgasms in the shower without the fancy massage shower-head, but do you know that some marketers of "impulse items" (those things near the checkout) make their blister packs define as "sex" in our brains? That there are certain colors that also define as "sex" in our brains (this year it all seems to be about the candy)? And did you know those things change over time? You can only press the joy-button so many times until you need to find a new kink to get the same high.

T-Mobile does a great send up of this with their advertising. Send a team of economists around to explain the benefits and you'll get the door slammed in your face. However, send Catherine Zeta-Jones around and man you're going to be selling the phones like hot-cakes (cellphone service = sex). Well, actually it's just that people will give you the time of day then.

So here's a commentary by Wendell Potter who used to do such things for the Insurance Industry. Now he's swinging for the other team as it were. (very brief SourceWatch article, you can also google him).

Writerly Linkee-poo

Joshua Palmatier talks about planning for non-planning writers (pansters). I've listened a lot to Josh about his writing and I admit that I'm going in his direction (and Brust's and Buckell's and Scalzi's). Even with the current WIP I know there are more stories in there (including the back story) but this book should stand on its own. And I've found that I'm planning like the way Josh explains it (I get a few glimpses into the story, and then figure out how they're connected). And as you've read here, sometimes it doesn't come out the way you thought (those wily characters), but you have the main thrust and hopefully the right outcome. It's just your path that may vary a bit.

And for my money, in that last picture in Josh's post, Mr. Martin doesn't look so much like he's saying "get to work on that series" (which, BTW, having met Mr. Martin, that's probably exactly what he was saying, good guy that he is), but something about now having to shove off to continue to look for that damnable white whale. (It's the hat I'm sure)

Diana Pharaoh Francis has a counter point when she talks about Serializing a Novel which she doesn't think she can do and points to some of the common fail points of doing such. Although, from what I hear, Dickens was a seat-of-the-pants writer which frequently caused him problems with the serialization.

Sam Butler reiterates the best writing advice EVAR! All the other stuff (like my own blogging, but really, can you tell I can blatherate about almost anything and like doing so?) really doesn't mean much if you don't write the next book. Once Bladesman is done (with at least one rewrite), I want to get back to the other novel. And I have another novel after that, and then I might get back to the first novel I tried and get that written. After that, I've got no plans as of yet. Probably will in the three or so years that will take.

And over on the SFWA blog, they talk a little about Reading Aloud. As those of you who have met me, the first two points I have a problem with and so have to intentionally watch myself as my voice is soft (normally), and when I read aloud I go very fast.

Monday, August 17, 2009

In the bag

Chapter 18 is done. And it was long enough so I did break it into Chapters 18 and 19. And extra 3020 words to the novel. I think I'm going to put that word bar over on the widget side (WIPS and Whips). That way it'll constantly be there (that's the "whip" part). So we add 3025 words tonight.

The small business roundtable of dumb small business people

So, I'm flipping channels, and I come across Glen Bleck doing a small business thing. Besides other inanities he and his panel are spouting, including that the democrats are sticking it to "the evil small businessman" (this is what's known as putting words in people's mouths), they just did a thing on how the CEOs of GM (and yes, they specifically named GM) or Wall Street can pick up the phone and get their congressman or senator to jump for them. Really? How did that work out for former GM CEO Rick Wagoner? Considering Beck did a whole rant on how that was so horrible that Obama had the man "fired."

But the other thing they said about this was that congressman and senators only listen to the "special interests" and lobbyists and that small businesses can't afford to have lobbyists or special interests.

Well, Glen, your guests and commentators are just as dumb as you are. For your edification:
NFIB - National Federation of Independent Businesses.
NSBA - National Small Businesses Association.
US Chamber of Commerce.
US Women's Chamber of Commerce.
National Association of Socially Responsible Organizations.

See, something for everybody. And I'm sure I'm missing some hundred other lobbying groups that specifically focus on small business issues (but frankly, it's dinner time and I didn't want to do some general googling to find more).

Oh, and if I can get time with my congressman or senator (having just written all of them about health care and gotten responses back from all except Senator Voinovich (r)) so can your small business people.

So, Glen, choice time. Are you and your commentators and guests just stupid and don't know the first thing about what they're spouting off about, or are you intentionally lying? I'm going to be generous and say you're just stupid.

And they always called me chaotic!

What kind of D&D character would I be?

I Am A: Neutral Good Human Wizard (6th Level)

Ability Scores:

Neutral Good A neutral good character does the best that a good person can do. He is devoted to helping others. He works with kings and magistrates but does not feel beholden to them. Neutral good is the best alignment you can be because it means doing what is good without bias for or against order. However, neutral good can be a dangerous alignment because it advances mediocrity by limiting the actions of the truly capable.

Humans are the most adaptable of the common races. Short generations and a penchant for migration and conquest have made them physically diverse as well. Humans are often unorthodox in their dress, sporting unusual hairstyles, fanciful clothes, tattoos, and the like.

Wizards are arcane spellcasters who depend on intensive study to create their magic. To wizards, magic is not a talent but a difficult, rewarding art. When they are prepared for battle, wizards can use their spells to devastating effect. When caught by surprise, they are vulnerable. The wizard's strength is his spells, everything else is secondary. He learns new spells as he experiments and grows in experience, and he can also learn them from other wizards. In addition, over time a wizard learns to manipulate his spells so they go farther, work better, or are improved in some other way. A wizard can call a familiar- a small, magical, animal companion that serves him. With a high Intelligence, wizards are capable of casting very high levels of spells.

Find out What Kind of Dungeons and Dragons Character Would You Be?, courtesy of Easydamus.

See, I never did play the wizard characters so well. I preferred the fighter and thief classes myself.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Longerish Weekend

Spent most of yesterday here, at the Darwin Traveling Exhibit at the Great Lakes Science Center with Bette, the sister-in-law and a nephew. It was an okay exhibit. The subject matter was handled well, but like other exhibits at the Science Center there were lots of facsimiles instead of actual documents or many of the thousands of specimens Charles Darwin collected. It does place he theories against the backdrop of his time very well and shows the influences that helped him formulate his ideas. And while the museum was well packed, the exhibit wasn't, which was a little disappointing even if it worked out better for us. Not having to toss children and idiots aside and all.

We were just five minutes too late to tour the Mather. We've been on her once before and it was a hoot.

And then we were to go to Little Italy for dinner, but this weekend was the Feast of the Assumption which meant no traffic going through Little Italy this weekend. So instead we treated the nephew to Skyline Chili which he never had.

Today was the Fall Festival Parade (yes, I know it's not the Fall nor is it anylonger called the Fall Festival, but you know what? You get fewer weird looks when you call it the Fall Festival than when you mention the Grand Valley Festival to the locals). It was damn hot. What should have been a good year for the festival I think was dampened by the heat. After the parade I spent a few hours talking with the chiefs, fellow councilmen, friends and constituents. And baked in the sun.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Writerly Linkee-poo

Maggie Steifvater and her Giant Butt-Kicking How to Write a Novel Post. Linked to with full acknowledgement that I should be writing on this lunch break. (Grokked from fellow VPXII'er Catherine Schaff Stump)

A newly discovered tab over at Duotrope, Deadline Calendar. Lots of interesting markets there (themed anthos mostly). I think this page ROCKs, BTW.

Speaking of anthos, Writer Tamago (aka Catherine Schaff Stump, link above) points us at Drollerie Press' call for submissions to their anthos. If Ann takes a pass on History of Lighting I know where I'm sending it next (although both deadlines are next year).

Something very cool to me, The Soldier in later Medieval England: An exciting new AHRC research project with attendant database. (Grokked from Joshua Palmatier - BTW, happy book day, Josh)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Today's Humor in the Mail

My employer sometimes sends helpful healthcare information to my home. We belong to an insurance pool, and the thing about the pool is that you have to have a Health Program (or Health Fairs) to obtain the discounts. So, basically, you don't provide any health information to your employer (which can be illegal and opens them to discrimination suits) or to your insurer (which they're blocked by health privacy laws from getting, but then they all have to take your history so they can define your premium, yeah, it's kinda strange), but to the third-party who then determines your risk and possibility of bringing the group down. Also the group can suggest health "improvements" that if your employer or insurer tried would be grounds for a suit.

Well the theme of this mail was "Tips to Reduce Stress." Laugh. Riot.

There was a flyer from the Mayo Clinic included called Time Management: Tips to Reduce Stress.

Cry havok! And let slip the snark.

  • Plan each day. My day I do plan. And then I am deluged by Rush, Hot Rush, Super Hot Rush and EMERGENCY work. All of which have nothing to do with my planning but the client's lack of planning or a sales person's promise.

  • Prioritize your tasks.See above. My priorities are set by three levels of bosses, 8 sales people and 5 CSRs. Any of of which could walk into my cubicle and try to impose their priorities on me.

  • Say no to nonessential tasks. Yeah, right. I'm sorry, has the author of this list worked in the Modern Workplace? Say, since the early 90s?

  • Take the time you need to do a quality job. We have a saying, "There will always be time to do it right the second time around."

  • Break large, time-consuming tasks into smaller tasks. Again, we joked today when a part of a job was labeled "Rush" that obviously they didn't need it so fast because it was just a "Rush."

  • Practice the 10-minute rule. You're not listening to me, are you? Okay, today I had to typeset a book, make edits to business cards (four different sets), insert a photo into a brochure, answer emails, correct some database entries, etc. My jobs are broken up into 10 minute spots because I can't concentrate on one job long enough.

  • Evaluate how you're spending your time. I have time for that?

  • Limit distractions. Let's see, no door, people who have to use the phone for their work, any on of the 14 above mentioned people could pop-over at any time, yeah, how do you do that?

  • Get plenty of sleep, have a healthy diet and exercise regularly. Hahahahaha.

  • Take a time management course. I have time to take a course? When?

  • Take a break when needed. Again, the author of this list never had a real job in their life. I get to take a break when I go to the bathroom. Now I do have a half hour lunch, but I have to take that between noon and one.

It must be nice to have the advisor's job.

Still my guitar gently weeps

Les Paul, 1915-2009.

The man who fueled way too many of us with rock 'n roll dreams has left the building. Godspeed, Les Paul, inventor of the electric guitar. Vaya Con Dios.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Tired of retaking the hills

Well, here we are, about a month and a half down the road of Healthcare Reform. And let's look at some of the more common complaints.

1) It's over a thousand pages long and nobody can read it in that time and it's not available for public review.
Okay, it's been running through committees (where the work actually gets done) for over a month and a half (started before July 4th), here is the House Bill (thanks to Jim Wright for the link). You will have had over a month to read it before the Senate takes it back up. Also, this is why representatives and senators have staff. It's what's called management and delegation. It would be like asking the President to read every piece of mail and email his office receives, or even that smaller percentage that gets a response (last numbers I saw was something like 8 people reading the mail, that's their full-time jobs).

My Congressman, Steven LaTourette sent me a nice email response and talked up his own bill, H.R. 956. I've not been able to find it on Thomas, so I've asked him for a link.

2) They're rushing into this.
See earlier comment of being at the month and a half stage and we've got at least another month to go. Two and a half months, while fast, is not unreasonable (considering we've been discussing this for a decade, or for those of you that haven't, the public has been engaged in this debate since it was brought up on the campaign trail over a year ago).

3) We're all going to be socialists.
Sorry, you don't understand the meaning of that word. Even if the "Public Option" ends up as last-man standing for personal insurance we are still very far from socialism. Under this new loose definition, we already are socialists and have been since the turn of the past century.

Now, if we're going to have a bill wherein all the doctors, nurses, etc are going to be government workers (as in Civil Employees where their paychecks are issued by the government) then we're talking socialism. Or if you want to argue that having everybody being insured will bring about equal access to resources for all individuals regardless of class, that is only a part of actual socialism and is more of a defining principle. Plus, then make the argument openly that you don't want people to have equal access to healthcare. Say it openly that some people shouldn't have access to medical care.

4) the "Death Panels"
If I have to dispute this idiocy once more, I think I'll institute my own eugenics program and eliminate people from the gene pool one at a time as they volunteer.

5) Rationing! and Cost!
These are actually related. One, there's nothing in these bills that I see as "rationing." This is one of those "OMG this could happen just after they start selling us Soylent Green." See this is also related to "OMG this is going to cost so much." Well, yes it will. The current numbers from the CBO peg it at about $1 Trillion over 10 years. Healthcare spending is currently $2.4 Trillion (or so) per year (here's a Kaiser Family Foundation primer, and it's expected to continue to rise and be over $3 trillion by 2012). So the government with this program, will cost a little less than 5% of the total healthcare costs (not really, because there's also Medicare and Medicaid to consider). However, we can save money on having many fewer uninsured (and underinsured) people in the system who leave hospitals and medical providers in such debt that 1) the government makes stipend payments to cover their cost (your tax dollars) on top of Medicaid payments and 2) why aspirin costs $15+ at the ER (which then costs you more in insurance premiums and in copays). So you're already paying this cost anyway.

6) We want our country back (and this is a commonly heard phrase these days)
This really isn't a complaint about the healthcare reform act, but a general feeling that people have lost something. I've been parsing this statement for the past week and have been unable to come to a conclusion about what the people are really saying here. I'm going to be generous and go with "they're upset that America wasn't as conservative as they thought it was." That's because when people answer, "Yes, I'm conservative" what they're saying (when you look at polls that actually, you know, ask more interesting questions) is that they are fiscally conservative. I would hazard a guess those wanting their country back are the social conservatives who are seeing the reigns of power slip from their hands. Again, that's the most polite interpretation. The second most polite interpretation is that their idiots who never understood civics and how their country was actually run. The others are less generous.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Good Decisions

Okay, 1780 words (about 1100 new words, the rest from "out of sequence pieces parts" I had before, but needed a little tweaking for where we're at in the story now). Yeah, the story wanted to go in this direction. I've got about 200 words to connect two parts, and then another 100 or so to end out the scene and it'll be in the bag.

Tomorrow is council night, so unless I get some brain space around lunch, probably no new words until Wednesday. Time for bed (past time really).

Edited per suggestion from Rick

Writertopia Toolbox

I've included the chapters "finished" to date (this doesn't include the 1700+ words form yesterday).

Thanks, Rick.

Forced mains are not the way to go

Spent lunch trying to work through the opening of Chapter 18. Came to the conclusion that I'm going to keep the end of 17 the way it is now. Changing it felt like I was forcing it where it didn't want to go. And once I let it go, I figured out the chain of events to get everything done. Ah, a plan coming together.

And when I let it go back to where the story wanted to be, the text started flowing again.

Monday morning likee-poo

Mark Charan Newton with some interesting things about being a writer. Dealing with #1, people just don't understand. How many times in a week do you have to answer the "Did you see this on TV/go see this movie yet" question with, "No, I don't have much time for that" before people just stop talking to you? Most of my movie references are now nearly a decade old. And how do you fully explain the "no, I didn't see it, but I know all the main plot points" answer? I've also dealt with #2 way too often. And there is the ever persistent #10. (Grokked from Jeff VanderMeer, which, BTW, Weird Tales won a Hugo, go congratulate Ann VanderMeer on a wonderful job).

And speaking of Hugos, both Elizabeth Bear and John Scalzi won Hugos this weekend. Both will be instructors for Viable Paradise XIII. It'll be like a Hugo sandwich.

Here's a post on Making Light with an interesting photo of the Tor Party. Yeah, that Paul "Freakin" Krugman 1) attending THE SF convension and 2) explaining some point to Tom "OMFG" Doherty than involves hand signs (probably something along the "Then the water got up to here and then all the ducks swam away", but you know, Paul "Freakin" Krugman) with Seth (if you don't know, just google him) Breidbart thrown in for good measure. I think my geekmeister detector just broke (is this what they call a geek 'gasm?). Now, if this didn't have something to do with Tor.com or distribution models in the new economic paradigm I'm going to be very, very disappointed.

Not exactly a writerly link, but here's a report about how myths/popular falsehoods are made and propogate. Some interesting process chains in there. (Grokked from Jay Lake).

Sunday, August 9, 2009

I gotta wear shades

Just signed my first publishing contract.

Well, I was kinda hoping that my short, War Stories, would be published first, but such is the publishing industry. First up will be an blog post entry in a contest for Tales Out of Miskatonic University. Fortunately it's with the same editor (::waves at William::). He thought my little flash pieces there was worthy to make it in. He also felt some twitter-fic I did was also good enough.

The payment is one contributor's copy and the possibility of royalty payments. I knew that going into the contest, so there's no surprises there. I entered the contest because it was fun and happen to think William is a hoopey frood. The little pieces I did were a blast to write and let me try a few things I hadn't done yet in a short story. The twitter entries were extra and it was interesting trying to tell a story in less than 140 characters. At best I think I made competent vignettes, but looking at the twitter-fics they have posted on Twitter, they didn't get much beyond that either. Again it was an opportunity to experiment and have fun. And what can be better in life that doing something you're having fun with and then have somebody else say, "Hey, that's kinda good."

So my first publishing contract is signed and in the envelope waiting to go out in the mail. Hopefully after this fall if I'm a panelist for any other conventions I'll have something to stand on the table. :)

It's Whack-a-mole Hunting Season

New kid with the ads, 60 Plus Association. And a SourceWatch article on them. The astroturf is growing thick underfoot.

That 60 Plus is spewing the same crap that Sarah Palin decided to fart out, yeah, it's time to get hip wadders.

Hot time, summer in the not-so-much city

Okay, who ordered up the heat? And it's not really the temperature, it's the 90% humidity. So today was the second day this summer the AC is on, not a bad ratio, but something is way wrong. Although today's predicted high temperature will be near the record.

So you know, of course I had to do something outside today. Yep. I built the long awaited step up to the rain barrels. It took about two hours, most of which was hauling tools out and then putting them away. And then there was the hard part. See, because I'm insane, I wanted the step blocks to be level with the platform blocks, and that took a bit of doing. Word to the wise, when doing stone work plan the whole thing out and create your foundation at the same time.

And you know it's insane to be working outside when after two hours of work you look like you went swimming in your clothes. So instead of doing some other things outside, I came inside. Now handling some paperwork and wanting to get back to the Novel. I want to change the end of Chapter 17, I think moving up an action made the two other things that needed to get done that much harder to fit in the time frame without giving people a "WTF? Why did they do that" experience. You know like the teenagers in their underwear deciding to split up and check out the weird sounds they're hearing.

I should fix the hole in the wall the plumber left (yes, he had to do it to get to the pipe, and he agrees with my assessment, "Just WTF were they thinking putting the outdoor faucet where they did, that's just asking for problems?"). No, to move it would have been way too expensive and for not that much benefit (in fact it would create more problems now, wouldn't have if it originally was placed where both the plumber and I agreed it should have).

Set the "Worse" knobs to 11 - novel

With the bad news this week, I just want to say, this is just about what's happening in the novel.

Chapter 17 is done. Again, order of some things gets changed at the end, and in rewrite this will probably go to two chapters. It's currently 2520 words. That brings my total word count to just under 30,000. I'm right in the middle of what I figure the story is, so that's good. First five chapters have been rewritten, so right now I'm thinking this will finish up in the first draft to be about 60-65000 words, second draft to be 70,000-80,000 words. So I'm on track.

They've figured out most of what they're up against, now it comes time to start solving some problems. Of course other problems are just waiting to crop up and complicate matters worse.

My favorite passage of the night's writing (seriously kicked in after 10 oclock).
The room was an oasis guarded by a stout woman knitting a holster and my fellow pilgrims all knew that if it came to it, we would be the ones sent against each other. Until then there was no cause to not be civil. All of us except for Salazar and the woman with the gun were here for the same reason, to share information and pick each others' brains. What I hadn't know is that the others were there for the camaraderie as well. In a city of some half million people, there was only one other than us who had our particular skills. Our profession was a small fraternity.

I'm tired, the light is going, my fingers are cold. Time for bed.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Slow rainy Saturday

Spent the morning mulching the new flower beds. Then I leveled out some of the dirt Bette and her friend spread around the yard and put out grass seed, all before the rains came. I works better if you work with the environment than forcing things (such as putting out grass seed before a big rain, then you don't have to water it, unless the rain peters out).

There's still things to be done outside before the snow flies. And plenty more I'd like to get done. All of it probably won't happen.

Doing some file maintenance, writing various emails, and thinking about some writing projects. Also working out some budget things for home improvement projects. Watching DIY and HGTV shows to learn construction tricks. And frankly, no so much with the liking of their design sense (on HGTV).

Didn't have this plan until late last night (actually had figured the weekend much different).

Friday, August 7, 2009

Truth will out

Just to remind everybody, there is a little website called FactCheck.org.

Nonpartisan, researched, well rounded.

It's no surprise that the majority of articles on their home page are about the Healthcare Bill.

FactCheck and SourceWatch do great jobs.

Could be worse. Could be raining.

So today was two meetings with the boss. First thing I noticed as we (my direct supervisor and I) entered his office was his black shirt. It's never good when your boss wears black.

For me the result was a 10% pay cut. This brings me in line with the other office staff who took the paycut back in February. It was only because of me being hired out of the bargaining unit after that point that I slipped under the radar. The good news is that they think they're seeing improved conditions going forward and that having a designer on staff and who is in the union (associate member these days) is a selling point for some new work. Also we're doing quality work for the clients and it's being noticed. The bad news is some more people were laid-off.

Wish I had some anti-acid at work today, I could have used it.

My employment seems to be based around "recessions." I landed my first paycheck and FICA job in 1982, during a major recession (I think this one finally passed the 82 recession's milestones in April). I graduated from college in 1990, another recession. Lost the job I found then because of the first Gulf War (and none to bright management), it was also my first experience with a merger (they always say nobody will lose their jobs, and they always do). Landed working for E&Y in '92 in the middle of a hiring freeze, survived two departmental mergers (one small, one large) and eventual managed the department I helped create. Then there was the recession at the end of the 90s that saw a dream job dry up. Surviving the lay-offs of the 2001 and 2003 downturns where I ended up being "last man standing." And now this one. Just a friggin' good time.

There's been moments of panic. A re-evaluation of going to Viable Paradise (yes, I've prepaid a lot of it, I'm going). Re-prioritizing future expenses, some plans put on hold, others kicked to the curb. If I had known this three weeks ago I may have stayed home from Confluence, which would have been a shame (had a great time, learned a lot of things).

They say there are glimmers of a bottom and then uptick. Some numbers are going in the right direction. If you've been thinking of buying a house in Ohio, now is the time (prices have started to increase again). Employment though may drag down quick recovery. However, inventories are low which means if orders start increasing it'll trickle through the supply chain quickly. Unfortunately the average workweek is now 33 hours, which means there's a lot of play in the installed employment base. Crossed signals all over the place. Having been through these a few times it does feel like the bottom. I expect by Xmas we'll be able to see what the recovery will look like (my guess is a slow start, then back to steam Xmas 2010).

Writerly Linkee-poo is working hard for the weekend

An Observer article on authors meeting deadlines (now more important than ever). While Douglas Adams may have been able to quip, "I love deadlines. I love the whooshing noise they make as they go by," I think I can fairly say none of us are Douglas Adams. And these days, his publisher might not look so kindly on his shenanigans about his deadlines. Once again it's good to remind authors, especially young authors, that they can view their writing however they want, but publishing is a business. If you want to publish, you've got to approach it as a business (this is also why I don't get all hinky about rejection, because it's "just business"). (Grokked from Jay Lake)

An NPR story on ghostwriting, the working writer's friend and profitable secret. This is another way to make writing pay. While I don't have any figures, ghostwriters are working in established markets (like Nancy Drew/Hardy Boys series) or for authors who have large advances. While a ghostwriter may only get a lump sum payment, my guess is that sum is probably higher than the average genre novel advance for first time authors ($5000, probably lower now).

I'm sure you've all seen the Uproar and Consternation(tm) over a certain genre anthology and its predilection for having re-published only white-guy fiction. It's everywhere. I pretty much agree with Jeff VanderMeer in that the editor' choices weren't intentional prejudice or sexism, they were just lazy and not stretching themselves. But that's the worse kind of racism and sexism. With the current novel project I found myself making the bad guys all Chinese. Not in and of itself a bad thing (since it's a move to take over a territory and the main mover is a Chinese Tong), but then I realized none of the Good Guys were Chinese (mix of European and Hispanic, although our hero has a very English name, I don't describe him very much, and in my mind's eye he has Native American and Hispanic roots as well and English). For a setting on the West Coast and in a post-Asian Cultural shift, that was being lazy (and playing to my own geo-political view that we are engaged in a Cold War with China). So now I think I just need to have a Canadian in there somewhere and I'll be set.

And good for a giggle is Edward Champion's The Impotance [sic] of the Editor. Laughed my butt off. (Grokked from Matt Stagg)

If you need more writerly links, scriveners error has a boatload.

And, at last, a writerly lament. All the cool kids are in Montreal so teh intertoobies are lacking in their merriment. And while I hang my head in sorry, I can console myself with I'm going to Viable Paradise in October. Sure, it may be a week of bashing one's brains out with a scholarly rock when it comes to writing, but I'll be bashing my brains out on Martha's Frickin' Vineyard (which I believe was the original name, they shortened it for the map makers).

Thursday, August 6, 2009


I'm still continuing on Chapter 17, although I just passed an even better breaking point. That will depend on how long the hospital room scene goes (all four working bladesmen in one room). I didn't do a word count, but I think there was another 500 words or so (updated file is on a usb drive back in the bedroom (still in my pant's pocket) and when I go back there next, it'll be to go to sleep. Seriously tired.

I'm starting to feel like my characters are sounding alike. But that might just be mid-book "OMG! I'm losing it" hysteria, which I'm trying to keep tamped down.

Considering the rumor mill in the village is swinging wildly (there are certain people behind it, I taught them a lesson two years ago, obviously they thought because I didn't continue to beat them over their rhetorical head and shoulders that I've gone soft, it's a classic bully mistake that they expect others to act the bully). So there was a large part of mental time and space that has been allocated to village stuff (and probably will be until September) that I'm glad I'm still getting out the words.

Good lines are coming out of the blue. Depth and roundness of story, world, and characters continues to surprise me (when I haven't given deep conscious thought to them). But I've have the thoughts of "Man, I wish this was done already." Need to keep those at bay.

Not much to say

Except I'm watching Hannity, and I didn't know he was a dealer. Really, given his loss of grip on reality and how his "commentators" are also following him down the rabbit hole, I really can't find anything else to explain it except drugs.

Because, you see, Obama has lost control/is out of control (and he's just flailing about), his subordinates have never lived in "reality", the American people are turning on him, representatives are insulting and assaulting their constituents, Clinton securing the release of Americans from N. Korea is a bad thing, and obviously we've given Kim the green light to bomb Japan in exchange, an Union thugs are beating up grandmas in front of their grandchildren at the healthcare town hall meetings (okay, that last one was from a conservative blog).

Really, is everybody at Fox smoking dope or what?

Add to that John Bolton's interview on NPR last night where he said "everybody knows N. Korea (never actually stopped their nuclear program and) had the bomb over a decade ago." (No, Johnny boy, that happened on your watch)

Are those really "cigars" they're all smoking?

I wonder if when we get to Sept 12, 2009 if they'll make the comparison about how President Bush's approval ratings were higher than Obama's at the same time in their Presidency.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Train kept a rollin'

It's the little things that get me. See, I've been building this world for almost a year now (time of short story development, and now with the novel). As I've said it's a world of what would have happened if California suffered the Big One(tm) in the late 70s. Our US economy wasn't in such good state so we couldn't rebuild, so China stepped in and did an economic take over of the West Coast. While there are still functioning central State and US Governments, they've been weakened enough that the city-states rise to prominence (at least on the West Coast). This way you get the strange mix of Sino-West Coast cultures (and I get to flatten out the maps and redraw the lines, very fun that).

But this nagging thought keeps coming back. See, China wasn't such an economic force in the 70s. They were still fairly insular and they spent an inordinate amount on their military. So in the Real World(tm) China wouldn't have been able to help out in the late 70s. Today, sure. They could rebuild after Katrina with just the interest payments on their US Bonds. In the 70s and early 80s though, Japan's hand was on the Asian Economy gear shifter. It would have been Japan coming in to rebuild (if you're old enough you might remember the Japanese Scare of the 80s when people here in the US realized "OMGs they're buying all our property" (really, this was a big concern).

Plus, if I shifted the story to include Japan it would also work out that in the 90s Japan's economy had the lost decade. They would have had to pull back to the islands, leaving the West Coast to fend for itself (which is a part of the story line). It would also explain some of the "honor" issues happening in the background of the story and the prevalence of katana and wakizashi sets. Much of the story with China can stay in place as now (and the near future) China is running the economic gear shifter of Asia. It would also explain some of the strange blending of sino-cultures I have going on.

So that's a bullet on Things I Must Change(tm) after I finish out the book. Like I said, it won't change much, but it'll make more sense.

I learned everything I needed to know in 6 years of college (except everything I needed to know) - Critiques

As I said, I have a BFA. That means a large whopping percent of my college career was spent in art classes. And while the other disciplines in the school had critiques less often (maybe twice a week), for the graphic design program we were critiqued on our output every single class. If you took a basic full load of courses that meant being critiqued at least two times a day Monday through Friday (sometimes 3 or 4 times a day). We critiqued thought processes, thumbnails, proofs, comps and final art.

One thing you notice about college is that the people you end up with the the junior level of courses is much smaller than those in the freshman level of courses. In computer programming that was because of General Programming II and Calculus II. In graphic design we didn't have "weeder" courses. Every damn course weeded out those who didn't have what it took to go on.

You may think I'm being overly-dramatic there, but these critiques were not gentle things. Usually once a week was the "did you really mean to put so much suck into this?" critique. Now student to student we were pretty light. However the teacher always got their say. Most where rat-ass bastards too. Sure, they'd help you in class, give you all the help they could outside class, but when it came to critique time, they would open with both barrels.

Seem cruel? Obviously you've never been in a client meeting discussing design work. The only thing better for us would have been to include mind-reading courses.

So after four years of that type of crucible you develop a tough skin. Or you drop out. By the senior year of classes if you haven't developed the mental calluses to allow scorn and ridicule roll off your back you would probably need to see a psychiatrist to help with the cluelessness problems. In my "freshman" class we had about 300 students. I graduated with 24 in the winter (and I believe there were only 20 that spring). That's what's called attrition.

Some people have asked me why rejection doesn't bother me like it does other writers. This is why. Sure it bothers me, but I get over it quickly and move on. In my critique group sometimes I want to tell the person critiquing me, "You're holding back, damnit, tell me what you want to say!" Of course you can't do that in the Milford/Clarion style.

See, there's two different kinds of critiques. There's the professional kind which talks about the work (art or writing), it may or may not include suggestions ("I thought you were going here..." or "I think this could be stronger if you..."). Suggestions aren't necessary (although they do sped the learning process). This is the kind of critique that as a writer you should be seeking out. The kind that points out the flaws in the work, the things editors would toss your manuscript in the bounce file over. Of course, there are always differences of opinion (many of my later critiques with the Hamsters have extra notes on the hard copy that say, "so-and-so is correct pointing this out," or "so-and-so is completely off base with this comment"). In that case you look at if the majority agrees you messed up the imagery, you'll want to look at it. If the audience splits, or if only one person points something out, it's author's choice (which doesn't mean ignore it, it means evaluating the critique and seeing if a change would make the story stronger or if it would lose something). And all these critiques, even the ones you think are most cruel, are an attempt to help you and your work be better.

Then there's the other kind. The poisonous personal attack where the critiquer decides that it's mostly a character flaw of the author for any problems in the manuscript. Ignore these people. Find a better group of critiquers. A critique about a piece of work is never about the person.

I think I related the story of my worst critique a long time ago (and it's a post by itself). Nothing, I repeat, nothing an editor can say or do, nothing a fellow writer could say or do, could come close. The #10 has been set. Most others don't get past #6 in comparison. I am invested in my work, and if you tell me my baby is ugly I'll be upset. But it doesn't come close to the inferno that was that critique (short story, it changed my life). Tell me that you don't want to publish my piece. Eh. I've had clients tell me to my face my work sucked and they weren't going to continue working with me/pay for it. Just giving me a rejection or telling me that this simile doesn't work for you isn't even close. This far down the road, there's only one person that could get close to affecting me that deeply. And it's not anybody in my critique group or any editor I submit to.

Unfortunately I don't have much advice on how to get to where I'm at. It involves walking through Hell. Once you do that a little flame doesn't bother you. And if necessary, you know you can do it again.