Friday, October 15, 2004

In June of 2003 I had a hernia operation; in June of 2004 I attended Clarion West. It is interesting to note the similarities and differences between the two.

1. Both of them changed me permanently; one by removing bad tissue, the other bad habits.
2. Both of them made it hard for me sleep well for about six weeks.
3. Both experiences were run by professionals who were well versed in their fields (fortunately).
4. Both of them were group efforts.
5. I was incredibly nervous before either one started; afterwards I realized they weren't so bad.

1. Clarion West was in English.
2. There were no sharks in my clinic.
3. I was allowed to sleep in after the surgery.
4. The support staff in the hospital was a lot less friendly.
5. I didn't keep in touch with the other patients afterwards.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

More fun and games--

A free copy of the story behind the legenday Star Trek episode "The Trouble with Tribbles"

An interesting article on the legal exposure of the OpenOffice suite (the Open Source competitor to Microsoft Office):

Further explanations of fairly coordinated effort to prevent minorities from voting in key states:

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

It's amazing what you can run across when you're looking for something else.

Here is an economic proof on the impossibility of time travel.

Oh, well. Another trope bites the dust.

Thursday, September 09, 2004

Clarion. Wow. It was amazing. It also ended six weeks ago, and I am still trying to get things sorted out. Regardless of where I go and what I do, however, I will certianly continue writing.

So what's out there?

"Captain Zoe and the Sky Pirate" waiting at Strange Horizons from August 18. This is a piece that I find hilariously funny, though it may be me. It is the first of my Clarion pieces to see the harsh light of the slushpile.

"The Gardener" waiting at Quantum Muse from June 1

"The Perfect Parasite" waiting at The Story House from February 19

Recently removed from circulation for further editing:

"They Shall Plant Vineyards"
"The Deep Cold"

Sunday, May 16, 2004

We always knew they were lying; now we know how

This article explains a most interesting fact; year-on-year record sales are actually up by almost 10%, rather than falling by 7% as the RIAA claims.

The RIAA uses the -7% figure to "prove" that file sharing on the Internet is costing them money. However, the number amounts purely and simply to playing with accounting and inventory timing in order to manufacture a theoretical downturn. Basically, record stores are buying less stock forward, keeping fewer weeks of inventory on hand. This trend causes a blip in the order numbers. However, the blip certainly does not reflect a trend, as evidenced by the 10% rise--which is what the customer purchases--versus the theoretical 7% drop, which is what the music industry sells.

What is happening is that the retail points that sell CDs are getting better at managing their inventory. More inventory turns means better returns on assets and higher profitability.

Sure they are making things up; we expect businesses to lie to make their numbers look good. Enron, WorldCom, Shell, and now... the RIAA.

Thursday, May 13, 2004

Phun with Photoshop!

Here is a site that is doing some fairly wild combinations of photographs. While the fusing of the lighthouse/Dalek is entertaining, the ones with the people and animal faces are downright scary.

HumanDescent -> Gallery

Wednesday, May 12, 2004

Shakespeare simplified

For those of us who are either short on grey matter or short of time, the following three sites provide brief, simple versions of three of Shakespeare's works. Please note that, in order to appeal to modern audiences, there are numerous occurrences of strong language.

the plain jane - romeo and juliet scene one

Skinhead Hamlet

Heaneyland!: Pericles, Prince of Tired Plots

This makes me want to do a California version of Macbeth:

Act I Scene III

Thunder. Enter the THREE WITCHES

Three Witches: We have been, like, such bad grrlz today!!

Banquo: Dude, check out the babes.

Macbeth: Three babes!

Banquo: Duuuuude.

Three Witches: Dude, Macbeth! Thane-dude and kingmeister!

Macbeth: Excuse me?

(WITCHES vanish)

Banquo: Seriously strange babes.

Macbeth: Where are the babes?

Banquo: What's a kingmeister?

Macbeth: Whacked out strange babe shit.

Enter ROSS and Angus

Ross: Macbeth dude, the king is seriously jamming on you.

Angus: Word, dude. You're, like, the Cawdor thane-dude.

Banquo: As if!

Macbeth: (Aside) Cawdor thane-dude! Duuuuuude! Tattoo me kingmeister!

Banquo: Dude? Dude?


Thursday, April 29, 2004

The end may indeed be nigh!

And here is a site that lists all of the possible ways in which the apocalypse may come to visit us. From a massive tidal wave that will wipe out the Eastern seaboard of the US (a geological inevitability, given the volcano involved) to the unstoppable propogation of strange matter, here is everything you always wanted to know about the End of It All.


Hey, if Fukuyama is right and history has ended, why not all life as we know it?

In addition to the accurate and realistic scientific scenarios (greenhouse, ice age, meteor, ...), there are some excellent commentaries as well about the lack of plausibility of certain bad sci-fi movie scenarios (i.e. if "Indepedence Day"-like aliens exist, and they are smart enough to travel across the universe, they are probably smart enough to figure out less costly ways to acquire raw materials).

One last useful link--here is information on how to stock your larder in the event of the four horsemen visiting a neighborhood near you:

The Survival Center


Wednesday, April 21, 2004

When in doubt, make fun of incomprehensible intellectuals.

The following link will generate post-modernist essays at the click of a mouse. They are truly, hilariously, unreadable.

The Postmodernism Generator: Communications From Elsewhere


Thursday, April 15, 2004

The Clarion Call

I have been accepted to the Clarion West Writers' Workshop. This is a six-week workshop that focusses uniquely on the writing of speculative fiction. It is known as a real crucible for the pressure and stress, as well as for forging writers in the blazing furnace of both peer and professional criticism (to continue the metaphor).

It is both a wonderful and sobering event, as it means that somewhere some objective Reader of Texts perused my story and said, "Maybe this one." While it hardly guarantees success, it is a phenomenal ego boost.

More info to be had here:

Clarion West website
I have been unexpectedly deified.

You too can take the test here:

Grammar God!

You are a GRAMMAR GOD!

If your mission in life is not already to
preserve the English tongue, it should be.
Congratulations and thank you!

How grammatically sound are you?
brought to you by Quizilla

Thursday, March 18, 2004

Another quality rejection:

I wrote a story that turned out to be a grimmer Snow White. Being unsure of where to send it, I shot it off to a high-paying Romance market. While they didn't accept it, they gave me a rejection that may just make it to the front page of my web site:

Thank you for your submission of "The Gardner" [sic] to (a very high-paying)

We regret that it does not meet our editorial needs and
suggest that you check our current writers’ guidelines at While our readers felt this story
was not quite suitable for us, they enjoyed your writing style
and you are welcome to submit a more traditional romance.

(The italics are mine, of course).

We wish you the best of success in placing it elsewhere.

That's such a nice "No," I'm thinking I might still get a check.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

Odd and maybe useful research resources for writers (and for people who have free time to kill and like to read stuff).

There is not much more to explain for this one, given that the name of the page is Autopsy-A Screenwriter's Guide. Note for the squeamish: It's okay, there are no photos.

Some other interesting links are:

How Much is Inside? which answers all those questions you never had.
The Internet resource on sacred texts, which is self-explanatory.
Gangland News is a site devoted to the mob (primarily the New York mafia).
The Elephant Problem is a page about math and Darwin's theories, actually.
The Sword Forum, if you need to brush up on gurkhas and claymores.

Monday, March 08, 2004

Why I no longer like to read fiction

It's sad, actually. I started this passionate affair with literature at a very young age, and a short time later with the science fiction and fantasy genres. All my life novels have been (depending on mood and situation) havens, outlets, teachers, and of course entertainers.

But I can't do it any more. Now, when I pick up a book, I get about one paragraph in and then start asking questions. "Why did the author start the scene like this? Why was this character presented this way? Why did she choose this word when that one would have been better? Why did he wait so long to develop the conflict?" I used to pick up a book and get carried away by the content; now I pick up a book and start to critique the structure.

But it gets worse.

I find, all too often, that authors have been a bit sloppy on their research. I start snorting and pawing the upholstery when I see obvious failures of fact that the author just doesn't seem to care about. Sure, fiction is supposed to transport you. Of course, when you pick up a book, you don't expect to get the same lessons as if you picked up the Columbia Encyclopedia. But it still makes me want to throw it across the room.

It could happen anywhere. Characters cook wrong, boat wrong, detect wrong, and pass off falsehoods as facts. Strangely enough, science fiction and fantasy seem to be less prone to this than mainstream fiction. The problem for SF&F is that the whole thing is a lie anyway. If you want to get people to believe in the lie, you damn well better have your facts straight. Otherwise the suspension of disbelief, that ephemeral golden gift that the reader gives to you, the writer, in return for a good tale, goes like old banana down the kitchen sink garbage disposal.

And nothing is as awful as a movie. Why is it that we, as reasoning animals, accept hilariously incongruous idiocies in a video format when we would never waste five seconds on them in a printed format?

Example: Imagine, if you will, a piece of entertainment in which (Act 1 Scene 2) a group of friends out hiking hear some monstrous growling coming from a cave.

Cave Beast, the movie: Ed goes in to investigate and is horribly slaughtered by the demon within. Jane and Fred, sneaking off for some quick nookie, rapidly become the Soup and Fish courses as the demon goes on a rampage. Ralph, Amanda, Dawn, and Scott run back towards the cars; Dawn's ankle gets stuck under a root and Scott stops to help her (Meat and Cheese courses, respectively). Back at the cars Ralph spends several minutes trying to 1) unlock the car door, 2) get the key in the ignition, 3) get the engine in gear as the demon's claws gouge trendy new racing stripes down the side of the car. Fortunately D.X. Machina, the local farmer with an odd penchant for silver-plated portable artillery, shows up to turn the demon into pasta sauce just after it manages to rip Amanda's blouse open.

Cave Beast, the novel: First off, when some pinhead goes alone into a cave to investigate you put the book down and go play darts, because you have no interest in spending a few hours of your life reading about a bunch of f**king idiots who, in a life and death situation, make decisions that any house-trained puppy would avoid. In the novel the group stays together, because the external stress of the demon's presence coupled with the internal stress of romances and friendships under pressure make for a lot of nice juicy conflict and character development. If there are sex scenes they can only happen because the characters would do it, not because the audience wants it. The characters may either escape from/destroy or succumb to/nourish the demon, but in doing so they are doing the best they can at all times and any failure on their part cannot be attributed to a lack of blood circulation above the neck.

I do not write screenplays.

So it always gets me from one side or another when I pick up a work of fiction. Either I get carried away analyzing the craft, and ignore the story, or I get frustrated by the inaccuracies, and ignore the writer.

I wonder if it's the same for musicians listening to music, and artists walking through a museum? If so, the greatest curse for me would be deveoping into a true Renaissance man--I couldn't enjoy anything anymore.

Fortunately, that's a low risk. But I'm not about to start taking art or music classes, and I read a lot of non-fiction these days.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Back from a week of skiing, knees more or less intact. We went to St. Anton in Austria, a rather high-end place that has set back our vacation budget until about 2008. Nevertheless the skiing was excellent, the friends were great, and I can only heap praise on the hotel-- great food well served and facilities that included a swimming pool, sauna/steam bath complex, and kid care from 4 to 9 PM.

I did serious "off-piste" skiing for the first time in my life, and not only lived to tell the tale but actually enjoyed it. For you connoisseurs out there, a face full of Austrian snow tastes about the same as in the Poconos so don't waste your money on a plane ticket.

Louis rang in his fifth birthday while on vacation, and his primary interest is still doing anything that permits him to go faster than he safely should. Skiing, biking, you name it. I'm thinking of buying him reinforced Kevlar underwear.

Tuesday, February 17, 2004

Thought for Food

I have made lasagna. Many of you more experienced chefs out there laugh at the simplicity of this statement, but it was my first time. Not only that, but it was the first time I ever made a Béchamel sauce. Go ahead; laugh again. All I can say is that it worked wonderfully. The Béchamel was what had me worried; whenever I try to do fancy things with French names (like mayonnaise or soufflé) they always seem to separate/melt/clot/burn/collapse instead of blend/solidify/smooth/brown/stiffen. In this case it went as advertised, and I can only heap additional praise on Marcella Hazan's phenomenal Italian cookbook (for the lasagna, the bolognese sauce, and the Béchamel).

My success with the lasagna got me so fired up that I went and made a tagine. These are North African dishes where meat is slow cooked with a variety of spices and garnished for the last 10-30 minutes with some sort of delicious and exotic topping (preserved lemon and green olives, dried fruits heated with honey and cinnamon, etc.). They are a staple of the numerous Maghreb restaurants in France and are great to eat.

While it turned out well, it had me nailed to the kitchen floor for an hour and a half. Next time I will choose a less labor-intensive recipe. One caveat: The flavors are a bit too exotic for young palates. Zoe and Louis pretty much concentrated on the raisins and the couscous.

In other news: This link is for undoubtedly one of the weirdest commercial spots I have ever seen. I didn't know whether to laugh or to worry for the sanity of the writers and actors. And, of all things, the product is Nutrigrain.

Thursday, February 12, 2004

A number of random discoveries

Yes, you too can create medieval cartoons! The Historic Tale Construction Kit can be used to roll your own Bayeux tapestry with a very simple cut-and-paste interface.

A lot of people have gone and done this, and the results range from hilarious to scatalogically tacky.

Here is something to either make you want to visit New York again, or never visit it at all.

A copy of Stephen King's acceptance speech for the "Distinguished Contribution to American Letters Award" can be found here. Whether or not you like his books, you have to appreciate his humanity and his honesty.

Tuesday, February 10, 2004

Unskilled and Unaware of It: How Difficulties in Recognizing One's Own Incompetence Lead to Inflated Self-Assessments

The article above, referenced in a very interesting thread on the topic of how and why editors reject manuscripts , made for interesting reading. Even if you don't get through all of the article, the first couple paragraphs are good food for thought.

In essence, it suggests that people who are incompetent in something (intellectual or artistic) are by their very nature unable to comprehend the thing and thus judge their own level of incompetence.

So that, for instance, a politician who was incompetent might not necessarily have the mental tools to understand what a competent politician was, and therefore be unable to realize his own lack of ability.

Not that I'm pointing fingers, of course.

Monday, January 26, 2004

Globalization, the Internet, and Food

In big culinary news, a friend of ours bought us a box of Oreos ... Oreo's ... Oreoes ... grammatically-challenging "chocolate flavored sandwich biscuits" that I had not previously seen in France. Succulent. 176 grams (0,4 pounds) of some of the finest ingredients that modern chemistry can dream up.

How much did these delicacies cost? Well, let's price an Oreo. Here in France that box sells for €2.50 ($3.14 at today's exchange rate), which works out to about $8.20 per pound. Let's see what else falls in that price range...

Gosh! According to Current Primary and Scrap Metal Prices a pound of nickel or molybdenum falls into about the same price range. Sure, they may be harder to digest, but they're almost certainly more nutritious.

Other interesting substitutes could include a pound of bilberry leaf from Gaia's Delights herbal shop, which is good for "stomach upsets, urinary infections, rheumatish, diabetes, gout," and other things that Oreo biscuits may inflict, or Poly Ac-6a, an "opaque hardener" used in creating homemade candles. For you DIY types: Use only 1 teaspoon per pound of wax in order to harden candles and make them opaque. Hmm, I wonder if they use that to whiten the cream in the middle. Me, I order mine here.

I'm sorry. I guess that all of this Oreo talk has made you hungry--what do you do about it?

Well, at CleanSweepSupply you can buy 3.5 pounds of Nabisco (R) Oreo (R) sandwich cookies (note to you cash-hungry entrepreneurs out there: 'sandwich' and 'cookie' are not yet trade-marked) for $8.36. There's a catch, though: In order to get free shipping you need to order over forty dollars worth of merchandise, which means 5 of these Oreo boxes, which means sixteen and a half pounds of Oreo units (I can feel my artery walls thicken as I type this). On a more positive note, for the true junkies out there, you can have your "biscuits" shipped UPS for an additional charge.

In related news (news about high-quality American dietary habits), the first Starbucks cafes (cafés?) have opened in Paris. How new is this news? You cannot find any mention of the stores or even locations in France on the Starbucks web site. There is a great deal of local debate over the chances of success or failure, but I am largely indifferent. No matter what kind of bizarre concoction the flavor development professionals at Starbucks can dream up, I am always happy with a small black espresso. Oreo optional.

Hopefully Paris won't go the way of Vienna, where some of the old traditional coffee houses are being driven out of business by the Seattle behemoth. The problem is that the old places were quiet, pleasant, and had interior architecture that looked like they were done with taste by Austrians, not with with haste by over-worked franchise managers in posession of an IKEA catalog and a limited budget.

Sadly, like my packet of 0.4 pounds of Oreos, a few of those coffee houses didn't last long at all.


Tuesday, January 20, 2004

I forgot to do this before--I now have the right (until 31 october 2004) to post the following image on my web site:


The novel that I started for the NaNoWriMo contest has taken a back seat to four short stories that I am trying to edit plus two others that I am trying to write. And, by the way, I am also trying to get some more consulting work to actually pay for the house in which I do this writing stuff.

But what the hell, the vacations were great and life isn't so bad either.

The next post will actually have content. Promise.