Things like "Bob Smith from college" or "Neil Gaiman" or some clue for me to know who the actual person behind the account is. Sometimes I know people by many different names, and it's hard to keep up, frankly. I'm sure I'll figure something out. But that's gonna hurt. :)
Things like "Bob Smith from college" or "Neil Gaiman" or some clue for me to know who the actual person behind the account is. Sometimes I know people by many different names, and it's hard to keep up, frankly. I'm sure I'll figure something out. But that's gonna hurt. :)
Why 'kaasirpent? Why 'Prose and Kaa'? I'm sure these questions have been plaguing you since at least the length of this very sentence. Maybe longer. Maybe as far back as three sentences! :)
The answer is a bit odd, perhaps.
( This got long and rambly. For the short version, don't click this. )
I adore The Jungle Book by Rudyard Kipling. Adore. It. So I went through the characters, trying to roleplay them: Mowgli, Shere Khan, Bagheera, and Baloo, before finally settling on Kaa, the snake.
I'm big into puns, see. And on TinyTIM, I could use that to my advantage. I programmed myself to hissss everything, sso that anything I ssaid came out like thiss, with all my ssibilantss doubled. I worked out ways a snake could shrug and do other actions, and I went to the (online) party.
I sort of never went back to S'thel. I created another character called Kaa, moved to it, and left S'thel for special Weyr occasions.
In essence, I became Kaa sometime in the late fall or early winter of 1991. And I have used Kaa, KaaSerpent, or some variation of it every since. Chances are, if you see a 'kaa' or 'kaaserpent' user on a forum, there's a very good chance it's me.
Then, in 2003, I noticed that the usual crowd on TIM was getting smaller and smaller. The conversations we were having were becoming disjointed. I was hearing the second half of conversations people had obviously started elsewhere. I asked.
"Oh, it's this 'blog' called LiveJournal. We're all over there. You should check it out." (By all, they meant some fifty or sixty people.)
I resisted. I had nothing to say, really. I had an old website some TIM-friends were hosting on their server for free, but it was full of rants and drivel, updated weekly or more. It was 'kaa.trippy.org,' and it's still there if you're masochistic enough to go look for it.
So I finally had to come to LiveJournal. I wanted 'kaa,' but some Russian guy had, annoyingly, already taken it. Then my love of puns came out. Instead of getting 'kaaserpent,' I thought to myself that 'kaa serpent' sounded like a name and title. Kaa, Sir Pent. It's like a (really awful) pun. Which was all I needed.
And thus, kaasirpent was born.
A few years later (2008ish) when I got serious about writing fiction again, my love for puns came out again when I was redesigning my theme for LiveJournal. I needed a name for the blog. Before this it had been "Kaa's Lair" (yawwwwn).
I liked writing. I liked Kaa. I liked puns. I liked ranting about stuff. So, "pros and cons" became "Prose and Kaa."
And thus endeth my (extremely long and rambly and probably very boring — I'm sorry) story about How My Blog Got Its Name.
I have three blogs. The stories of those are here (Philosophidian) and here (WriteWright), respectively. This was the longest one, I promise. The other two are quite short and sweet and to the point.
This post is in response to The Writer's Post Blog Hop 2014 #4 prompt, Explain the Name of Your Blog. The host is Suzy Que. Other entries are linked from her blog post.
It typically happens during an interview, when, say, two or more people are recording a podcast and at least one of them is using Skype. When the computer gets a little busy, the audio processing can't seem to keep up, so there's a momentary "stretching" of the syllable the person is saying and it comes out sounding like the audio equivalent of a pixellated image.
The person might be saying "I visited Spain as a high school senior," but the processor gets a little overburdened during 'Spain' and it comes through as "I visited Spaaaaaaaaain as a high school senior."
Another time I hear it is when watching satellite TV and there's weather, the same thing happens in video as well as audio. The image will freeze on one kind of pixellated image and the sound will do that same thing.
It's so hard to find an audio clip to give you an example when I don't know the stupid word to use to look up said clip to get said word.
This, however, is what I was able to find because it's the one case I remember from a movie where the effect was used on purpose. This is a clip from The Matrix just as Neo starts to fall down the rabbit hole.
So. What do you call that? Is there jargon for it?
One of the weekly segments on the show is a visit from the puzzle guy John Chaneski (or sometimes it's Greg Pliska or another guy whose name escapes me at the moment) had a puzzle that he said was based on a driving game.
The game is very simple: While you're driving, pick a non-vanity license plate from a passing (or being passed) car. It should have a sequence of letters and numbers. Most of them will contain a three-letter clump of letters. Everyone in the car tries to come up with the shortest word using those three letters in order. Shortest word wins. Of course, if the letters already make up a valid, three-letter word (SKI, CRY, URL, etc.) then you move on to another plate.
That's pretty much it. Of course, the on-air puzzle was that Chaneski gave Martha and Grant several three-letter combinations and they had to try to come up with the shorter word, then Chaneski gave really long ones, usually involving some medical or chemical term.
I have become obsessed with this. I have no idea why, but while I'm driving and listening to podcasts, this seems to occupy my mind even further. On the way in to work this morning, I saw a plate with "BMU" and it is still bothering me that I couldn't come up with a word using those three letters. (Heh! As I was typing this, it finally hit me: BerMUda! I can stop obsessing over it!)
Some of them are fairly easy. I had ACN on the way into work, and it became ACNe. AUM became AlUM. BTC became BiTCh. Etc. Some of them are way less obvious because the shortest word using those letters may involve adding something to the beginning. My personal blind spot is trying to start the word with the first letter of the trio. So if I see ARY, for instance, I would think of AngRY or ARmY before wARY.
Can you tell I have spent far too much time thinking about this? :)
My own tag contains the letters RFE. RiFE, of course. (Or perhaps polytetRaFluoroEthylene or stRaightRorwardnEss.) For the one in the Creative Commons picture above: cHeRVil, perhaps?
I may need an intervention. On the other hand, maybe it's a great exercise to keep myself mentally alert. Or aLeRT, as the case may be.
The world needs more lerts.
It dawned on me earlier tonight what I’m basically doing with this NaNoWriMo project. For each of these magical powers that I write about, I’m creating scenarios, characters, conflicts, mysteries to be solved, and an investigative method that cracked the cases.
These are ideas for short stories set in my universe, The PCIU Case Files. Each story is a self-contained little glimpse into some aspect of my world, usually revolving around an interesting use of a power to solve or commit a crime (or both). Once this thing is done, I’ll have to expand some of them out to see where they go.
Also, this morning in the shower I got hit broad-side by an idea that’s been sneaking up on me for some time. The bad guy from novel 3 (formerly novel 1) is going to have a bit part in novel 1 (formerly novel 2) and novel 2 (formerly novel 3).
Novel 4 is starting to take shape in my head, and I have the first glimmerings of ideas for novel 5. It would really help if my brain would stop that. :)
Each of my characters now has a multi-book arc and there is an arc tying together novels 1 through 3.
Geesh. I hope I can keep all this in my head and juggle it. Otherwise, I’m going to end up with an unwieldy mess on my hands.
Sometimes I run across what I consider to be ‘writing lessons’ in the weirdest places.
Today, I was listening to podcasts whilst working. In one (Scopes Monkey Choir), the hosts mentioned a music instrument I had never heard of: the Northumbrian Smallpipes.
On YouTube, I discovered that it’s kind of a northern-England version of a bagpipe or uilleann pipes, driven by a bellows that requires the player to pump with his or her arm while playing. It sounds . . . a bit like the bagpipes or uilleann pipes. But with a greater range. And less drone-y.
So anyway, as I’m wandering from video to video to get an idea how these things sound, I ran across this video. As she described her friend for whom the song is written, I thought to myself, “I want to use this amazing description for a character in a story.”
And then at 3:15 in, she says, “It’s not the tune I intended to write . . . but tunes sometimes have a habit of having their own mind about where they want to go and what they want to be.”
Sound familiar? Anyone? :)
Here’s the video. (I apologize for the gigantic size. I don’t know why it’s doing that. My YouTube-embedding fu is weak.)
[youtube_embed width=480 height=360]Zig7QP0LkmU[/youtube_embed]
(For those of you on LiveJournal, just click here. Sorry.)
I've gotten a small rash of comments on LiveJournal in the last week that just make zero sense.
The purpose of a Spam comment on any sort of Internet forum-like thing is to get people to click the links and get infected by a virus, right?
So what person in their right mind would see something like one of these and think, "Oh, baby! I have to click that link right now!" [Note: Seen below exactly as they appeared except that I disabled the links by changing the http to an httQ, and inserted tree names into the link.]
Subject: bcxzmk beats baratos hrn2Clearly, my normally savvy spammers have retired to Bermuda with their millions of dollars in ill-gotten Internet-booty and left these rank amateurs to take over for them. Random strings of letters? Please. Links formatted for an online forum (such as Simple Machines) instead of LiveJournal? Pathetic!
XZVvBotnr vmztuu [url=httQ://beatsbaratos.webnode.PINEes/
Subject: hlbgyi canada goose expedition parka wbm4
CZIbYrubi wbykro [url=httQ://canadagooseexpeditionparka.
webgarden.WILLOWcom/]canada gooseexpedition parka[/url]
Rookie mistakes, my friends. Rookie. Mistakes. Frankly, I expected better from my spammers. I thought they cared.
Note: I screen all comments that come from anyone not on my friends list, and collect IP addresses. So you won't have ever seen these crop up. But believe me, the frequency has increased, lately.
I have had The Shiny now for . . . gosh, I guess it's just over three years! How time does fly.
Anywho . . . I bought The Shiny with MAC OS Leopard (v 10.5). I quickly upgraded to Snow Leopard (v 10.6) as soon as it became available. Then . . . I skipped Lion (v 10.7) when it was released, because some of the changes got some mixed reviews. And because I skipped Lion, I saw no need to go to Mountain Lion, either.
Over the weekend, I tagged along with a friend to the Apple Store and while she was occupied getting a new iPhone, I played with one of the big-ol' 27" iMacs . . . with Mountain Lion.
Wednesday night (that would be September 19th, 2012), I started the download of Mountain Lion. While I was at work on Thursday (yesterday), I updated my OS to Mountain Lion.
And everything was fine. It's taking a bit of getting used to since the "swipes" on the trackpad are "backwards" to what I've been using for three years.
The other night, I supplemented my iTunes music by downloading some stuff from the 70s that I hadn't already purchased. Some Doobie Brothers, Bonnie Raitt, and Paul Young, to be specific (if you were wondering).
Today, I purchased "Sail" by AWOLNATION and double-clicked to listen to the song.
Brzzzzzzzzp! (OK, on the Mac, it's more of a nice "ding!" but it should really be a harsh buzzer.) "This computer is not authorized to play 'Sail'. Would you like to authorize it?"
Of course I did. I typed in my Apple ID and my password. "This computer is already authorized. Including this one, you have authorized 2 computers out of your available 5."
O . . . K. o.O
I attempt to play the song again.
So . . . even though the computer is and always has been authorized, I can't play a song because . . . it's not . . . authorized?
All of the other stuff is playable, by the way, including the stuff I just bought the other night.
Anyone got any suggestions? I'm wide open.
When I was accepted to Viable Paradise, one of the many pieces of information available to us was a list of suggested reading recommended by the instructors. Unsurprisingly, the instructors’ own works featured prominently on this list.1 Now, I knew who all of them are, but I had only ever read anything by Elizabeth Bear and Steven Gould before.
I quickly bought one of each instructors’ works for my Kindle. Or two in a couple of cases. I tried to pick first books in series or standalone novels when possible. I mean, I don’t know about you, but if I walked into, for instance, Raiders of the Lost Ark when Indy shoots the sword master with his gun, in no way could I make sense of the movie. I feel the same way about book series. Don’t ask me to start reading at book 5 and try to make sense of what’s going on. I need context.
You probably already know what happened based on the title of this post. There isn’t one dud in the lot. I have thoroughly enjoyed every single thing I’ve read, including the book of essays. Most of these are books I wouldn’t have given a second look at in the book store. Not because the cover art isn’t eye-catching or the authors not well-known enough or the blurb ineffective.
Because I simply have so many books on my to-read shelf that it groans audibly when I come into my library (read: my third guest bedroom) with new, unread books. I have three seven-foot sets of book shelves on one side of the room, piled floor to ceiling with books. The middle shelves of all three are loaded with the books on my "to-read" list. Those are also stuffed. Across the room, I have another tall shelf also stuffed with books (mostly hardback), many of them also unread. In my bedroom is another, small (only three feet tall) metal shelf stacked high with all unread books. In the office where I sit typing this post is another shelf, this one stacked with unread professional books (books on programming and the like; not all that fun to read).
And then there’s Kindle. I could write a whole post on that subject by itself.
With all those unread books calling out to me, I find it hard to convince myself to pick up books by unknown (to me) authors. But in this case, I was motivated by something else.
And now, I have to continue reading these new(-to-me) series, as well, because I have to know what happens.
Yep. I’m gonna need a bigger shelf. Or two. Or maybe three . . .
- This is not a conceit. If we’re going to receive instruction on how to make our own writing better from a group of professional writers and editors, it makes sense to have sampled their work so we know if we even like that instructor’s style. Maybe someone finds out that they can’t stand an instructor’s style, and they know to weigh what that instructor says differently than the advice of someone whose style they do like.
(Disclaimer: I cannot be held responsible if you now have the song When You Wish Upon a Star stuck in your head. Preferably the Linda Ronstadt version. Well, OK, now I can, having purposefully—dare I say “maliciously”?—brought it to your attention, and gone so far as to prompt you with a voice. You’re welcome. It’s a great song, isn’t it? But I digress.)
Last year around this time, I had already had many, many ideas for NaNoWriMo. I hit upon the idea of writing 26 short stories, which I won’t go into again, here. Suffice it to say, it was a raging success. One of those stories got me into Viable Paradise.
But this year? What with all the preparations for Viable Paradise, I haven’t really had time to stop and think about what to write for NaNoWriMo. I’ve been re-working ideas for my urban fantasy series, but it’s been like beating my head against a wall. I want to do something that will help me with that instead of something entirely new and different.
One of the major problems I’ve had with my urban fantasy is the magic. It’s set in modern-day Atlanta, but magic works. And I am specifically staying away from sexy vampires and werewolves. My main characters are agents in the Paranormal Crimes Investigation Unit of the Georgia Bureau of Investigation. They are also mages. Two other characters are normal (non-magical) cops. Another is a TV reporter. And so on.
But how does magic work? I’ve written a ton of words, but I haven’t been able to just nail down that one little point: how does magic work? What are its limits? How can it be used? How prevalent is it? Does the public in general know about it? Etc!
And I need to know these things.
And that’s when I said to myself: "Self, what you need is a magic book for dummies."
KaZOT! (This is the theoretical sound of a bolt out of the blue. Fate steps in and sees you through . . .)
I guess I know what I’m writing for NaNoWriMo, now. A "For Dummies" book-type thing, but all about magic in my universe.
I can literally use it as a reference if I get stuck. Or I can modify if it I need to. :) And having that hard deadline of November 30th by which it must be finished should help me get past this snag I’ve been stuck in for a while.
Of course, I found a way to generate a nifty cover for it. Because, really, why not? On the Internet, if you build it, they will come.
Earlier this year, I learned about something called StoryForge. The easiest way to think of it is as what it essentially is: tarot cards for writers.
I wanted them badly because I had some problems I thought maybe they would help me work through.
Unfortunately, StoryForge Cards were, at that time, merely a dream in the mind of the creator. He had a KickStarter campaign to raise enough money to do a run of cards. Without hesitation, I pledged $25. At the end of his allotted KickStarter time, if he had enough pledges to make up the entire amount of money he was asking for, I would be billed along with all his other supporters. And a short time after that, I would receive a deck of StoryForge Cards in the mail.
Let me pause here to give you a wee bit of history and a painfully brief explanation of tarot.
Tarot cards have an ancient history dating back hundreds of years. Originally used as any other kind of card deck, for playing games. Later, people started to use it for "mystical" reasons. The structure of the Tarot deck was four suits of Minor Arcana: swords, wands, coins, and cups. Later, it became swords, staves, pentacles, and cups.
Either way, there were 14 of each suit, ranging from the one (ace) to the ten, plus four ‘face’ cards: jack/page, knight, queen, and king. So far, it basically sounds like a normal deck of cards with an extra face card (the knight).
But in addition to these 56 cards there were the Major Arcana, another 22 cards that were added to the deck specifically for their mystical symbolism. They had no suits and names like The Magician, The Empress, Death, The Hanged Man, and The Fool.
It was believed that by shuffling the deck while concentrating on a question, the cards could be flipped face-up in a certain pattern and the cards that occupied each space in the pattern determined your fate. Of course, it was all open to a lot of speculation. All the cards had two "interpretations" – one for when they were dealt upright and one for when they were dealt inverted (upside-down). Generally, people get out of it what they want to get out of it, which to me is the entire point.
I never believed in any of the mystical symbolism or the occult nature of the cards. But they’re a great way to work through what might be bothering you. You lay out the cards in the pattern and as you try to find symbolic meaning in what the Seven of Wands or The Heirophant means when it "crosses you," you can gain insight into what might be bugging you by what your mind seizes on as a likely match. "The Seven of Wands represents being under siege . . . and yesterday at work, Frank told me he thought my plan for the budget for FY 2013 was naïve! How do the cards know!"
So that brings us to the StoryForge Deck. He got his funding and then some. After a few problems with the printer, I finally received my cards a few weeks ago.
It, too, has suits. Five of them. There are 14 each in the four suits of Wealth, Will, Emotion, and Identity, and then 22 more in the suit of Destiny. So in a real sense, you could equate Wealth with Pentacles/Coins, Will with Swords, Emotion with Cups, and Identity with Wands/Staves. (I just randomly assigned the other three. Maybe you could tell.) And that leaves Destiny to fill in the role of the Major Arcana.
Each card contains two concepts, one positive and one negative. If the card is upright, the positive meaning is taken. If it’s inverted, the negative meaning is taken. A short description of each is provided on the card.
As with tarot, there are layouts, such as "Character Background," "Film Noir," "Love Story," and "Train Wreck." Each of them contains a number of cards selected for each element of the layout.
Right out of the box, I decided to give it a try by fleshing out the background of one of my minor characters in a novel I’m working on in an urban fantasy set in Atlanta, but magic works. The character’s name is Yvonne Hanson, and she’s a psychologist who is also a profiler for the FBI. She doesn’t know it, yet, but she’s destined to have a fling with my main character. But all I knew about her was what you see above. I couldn’t get a feel for who she is.
So I sorted the cards until I was satisfied they were randomized both in order and orientation.
For the Mother position, I cast Health. Okay, that’s general enough. For the Father position, I cast The Dilemma. Again, that could go pretty much anywhere. I kept going.
The Strength of Their Relationship: Wealth – Well, that seems like a bad idea, but maybe I’ll be able to fit it in . . .
Problems Between Them: Defeat – Clearly, something goes horribly awry. But what?
Circumstances of Yvonne’s Birth: Marriage – Hmm. It’s a cliché probably as old as time itself, but it does still happen.
So far, nothing was coalescing. But there are a lot more cards to cast.
Complications of Yvonne’s Birth: Aversion – And this is where I got the glimmer. I had imagined Dr. Hanson as a normal character—one who does not possess any magical ability. But if that’s the case, why send her out on assignments to profile criminals using magic? It makes more sense if she is also magical. So . . .
Her dad is one of those people who, for whatever reason, can’t stand people with magic. (Like some can’t stand people of other races or sexual orientations.) And the thought that his own flesh and blood could be one of them . . .
At first they didn’t notice anything. Little Yvonne (named after her paternal grandmother) was a happy, normal child, but at around age 5 or so, she started knowing things she couldn’t possibly know. They took her in for testing, and she came up positive. She’s a psion, fairly weak, but able to sense emotions and strong surface thoughts.
Well, Dad couldn’t handle it. And little Yvonne could sense that he was more than just uncomfortable around her, and she would cry whenever he was around.
So he left. And that ties in to Defeat being the problem between them: he wanted normal children, he got a freak of nature.
The Universe’s Influence on Yvonne: Confession – Well, that plays right in! She’s an empath. Nothing is a secret from such a child, at least on some level. Imagine being asked by your darling 6-year-old girl if Santa is coming on Christmas, and having her feel the lie if you try to hide the truth. So they never hid anything from her.
Early Strengths: The Captive – Now, here we have what to me is one of the strengths of using the deck. We have here a strength or a positive attribute of the character, but what came up was a negative or inverted card. So how can I turn this negative into a positive?1 By forcing me to think along a path I would not otherwise have gone down, I get something surprising.
As a child, she was only ever around people who accepted her difference and loved her unquestioningly. She was sheltered and protected from the negative influences in the world. After her Dad left, that is. She never had to experience hatred and fear while she was untrained and unable to block out other people. She had a private tutor and was home schooled until she was able to erect strong mental wards.
Early Weaknesses: The Counselor – And here’s the flip-side of the coin: a negative attribute indicated by a positive card. Again, not a direction I would have gone had I come up with all this without any prompting.
Because of her ability, she knows people’s traumas intimately. She becomes too emotionally involved in other people’s problems, wanting to fix them from an early age "so the hurt will stop."
Education: The Mentor – Well, I mentioned earlier that she was homeschooled and had a private tutor. But let’s take this a step further. Say when she eventually goes to college—to study psychology, of course—she encounters a psychology professor who is, herself, psionic. She develops a fast friendship with this professor, and becomes her mentee. (Yes, it’s a real word; look it up.) Yvonne’s abilities are fairly weak, but this professor/mentor helps her maximize what she has.
Belief Foundation: The Black Sheep – Well, that couldn’t have been more tailor-made if I’d selected it out of the deck on purpose. Since Yvonne is literally held in suspicion, even by her own father, and actively shunned by people at all levels of society, this is a large "Duh."
Life Experience: Order – Hm. Okay, Yvonne’s neat and orderly in her life because . . . all around her is the chaos of other people’s feelings and problems. The only thing she has any control over is her space, so it’s meticulously clean to the point of OCD. A useful little quirk I can play with from time to time. Nick’s a slob. :)
Recent Shaping Experience: Delusion – Because of some early successes in her career in the FBI, she develops too much confidence in her own abilities. It’s caused her to believe that she’s infallible. And we all know what happens when someone believes in their own self-delusion, don’t we?
Scarring Experience: Infamy – Ruby Ridge. Waco. These are place names that any self-respecting FBI agent would cringe upon hearing. Unfortunately, when Yvonne failed, she failed big and some people died because her profile was way off and her own team bought into her "infallible" delusion. He wasn’t caught when he could have been, and as a result, several more people died. The press, of course, picked this up and absolutely vilified her.
And finally, State of the Character at the Beginning of the Story: The Mirror – Everything above leads inexorably to this point: she’s unsure of herself, now, having discovered that she’s not a superwoman. Her world-view is upended. She’s no longer sure of her own abilities. Top this off with the fact that her mentor has just died, so she has no one to turn to that she trusts. She’s having to examine her own motivations and abilities for the first time in a long while. And along comes Nick . . .
At this point, the first few things don’t matter, but if I need them, I can fill them in. Perhaps the mother was very ill and her father was either a friend who supported her and it turned into romance . . . or he was her doctor that saved her life. Perhaps the dilemma was whether he chooses to stay with his current family? Leaving his practice to move with her? And the wealth could be one or the other of them getting lucrative work or an inheritance that helps to seal the deal. But I’m not married to any of that, and I can leave it open, or just ignore it. Perhaps Yvonne’s mother is still around and will come into the book series at some point. Then I can flesh her out.
Anyway, I just thought it would be interesting to go through a layout from start to finish and see how I made it all work and tie in together. Not all of it was in that order. Some of it happened all at once after I cast the cards and saw a pattern among them.
And now I have a much deeper understanding of who Yvonne Hanson is, what makes her tick, and how she might react to various events within the story. All thanks to 15 cards and some "forced" creativity. (It wasn’t forced; I was merely coaxed to think outside the box.)
And hey, maybe Dad had more kids and she has half-brothers and sisters out there. Or maybe Mom remarried and she has some on that side. The possibilities are open and ready to be solidified if I need them. This entire profile will get expanded upon as I go, and some stuff will probably fall by the wayside, and some other stuff will fill in the cracks.
- I could literally have just flipped the card upside-down and gone with "The Stranded" instead, but that was too easy. :)
A few days ago, a friend—actually, two separate friends who don’t know each other—sent me links to two different articles on how the human body reacts when exposed to the vacuum of space without the benefit of a space suit.
I have strange friends. Or, reworded: I have friends who know me, perhaps, all too well.
So I read these two articles and filed them away for future reference in case I might need to know for some future writing project.
Apparently, something about the articles got into my head and stuck there. And swirled around for several days.
Then, last night, my brain supplied me with a truly lovely dream. Really.
I was on a space station with a bunch of people. Some of them are co-workers of mine, some are friends, some are writer-friends, others were “extras”. What gamers would call NPCs.
And this space station—or perhaps it was a space ship a la “Star Gate: Universe”—was traveling along merrily until . . . you guessed it, explosive decompression. Basically a slow leak.
But this is a dream world. So in my dream world, the “slow leak” resulted in me and others being able to stand, sans space suits, in corridors that were open to the vacuum of space as gale-force winds blew past us into the void. Never mind that, were this to actually happen, the air supply on the ship/station would be expelled in toto and those of us standing in the corridor would have soon also been attempting to breathe vacuum.
So I watched as, one by one, my friends, co-workers, and fellow writers were blown (not sucked; the articles were clear on that point) into the vacuum.
And, thanks to those articles, my dreaming brain knew precisely what to show me as each of them died. A puff of frozen breath as the lungs forcibly expelled the last breath, then started to draw oxygen out of the blood. The icing over of the mucus membranes: the nose, eyes, and mouth. Saliva boiling on the tongue. The skin turning blue with bruises. The dawning horror as they realized what was happening to them. The unconsciousness in maybe fifteen to twenty seconds. The seizures. And finally, the stillness as the body slowly releases its heat while the heart still continues to beat deoxygenated blood to the starving brain for a while. All in all, not a very pleasant way to die. But at least it’s over quickly.
Sometimes, it really sucks to have both an imagination and a desire for scientific accuracy in one’s science fiction.
At several points during the dream, I woke up to turn over, and then went right back to the dream. During all this death and decompression, the ship was literally breaking apart. But at one point, me and some friends went to the mess hall (cafeteria) to have a nice, leisurely meal . . . while the air gushed out of the hull breaches.
A very strange dream. Finally, I was able to take control and lucid dream a rescue before everyone died.
And then the alarm went off and NPR regaled me with stories about the recent shooting in Colorado.
In other news, don’t be surprised if this shows up in a story at some point. :)
Last night (Thursday) was opening night, and there was a welcome party / reception. Last year, I didn't go because I wasn't feeling particularly social and the prospect of having to navigate a room full of people I don't know was . . . daunting.
This year, I said to myself, "Self,"—for I always address myself in that manner—"Self, this is ridiculous. Just go! Talk to someone random. What's the worst that can happen?" (Answer: They walk away in the middle of a conversation while I'm talking.)
So . . . I did just that. I was chatting with two very random guys who were both waiting in line at the cash bar with me.1 After obtaining our imbibements, we exchanged names and pleasantries and were attempting to hear each other over the awful din of everyone else doing the same thing. And then the questions of what we each do for a living came up.
One guy works in a lab doing research where he does genetic studies on plants, and they're working on getting full genomes of plants like we've done with many animal species. I asked if there had been any surprises, and he said, "Not yet," but that plant genomes are surprisingly "strange." He studied in Switzerland for several years and is apparently employed at a research lab in California. We talked about that for a while.
The other guy works with a team in Texas designing and simulating semi-conductors to help design faster, smaller computer chips for the computers of the future. He told us that the software they use—some of which he helped write—can actually simulate running software on the chips they design virtually, so if he wanted to, he could simulate running Unix on a simulated chip design, one instruction at a time. We talked about that for a while.
And then Randi walked by and we all dispersed, trying to get a picture with him. So I didn't have to find a way to make "I program computers for a Big Healthcare company" interesting. I was fine with that. :)
I next encountered a woman who turned out to be president of a skeptics and free-thinkers group in Arkansas. In just the 15 minutes or so that we talked, she made me realize that I could be participating in our local Atlanta group a lot more. As in, at all. Some of the stuff her group has done sounds really interesting, and made me think quite a bit. She then toddled off to find the people she'd come with.
I also talked briefly with Richard Saunders, host of the Australian podcast The Skeptic Zone and president of the Australian skeptics; and George Hrab, host of the Geologic podcast, who remembered me from when we met in Atlanta last year during Dragon*Con. I tried unsuccessfully to meet Jay Novella of the Skeptics Guide to the Universe podcast (he was regaling a small group with a story) and James Randi, the reason TAM exists at all. Randi was understandably popular. :)
Earlier in the day, I met and briefly talked with Ross and Carrie of the podcast "Oh No, It's Ross and Carrie."
What I've learned about myself is this: I suck at small talk. I have to work really hard at it because I simply do not have the gift of gab. I'd like to remedy this, but I honestly don't know how to go about it.
I'm currently awake at almost 6 AM because I've been up all night with acid reflux, the bane of my existence, at least for today. You'd think the Prilosec I'm taking would help with that, but apparently not. I blame the flat, non-foam bed (my bed at home is a foam mattress and the head is raised 6 inches) and the tasty, tasty canapés at the reception. And maybe the nasty Pepsi product that was the only soft drink they had, and/or the lime wedge I added to kill the nasty Pepsi taste. Luckily, the Coronado Café sold me four pieces of dry, white toast at 4 AM to help me past the worst of the acid.
- As a side note, these people at the cash bar had every beer, wine, and hard liquor known to man, yet only had Pepsi products if one wanted a soft drink! What . . . heathens! I mean . . . really? Pepsi?
I’ve been writing this Fairy Tale Private Eye story for a couple of weeks, now. There’s a lot of stories to pull ideas from, as well as finding fun little tidbits to throw in (such as Snow White being CEO of the Magic Mirror Network, on which one of the shows is Fairy Idol). I’ve been having a lot of fun with it, but as part of the “research” process, I’ve been reading the original Grimm’s fairy tales I’m referencing.
Have y’all ever read the original Grimm’s Fairy Tales?
I read them years ago. I have a two-volume paperback collection of them. I’m not sure which edition it is (they modified the stories themselves with each publishing). But I remember reading it and being . . . I believe the phrase is “taken aback.” The stories are pretty . . . well, grim. (HA HA ME MAKE PUN!)
Since Snow White is one of the characters, I read the story. In the Disney versions of all the “Princess” stories, the princesses themselves are generally shown to be about sixteen years old. I guess to avoid the very thing I’m about to mention.
In the original story of Snow White, she was seven years old when she surpassed her wicked, vain stepmother in beauty. She was seven when the evil queen sent her out to be murdered. Seven when she was turned loose into the forest. Seven when she discovered the little house with the seven little dwarfs.
And she was still seven when the queen tried three times to kill her, succeeding only with the last attempt.
In other words, princess Snow White was seven years old when she was laid to rest in the coffin, and lay there for a “very, very long time” before a “young prince” happened by, fell in love with the um, corpse, and decided that he absolutely must have it because he could not live without it.
Are you getting the little prickle on the back of your neck, yet? So far we have filicide and necrophilia and a parade of other nice traits like vanity, jealousy, and obsession.
Now, to my point. When the bite of apple that Snow White had bitten from the poisoned half of the apple was dislodged from her throat, she awoke, and the prince basically proposed to her and said “Come away with me and be my wife.” She consented, and they did exactly that.
Now. She was seven at the time she consented to marry. One source I found said that in the middle ages in Europe, seven was considered the age of consent for girls.
It doesn’t say how old the prince is at this point, but “young” implies he’s not some hoary old guy (of thirty), but even if he’s fourteen, he’s twice her age.
It’s about time for Chris Hansen1 to step out and say, “Good evening. Please have a seat.”
I think I’ll be . . . altering the stories. A bit. :)
- Host of Dateline NBC’s “To Catch a Predator.”
The Alien franchise + Ridley Scott (the director of the original movie) = a sea of awesomesauce.
Or it should.
I've been hearing troubling reviews. I tried to ignore them. But I heard this one today that clinches it: I'm not going to waste my money. Maybe when it comes out on NetFlix, I'll watch the streaming one, if I can swallow my bile long enough.
See, this is a science fiction film. Let me say that again, with emphasis. This is a science fiction film. And although the second word of that is "fiction," the first word should take precedence.
It sounds to me like the writer(s) of this could easily have fixed all the problems if he/they had taken maybe two hours to—I don't know, RESEARCH?—some of the, you know . . . science. Or how scientists act.
I had such high hopes for this film, too.
Ah, well. <punt> Maybe Parcheesi: The Motion Picture will be as good as the hype.
Disclaimer: To my knowledge, Parcheesi: The Motion Picture is not a real thing. Let us fervently hope that it remains a joke.
Here is the review. It is an audio review, and takes up the first 31 minutes (it's a very detailed review) of episode 267 of George Hrab's Geologic Podcast. You might find the rest of the podcast amusing as well. Or you might not. I think that about covers it, really. :)
[Edit: WARNING: Foul language included. Not egregious, but . . . some people don't even like 'heck' and 'darn,' and George uses 'fuck' a few times. So . . . now you're warned.]
I was listening to the podcast version of a radio show I love called "A Way With Words." The hosts take calls1 about language and answer them.
In the most recent episode, a woman who said she is a journalist called. She was waiting at a Tacoma, Washington police station to see someone, and it was taking a long time, so she had time to browse through some historical papers they had available for the public. One of them was a police report filed on July 13, 1946:
This Jasper picked up a punk on the stem and took him topside of a flicker. After a bit, he gave the boy's pork a fumble. The boy didn't think that was so hot, so he took it on the lam and made a beef to the boss. I answered the call and the boy fingered him at 10th and Broadway. The manager has several beefs on this same bird and has the handle of the beefer.Her question was, essentially, "Huh-whuh?"
You can figure out a lot of it because some of those are still in use, or we've heard them in films from that era. "Going on the lam," "made a beef," "fingered him," and "handle" in particular are probably familiar to most everyone. But the caller and her co-workers were unable to figure out especially what "punk on the stem," "topside of a flicker," and "bird" meant.
According to Grant Barrett (co-host of the show), this is what that means:
This rube picked up a kid on the main street of town and took him to the balcony of a movie house. After a bit, he gave the boy's crotch a feel. The boy didn't like it, so he took off and complained to the manager of the theater. I answered the call and the boy recognized the offender at 10th and Broadway. The manager has several complaints about the same dude, and has the name of the kid.Grant also noted that he is 99% sure that this represents a joke on the part of the officer who, 66 years ago, penned this particular report. No one ever spoke like that. You have to try hard to cram that many slang terms into one paragraph, so his assessment was that this was a joke, and the real report was written in more formal Police-lingo, and filed. The joke survived, though, for this reporter to find it so many years later and puzzle over the language.
Ain't English neat?
- You can call their hotline and leave a message or send email. If the question is entertaining enough, they'll call back and record the conversation for later editing into what sounds like a sequentially recorded show. The illusion is pretty strong, actually.
A while back on the Writing Excuses podcast, they discussed something called “The Hollywood Formula.” Basically, it means that there are three main characters: Protagonist, Antagonist, and Relationship Character.
But that’s not the Hollywood Formula that I want to talk about. The one I want to talk about is something everyone should avoid doing at all cost rather than something we should aspire to.
I canceled cable several years ago, and after an initial “OMG WTF did I do?” period, I haven’t missed it. But because it cut me off from several shows I liked—and also means that I don’t get to watch some “new” good shows—I would seek those out on NetFlix or whatever.
Two of those are Eureka and Monk. Both of them contain a character that Hollywood seems to feel must be present, yet would be virtually impossible to believe in the real world.
Now, don’t we want our characters and our worlds to seem real? Like we could walk outside and suddenly encounter situations and people from our own writing and/or favorite books/movies/shows?
Let’s start with Eureka. There’s a character on that show named Fargo. Dr. Douglas Fargo, to be exact. He’s billed as a genius, as is most everyone else on the show, since they live in a ‘genius colony’ in a mythical town in the Pacific northwest. We don’t know how old he is, but we can assume he was a child prodigy who probably earned his doctorate before he could legally vote.
On Monk, we have Lt. Randall (Randy) Disher. He’s a detective in the homicide division of the SFPD and always seems to be paired up with Captain Leland Stottlemeyer. Randy is a ‘young’ detective, clearly not as experienced as either Monk (an ex-cop PI who solves cases in a Holmesian style) or Stottlemeyer.
Here’s what the two characters have in common: they’re bumbling idiots.
On Eureka, Fargo is often the butt of many jokes. He’s the character you immediately go to if you want an accident to happen or for something to go horrily wrong. He’s the guy who pushes the button that says “DON’T PUSH” next to it. He’s the guy who takes a bite of something he finds lying on the counter, only to have it transform him into a giant moth. Without once wondering what it is. He’s the guy who plays with powers and equipment too far above him and gets burned or causes other people to get burned. Not just occasionally, but in every episode. There are very few episodes in which Fargo doesn’t cause a disaster of some type.
In the show, people get mad at him and yell and question his sanity and wonder how he could be such an idiot.
And yet. And yet, they keep him. He’s trusted time and time again with projects that could literally destroy himself, other people, the town, the state, the continent, the world…possibly even the universe. In the real world, after maybe the second time he accidentally murders someone (I can think of one episode where equipment he invented and set up incinerates an innocent pizza delivery guy…and no one ever mentions it again), destroys billions of dollars worth of equipment, or endangers the existence of life as we know it, they would fire him. Or arrest him. Or, given the nature of what he knows and where he lives, lock him away in a deep, deep silo and eradicate all knowledge of him or his work.
He simply would not be permitted to exist in anything even approximating our real world. And yet, in the fictional world of Eureka—where everyone is way smarter than you—they can’t see the blindingly obvious.
The same holds true of Randy Disher. He’s always the butt of every joke that isn’t aimed at Monk. He bumbles. He makes mistakes that someone who has earned the rank of Lt. Detective should not make. His theories are all insanely stupid.
I thought there was hope at one point when, some time in the fifth season of the show, Randy made a stupid mistake that was going to cost the city all kinds of money and negative publicity. He realizes he should not be a cop. And he resigns. But, of course, Monk swoops in, saves the day, and then makes Randy believe that he solved the case so he comes back and is given his shield and weapon back.
Disher even references the fact that he’s a screw-up during this episode, and in one more where it looks as though Monk has made a <gasp!> mistake, Randy keeps saying, “This one wasn’t me.”
Again, in the real world, a detective who is dumber than custard wouldn’t be permitted to remain on the force, assuming he survived long enough to get fired.
I think that with both of these characters, Hollywood is trying for the “lovable fool” stereotype. It goes back a long way, too.
In the real world, the castaways would have ritually slain Gilligan and mounted his head on a pike in the middle of their little settlement after about the third time he single-handedly bumbled his way into preventing their rescue.
Abner Kravitz would have had his wife Gladys committed after several months of claiming that her neighbor was a witch.
I find it hard to believe that anyone like Roger Healy could ever become an astronaut, given how capable one has to be to make that cut. And a major, to boot?
Chrissy Snow could not possibly have survived unscathed in the real world. As naïve as she was, she would have fallen prey to every evil-minded schemester in Las Angeles. Of course, this whole show was one of the low points of television, so I was reluctant to include it. But included it, I did.
Frank Burns would have been sued out of practice before he was ever sent to Korea, and if he had been sent, his own side would have seen to it that he “accidentally” met his demise, or at least a court martial.
None of these characters could exist in the real world. They violate the rule that a character must be believable in order to work.
Scooby Doo is an example of one that actually does work. Scooby—or Shaggy—is usually the one who foils the elaborate, Rube-Golberg-esque plan the gang (Freddy) came up with to trap the “monster.” But in stark contrast to (most of) Gilligan’s Island, it usually ends up working better than the original plan would have worked, and the bad guy is caught, the mask is taken off, it’s Old Man Perkins, and the gang grooves on to the next adventure in their trippy van.
Sometimes, Hollywood sees the writing on the wall, and fixes it. In the (awesome) show Big Bang Theory, the character of Penny started out to be the ditzy idiot who was the butt of all the jokes and who had no redeeming qualities other than being hot. They quickly fixed it so she became a much more likable character, able to stand up to her supra-genius neighbors, and although she’s no physicist, she gets the better of the boys quite a bit.
Are there equivalent characters in literature? I’m having a hard time thinking of any.
This always happens.
I fully intended to post this during NaNoWriMo, but . . . somewhere in the shuffle, I forgot about it until last week . . . and then it was Christmas. So here I am a couple of days after Christmas posting something I intended to post on November 7th.
I had to put my current novel on hold for NaNoWriMo because I simply couldn’t think too much about it and do 26 stories at the same time. But someone posted a link to a video on YouTube that distracted me for several hours during NaNoWriMo, and may have directly contributed to the fact that the story I wrote on November 7th (“G Is for Gravesite”) was the shortest (finished) story of the bunch.
This is the video. I created a playlist of all five parts. It’s Dan Wells‘ presentation at BYU’s Life, the Universe, and Everything writing symposium on February 13, 2010. It is his seven-point outlining scheme.
(For some reason, WordPress refuses to let me embed a playlist. So here is the first of the five videos and you can find the other four.)
So I watched this, and was pretty much overcome with the desire to use this to figure out exactly what the plot(s) is(are) for my novel Perdition’s Flames. Not to mention the other novels in the same series. Maybe if I can figure out the seven points of the first one, I can come up with the seven points of others, as well.
It came as quite a surprise to me when I sat down to actually do this that I already knew exactly what each of the seven points was going to be for the plot of the novel. Not so much for subplots and character arcs. Those I still need to work on.
This always happens. I find yet another reason to stop writing and start over. I think perhaps what I’ll do instead is to continue writing and use this for the rewrite. There are only a few more scenes, really, and I already know what has to happen in them. I don’t have any subplots, and two of my characters have kind of disappeared, but hey. That’s what rewrites are for, right? :)
I keep searching for useful tools to help me plot and plan. Truth is, it’s all in my head, but every time I try to put it on paper (figuratively or literally), I end up frustrated. One of these days I’m going to find a useful tool, dammit! :)
I was going through a recent batch and ran across my name in association with the word 'Eutaw,' which is my hometown (Eutaw, Alabama) . . .
But none of this is going to make any sense unless I give a bit of background.
( Teh Background. Cue flashback effect. )
So when I saw the reference to me, Eutaw, and something in 1983, I was intrigued, so I clicked on the link. It's a write-up in the Tuscaloosa News from April 10, 1983 (the day after my 18th birthday) detailing the results from that regional science fair.
Michael Dudgeon is in there. He's the kid whose dad was a professor. He took first place. Ekandrea Delaine is also in there. She's the girl who built her own freakin' computer. She took second place. And I'm listed . . . as having come in third in the senior division of Mathematics and Computers.
I totally didn't remember coming in third! Geez! What else have I forgotten?
If you want to get some of your own blasts from the distant past, search for your own name in that database. Assuming you're from (near) a city with a paper that's been scanned, you might turn up some stuff you forgot. :)
At some point, they're going to need to add planets, moons, and other astronomical objects. Granted, it won't be for a while, yet. But I say why wait?
Clearly the ISS will need one first. And .ss is conveniently not taken, yet. Next will likely be the Moon, and wouldn't you know it, .ln is not taken!
Mercury - .hg (I mean, really, what else could it have possibly been?)
Venus - .vs
Mars - .rp (for Red Planet; all the good ones beginning with 'm' are taken.)
And Mars' two little moons:
Phobos - .pb
Deimos - .di
I don't think Jupiter or Saturn or Neptune or Uranus will need their own domains, but their moons might. Here's a few just off the top of my head:
Titan - .ti
Io - .io (I'm sorry, but the British Indian Ocean Territory is just going to have to get over it. They can have .ot.)
Ganymede - .gg
Triton - .tx
Enceladus - .en
Umbriel - .ub
Europa - .eu
Of course, there's Pluto and Charon hovering out there in the outermost reaches.
Pluto - .pu (or .uw (underworld) if the future Plutonians don't like .pu)
Charon - .fe (Yeah, all the good ones were already taken, but since Charon was the Ferryman . . .)
And what about the other dwarf planets?
Ceres - .ce
Haumea - .ha
Makemake - .kk (Nothing starting with an 'm' was left that made sense.)
Eris - .ei
There are 676 possible top-level country codes. We're currently only using 240. That leaves 436. I've presented my suggestions for just 20 of those (with one reassignment and one potential alternate).
Surely I'm not the only person thinking ahead on this.
Am I? <sound of wind echoing>