Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Information, Entropy, and the End of the Universe

One of the first readings for my survey class was a review of James Gleick's The Information:  A History, a Theory, a Flood.  It's a fun read and I highly recommend it, touching as it does on a lot of the main points in the history of information theory, putting everything from Claude Shannon to Wikipedia into context.  What's more, it does what any good book review ought to do:  it makes me want to read the book.

But then the reviewer went and said a dumb thing:
The explosive growth of information in our human society is a part of the slower growth of ordered structures in the evolution of life as a whole.  Life has for billions of years been evolving with organisms and ecosystems embodying increasing amounts of information.  The evolution of life is a part of the evolution of the universe, which also evolves with increasing amounts of information embodied in ordered structures, galaxies and stars and planetary systems.  In the living and the nonliving world, we see a growth of order, starting from the featureless and uniform gas of the early universe and producing the magnificent diversity of weird objects that we see in the sky and in the rain forest.  Everywhere around us, wherever we look, we see evidence of increasing order and increasing information.  The technology arising from Shannon's discoveries is only a local acceleration of the natural growth of information.
There are a few things wrong with this.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

*Ahem* Um, hi. Been a while.

I swear I didn't mean to fall off the face of the internet!  I just... well, hit a little bit of a wall, fell off the ball, then kinda just laid there on the ground.  Staring.  The ball rolled off into the sunset.  I went to visit my folks for a while, went up to Canada for a bit, had a lot of fun times.

At some point along the way, I just got way too embarrassed to say anything, and I rationalized my continued absence by saying, "Oh, screw it, I'm gonna start grad school soon anyway."

So I started grad school and things are going great... but then... well, Freeman Dyson of all people went and said something dumb.  Well, maybe not "dumb" so much as "inaccurate."  But... look, I'm gonna work up a post on it, because I can't not write about this.  But somehow, picking a fight with an astrophysicist on the finer points of astrophysics just seems a little bit beyond the scope of the library science classroom.  Then I thought, "Oh, that can just go here on my own little internet soapbox."  And then I remembered that I kinda just left things hanging...

So I'm at least fixing that.  I have a couple ideas.  Don't know what else is gonna come up.  But at least now, I'm actually saying that things may be a bit sporadic for the foreseeable future.  And sooner or later I'm going to hit a point where I'm just going to feel compelled to write more Tooth and Claw.  This is hiatus, not quitting.

So yeah.  Kinda-sorta back for now.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Tooth and Claw: One Damn Thing After Another

Monday, July 9th, 2012

                Jones Kelly awakens to the sound of her phone buzzing.  It’s a text message from headquarters, instructing her to check her email.  She rolls blearily out of bed and stumbles across the hotel room to where her laptop sits open on the table.  Jiggling the tiny mouse to rouse the machine from its own slumber, she enters her password and brings up her inbox.  Sure enough, one new message awaits:
                Agent Kelly,
                Excellent work.  Postpone follow-up until resolution of next case.
                Terse and to the point, with a congratulatory flourish.  Some dozen attachments lurk beneath – she clicks “Download All” and heads for the shower.
                The hot jets both relax and invigorate.  She breathes deep of the steamy air and works the stiffness out of her joints.  Yesterday had been her recovery day, her time to rest and eat while composing and filing her report.  Her grafts were marvelous things, improving her performance in nearly every area – but damn if they didn’t work up an appetite.  Whether running, healing, or simply perceiving beyond the bounds of her mundane senses, everything had a calorie count attached, and the price was steep.  Yesterday’s dull ache had faded to a languorous stiffness by the time she bedded down, belly full at last.  As always, the stiffness seemed to have tightened its grip on her overnight, but it would be gone in a couple hours as long as she stretched.
                She turns off the shower, dries off, brushes her teeth, and performs her stretching ritual to work out the last few kinks.  She then dresses and heads to the lobby for coffee – whatever it is, it can wait until she’s fully awake.  She checks the time as she heads down the hallway:  a quarter past noon.  At least she’d been able to sleep in.
                Two cups of decent-for-free coffee later, a third in hand, Jones is back in her room and perusing the attachments:  dossiers on five hunters in Las Vegas, just like she’d received for her current case, as well as some intercepted network chatter and a load of photos.  She sets up a new case file and starts working her way through the mass of information.

Monday, May 6, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Into the Bramble, part five

Whew!  Finally finished this part.  For whatever reason, Blogger is giving all my text this white background.  Not quite sure what I have to do to fix it, but for now, you get "slightly off-color text background that was as close as I could match it to how it's supposed to look."  Of course, if I ever change my background, it'll be totally screwed up... but that's something I'm willing to ignore for now.

Sunday, July 8th, 2012


                “All right,” Samantha says as they close the last dozen yards, “here we are.  This could be anywhere, but it’s where the Sandstorm Hourglass was first made.  Well, and between two doors, and at night.  Probably more low-key than our last few dealings.  But pay attention, and you might learn a thing or two.”  She smiles and pushes at the handle – the door budges, but does not open.  Sam looks to the door’s edge at her left and sees hinges, then pulls, and it opens as she chuckles at herself.
                On the other side, a man in a black robe sits at a large desk, writing with a quill pen upon a broad sheet of parchment.  He pays no mind to the women entering his quarters.  On a simple table to her right, Della spots the Sandstorm Hourglass:  its wood is a little brighter, its glass is a little clearer, but it looks otherwise identical to the magical timepiece she remembers.
                The door shuts behind them, and Della sees another to her right, past the hourglass.  They are in a corner room of some apparently circular building, perhaps a large tower, the wall to Della’s left curving around to join the straight wall to her right with the straight wall at her back.  A floor-to-ceiling window gives a view of the night sky, resplendent with stars in the dim candlelight from the man’s desk, clouds billowing just beneath them and a gibbous moon shining brightly above.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Into the Bramble, part four

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

                “Whew,” Samantha says, pausing to calm her nerves.  Della is more overcome by confusion than anything else, but the fear is visible on the bramblekin’s face.
                “The Hell was that about,” Della asks.
                “Those were gods,” Samantha says.  “Or at least extremely powerful fae.  Either way, bad news.”
                “Why’s that,” Della asks as they forge on down the path.
                “Gods,” Samantha begins, “or fae in general, are really only interested in two things:  their domain, which is the part of the world they have power over, and garnering worship from mortals, which is how they get power aside from the influence their domain has in the world.”
                “Is that why the seven seals are there,” Della asks.
                Samantha looks sidelong at Della and says, “My, you have been doing your homework.  In a word, yes.  The gods, from what I understand, proved to be more trouble than they were worth.  So they were banished to another side of the Coil behind seven seals.  And yeah, from the looks of things, I’m gonna go out on a limb and guess that la mujerta succeeds in breaking them.  So now we just have to figure out how she does it.”
                “So we talk to whoever made it,” Della says, “and see if they can shed any light on how it’s done.”
                “That’s the plan,” Samantha confirms.  “I’m not quite sure what good it will do, though.  Que será, será, or whatever.”

Monday, April 29, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Through the Bramble, part three


Sunday, July 8th, 2012

                Della’s mind races with the possibilities.  The revenant, asking for her help?  She had thought that being a bloodkin would give her that sense of the extraordinary she had been seeking, but it was turning out to be a colossal disappointment.  Sure, she saw things and knew things that would have flabbergasted her in mortal life, but this was another thing entirely.  If the revenant was looking to turn the very world on its head – well, Della wanted to be there to see it.  And she wanted to be on the side doing the turning.  Look for the ravens, she recalls, glancing at her watch.  It was something Jamie had gotten for her, after her cell phone was taken for the faking of her death.  The watch took its time and date from cell phone towers, so it should tell her the date.  It was clear that the bramble path she had been walking with Samantha took them not only through space, but through time as well.  Sure enough, the watch told her it was the 19th of July, 2012.  Less than two weeks into the future.
                Lots of things could change in two weeks.  She thought of her brief romance with Edward, of her martial arts training with Jamie, of their confrontation with the Hunters that had gone from “casual night out” to “cat and mouse” to “face-stomping hunt” in the space of a single night.  She had options upon options, and even if this raven thing turned out to be a bust, she at least had some intel to share with Thomas while still keeping the best parts to herself.
                However things ultimately turned out, tonight everything was coming up Della.  She smiles at the thought as she jogs back to Sam across the catwalk.

Friday, April 26, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Into the Bramble, part two


Sunday, July 8th, 2012

                As Della approaches the door, she sees a darkness through it that is most certainly not her bathroom.  She follows Samantha, uncertain but excited, then feels the world turn inside-out around her.  She’s been drunk a couple of times, hung over once, and the sensation as she steps through is remarkably like the whole process compressed into a single second that seems to last forever – except without all the partying and peeing and wishing you were dead.  She goes dizzy, loses her sense of space and time, feels like she’s been hit in the back of the head with a brick – then she sets her foot down, and she’s through.
                “So this is my place,” Samantha says warmly, gesturing at the open living room as she flips on the light switch.  Bookshelves dot the walls, every one of them filled with volumes of varying height and thickness, their spines perfectly aligned except for the odd gap.  A dining table, the kitchen counter, two coffee tables, and a desk are all covered with books and papers, manila folders piled and arranged here and there.  A few filing cabinets stand stoically in a corner.
                “You sure seem to keep busy,” Della says.
                “Yeah,” Sam says, cocking an eyebrow.  “I don’t eat or sleep.  Made of wood, you know.  So I read and do some, um, ‘filing’ for Jennie.  She’s sure bright, but she can be a bit flighty at times, so I help her keep things in order.”
                “I see,” Della says, taking in the scene.  “So, what do we need?”

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Into the Bramble, part one

I'm eight pages into this "vignette," but still haven't finished it.  So here's a chunk, more to come.  :)

Sunday, July 8th, 2012

                She was made of wood.
                That was the first thing to hit Della, and the thing she kept coming back to.  Thomas had summoned her to his office just after she’d had her nightly pint, and inside had been him at his desk, Herman standing to the side, and what looked for all the world like a six foot wooden doll.
                “Della,” Thomas greeted her as she entered.  “This is Samantha Rose.  Miss Rose, Della Swain.”
                “Pleased to meet you,” Sam says, rising to her feet to shake Della’s hand.  She was a rich brown, like mahogany, a shade or two darker than Della’s own skin had been when she’d had a tan a month and a half ago.  Her joints were held together by fine brass springs where tendons would normally be, and she was bound and fastened with brass pins and wires.  When she spoke, her jaw moved up and down like that of a ventriloquist’s dummy; her teeth and tongue were carved and painted, her green eyes made of glass.  Her hair was a dark lustrous brown that shone golden when it caught the light just right, and all her movements were accompanied by the hum of metallic tension.  She wore a red camisole, blue jean shorts, and leather sandals, so Della could see that she was covered from the crown of her forehead to her toes in a tangle of deep and ragged gouges, like stylized thorns in relief, that had been inlaid with gold almost – almost – flush with the surface.  When she turned to sit down, Della saw that her right shoulder was painted with a single rose blossom, untouched by the glimmering tattoos.
                “Please, Della,” Thomas says after a moment, “have a seat.”  She realizes that she has been staring, and clears her throat as she composes herself and sits down in the remaining leather chair.  “Samantha is here from Miami to assist us in locating the Sandstorm Hourglass.  She has a knack for finding things that have been lost or stolen, Alice assures me.”

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Enter the Monkeysphere!

Working on Tooth and Claw some more, I'm across the 60K mark now and I just want to get this vignette all out before I decide whether to divide it up into parts or not.  But in the meantime!  I was talking with a friend about the monkeysphere, a term I've been tossing about as a casual way of referring to Dunbar's number, the sciencey term with which I'm more familiar (but which doesn't quite capture the oomph in its phrasing).

Tonight, I just found out that the term "monkeysphere" was coined by David Wong, senior editor of Cracked.com and the author of John Dies at the End and This Book is Full of Spiders (the reading of which convinced me, incidentally, that the supernatural weirdness and big-brain ideas of Tooth and Claw might actually be able to achieve some manner of commercial success... if I just write the fucker).

Anyway, his original article, What Is the Monkeysphere?, is fascinating reading.  You should check it out right now.  :)

Saturday, April 20, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Tail of the Scorpion, part three

Prologue, Tail of the Scorpion, part two

Saturday, July 6th, 2012


                “This’ll go a lot smoother if you stash your pieces,” Carter says, head high and eyes narrowed.
                “I hope so,” Jones says as she thumbs her safety back on and holsters her pistol.  At her nod, the other Hunters follow suit – Vernon and Patricia share a knowing look and a pointed delay, but they ultimately comply.
                “All right,” Carter says with a respectful nod.  “You want to talk.  So talk.”
                Vernon blurts out, “Do you confess to using shape-changing magic and consorting with spirits?”
                The moonkin look sidelong at each other and suppress their laughter, as Jones snaps at him, “Can it!”
                “So, OK,” Carter says after composing himself.  “No stupid questions, right?  But I think we all know you could be asking some more productive things right now.”
                “No shit,” Jones agrees.  “For starters, what exactly are you doing here?”
                “We’re cleaning up a mess,” Carter answers.  “A big, ugly, bloody mess.”
                “That’s a little vague,” Jones says.
                “That it is.  So how about you tell me how you spotted us?  A little quid pro quo, eh?”
                Jones straightens her back, looks Carter over as though sizing him up for the first time.  “Quid pro quo.  I can handle that.  But I believe I asked for some specifics up front.  So:  you tell me what you know, I’ll tell you how I see.” 

Friday, April 19, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Tail of the Scorpion, part two

Prologue, Tail of the Scorpion, part one

Saturday, July 6th, 2012

                Vernon Christopher leans against an electric ATV past the Winslow city limits, gazing out into the desert for any sign of activity.  The dogs had just run out a couple of minutes ago, as the Sun was setting; the Hunters had learned that wherever this criminal force had struck, they were soon to follow.  So the Hunters had set up two watch points just outside of town, on little hills where they could survey most of the surroundings through binoculars.  Vernon would have liked a tighter perimeter, but Patricia only had the two ATVs, and waiting for two others to catch up on foot from even a few short miles away would force them to choose between letting the trail grow cold and stringing themselves out.
                Patricia opens up the compartment beneath the vehicle’s seat to double-check their supplies:  extra magazines, bottles of water, a first aid kit, and a small bag of tools.  Vernon doesn’t turn around, but can hear her rummaging; he knows there’s no point, the kits were checked and double-checked before they headed out, but he understands that she’s restless and needs something to do.  Fine.  It would be nice if her “something to do” involved keeping a lookout, though.  David and Michelle would only be a few minutes, anyway.  It wasn’t the end of the world.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Tooth and Claw: Tail of the Scorpion, part one

Prologue, Three Pair of Eyes, part three

Saturday, July 7th, 2012

                Tonight’s the night.  Elias can feel it in his bones as his very own moon shines down on him.  They have been hunting the fugue in the desert, closing in around it like a noose, for over two weeks – but tonight, it all comes to an end.
                For its part, the fugue has led them on quite a chase.  When the moonkin found that it was coming from the West, the fugue would change its route into town, striking at the outskirts from unexpected directions.  It knew it was both predator and prey, and the inchoate streams of fused consciousness all agreed that this was the way to strike back at the invading dragon and its bastard half-breed children:  corrupt their own flock, raise a small army, and bring them to the crater to finish what was started under the eclipse.