Saturday, December 29, 2012

The Legend of Falconheart, Chapter Two

                The elf and the goblin walk East into the desert, back from where they have come.  The Sun is retreating across the Western sky, racing for the sea past the badlands.  Hackard considers the soldier’s plan:  if they are heading to the Northern Wastes (as the Northern Tundra has been called since flying Sagacia was dragged down across it), then the quickest route would be to travel through the forest past the desert, cut through the ape farmlands, skirt around the shore of Lake Mountainsroot, and then pass along the foothills between the mountains and the great plains.  It is a journey of perhaps two weeks on foot, but her new “bodyguard” does not stop for food, water, or rest – that should cut the travel time at least in half.  Somewhere along the way, she may find a way to bend the glyphed knight to her own will (if the legends were true, then this soldier was some manner of undead, created to be a servant and now without a master); and wouldn’t that be something to bring back to the Southern Jungle!  She would be the toast of all Santuji, and this ancient war machine might be able to put an end to the foolish border skirmishes between the apes and the goblins for good.
                That was all very far down the road, though.  In the meantime, she had to traverse deep into ape territory with a glyphed knight.  Hackard herself was small, and one goblin could easily slip unnoticed through large and sparsely-populated areas; the glyphed knight, for her part, would probably pass for one of the Blackened Guard.  Indeed, her order was the very inspiration for the elite soldiers’ uniforms.  While the apes didn’t get it quite right, the resemblance was probably good enough to fool any country bumpkins they’d be likely to meet.
                The soldier pauses:  she senses something, and draws up her hood to cover her elfin ears.  A few tufts of hair poke out over her forehead, mostly black, except for one bit of white over her right eye where a long scar crosses her face from jaw to scalp.  Even this, though, is normal for a soldier – she looks like any ape, albeit an unusually tall and slender one.  Hackard stares out over the horizon for some seconds, and then sees it:  something coming out of the sky from the East. 

Friday, December 28, 2012

The Legend of Falconheart, Chapter One


Well, it turns out that I really suck at drawing after being years out of practice.  Who could have guessed?  So since my drawings aren't up to the task, I'll use my words instead.  I really wanted to do this as a graphic novel, since I can show one story while telling another in that medium.  But whatever.  Here's this, and I'll have another up over the weekend, and then we'll see where it goes.  Cheers!

Chapter One
                The ape farmer runs through his cornfield, bending the weak stalks aside as gently as he can.  Meager as it is, it is almost time to harvest, and the last thing he needs is a thief stealing what precious little is leftover once he’s set aside enough for taxes and next season’s seed corn.
                “Oi!  You there!”  He shouts as he gains ground on the red hood in the distance.  Something next to the hood is shining – the glare was what alerted him to the intruder’s presence in the first place.
                “Hey!  You can’t just – ” he stops short at the sight of black armor.  The intruder has also stopped, standing in full view with a single row of bent and yellow-green cornstalks between them.  A simple X-frame holds a poleaxe crossed against a pair of short-swords, overlaid with the tattered remains of a red cape that flutters beneath the intruder’s shoulder blades in the breeze.  “Ho!  Sorry, sir knight.  I did not – ”
                The farmer is brought up short again – the intruder has turned to face him, and now he can see that he is a she.  The farmer falls to a knee, head bowed in genuflection.  “My apologies again, battlemaiden.  I did not see  your blackened steel.  Most passing soldiers stick to the road.”

Sunday, December 23, 2012

Happy Holidelays...

I had hoped to get the next page up last night (it was half-sketched on Thursday, and Friday was "End of the World" partying), but there was Christmas shopping to finish up.  So, y'know, Sunday... but stuff came up.  I have the page scanned in and sized to the panels, all I have left to do is the lines and colors (the easy-but-time-consuming part).  But with work time and family time, I won't be able to even look at it again until Wednesday... and I still have packing to do.  So!  I probably won't finish it Wednesday, but Friday looks good.  Saturday at the latest, as I'm free the entire day.

This is mainly a public way of telling myself to do it, but whatever - if that's what it takes, then that's what it takes.  Stay tuned!  I should be faster and more regular at this as I get back into my groove, and when the holidays are past.  Best wishes to you & yours, everyone!  Mwah!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Page one

Nothing like simple shapes and artsy-fartsy effects to work out the kinks.  If all goes well, this should auto-post just short of 1pm (GMT -6).

(You can also click that page for full resolution.)

Now I have to draw a freakin' cornfield.  (I secretly hate drawing scenery...)  Whatevs.  References make everything easier.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Thoughts on "Tooth and Claw"

Tooth and Claw is a story that I really want to tell, but I've run into a problem:  I've been telling it wrong.  I can best describe this with reference to The Quantum Mechanic.

While I was writing TQM, I had an excellent dynamic going:  I was thrilled to be writing it, and I was writing by the seat of my pants.  No joke.  I had an idea of what I wanted to write, and where-ish it was going to go, but I was excited about what comes next.  I was always at "A," and I had to get to "B," and that was exciting to me.  So all I did, each and every day in that fabled November, was write out how to get from "A" to "B."  Easy-peasy.

I can't stress enough how thoroughly this dynamic permeated my writing process - I didn't even know that there would be a villain before I wrote him in.  I literally texted Z the day after I wrote chapter six, because I had no idea where to go next, and he told me that my story needed a villain.  I saw with perfect clarity that there was a villain ready to hand, and a role for him to fulfill, and a new direction for that relationship to take the story - and so it went.  If it weren't for Z's day-of advice, there would be no Entropic Engineer.

With Tooth and Claw, I have many "As," and many "Bs," and I know how a great deal of them are causally and motivationally connected.  My problem was that I set out to connect all the dots in a linear fashion (as I mainly did with TQM), but that wasn't what I was excited about.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

As foretold in the prophecy...

OK, so awkwardness out of the way first:  I got fired.  Again.  Sheesh, I hope this stays at two... one is an isolated incident, two is a coincidence, but three is a pattern.

What happened was, back in July, I got into a "verbal altercation" with a coworker.  Me and my big fuckin' mouth, all over again.  We were bantering, as was customary, but then he crossed an HR-line.  No big deal, right?  I mean, in this shop, I would hear the word "nigger" shouted at the top of someone's lungs at least once or twice a week.  Not "nigga," but "nigger."  So I figured, well, he crossed that line first... so now it's safe for me to cross it, because I know I'm not gonna report it, and if he does, then he'll get in just as much trouble.

He threatened me with violence because I made a "Yo Mama" joke, so I quoted The Exorcist at him, going straight for the jugular as I am wont to do.

Problem is, I don't think this guy's seen The Exorcist.

Tuesday, December 4, 2012

Ahh, shit.

Some shit went down a couple days ago.  I don't want to talk about it, but I also don't want to fall off the face of the internet without a word.  Therefore:  awkwardness.  My heart's just not in this right now.  I'll be in better shape on the 15th.  Until then, I just don't want to do anything.

Friday, November 30, 2012

Tooth and Claw, chapter seven

Prologue, Chapter Six

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

                Della opens the doorway to the trophy room, nodding to the two bloodkin standing guard.  They regard her disinterestedly; along with the stables and the dojo, the trophy room has become part of her nightly routine.
                She walks through the windowless tangle of climate-controlled halls, housing all manner of trinkets that look like they belong in a museum.  Here is a painting, here a sword; there a book, there a pendant; a scroll under glass, made delicate by age; a device of unknown purpose, corroded almost to dust.  Unlike a museum, there are no explanatory placards declaring the name and origin of each item to all passersby – Della can only guess at what was acquired when, to say nothing of the how of the matter.  That would have to wait for another conversation with Thomas, some other night.
                Her first time in the trophy room, just a few nights ago, Thomas had walked her through to the central chamber without a word.  Her senses had sharpened – yes, sharpened was the word, as though ground against a whetstone until keen and raw.  Her reflexes had quickened, not smoothly and all at once, but in fits and starts, a macabre echo of puberty.  One night in the dojo, it came to a head:  Della was restless, anxious, itching for some action as she had been just a few nights earlier, but not even an “advanced” lesson from Jamie could calm her down.  Jamie saw it, then, in Della’s eyes – Della had been feeling it all night, but Jamie already had a name for it:
                “Ahh,” she’d said, “You need to hunt.”

Monday, November 26, 2012

Gah, grad school applications.

Working on that.  Next chapter, full chapter, I promise, will be on Friday the 30th.

I mean, I've been working on another grad school application.  I've been literally agonizing over every single data point.  Well, I mean, not the ones that are obviously unambiguous.  But every word on the stuff I have to write?  Yeah.  It's crazy.  So yeah.  Friday, I'll have another chapter up.  Between then and now, I have to close tomorrow, then open the next day, then open the next, and then I'm off Friday.  So I'll have a chapter on Friday.

Fuck slipping and all that shit.  I have a career move to negotiate.  The blog takes a back seat.  But then I'm off Friday, so fine:  chapter then.  Until then?  ...hoooollld muuusiiiiic...

Friday, November 23, 2012

Holiday Happiness!

Usually, when I write about personal and family stuff, it's... well, I'm either doing it because I'm momentarily unable to write about anything else, or because I'm trying to make some kind of point.

This is just for fun and totally pointless.  But true!

I was unable to make it up to the Frigid Northlands for National Gluttony Day, but I made a call and got passed around the whole famn damily, so at least I got to catch up.  Brother JD told me a story about something I missed, so I thought I'd share.

Our uncle does advertising work.  Not the fun kind, usually the "corporation to corporation" kind of marketing where you're trying to tout the objective virtues of your product while subtly indicating how conservative-yet-current and energetic-yet-responsible you are.  So it came as quite a surprise when we found out that his latest job is at Hollister.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter Six, part two

Note:  This has been moved to the start of chapter seven.

                Della opens the doorway to the trophy room, nodding to the two bloodkin standing guard.  They regard her disinterestedly; along with the stables and the dojo, the trophy room has become part of her nightly routine.
                She walks through the windowless tangle of climate-controlled halls, housing all manner of trinkets that look like they belong in a museum.  Here is a painting, here a sword; there a book, there a pendant; a scroll under glass, made delicate by age; a device of unknown purpose, corroded almost to dust.  Unlike a museum, there are no explanatory placards declaring the name and origin of each item to all passersby – Della can only guess at what was acquired when, to say nothing of the how of the matter.  That would have to wait for another conversation with Thomas, some other night.
                Her first time in the trophy room, just a few nights ago, Thomas had walked her through to the central chamber without a word.  Her senses had sharpened – yes, sharpened was the word, as though ground against a whetstone until keen and raw.  Her reflexes had quickened, not smoothly and all at once, but in fits and starts, a macabre echo of puberty.  One night in the dojo, it came to a head:  Della was restless, anxious, itching for some action as she had been just a few nights earlier, but not even an “advanced” lesson from Jamie could calm her down.  Jamie saw it, then, in Della’s eyes – Della had been feeling it all night, but Jamie already had a name for it:
                “Ahh,” she’d said, “You need to hunt.”

Thursday, November 15, 2012

101 Interesting Things, part fifty-two: Klein bottles

Uh-oh.  Two days between posts?  Par.  Three days?  Acceptable.  Four days?  Sliiiippiiiing...

I've been wanting to power my way through this article, where humanity and humousity interact with each other "on their own terms," but it keeps slipping away from me.  So fuggit, I will read it on my own time when I am bored (one magical, starry night, when there is nowhere to be and nothing to do, perhaps in another world or another life).  So, to get marginally back on track, I will riff on something with which I am very familiar:  four-dimensional single-surfaced super-edgeless objects.


Today we talk about Klein bottles!  I've even included an artsy-craftsy step-by-step, for the four-dimensionally impaired.  But seriously, if you don't know how this works, or have trouble visualizing four-dimensional surfaces (or even uncommon two- and three-dimensional ones), you can follow along with a piece of paper and a pair of scissors to achieve geometrical enlightenment.  You will also need either of:  A)  scotch tape and two different-colored crayons, B)  masking tape and two different-colored pencils, or C)  a stapler and two different-colored crayons or pencils.  A felt-tipped marker will help in any case.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

101 Interesting Things, part fifty-one: Blood rain and fire rainbows!

Today we have a twofer, since these are both kinda short, and it's part fifty-one, which officially puts this project over the halfway mark (fifty behind, fifty ahead, and a double-dipper in the middle).  Hooray!  Today also marks the first time I've had occasion to use a "meteorology" tag.  Double-hooray!

Our theme today is weird weather, and we open with blood rain.  No, not the Slayer song that single-handedly stopped me from beating Guitar Hero 3 on Hard Mode.

It's not even a good song.  At least your reward for The
Number of the Beast was rocking your own face off.

In ancient times, people wrote of blood falling from the sky as a bad omen, and while the whole "omen" part was hokum, the red rain itself was real.  It wasn't blood, of course, but - well, look at this:


Thursday, November 8, 2012

101 Interesting Things, part fifty: Time travel, for real!

OK, so you've heard of vacuum fluctuation, right?  A particle and antiparticle are spontaneously generated, and most of the time, they come back together and annihilate.  When that happens, they haven't interacted with anything else, and so they're called "virtual" particles.  But because both the particle and its antiparticle appear, nothing "actually" happens; it's just an interesting nothing.

Now that I put it like that, I suppose it seems really weird if you're uninitiated.  But hold on to your butts - it's about to get a whole lot weirder.  First, though, we need to talk about symmetry.  I promise, though:  by the time we get to the end of this, minds will be blown.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Pile o' Links!

Not sausage links, though.  Or... golf links.  Or even chain links.  But hyperlinks.

Didn't realize a full week had gone by.  I mean, I traveled to the Frigid Northlands for Halloween, so I have kind of an excuse, but not really.  So here are many cool things on the internet (and one icky, terrible, horrifying thing that is neither work-safe nor mind-safe, behind the cut), which will be followed by a few 101 Interesting Things entries that have been bubbling away on my back-burner.

First, the good folks at Mr. Deity have made a nice little PSA.  Here it is for your enjoyment, just in case you both A) read this blog, and B) were going to vote Republican today:
They also made a great Chik-fil-A promo parody, which rocks socks.

I was also linked an interesting article that puts Obama's last four years in a new light (that of his childhood), and while I can't say whether the author is right or wrong (I mean, I don't know the President personally), it was certainly an interesting and new perspective.  And on the other side of the ballot, an interesting perspective on Romney's candidacy, which is pretty much exactly as opposite as you could get.

And just in case you haven't heard, a retired NSA analyst showed beyond any reasonable doubt that the Republicans have been manipulating elections since at least 2006.  And in case statistically impossible regularities don't convince you, here's the guy who wrote the software.

It looks like things are gonna be OK, though, because the weird things that predict US Presidential elections with absurd accuracy are lining up for Obama.  Say it with me, kids:  "correlation is not causation."

Finally, for something entirely non-political:  Singularity Chess!  This guys has actually made a bunch of interesting variants on Chess and Checkers, as well as a bunch of other cool stuff.  Go check it out!  Sometimes it's in French, though, so you can either struggle through Google's translation, or just look at the pictures.

OK.  Last, but not least.  This is neither work-safe nor mind-safe, so it's behind a cut.  But holy carp, this is one of those things that's so horrifying, you just have to tell other people about it.  Well, I do.  I don't know about you.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter Six, part one

Prologue; Chapter Five, part two.

Monday, June 11th, 2012

                Keira Swain sits in unusually bad traffic behind the wheel of her RAV4.  Her fingers curl in to choke the steering wheel, then unclench.  She’s going to be late.
                She looks around to take stock:  she’s on Las Vegas Boulevard, staring right at the Stratosphere, some two and a half miles from the Paris, where she keeps the books.  Three and a half, after she doubles back along the divided highway at Veer Towers.  If traffic is this bad all the way along the strip, she thinks, I’ll probably be better off jogging East at Sahara and then turning South on Paradise.  The more she thinks it over, the more the plan makes sense.  The light traffic along Sahara, coming into view now, gives her hope.
                Time to be a rock star accountant, she thinks with a grin as she flips her blinker to change lanes.  Edward had called her that – “You must be the rock star of accountants,” he’d said.  Those agents last night had asked an awful lot of questions about him.  She checks her mirror, and a black sedan jumps out at her from the receding traffic.
                Probably just my imagination.
                She looks again.  Still there.  She can’t see the driver, though.
                Probably just a coincidence.
                As she approaches the light at Sahara Avenue, she sees the sedan flip its own blinker and queue up behind her some four cars back.
                We’ve probably just got the same idea.
                Nevertheless, as she stares down the traffic light, she forms a plan.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Pile of Links! (With Commentary!)

My best friend bought me Guild Wars 2 so we could play together (because I bought my best friend Torchlight and Torchlight II so we could play together... it's a vicious circle...).  I've been doing that quite a bit, lately; which is unfortunate, because I feel like I really turned a corner in chapter five.  In any event, I've been playing vidjamagames and catching up on the internet, so here are the highlights.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter Five, part two

Prologue; Chapter Five, part one

                Jerry and Keira dine in silence.  Their son has left for dinner with friends, and Jerry’s smartphone monitors his every movement with the in-plan tracking service from their provider.  The device is tilted against an unlit candleholder on the dining room table – Jerry watches a dot, color-coded for “Virgil” according to the legend, move South through the North Las Vegas streets.  They’re going to the McDonald’s on Bonanza, about a mile away.
                “Yeah, sure,” Jerry had said wearily when Virgil asked if he could go, after providing the details (who was driving – “Ryan’s mom” – who would be there – “Ryan and Chris and Billy from school” – how long they’d be gone – “I don’t know, dinner-ish time?”).  It was good for him to be around friends, and the empty house left his parents time to process their own emotions.  Win-win.
                Except all Jerry could do was watch the screen of his smartphone, scrutinizing the luminous display for any sign of trouble.  And all Keira could do was watch her husband, scrutinizing his illuminated countenance for any sign of worry.
                They had developed something of an unspoken agreement for avoiding eye contact during meals:  Keira would look down at her plate to take a bite, and Jerry would look at her.  Then, when Jerry looked down to take a bite from his own plate, Keira would hear the scraping of utensil against dish and look at him.  Virgil had sat across from Della, and so was able to look straight ahead through phantom blinders – focusing on the kitchen island one moment, the stove the next, the clock on the wall after that, then the refrigerator, and back to the island – anything but the empty chair right in front of him.
                Jerry and Keira did not avoid eye contact because they blamed each other for the death of their firstborn – quite the opposite, in fact.  They each felt singularly responsible, and neither could bear to look the other in the eye.  It was only in bed, in the dark, that they would honestly turn to each other for comfort:  the day’s long labor done, they drifted off to sleep in each other’s arms.
                The killing irony was this:  if Della could have seen the desperate rift her absence had torn through the family, she would have instantly repented of every insipid, entitled thought about “specialness” she’d ever had.  Doubly so, had she also heard the sobs and speeches at her funeral, seen the tear-streaked faces at her vigil.  She had left a Della-shaped hole in the lives of her friends and family, and the only reason she couldn’t see its size and importance was because she had gotten used to living in it every day of her life.
                Virgil’s phone turns East from North Pecos Road onto Bonanza, and there they are at McDonald’s.  Good.  Jerry breathes a sigh of relief as Keira watches; she then looks down to cut a tender bite of grilled salmon steak that she could swear tastes exactly like hot buttered cardboard.  Right on cue, Jerry looks up and says, “They’re at McDonald’s, safe and sound.”  Keira nods as she chews, swallows.
                “Good,” she says, raising her head as Jerry sections off some rice pilaf with his fork.  “Thanks for the update.”

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter Five, part one

Hey, folks!  I haven't quite finished it all, but it's been a few days, so I figure I ought to at least post what I've got.  Here that is.  I'm also at 22K words (22,417, to be exact), so maybe I ought to save something if I want to have anything to do during National Novel Writing Month!  (I won't cheat, my goal will be to write 50,000 new words during November.  That will count and everything, I promise!)
                Della lands flat on her back with an indelicate thump.  Rage reaches up from her throat, but she squeezes her eyes shut and chokes it back down.  She shakes her head to clear it, opens her eyes, and sees Jamie reaching down to offer her a hand up.  She takes it, and is pulled swiftly back to her feet.
                “OK,” Jamie says, “What happened there?”
                “You knocked me down.”
                “But how?”
                “You – ” Della pauses.  She had thrown a punch, but then her foot – of course.  “When I stepped forward to punch, you pushed my foot even farther with yours.  That put me off-balance, so you only had to do a little to knock me down.”
                “Right.  Now come at me again.”
                Della smoothes out her gi, takes a deep breath, and drops into her stance.  She and Jamie begin to circle each other in the ring.  Della pays closer attention to her footing – in order to close and strike, she needs to first commit with her foot, unless she can draw Jamie out.  So she hadn’t thrown a punch and then her foot was moved, she had stepped to punch but was interrupted before she could even swing.  OK, so do better next time.
                Della steps in with her right foot, a straight punch on its way – Jamie once again goes to kick it out with her own leading right foot, but Della has feinted.  Instead of putting her foot down, she lifts her knee and turns her hips for a roundhouse kick.  Before she can snap, though, Jamie pops a single knuckle into her quadriceps, right above the knee.  Della’s leg goes wobbly, and Jamie slides in, her left biceps under Della’s leg and her right elbow coming to a halt within two inches of Della’s face.  Dell’s eyes go wide, then Jamie lifts her leg a tad more and dumps her on her back again.
                “And there,” Jamie asks after helping Della up once more.  “What was that?”
                “You hit my leg,” Della says, replaying the exchange in her mind.  “And it stunned me, so you moved in.”
                “Good.  So, try again.”
                Della smoothes out her gi, takes a deep breath, and drops into her stance again.  She and Jamie begin to circle each other once more.  So it’s not just my footing, she’s got a second line of defense.  Della waits until just before Jamie is mid-stride – an easy task, as she is stepping slowly and steadily – then darts in with a quick right jab, feinting again.  Jamie goes to block it, but blocks across her body with her own right hand, so Della follows up with a left hook.  Jamie blocks high, easily, her right arm already in position – exposing her torso to a left roundhouse kick.  Just as Della had planned.  But as Della turns her hips, Jamie steps in with her left foot and shoves an open left palm right into the joint where Della’s left femur meets her pelvis, sending her off balance again.  Della recovers, though, and reaches for Jamie’s gi.  The two grapple briefly, and Della kicks out one of Jamie’s legs, then sends her tumbling to the mat – and then Della is pulled right along with, watching in slow motion as Jamie tumbles smoothly out of the throw and sends Della to the mat face-first.  The holds are released, and Jamie helps Della up yet again.
                “OK,” Della says.  “I got it.  Learning how to take a fall, learning how to step, learning how to place your hands – yeah, I got it.  They’re all important.  Fine.”
                “Good,” Jamie says with a  nod.  “Shall we continue the lesson, then?”
                “Yes.  Please.”

Thursday, October 11, 2012

"Desserts got nothin' to do with it."

This was a thing I was going to post a couple Christmases ago.  I decided not to.  But then a friend posted something that made me think of it... so here it is.

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Update!

Added two pages to chapter four, because I remembered that Hey!  I was gonna cover Elias' initiation.  Then I went and didn't.  Stupid.  S'all better now.  :)  You can Ctrl+F for "apology accepted" if you don't remember where the last version ended.

Ugh.  I'm starting to hate Della.  Mainly because of stupid teenage angst - not that the specifics are hitting close to home, just the general idea that the world owes me something.  You had that feeling as a teenager, right?  Going back to that just makes me feel... dumb, I guess.  The sheer ease with which I can dredge it up makes me feel like I haven't made much progress after all, so of course I take it out on a fictional character (that makes me even more grown-up, right?).

One of these next two chapters will be back to Della and some bloodkin secrets and stuff; the other will be about Hunters.  It comes down to how much time I feel like narrating over.  We're just getting to June, so the next bit with Ferraille won't be for another like three weeks (book time).  I just have a little more background to lay before things get into full swing.

Oh, also:  fun things that I felt stupid linking at the time, but totally have to tell someone about otherwise they don't count.  There's a freakin' place called "Hellhole" in West Virginia, I looked up a list of caves then opened up tabs on the ones with the coolest names and then picked the one with the best features (namely, "not fully explored").  Hellhole was the one that fit the bill.  Yay!

Plus, the Olympic torch really did go out.  It turns out that this happens a lot, actually.  They carry spares and everything.  One of the times it went out was due to water (on a river, of all places!), but I picked one where it was just wind, and it happened to work out.  Yay again!

Even better, there actually was an eclipse the day before the torch went out.  I found this out because I was like, "Hmm, I need to put something here in this part, what would've happened in their storyline the day before?  Let's see, what moon phase was it?  Oh, there was an eclipse!"  Yay again, again!  It's like the damn Universe wants this book to be written, and it's just throwing material in my face.

Also, the meteor crater is a real place, known as Barringer Crater.  I have been there, it is awesome in the literal sense of "gives you some awe to ponder."  They have the Holsinger meteorite just out on display, it's not secured or anything (because it weighs 1,440 lbs, or 650 kg), you can touch it and everything.  I believe they called them (the meteorites) "diablo stones," because of the nearby Canyon Diablo, but I might be making that up (plus, Googling "diablo stone" gets you all kinds of irrelevant shit).  So I go and look the place up to build the pack's territory around it, and I see that it's right near Winslow, Arizona - and I just had to go for the stealth pun/reference.  I had to.  (Also, I decided to make Elias a trail guide before I looked up the town, and Google-maps-ing Winslow puts you right at the intersection near the Old Trails Museum, which was a little too convenient...)

OK, that's enough outta me.  Bedtime!

Monday, October 8, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter Four

Prologue, Chapter Three

                A little over a week past his first journey into the Spirit Wild, Elias Rodham was going through some changes of his own.  He had not been overweight, since his job was to lead hikes in the desert (supplemented by a small woodcarving business he had on the side), but he had certainly been soft since his only real exercise was long walks with light gear.  Now he went running with the pack every evening, always with Uma and Tajo, usually with Carter and Willy as well.  Every other night, he would lift weights at the gym which Carter owned and where Willy worked.  The changes were slight, shy of two weeks in, but noticeable thanks to the intensity of his training regimen.
                All in all, he was happier; living somehow felt more alive, everything seemed more vivid even when he wasn’t in the Wild.  The joie de vivre he seemed to have lost during his teenage years, gradually replaced by the resigned boredom of adulthood, was back with a vengeance.
                Now it was Thursday, the thirty-first of May.  The Moon was gibbous, Rufio’s moon, soon to be handed down to Elias.  Tonight, in fact; and then Elias would be going through changes of another kind entirely.

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Lineages and Stuff!

I started writing another chapter in Tooth and Claw, after tacking on another half-page to the last chapter which didn't quite feel finished, but I got distracted.  Distracted by what?  Well, a few things.  There was this comment thread over on Daylight Atheism, and there was a Facebook conversation that I got tied up in, and another Facebook conversation that resulted in an email.

For those who might be wondering, I follow the "Can I Punch You in the Face?" rule for Facebook.  This rule follows the question, "Have I ever had the opportunity to punch you in the face?"  If so, we can be friends on Facebook.  If not, we cannot be friends on Facebook.  If I've been able to punch you in the face, and wanted to friend you on Facebook, I would have done so by now.  Double-promise.  :)

Anyway.

The tying-up-Facebook conversation was with a Libertarian friend of mine, and he's kind of an asshole, so I'm not gonna bother with that.  But I have hope for him, because he is ruthlessly logical!  (And yet I despair, because his fundamental premises are so flawed!)

The e-mail conversation ended up being to one Doctor Dick Dawkins (the triple D sounds so much better, doesn't it?), and I'll just post it here in its entirety, because I should be getting to bed soon and... well, really, I've grown into a responsible adult and so that's reason enough.  Right?

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter Three

Prologue, Chapter Two

                Seven stories underground, Della awakens with a deep breath.  She can feel the changes more and more.  Foremost among them is that she is now acutely aware of her own heartbeat, the “thump-ump, thump-ump” of systole and diastole, and the rhythmic flow of pressure throughout her bloodstream.
                She is also ravenous – not quite hungry, she doesn’t feel so much as a tingle from her stomach, but she is positively desperate to feed.
                Della sits up in bed, turns to set her feet on the carpeted floor.  Faint echoes bounce off the walls and return to meet her ears, subtle sounds she has never heard before.  Her sense of smell is keener, too – she wrinkles her nose at the myriad unfamiliar scents of her own body as she draws back the covers.  She rises to her feet and walks to the small bathroom to set about her morning routine.
                Evening routine, even, she thinks to herself as she brushes her teeth.  Her face was a blurry smear in the mirror, like the glass was distorted wherever she tried to look at herself.
                The simple pleasure of a hot shower is not yet lost on her, though she notices with brief alarm that her sunburn has vanished without a trace.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Company!

Entertaining this weekend.  Next chapter up Monday or Tuesday.  Cheers!

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter Two

Prologue, Chapter One

                Uma leans against a lamppost on the corner of 3rd and Kinsley.  She scratches her jaw just below her right ear, rolls her shoulder a couple times before folding her arms again.  The Sun’s getting to that position in the sky – it’s about closing time.
                She sighs, and it turns into a yawn.
                She stares lazily out at the pedestrians and motorists passing by.  So many people.  So many places to be.  So busy, busy, busy.  She drums her fingers on the biceps of her left arm.  Scuffs at the sidewalk with the thick treads of her dusty trail-running shoes.
                Then she smells something else on the air, under all the exhaust and sweat and sun-baked pavement.  Breathes deeper.  That’s him, no doubt about it.  She looks down toward the Old Trails Museum, sees Elias climbing into his red pickup.  He starts it up, adding his own note to the stinking symphony of the downtown atmosphere.
                Uma unfolds her arms, hooks her thumbs into the pockets of her jeans.  Elias spots her as he pulls up to the corner, turns the steering wheel a little more to his right, and rolls down the passenger window.
                “Well, aren’t you a fine sight to see,” he says.  “Hop on in.”  She cocks an eyebrow at him.
                “Flattery will get you nowhere,” but she climbs in anyway.  “Turn left.  Unless you’ve got someplace better to be.”  She shuts her door and buckles her seatbelt.
                “Not anymore,” he says with a grin, and hits his blinker before turning onto 3rd Street.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Chapter One

Prologue

                Della Swain walks through the streets of North Las Vegas, her head weighed down with thoughts.  She was trying to draw what happiness she could from the last few days she would be able to enjoy, but her mind turned constantly to how wrong everything in her life was going.
                When she was a child, she had felt special.  Her parents were devoted to her, busy though they were, and she had relished their attention.  She was something extraordinary, then – or so she had felt.  Then her little brother had been born, and she saw with bitter jealousy that they raised him with the same care and attention with which they had raised her.  “Of course you’re still special, my love,” her mother had told her.  “But Virgil is special, too, in his own way.  You both are.”  She found in time that everyone was special to their parents – and if everyone was special, then no one was.
                And so her parents’ love had been stolen from her.  Oh, they still loved her – of course they still loved her – that hadn’t changed.  But what had once seemed to make her special was now tainted with the dulling ordinariness that threatened to swallow everything in her life.  She had read some of the child-rearing books on her parents’ shelves, attended some of the seminars where they learned How to Be Good Parents, and found that no matter who she was, no matter how she turned out, they would have treated her with the same care and love regardless.  “Praise” and “attention” were “positive reinforcements” that were part of a “strategy.”
                That wasn’t special, that was so ordinary it was a slap in her face.
                She went through puberty, and all the attendant changes it brought, and boys had begun to look at her in that special way.  But when she watched more closely, she saw that they looked at other girls in the very same no-longer-special way – not just other girls, but all girls, and men were no different.  That lusty, appraising gaze wasn’t for her, it was simply how men looked at women.  Nothing special there at all.  She got the undeniable impression, whenever a boy would ask her if she was going to a ballgame or a dance, that she wasn’t being asked for who she was but only because she was a girl.  Any girl would do, and that wouldn’t do for Della.  She wasn’t just any girl, and so she made up her mind that no boy looking for any girl would stand a chance with her.
                Nevertheless, the world seemed Hell-bent on treating her like any girl, the same way it treated every girl:  sit down, cross your legs, hands in your lap; don’t speak too loud, it’s unladylike; go here, do this, just like all the other girls.  Wear makeup.  Buy perfume.  Smile.  Just like all the other girls.  She was determined to be unlike all the other girls, but no matter what she did, it seemed that someone else was always doing it, too.  Even the girls who didn’t want to fit in with the “mainstream” managed to fit in with each other, and what was that but another kind of mainstream?  Come on down and be the first to conform to the brandest-newest style of non-conformity!  No matter who you are or what you do, you fit in somewhere, and Della didn’t feel like she fit in anywhere.  You’re into boys?  That’s normal.  You’re into girls?  That’s normal.  You’re into both?  Also normal.  Don’t like either?  Don’t worry – you’re still normal.
                She didn’t want to be normal.  She didn’t want to fit into any category, she wanted to be beyond them.  She wanted to be beyond them all, to be utterly unique, she wanted people to know when they looked at her that she was absolutely unlike anyone else they had ever seen.  But no matter how she dressed, or spoke, or acted, the world always seemed to have yet another place for her to fit in to its horrible, ugly, every-day normal.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Tooth and Claw: Prologue

Man, her last work, who seem’d so fair,
Such splendid purpose in his eyes,
Who roll’d the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built him fanes of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation’s final law –
Tho’ Nature, red in tooth and claw
With ravine, shriek’d against his creed.
 - In Memoriam A.H.H., Alfred, Lord Tennyson

Great fleas have little fleas upon their backs to bite ‘em,
And little fleas have lesser fleas, and so ad infinitum.
And the great fleas themselves, in turn, have greater fleas to go on,
While these again have greater still, and greater still, and so on.
 - Budget of Paradoxes, Augustus De Morgan

That is not dead which can eternal lie.
And with strange aeons even death may die.
 - The Nameless City, H.P. Lovecraft

Prologue:
Beginnings from Endings
May 21, 2012

                Thomas Morgan slaps his own face, dragging down his hand with exaggerated care.  A hush falls over the crowd seated opposite him, as if he had struck a gavel and called for order.  Edward Cochran stands, alone, facing his judge; Edward, alone, remains deliberately standoffish.
                “You don’t get it, Edward,” Thomas says at last.  “We have these rules for reasons, reasons which are borne out not only in long-standing tradition, but also in our research literature.  Your callous disregard for our ways and your victim’s well-being has put them both into jeopardy:  now we must deal with the legal ramifications of your actions to protect our way of life, and we must figure out what to do with the young Miss Swain.”
                “I don’t see why she can’t join our society.”
                “That is not the issue, Edward.  Of course Miss Swain will be taken into our care – your foolhardiness has necessitated that already.  But she is in for a difficult life.”
                “Della knew the risks,” Edward replied.  “I explained everything to her.”
                “You told her what she wanted to hear,” Thomas says in a deliberate monotone.
                “Uh, yeah, because it appealed to her in the first place.”  Thomas folds his arms at Edward’s flippant delivery.  “She wanted it.  You can ask her, even now.”

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Four and Four: Some Mood-Setting Bits

Not by me, I must say.  But still, inspirational, and/or related.  The first half is an excerpt (OK, four excerpts, but conjoined as one) from an old and epic poem.  The second half is Canadian swing.  Dig it.  :)

In Memoriam A.H.H.
by Alfred, Lord Tennyson.
(Queen Victoria said that this was her sole comfort, aside from the Bible.
I'm not so sure that's a solid recommendation.
But hey, what do I know?  I just think it's rad.)

Strong Son of God, immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are these orbs of light and shade;
Thou madest Life in man and brute;
Thou madest Death, and lo, thy foot
Is on the skull which thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave us in the dust:
Thou madest man, he knows not why,
He thinks he was not made to die;
And thou hast made him:  thou art just

Thou seemest human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, thou:
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them thine.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

"The Tower," a World of Darkness faerie tale

I used to play Whitewolf pen & paper games with my friends (almost entirely the new World of Darkness, with few exceptions), and one of my favorites was Changeling: The Lost.  I wrote this story as a background for my character about five years ago (it's also the "first appearance" of the name "Samantha Rose," which I re-used over and over because I liked it and am bad at naming things); I just dug it up to provide some "mood lighting," since the setting for my new book is Definitely Not Whitewolf.  Ugh, that needs unpacking to not sound even stupider than my last book idea.

During one of our Mage:  The Awakening campaigns, we had a Rules Lawyer in the group who was famous for arguing with the Storyteller ("Dungeon Master") about what certain antagonists could do and whether something made sense given the rules.  For Mage, since we had all read the whole book to decide who we wanted to be (and to not need the rather complex mythos explained to us at every plot point), our Storyteller hit upon a rather ingenious idea:  "The source book is simply what mages think they know about the world.  When something comes up that disagrees with the book, surprise:  the book is wrong."  The Rules Lawyer, unsurprisingly, didn't enjoy being in a world where he couldn't at least have an Out-of-Character handle on everything that was going on.  I, by stark contrast, loved the idea of being in a world with flexible rules that was driven by creative inspiration rather than conforming to a spreadsheet.  But then, I'm not a Rules Lawyer...

That's rather what I'll be doing with this next book:  I'm adapting elements from various World of Darkness settings just to have some starting material, keeping and renaming what I like, and discarding what doesn't fit or is just ugly/silly/stupid.  I'm also doing some amateur mythopoeia of my own, which I tried to avoid for the sake of simplicity, but turned out was inevitable when I found myself drawing up a chart to align certain characters by zodiac affinity.  Keep in mind, the zodiac isn't what matters - it's just a mechanic I used to get things arbitrarily started.  After that, the way those alliances all play out and the things the characters do within their context, that's the actual interesting part.

Anyway.  That should all be very reassuring, I hope.  :)  Here's the actual freakin' story.  Enjoy!

The Tower

Samantha opened her eyes.

She was in a large room, dimly lit by candles, laying on a cot.  She didn't know why she was there.. she didn't know where "there" was... she didn't know who she was... she didn't know anything...

Suddenly alert, she stood up to figure out what was going on.  Her clothes were ragged and torn, her joints a bit stiff.  Looking around, she saw that she was in a circular room with one door.  Moonlight fell in through one of several small windows, separated by large bookcases.  Each window held a lamp, and there were two on the large oak table in the center of the room.  At the table was a single chair, and upon the table was a single book, open, with pen and inkwell beside it.  She tried the door; locked.  The windows were too high to look through, too small to climb through, too narrow to gain a firm grip; she could reach only the lamps hanging just before them.  At the foot of the cot was a small chest of drawers.  One drawer was full of neatly arranged inkwells, another held bottles of what she assumed was lamp oil, and the last was full of empty bottles and inkwells.  Underneath the pillow, she found a golden key.  She picked it up, intending to -

Samantha recoiled in horror as the flood of memories washed over her.  She remembered her life - growing up in Anaheim - her parents - junior high softball - boyfriends - high school gymnastics - college studies - visiting her uncle - catching bugs - and thorns...

Monday, September 17, 2012

Thoughts on "The Stand"

I finished reading The Stand a couple days ago, which along with Lucifer's Hammer was part of my crash course in apocalyptic literature.  I linked to the TV Tropes pages for those books because I'm going to be discussing The Stand primarily in terms of storytelling mechanics, so really, that's what's most useful here.  Also, beware that I'll be linking to the pages for a lot of the tropes I mention (because that makes it easier on you, Dear Reader, if you don't already know the lingo), but that means you'll have to be vigilant against wiki-walks (because TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Life).

OK, that paragraph up there, it took me over an hour to write.  Not because I was trying to decide on word choice or whatever, but because I fuckin' clicked on my own damn links and then got sucked into mini-wiki-walks of my own ("Bellisario's Maxim?  What's that?  'Contrast to Moff's Law'... what's that?").  So I'm being serious here:  there will be a lot of links, so you should only click on something if you don't know what it means.  (Really, everything should be fairly apparent through context - but if it's not, here's a link.)  And even then, you should make sure to read only until you understand the trope I'm talking about, then close that tab.  Capisce?

As a "final starting note," I feel I should point out that this is not a review of The Stand, it's criticism.  I liked The Stand, even if it took me about 700 pages to "really" get into it (I read the monster 1,141-page uncut edition).  I also recognize that it's one of King's earlier works, and that it's over 35 years old.  None of these exempts it from criticism, of course; but please realize that none of this is done in anger.  The fact is, though, that I casually mentioned one day that I prefer King's later works - The Girl Who Loved Tom Gordon remains one of my favorite books of any kind to this day - and someone said The Stand would change my mind.  It most definitely did not.  This post is about why.  THERE WILL BE SPOILERS.

Saturday, September 15, 2012

101 Interesting Things, part forty-nine: Silk

I have an endless fascination with macroscopic properties that are explicable in terms of microscopic properties, dating back to high school when I learned why the structure of water makes it a universal solvent, why the alignment of iron can result in magnetic fields, and where pH comes from.  (When I asked my chemistry teacher, "What does pH mean, though - like, what's the thing that number's based on," she responded in a monotone, "Negative log of the hydronium ion concentration."  After about ten seconds of goggle-eyed musing, I understood exactly what that meant and have never forgotten it.)  It's also what caused electricity to be irreducibly magical to me, until I came to see voltage as a kind of "electrical pressure" - then, like, a million phenomena and failed experiments all clicked into place and I felt like a dummy... but an enlightened dummy!

So it should come as no surprise that one of my favorite books of all time is Napoleon's Buttons:  17 Molecules that Changed History, by Penny LeCouteur and Jay Burreson (well here's an interesting tidbit:  my copy has this cover design, but that subtitle).  The sixth chapter is on silk and nylon, nylon being developed for the purpose of being an artificial silk.  Other interesting tidbit:  in technical chemistry terms, "artificial" and "synthetic" mean two different things; "synthetic" means "laboratory-produced but chemically identical," whereas "artificial" means "not the same thing but has the desired properties" regardless of its method of production.  So "artificial sweeteners" are "fake sugar"; they're not really sugar, they just do the thing we want sugar for; whereas "synthetic vitamin C" is the genuine article, real ascorbic acid that happens to have been synthesized in a lab instead of being derived from a plant.  (This difference is articulated somewhere in the book, but at least four of the seventeen chapters deal with the difference and I refuse to track it down.  I've been procrastinating long enough and only need some pictures, anyway, because the rest of the important information is just in my head.)

Anyway.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Cross-post: Adventures in Taxonomy!

One of the unwritten problems with Tabula Rasa was that I kept wanting to interject little bits of the supernatural, but the whole blessed point was that the world was completely mundane.  So I sloughed them off to another story I had been thinking of which was legitimately about the supernatural.  Eventually, I had so many fragments and ideas shoved over there, it started becoming a story in its own right.  I know a story's good when characters I give placeholder names get names of their own - I'm famously bad at naming things, you see - and now I've got so much that I can't not write it.

First, though, I have a bit to write about silk for 101 Interesting Things.  And before that, I've got this humorous little bit that I pulled off from my Playskool blog.  The bit about the Wheel of Death waxes fantastical, but the rest of this is a real conversation that I really had in real life.  No joke, it's almost literally word-for-word, because I wrote it all down right after it happened (and, when I went wiki-walking, even jotted down notes on the story so far).  Anyway, enjoy!

"There are only three things in the sea:  fish, amphibians, and mammals.  OK, maybe a couple plants."

Sunday, September 2, 2012

On Bullets, and the Biting Thereof

I can't do this right now.  I thought I could, and if I just jumped in feet-first then I could power my way through it and clean it up in post; but no.  Tabula Rasa is officially scrapped for now (again), because as I try to iron out how I want everything to go, I'm realizing that it's just not workable in its current iteration.  Reasons below the cut (they're all spoilers, so beware - it's mainly a list of reminders to myself of "Problems I Need to Fix Before I Can Actually Write This Shit").

Thursday, August 23, 2012

How to Imagine a Billion

Carp on a tarp, who would've thought a book about how we know things could be so research-intensive to write?  The problem I'm running into now is that every time I'm like, "Wait a minute, I should look this up," I end up going on a wiki walk where I kinda-sorta get my question answered but find way more interesting things along the way.  So, OK, now I know how ejection seats work, and I have a reasonable guess as to where the USS Eisenhower was in the spring of 2000, but I'm also finding out all kinds of things I don't really need like stuff about the new robot we put on Mars and how plots of various movies could have been solved in minutes (or would have been solved if the main characters did nothing).

Anyway.

I was talking about space & stuff with a friend, and we were going on and on about how so many people have a really poor grasp of just how astronomically large astronomical distances are.  At one point, it was alleged that humans can't even conceive of a million, let alone the billions and trillions required to understand space.  I thought about that for a while, and as it turns out, yes I can so too imagine a billion - and so can you!  Here, let me teach you how.

First, a teaching tool.  Did you ever use these little yellow blocks to count when you were in gradeschool?  I did, at least in the fifth and sixth grades (I went to different schools every year before that, so I don't know how far back they use these).

Wait, you mean tiny yellow cubes a centimeter on a side are chokeable?

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Tabula Rasa, Chapter One



Chapter One
Friday, May 5th, 2000.  8:15 AM, Eastern Time.

Samantha opens her eyes.

She blinks spastically, disoriented by the light.  Incoherent shapes and unfamiliar colors cloud her vision.  Noise fills her ears, her skin prickles, and her breath comes in awkward gasps.  After a few moments of abject confusion, she recognizes the color dominating her vision:  white.  A few moments more, and she grasps the purpose of that white shape:  ceiling.  Her head jerks about to take in her surroundings:  she is in a room, laying upon a bed.  So far, so good.  She takes a moment to breathe and collect herself.

Samantha sits up, rubs her eyes, rolls her head around on her neck and then stretches her arms upwards, interlocking her fingers and popping her knuckles, elbows, shoulders.  She lowers her arms and breathes deep, smelling dust and something herbal-oily and a little bit of sweat. The noise in her ears gradually resolves into birdsong and the occasional breeze rustling through the trees outside.  Her right knee feels funny, a little loose, like it needs to be adjusted.  She flexes her leg back and forth, back and forth, hears a muted pop and feels a brief pang followed by relief.  The walls around her are covered in brightly colored patterns, but near the ceiling is a procession of strange shapes in black and white, wrapping around the whole room.  Samantha looks at them carefully:  they are at once intensely familiar, yet utterly alien.  Names for the shapes slowly well up from she knows not where: Aa Bb Cc Dd...

Painfully slow, Samantha recites the alphabet in her head with the aid of the childish frieze.  Sounds for the letters tug at her mind, though they are many and varied.  She is dimly aware that the words “white”, “ceiling”, “window”, and “birdsong” now have spellings and are no longer floating abstractions in her stream of consciousness.  As she repeats the alphabet in her mind, she hums a simple tune, and the tune makes her think of the night sky, twinkling and jeweled.  She looks around at the objects in the room, not quite sure what to make of them.  One shape stands out to her:  a rectangle, with smaller rectangles running lengthwise across it, and little circles at each end.  Samantha has no word for it, but it's got clothes in it, and she is suddenly aware that she is wearing a white tank top.  She pulls back the blanket from across her knees and sees that she is wearing pajama pants with a splotchy pattern of greens, browns, and near-blacks.  Blaze orange letters run across the amorphous shapes, and Samantha slowly sounds out the words:  “YOU CAN'T SEE ME.” She reads the words again, uncomprehending – she most certainly can see them!


Monday, August 13, 2012

Tabula Rasa


Friday, May 5th, 2000.  6:54 AM, Central Time.

Glory’s left arm twitches, once, twice.  She immediately leans left toward a chair at the dining table, falling roughly into it as her eyelids begin to flutter.  She knows what’s coming next.

Her legs hang crooked to her right, her arms splayed out across the table.  As she stares out at the world, mute and paralyzed, Glory is surprised to see that her few remaining party guests are having troubles of their own.  Clutching their heads and staggering, Len and Hannah lean on each other behind the island in the open kitchen; the lights flicker, and Keith takes a knee in the middle of the rug.  Someone on the couch, at the edge of Glory’s vision, has her head between her knees.

It passes.

Glory rubs a clammy palm over her forehead, absently straightens her hair.  That was short, thank the stars.  She sets her feet in front of her to stand, sets her hands on the table, and rises to her feet.  Her left arm trembles again, and it’s back – staring at the table now, she can’t see her surroundings.  The lights are suddenly much brighter to her, she hears the microwave running, the ceiling fan’s motor whum-whum-whums in a quickening crescendo.  Seconds go by, and it eases enough for her to sit in her chair, but does not pass.  The lights dim, everything’s quiet, someone gasps.  As Glory raises her head, it comes on again in a slow wave, brightening the lights once more.  She can definitely hear the microwave running.  That’s not right.  It’s never like this.  Alarms sound, the shrill beeps of smoke and carbon monoxide detectors.  A dull thump as someone falls to the ground.  One by one, lights begin to pop and flare, her stereo screams a burst of static and dies, the detectors drop out, and Glory registers one brief moment of silence as she slips away.


Sunday, August 12, 2012

Back from the brink of death!

Ugh.  Martian Death Flu is no fun.

The first & second of August, I thought I was just having my seasonal allergy attack rather later than normal. But then I was full-on sick, and even had to take a couple days off of work.  I'm also reading The Stand, so I couldn't shake the irrational thought that Captain Trips was coming for me.  The next few days I was possibly too sick to work, but definitely too poor to not work, so I toughed it out.  I seemed to get better like three days ago, but then had mad allergy symptoms once again that came to a peak last night.

And now I'm perfectly fine!

So I guess I'm officially caught up on my quota of illness for the last two years.  I was missing some, you see.  This would be a perfect time to dust off that bit I've been saving up on the immune system... but I don't feel like writing about the immune system.  In fact, all I wanna do now is write Tabula Rasa.  Somewhere along the line, the plans for Tabula Rasa got mixed up with my plans to re-write Rendezvous into Breath to Breath, so I think I'll just go with it because it seems like a good idea (mainly because it takes elements from a story I like and transposes them from a setting I no longer like [horror] into a better one [adventure]).  It's also been marinating for over a year, which is a good indication that it's a worthwhile idea and not going anywhere.

In all honesty, I never really tried to set it down, it just kinda slipped through my fingers and fell to the wayside.  But I have been working through the major issues I had with it - mainly how to get from one plot point to another, since it was conceived (like all my stories) as a flotilla of vignettes and not a single coherent narrative - and I think it's in a state where I can drop all of Chekov's Guns without needing to backtrack preposterously through a bunch of established story.  I've also been reading apocalyptic fiction (I mentioned Lucifer's Hammer and The Stand) to give me some grounding in the genre and see what else is out there.  Mainly what I've noticed is that authors can get away with quite a bit of stereotyping as long as there's sufficient characterization to balance it out, and that Stephen King's editor needs a finer-toothed comb.  I mean, I can't tell Stephen King what to do, but when I read something like, "He shivered a little, and the wind danced a spiral of fire out of the fire and up toward the black starshot sky" (p. 439 in my edition), I can't help but think, "You don't need the word 'fire' twice in such close proximity.  Use 'flame' the first time, or 'blaze' the second, or fucking anything else."

Anyway, that's that.  I've got some stuff written up already, just not the first part, so I'm gonna finish that.  But I open tomorrow, so I need to get to bed at a reasonable hour, and I doubt I'll get through it all tonight.  So that's tomorrow, and then I've got the next part written already, and then it's just a matter of putting the vignettes in place and stitching them together with something approaching skill and aplomb (I'd sure like to write it all in order, but even so, I'll probably end up with Un-Deleted Scenes like in The Quantum Mechanic).  Wish me luck!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Stupid Rhinovirus...

I am super-ill.  :p

Can't breathe.  Can't think.  Can't sleep.  Just so everybody knows.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

101 Interesting Things, part forty-eight: Pyura chilensis

Let's have ourselves a little climb up the family tree.  In the kingdom Animalia, phylum Chordata, you'll find the class Ascidiacea.  Ascidians are the sea squirts, immobile filter feeders who sit in one place and just process whatever floats by.  You know your sea squirts, right?


Saturday, July 28, 2012

How Can Science Be Objective?

This is a paper I wrote in my philosophy of science class.  The instructor told us that the class would be "one long argument," and at this late point in the course, our task was to summarize and synthesize the material presented thus far, and evaluate it.  The question was, "Can science be objective?  And if so, how?"  We were given six pages to answer (my bibliography was page seven).  This is another paper that I'm pretty proud of, so here it is for your enjoyment.  Links to the cited articles are given at the end, except for two which I couldn't track down (I'm not counting Locke, I only used him for a money quote at the end).  They're all good reads, so feel free to take a walk on the web if you're unclear on a point and want it in the author's own words.

Much ink has been spilled in the attempt to characterize science, both its process and its products, in a way that both is accurate and preserves at least some of our notions of what science is “supposed” to be about. Logical positivism has been rendered untenable by the ubiquity of underdetermination and the nature of observation as fundamentally theory-laden. Is there any way for science to be objective in this light, or is it just a highly political free-for-all? This depends on what we mean by “objective,” for some definitions of the term shall certainly fail. Yet there is an important way in which science can be seen as objective, and in a satisfyingly progressive way.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

On Formlessness

When I took advanced US history in high school, our instructor walked up to the blackboard on the first day and wrote a bunch of words on the board:
dog cat horse ox run jump climb fish green blue orange apple pear swiftly Jane Bill
Those probably aren't the actual words, but that doesn't matter.  He then told us, "Organize these."

"According to what," someone asked.  It might have been me, but I don't remember and it's not important.

"Not my problem," he answered with a shrug.  "Just organize them however you want."  I put them in alphabetical order:  apple Bill blue cat climb dog fish green horse Jane jump orange ox pear run swiftly.  Done.  Our instructor asked us how we organized them - one person had organized them into parts of speech, with "fish" going under both the Noun and Verb headings, "orange" being both a Noun and an Adjective, and "Jane" and "Bill" under the Proper Names subheading of Nouns.  Another student had divided them into Domesticated Animals and Other.  We had hit all the obvious ones, and then the instructor put some others on the overhead and had us try to guess what they were.

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

On Faithlessness

There's this YouTube guy, Philhellenes, he's made some sweet videos like a scientifically accurate rewrite of Genesis and an account of science saving his soul.  One of his other videos is on admitting error, and it's also really great:

Why does he need the contrast so high?  Is he in a library's
after hours?  He must be The Phantom of the Library!

It got me to thinking about walking in doubt, a phrase I use from time to time when I need to establish that the brand of atheism I practice is not in fact another kind of faith.  I have a lot of beliefs, but no faith, because I've spent a great many years doubting everything systematically, like RenĂ© Descartes.  What I've ended up with is a bunch of things I endorse as facts with varying levels of confidence, and a whole bunch of inferences between them of varying strengths, which is rather difficult to keep track of.  It's not perfect, by any means, and I still screw up from time to time, which keeps me humble - but beneath it is an attitude of readiness to admit error.  I try not to think, "What do I know for certain," but instead, "How much doubt am I dealing with here?"  If I'm ever not dealing with an amount of doubt, then I've got certainty, and certainty is dangerous.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

On Cognition

Last spring, I took a class in the Interdisciplinary department on cognitive science - we covered philosophy of mind, computer science, and neuroscience, and it was awesome.  I gained a reputation in the class for hedging my answers very carefully, admitting when I didn't know things, but knowing quite a lot, and refusing to engage in wild speculation (unless I was explicitly asked to do so).  I was also the only philosophy major in the class, and I think I did a good job of representing the department rather well.  But then again, I also had at least five years on each of the other dozen or so students, and I had spent those years educating myself and arguing on the internet in my free time, so you could say I was a bit over-prepared.

The prompt for our final was, "What is the nature of human cognition?" and we were given six double-spaced pages to answer.  I think I did a rad job, and the material I brought together (almost all of which had been covered in class) was tremendously interesting, so I thought I'd share it with you, Dear Reader.  Enjoy!

Is Consciousness This Way or That Way?  A Robust Yes and No.

What is the nature of human cognition?  At the very least, we may say that it is complicated.  My own personal conjecture is that the first-person nature of consciousness is essentially a “story” that the brain “tells” to itself, after a fashion; but we humans have been using our minds to ponder our minds for millennia, and I probably stand very little chance of successfully advancing a new theory of mind in a six-page paper for an introductory course in cognitive science.  Three broad avenues of approach have been quite productive, however:  studying brains, attempting to manufacture consciousness “from scratch” (as it were), and inquiring as to what precisely we might mean when we talk about our minds.  Respectively, these may be called the empirical approach, the engineering approach, and the philosophical approach.  Each of these approaches has something to say on the three issues of brain brittleness, mental models, and the “directionality” of consciousness.  What I intend to show is that while each of the various answers proposed to the question, “What is consciousness?” contains at least a kernel of truth, no present account delivers the whole story and so we ought not to endorse one or the other as “essentially right.”

Friday, July 20, 2012

Follow-up Quickies: Bosons and ninjas!

OK, so my last post was kind of bullshit.  Here are a couple other interesting things to jam between yesterday and tomorrow.

National Geographic tackles Ninjutsu, hiring Glen Levy to put his skills to the test.  Please try to ignore his introductory banter; it pains me to listen to it, and I can all but guarantee that he was somehow contractually obligated to say that "journey to your own destruction" crap.  Pay attention to the bit on the vagus nerve, though, and check out the force he's able to deliver with a single punch:

That dummy needs shorts 'cuz it can't decide

In case you skipped it, I'll give you the TL;DR version:  this man is able to punch with the force of a shotgun.  No joke.  OK, it's a police shotgun firing a rubber bullet, but still.  You'd be hard-pressed to hit that hard with a baseball bat.  Yes, you.  Yes, baseball bat.  Glen Levy hits harder.

As for bosons, there was a reason I didn't trot out any of the goofy analogies that other writers have given for the Higgs field:  they don't explain where the mass comes from.  Passing through a sheet of molasses, and the molasses sticks to you?  Fine, but why is the molasses massive?  Walking through a crowded room and all your fans flock to you?  Fine, but why are the groupies massive?  Minute Physics to the rescue:

Physics in a minute.  Fifty-eight videos.  You could watch all his
stuff in an hour, and experience at least six flavors of enlightenment.

The TL;DR version here is that the mass is more or less resistance that comes from moving through the Higgs field all the time always.  In a kinda-sorta way, but it's closer.  Still don't get it?  OK, it's time to talk about the shape of the Universe.

Fortunately, Quarthex does translate to math, and souls don't exist.

It's been said that the Universe is "saddle-shaped."  Like if you took a square sheet of paper, and folded one set of opposite corners up, and the other set down.  Like so:

See?  Like a saddle on a fucked up horse!  (Is it weird that
draw the shape of the Universe better than a horsey?)

Except - and here's the kicker - instead of starting with a flat thing and curving it around, you start with a tiny curled-up thing and blow it up so big it just looks flat.  Bam!  Now I bet you'll have a better understanding of this article, and this key image:

All of those circles, at every point of everywhere, are one other dimension.

All the "extra" dimensions are like that:  tiny and curled up, but existing at every point in spacetime.  Incidentally, this is also why I have never ever made fun of anyone for proposing that time is circular - because, son of a bitch, it's actually kinda-sorta plausible.  Now do that over and over until you get all the dimensions, and bam!  There you have it.  Is the Lorentz factor making a little more sense now?