Tuesday, December 30, 2008

My Guess on Mental Illness

I think I may understand mental illness better than I did. We humans think of ourselves as rational thinking beings, but I suspect we are just as instinctual as any other intelligent animal. We have obvious infant instincts such as suckling, imitating caregivers (especially in vocalization), and crying when something unpleasant happens. I also think we have other instincts that we excuse by rational thought or social convention. I think there is an underlying avoidance of contamination instinct. It is at its most basic about the smells of excrement and rot, but as with the sexual instinct it is modified, moderated, and reinforced by our experience or knowledge.

A perfect example of this is how people often cannot stand the food they had at the onset of some sort of illness for some time afterward. I had an awful experience of throwing up due to dizziness after having a chocolate shake and for some time following that I could not stand them. Likewise I once had pizza just before throwing up due to a gross scene in the movie Stand By Me. For some months I did not relish pizza and I always thought I detected a underlying unpleasant smell in the odor.

I suspect that if I had allowed these initial instinctual associations to be strengthened I might have ended up avoiding a whole variety of foods. I could have ended up hating anything that had the particular aroma of tomato sauce, for example, since that was a large part of what I was reacting too. The thought of the unpleasant experience could have become linked with the instinctual impulse to avoid consuming certain things.

I further think it is at the root of many other strong reactions to food that are excused with logical or theological explanations. Like the sometimes religious rejection of meat and animal products by vegans or vegetarians. Taboos against the eating of a great variety of animals from arthropods to cattle. Perhaps even the way that some people take to the diets that reject the eating of fats or carbohydrates. Perhaps even full blown eating disorders such as anorexia could be likewise to some extent be a out of control anti-contamination instinct.

This isn't to say it is all bad. Indeed the instinctive reaction against food that is perceived to be contaminated keeps us safer from infection than if we had to weigh rationally the possibility of infection vs. the loss of food each time. Far better to play it safe and reject something emotionally rather than to take an unnecessary risk. It is just that sometimes the reaction can be too strong and overwhelm our normal day to day life. If it isn't a problem, of course, then it is just a difference. Vegetarians get along very well in our modern world with all the available food choices, though it does sometimes limit their social choices at times (the biggest advantage of being an omnivore in modern life is being able to socialize with anyone over a meal without restriction).

But it is something that a lot of us should be aware of in evaluating most mental illnesses. How many of them are normal, helpful instincts that have just gotten out of control? Become associated with too many things or are too strong? Perhaps this is the underlying problem with our ideas about depression as well. It may have logical explainable beginnings, but then it becomes part of a irrational reaction and so cannot be overcome with just someone pointing out how silly it is. A person needs either a chemical or event that "pushes reset" or else a long and drawn out effort to overcome basic instinct.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Carrot Pudding

A recipe loaned to me by my mother that her grandmother used to make. Presented without commentary.

2 c. butter/shortening
1/2 c. brown sugar
1 egg
1 c. grated raw carrot
1 1/2 c. raisins
1/2 c. currents
2 tsp thinly cut lemon rind
1 1/4 c. flour
1 tablespoon water
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp nutmeg

Belnd butter/shortening, sugar, and egg. Add all other ingredients and mix. Cover tightly. Put bowl over boiling water or in a steamer for 3 hours.

Monday, December 22, 2008

The Morality of the Common Cold

How should a moral person behave in regard to sickness? This is not as easy or as simple a question as it may look on the surface. After all a person's response to sickness is not in isolation, but also part of how a society behaves and how well it treats its members. Ideally any person who is sick with an disease that can be transmitted by casual public contact should stay home. Especially if you are in a occupation where you come into contact with large numbers of people. The problem is that often times people in these public high contact jobs are some of the worse paid people in the United States of America or Europe. Worse, in America, many of these retail employees do not get any paid days off and are paid so poorly that any time off would be a financial blow. Easy enough to say, "You must stay home for the sake of others," when you have 10 days of paid sick leave every year and it does not even cut into your few days of vacation time.

I remember when I worked for a bank, thankfully not in a position where I came into contact with the public, and I got 10 days off a year in total. A case of the flu could wipe out any chance of a vacation if I lingered long enough to become completely well before returning. So I did what has become part of American culture and toughed it out whenever I could. Not the best thing for workmates, but what could I do? If I stayed home every time I had a cold or a case of influenza that got past my yearly vaccine I would never have had a single day off to myself. It also meant that I worked one week when there was one of the worst blizzards in Colorado history, staying at a hotel near the office and taking a sleeping bag should things get even worse.

Would the malingering of people not really sick outweigh the number of illnesses avoided if there were more sick days given? I have no idea. I try to do my own part when I have a choice, avoiding going places when I am ill, but I am not always my own master. What should a moral person do? Be willing to give at least half of your own time to help keep others you care about or work with well. So if your job gives you 10 days a year, as I was, be willing to take at least five of them when you are genuinely ill with an infectious disease. If there are more days than that... well that's part of having a good employer and employee relationship. Yet another reason not to shop at Walmart. I'm sure you personally are more likely to get sick if you patronize businesses that have bad sick day policies. I'm sure there are others, but Walmart is the poster child of bad places to work. Don't shop there if you can help it.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Fans For Heating

I'm using the electric fans for the first time since summer. Why? I've discovered I can get significantly more heat out of the radiators by pointing a fan at them than by just letting them run. As it has been very cold the last few days, colder than at any point last winter, this has been important. If it stays this cold for the rest of the season I expect to keep using them. The best effect seems to come from placing the fan on the floor facing the radiator and about 20 centimeters from it with a slight upward angle. Or at least in measuring the temperature with the imprecise instruments available to me that produced as much as a 1 degree centigrade increase in the temperature of the air coming out the top over the fan being aimed levelly at the radiator and closer.

So, for people dealing with old fashioned heating systems a useful tip. I have also contemplated sealing up my windows with clear plastic to help keep out drafts, but I'm unsure if I want to go that far yet.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Green Subatomic Glow

Last night as I got home I proved myself to be a somewhat observant person. Driving up the alleyway I immediately noticed a light that was not there before atop one of the electric polls. After seconds more glancing at it as I drove slowly up the icy alley I decided it was probably some sort of electrical arc due to its flickering nature and thus was something bad. The noise when I got out of the car confirmed it without any doubt and worse the lights of my building were pulsing very slightly.

So inside to make a call to Excel Energy Co. I reported everything without exaggeration, afterward I was wondering if I understated the case at all because though I arrived home about eight in the evening there was no sign of activity. The situation continued to get worse with visible Jacob's Ladder type arcing starting and I shut down all electrical equipment inside except a few lights. I made a hot toddy for my boyfriend and myself and we settled in to read and occasionally watch the eerie beauty of electricity flowing off into the air in a loop the drifted away from where the wires connected to one another in the very slight breeze.

At around eleven, thirty minutes after we went to bed, a fire truck arrived. There did not seem to be any actual fire, in fact it seemed to have settled down to just a bright green star at the top of the connection wire. Confident that I would not have to evacuate in the dead of night I went back to bed and in the morning found that our precautions based on the notion that the power would go out during the fix were quite wise. It appeared that at some point the power was off for about 15 minutes.

All in all it was a pretty minor problem with the barely tamed quarks trying to escape their normal channels during the cold.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Experimental Recipe

1 cup Raisins
2/3 cup Currants
1/3 cup Prunes
1/3 cup Dried Sweetened Cherries and Dried Apricots, roughly equal amounts
1 cup tepid tea

Combine above ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil. Reduce to a strong simmer and cook until almost no liquid is left. Cover and leave to cool. After half an hour or so start in with the next stage.

1-2 slices of Whole Wheat bread.
Process and measure.

1/2 cup Bread Crumbs
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar (7 ounces)
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour (1.85 ounces)
1 small stick cinnamon, ground to be 1 teaspoon+, but not more than 2
1 teaspoons ground ginger
12 cloves, ground (1/4 teaspoon+ clove)
12 allspice berries, ground (1/4 teaspoon+ allspice)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 pound butter (1 stick)

Put water on to boil in your second largest pot. Process together above all ingredients except the butter. Add in butter and process until just combined like bread crumbs. If your fruit mixture is not yet cool store in the refrigerator.

2 large eggs
1/4 cup cream sherry (or amontillado)
3 tablespoons brandy or cognac

Beat all ingredients together and then pour into a well greased 6 cup pyrex bowl then cover with foil. Put into a very large pot such as a stock pot on top of some sort of support, I used one of the grates off the range. Then put a plate on top of that and pour the water in until about the same height as the mixture inside the bowl. Put on high to bring the water back to a boil and then reduce to a number three and cover.

Hard Sauce

1/2 pound butter (2 sticks), softened
3 cups confectioners' sugar (12 ounces)
orange zest , finely grated from 1 orange
1/2 teaspoon mace
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1/3 cup brandy or cognac
2 tablespoons cream sherry (or amontillado)

Friday, December 12, 2008

Political Thought of The Day

A government so small as to be unable to take anything you have will also be too small to prevent someone stronger from taking your property either.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Google Seems a Mite Slow Today...

It is enormously surprising to find that my usual gold standard for always there web service is bogged down for some reason. Worse, since this is also how I search for news, I cannot figure out what is going on. Or if this isn't actually a google problem, but something wrong with my machine.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The Jewish/Hindu/Islamic Equivalent of a Cross?

My research-fu is failing me. In Christianity very often crosses are ritually blessed objects that give magical protection. For purposes of fantasy story I'm making the assumption that this works (in part, because I like the image of the vampire shrinking from the cross), but that it often works for other religions too if they have a tradition of such objects. So while a believer will say, "God protected me" it is a little unclear if there is a god protecting wielders of a cross from vampires or if it is just the ritual. Since even atheists can wield a cross and the Soviets (in my stories) successfully created 'blessed' hammer and sickle pin to protect good Marxists from vampires. And they worked, though the Christians always claim that they had crosses hidden inside, were demonically created, and/or did not work as effectively (don't ask them about the logical contradictions).

My problem is that I know the Jews are a lot more about the Torah being their holy thing, but do they have any ritually blessed metallic objects that might operate similarly to the cross? And Hindus and Muslims as well if you happen to have cultural/religious knowledge? I don't want to leave them completely unprotected, but I don't want to play any more silly buggers with real world beliefs than I already am by adding real magic to history.

FYI in creating my system I decided that the best materials for such blessed objects are silver and copper, though bronze and brass can work as well depending upon the particular circumstances and the particular ingredients. Less commonly large blocks of aluminum will work sometimes and completely pure gold or very low carat gold both work. So, ironically, the rich man with a 22k cross won't be protected while someone with a cheap < 12 karat cross will be. Though this would not have been common knowledge outside certain academic circles before the 1920s.

Why I Don't Torrent

I do not know if I'm even using the word "torrent" correctly. At some point I drifted into not being interested in computers. I am aware of major changes ongoing to the operating systems that my online friends use such as OSX/Mac and Windows. One could hardly avoid the marketing efforts behind Vista and the like. One of my friends is an enthusiastic proponent of Linux and torrents and he does not understand how I could not A) love the better operating system and B) download Dr. Who off the internet as soon as the British fans upload it.

He doesn't blog or I might have some idea of what was going on with Linux other than it continuing to be a very stable operating system that is very useful to people who know what they are doing. Which is much the same with torrents. Honestly the practical considerations of figuring out how to make it work safely and not clogging up my computer with lots of software I won't use are more important than the philosophical questions of honesty and the ownership of ideas. I am not the sort of person who digs into my computer for the shear joy of making it do things, as with cars I am results orientated. I'll figure out how to make my computer run well and do regular maintenance (I defrag rather often), but I am not interested in playing with it.

I could set out to learn how to do bit torrent things, but I do not want to. There is the slight danger from being part of the parade of elephants that the vexed Hollywood farmers would like to wipe out to protect their crops and for any ivory they might harvest from the endeavor. It is a slight danger, but since I think I'm not really losing out on anything it is not one I am willing to run anymore than I would run the slight risks of going to a club for music played too loudly for me to enjoy. Furthermore there are the rather larger dangers of outlaw hackers seeking dupes to host their malicious software and even more common subpar software that will be a drag on my computer's performance.

While I can reinstall Windows XP on my computer when I need to I would rather go a long time before I have to do that task again. Adding and removing lots of software does not help me towards that end.

Then there are the moral considerations. While I can see how a person might come to a different conclusion depending on circumstances, I would rather pay for what I use in some fashion. Particularly with movie makers who, despite all their faults, are just trying to make an honest living unlike the vultures of the record companies who live off the industry of others without giving any value in return. So I'll wait until the shows come to the library on disc and forgo the instant gratification.

It is good that there are early adopters of technology and people who see movies, books, etc. as soon as they can, but unless I'm paid to do so I cannot be bothered to be one of them.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

And I Thought I'd Be Well

"Ha!" Sez the universe. Yesterday I was feeling much better. No sore throat and general improving body feelings. But in the evening my health started going all pear shaped again. Stuffiness, sneezing, and some coughing. It was difficult to get to sleep even with drugs and today I am being held together by sudafed. The real stuff with pseudoephedrine. Best drug ever. But I'm dizzy and not 100% even though it dried up my nose like it should.

I wish I was well because it looks like a nice day for a bike ride and I wanted to go to the library, my credit union, and pick up a few cooking items.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Plum Pudding, Scotish Style?

The first pudding I made this year is a cook's illustrated recipe which I cut down by half and did some substitutions on after Thanksgiving Dinner.

1 1/3 cups dark raisins (1/2 pound)
1 cup dried currents (5 ounces)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons dried orange and lemon peel
1/2 cup fresh whole wheat breadcrumbs
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/4 cup and 2 tablespoons unbleached all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fresh ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1/4 pound cold unsalted butter (1 stick)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup amontillado
3 tablespoons good scotch (because I did not have brandy)

I chopped the raisins and combined them with the currants in a large sauce pan with the water and covered it over high heat to bring to a boil. Then I reduced it to a simmer and stirred until nearly all the liquid had evaporated or been absorbed and then added in the lemon and orange peel. Then I put it in the window to cool.

Meanwhile I combined the breadcrumbs, brown sugar, flour, spices, and salt in my food processor. I processed it well so it was a nice homogeneous mixture without any lumps. Then I added the butter in large peices and pulsed until combined. I whisked the eggs until foamy and then beat in the sherry and scotch. Then I combined the crumb mixture and stirred it quite well and then added the cooked fruit once they were completely room temperature.

I greased a 1.5 L pyrex bowl quite well with vegetable shortening then poured in the mixture and covered with aluminum foil with a tight seal to the bowl. I placed this in my 10 quart stock pot on top of a burner grate to keep it off the bottom and an upside down plate over the top. Four liters of boiling water was added to the stock pot to bring it up about half way to the top of the bowl and then the lid put on and the burner put on high to bring it back to a boil as quickly as possible. Putting it on about the 1 or 1 1/2 mark on the burner seemed to keep it at a nice controlled simmer for the next three and a half hours. I turned it off and left it to cool overnight. The next day I unmolded the pudding onto more aluminum foil and wrapped it tightly. I left it out on the table for three days and have now put it in the refrigerator to save until a party or the Yule. It was not big enough to completely fill the 1.5 L pyrex bowl. Perhaps increasing the size of the recipe by 50% would be good.

So far so good. I think I will try one or two other recipes. I will try to adhear more closely to those recipes so I think that I shall sell something to get the money for a bottle of brandy.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving in 2008

Richard gave me money to go food shopping today, something I've been avoiding since I don't have money to do anything more than pay my half of the rent/utilities and my car insurance. Me being unemployed cannot be fun for him either since I have to be a mooch while this is going on (if I was not living with him I would be on food stamps or starving). But on the good side I got all the fixings. Ham (because we're having turkey with friends on Saturday and my parents on Sunday), cranberries, sweet potatoes, salad, and a bottle of champagne left over from election night. I also have the ingredients for making a Christmas Pudding and an apple pie.

So tomorrow there will be much cleaning and cooking. I had a lovely talk today with my friend Jason and also Dave. With Dave it somehow turned into an alternate history talk where I came up with a socialist triumph that might piss off libertarians. Could be a fun book. But it would take huge amounts of research to do well.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Worry Variations

I would give almost anything to be stuck at work right now with a job to whinge about. I feel hopeless and desperate about my prospects for getting a job and that's why my posting is rather sporadic. The only thing I can do is study the rules and figure out if there is some way out of this trap. I have very little money and not an impressive enough resume to get hired as evidenced by the fact that I've yet to be contacted by anyone.

Options, options. Well at least I have some time since I have benefits until August next year. I should not multiply my problems without necessity. I will come to the worst if it comes. In the meantime I suppose I keep applying until I think of a better plan. Maybe I'll start writing and see if anything comes of that.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Think Different

In iTunes I don't particularly like the Artist/Composer split. Why? Because when I'm searching for a song I'm going by the the name I associate with a piece. I may have no idea that it was Vienna PHO that played that piece, I'm looking for Beethoven. So that's how I use the "Artist" field instead of putting down who actually spoke or sung, I put in the name I associate with the piece. And then I misuse other fields and notes for putting in all the information. Which sometimes makes me reluctant to rip my classical music since I hate having to change everything. But if I don't do it when I rip it I'll have a devil of a time trying to find it later.

Also, the CD names and song names for classical music suck.

Today I'm working on getting some more forward motion and searching for a location to place a vending machine. A good and safe location, because the damn thing can't be sold right now and we need to make some money off of it.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

A Fantastic Mixed Drink For the Unemployeed

This brought a smile to my nearly bankrupt face. Water may soon be taking the place of other things for me as well.

I seem to have things figured out with unemployment, I'll just be headed to my bank tomorrow morning to deposit everything I could find between the seat cushions and pay off my credit card one last time... Huh. Maybe I should check my credit card points and see if I could get a gift for my boyfriend or family that way.

Some Forward Motion

I am clearly not out of danger yet, but I have some forward motion under my feet and that is a good feeling. I called every 15 minutes for the last two days to the unemployment line and I finally got through today at three. I still don't know if I'm going to get anything, but I have some hope. A very, very little bit of hope.

To sum up the story so far I was a depressed slug and did not return the right forms at the right times, so I've screwed myself out of weeks of unemployment insurance. But I might yet save myself from complete disaster.

In the mean time I am looking with a critical eye at anything of value. Old silver jewelry, coins, books, etc. Anything that might be turned into cash. Sentimental value is very low right now for a specter of homelessness has begun to haunt me.

Thursday, November 13, 2008


The first time I read Watchmen I was in high school.

I had not read any comic books growing up since I was raised in a small town without anything like a comic book store and the titles carried in more accessible places never caught my eye. I don't know exactly how I got the impression, but somehow I'd concluded that they were nothing I'd be interested in. I shared the same dismissive attitude as the bookstore owner in movie version of The Neverending Story, "Pah, comic books." I was proud of reading hard books without pictures ever since I'd been weaned off children's books in the second grade. And what little I had seen was full of bad dialogue and stories so overwrought that even as a child I wanted nothing to do with them.

That had changed in high school because of friend introducing me to 'graphic novels' as they were starting to be called. Something that could be read by someone who considered himself an adult and took himself very, very seriously. I remember being impressed by Watchmen, though not entirely happy with it. I still feel that way, but for different reasons. Even when I read it the story seemed a bit dated with its nuclear war obsession, the Soviet Union having just fallen apart in 1991. Now it seems even more so with more of the politics of the 1980s having become even more quaint. Not to mention the usual Hollywood way the computers were shown in.

It is an interesting story, but mostly for the hints of what it could have been. There are big ideas about what a person might become like if he could see his future and past all at once, just another dimension. But the idea is bigger than the storytellers and in the end it does not satisfy me.

I'm curious to see if the movie is any better than the book, but I doubt it will be. I don't know that anyone has the mind to wrap around how seeing fate would feel and act.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Mocking the Liberal Conspiracy Theory

I would now like to direct your attention to a article publish in Rolling Stone October 17th 2008 entitled It's Already Stolen. Is it still up? If not here is a bit from the heart of the 'expose':
Republican Secretaries of State of swing-state Colorado have quietly purged one in six names from their voter rolls.

Over several months, the GOP politicos in Colorado stonewalled every attempt by Rolling Stone to get an answer to the massive purge - ten times the average state's rate of removal.

While Obama dreams of riding to the White House on a wave of new voters, more then 2.7 million have had their registrations REJECTED under new procedures signed into law by George Bush.
As it is now Nov. 5th it is time for me to point and laugh. After all a wise man said, "Spare the mock, spoil the pundit."

So the totals are in and Barack Obama won Colorado's vote by 6.6%, more or less. So in order for their theory to be correct that would mean those supposed one in six voters who would have voted for Obama but could not would mean he would have won by 21%. So where are those 14% of voters that were purged? You'd think one or two of them might have a blog saying "Hey! I wanted to vote, but they made me cast a provisional ballot." So, anyone got a link? No? Well then I think it is time for a slice of Humble Pie and apologizes to America from every hysterical liberal who was screaming, "The Republicans are going to steal it!" Especially since they also were promoting loony conspiracy theories that Bush would declare martial law after assassinating Obama today or tomorrow. Come on, own up. If I'd been wrong I would have had to say, "Sorry everyone" on my way to the barricades. But I was right and now I'm going to indulge in some, "I told you so!"

I told you the election of 2004 was not stolen. I told you this one was not going to be taken away either. I told you we'd win once we had an effective candidate and what was wrong in 2004 was we had a crappy one who couldn't turn out the vote. The only reason you didn't know anyone who voted for Bush is that you never leave your liberal, liberal bubble. Of course I shouldn't actually expect you to act like adults. Instead you and "Democracy Now" will start whining in six months that Obama is a "corporate tool" because he doesn't start your green revolution where all of us sit in the dark wearing sackcloth for our sins against mother earth. Grow the <bleep> up. Because otherwise I shall mock you again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Far Blacker Than Expectations

So far the ink satisfies me very much. It is darker than I expected even when just mixed and it develops into a finer ink with a few days aging. I have shorted it a bit on water. My resultant liquid from ~40grams of galls was 250ml. That is far less than the ~290ml of distilled water called for in the proportions I am using. I've also put in less gum arabic than called for since I have a small bottle of it dissolved in water. I put in 35ml of that assuming that this would leave the ink short of the additional 33ml of water the recipe calls for to dissolve the 15g of gum and 17g of ferrous sulfate. It may not be perfect, but I believe it will serve for purposes of demonstration at the convention's panel on useful crafts after a secular apocalypse. I may also write my yule letters using it.

Displacement Scale

I have a project to do that involves moderately accurate weighing. A good kitchen scale would set me back $50. But what if I just used a measuring cup with really accurate markings to measure the displacement of water? Impractical for large projects, but as far as I know perfectly accurate for getting weight. Since every ml of water at 4C equals one gram to be displaced. Provided I carefully look at the meniscus I should be able to measure as little as 25 grams using a standard measuring cup with another container floating freely in it. And with some judicious estimation I might get to within a reasonable error of my goal weights.

What project you might well ask. I am making ink. I am using as near as I can replicate the ink prepared by boiling galls recipe that takes several hours of gently simmering the crushed galls in distilled water. A long task, but one made lighter by listening to a book while I do it.

Poor Duran Duran

Apparently there is a real person in New Mexico named Duran Duran. He's listed in the phone book and he's registered to vote. But due to his name some Republican bloggers assumed he must be a fraudulent registration and were all up in arms. And he might not be the only one. Searching this online whitepages I found five other individuals bearing this name in the US. No word on if any of them are registered or not because people don't believe they're real people.

Oh, and the 28 people the GOP accused of not being real? Acorn produced evidence they were all real people and they've backed off. The Guardian

How Big a Particle?

I understand that the famous Double-slit experiment has been done with other particles besides photons that behave as both particles and waves. Today I wondered if anything larger had been tried. Apparently a paper was published in 2002 entitled "Quantum interference experiments with large molecules" where C60, fullerene molecules, were used in place of photons and it was found they behaved the same way. Where, exactly, does quantum behavior break over into macro behavior?

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Rain Upon Laundry

I listened to a bit of The Thirteen Gun Salute while I did laundry at the laundromat. Unfortunately the book I checked out is a great deal less pleasant than the previous ones owing the the flat grating voice of Richard Brown. I have put in a request from interlibrary loan for the one read by the actor Patrick Tull. He does not go all the way to making it a radio play, but he does do the accents and some of the way the voices might sound. I like this dramatic reading style in part because it helps figure out who is thinking or saying something.

The rain that is coming down will probably make my laundry dry more slowly and it isn't pleasant to go out, but it is washing away the grim and making the air fresh. I like crisp autumnal days like this. As long as I don't have to be out in them very long.

Now I must figure out what I shall do for dinner. Richard will be home soon and I have people to call as well.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Cover Boy

So I'm on the cover of Tales of the Talisman, Volume 4, Issue 2. That's the most recent one. Apparently I had the right look to be a mad scientist and the creature as well.

Last night I ended up going to visit friends downtown, John and Robin, who live there and Dave who was visiting from out of town. It was interesting riding the bus downtown since the Great American Beer Festival was going on and so near the convention center it became full of a variety of cheerful people. It was actually quite nice on such a drizzly fall day to have crowds of happy people on the bus rather than a few quiet strangers.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Another Spin on the How I Came to Fandom Story

I somehow failed to find out that MileHiCon, the regional science fiction convention in the city I've lived near all my life, existed until I was nearly 21 years old. I knew about the local Star Trek/media convention, I knew about gaming conventions, but somehow I had completely failed to find out about the local SF book convention even though I was a dedicated reader with 1,500 books in my collection at that time. I remember once in high school hearing about the Critter Crunch, a sort of small scale robot wars, second hand from a friend and I had ideas about checking that out but I didn't actually do it. Why? I didn't know I needed it.

What got me going to conventions initially was the stars of things like Star Trek: TNG. Going to see a star is an easy sell, or at least an easier sell, to a young fan. If I had somehow heard that Arthur C. Clarke was going to be at a local convention when I was a teen you bet I would have been there. But I cannot think of many other authors that would have had that star power to draw me in. And I would have had to have heard about it. I honestly did not know a thing about it until I got drawn in by a group of fans at the art show of a gaming convention. And I went to the gaming convention specifically looking to volunteer to make friends because I was horrendously lonely living on my own. I don't think it would have occurred to me had that not been the case. A volunteer ethos for conventions was not instilled in me by things like Starfest.

And given the way that many fans are so damn off putting when talking about fandom I'm not sure I would have stayed going to MileHiCon except that I had fallen into the orbit of the Denver Area SF Association and made one of my great friendships. Rose Beetem is the reason I am in fandom. Period. Without her I likely would have wandered away long ago.

To draw in new people star power is needed. Plus advertising. And I can think of only a few name in SF and fantasy with enough star power to draw in fans at any price. Much less the typical $200 at the door price of a Worldcon. Why would a fan shell out even $40 for some big important author that they're not a fan of? When I was a teen I would have gone to a convention (if I heard about it) if the author had been Piers Anthony, Michael Crichton, or maybe Stephen King. But MileHiCon actually had Sheri S. Tepper, Steven Brust, Emma Bull, Will Shetterly, George R.R. Martin Connie Willis, SP Somtow, and Ellen Datlow in my HS years. Not that they aren't great authors (or editors), but I'm only someone who knows who they are now after I've been in fandom for many years. The only one I might have heard of was George R.R. Martin in connection with Wild Cards. And I did not come across that metaphorical handbill when I was in high school.

I probably prefer the mix of authors that our convention actually has rather than going after the sort of thing that appealed to me as a teen and still appeals to teens today. But if you want young people you need someone they've heard of and to actually tell them. Having a webpage isn't enough because no one is searching for your convention if they don't already know that such a thing exists. And I'm not the right person to answer where young people go online when they're readers... Maybe conventions need to advertise on author's blogs? I don't know.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

The Hugos No One Attends*

*For values of the people actually receiving the award.

Since I've never attended before and did not closely look at which authors were or were not attending the convention I thought I would see a number of authors picking up Hugo awards at the ceremony on Saturday night here in Denver. Not so and I've been given to understand this is not unusual.

In the case of both the fan awards and the dramatic presentation ones it is quite understandable. After all if you were in the movie or television biz it would mostly be a bit of a distraction from work. Meanwhile the fans are often too poor to jet off to wherever Worldcon is in a particular year so unless they're regular attendees of Worldcon or near by they're probably not going to show either. But the lack of authors at it is rather disheartening. This, much more than people talking about the graying of fandom or griping "What I liked didn't win, so the Hugos suck", shows there really is something wrong with the Hugo Awards. Authors can't even be bothered to show up when they're nominated and the odds on favorite to win the award. (I'm referring here to Michael Chabon not being there to pick up the Hugo given to for his novel The Yiddish Policemen's Union.)

By something wrong with the Hugos I mean that they're not really that important outside of the community of people who already go to Worldcon. They probably have as much value on the cover of a book as any other award (or even a made up one) rather than being something important to sales like the Oscars are to movie rentals and sales. And I don't know how this could be changed.

The usual suspect is the lack of new fresh faces at Worldcon, and I'm sure it could not hurt. Another problem is the size and profile of the World Science Fiction Society and the Hugo Awards themselves. Search for the Booker Prize or Hugo Award and you'll generally find about half as much mention of the Hugos on the net as the Booker. Assuming that the average SF reader is probably more internet savvy and likely to have a blog or webpage than the average reader of the type of literature that get the Booker that is not a good sign. So how could the Hugo be increased in profile?

I do not know.

I think that there would be more attention paid if there was more perceived value in voting or if the voters were higher profile about doing so. For example I think a few well respected and widely read bloggers writing about how and why they voted would do much to 'shine up' the award. Or if was more transparent about how and when to vote so that people who do not have the initial interest or ability to go to a World Science Fiction Convention would be blogging about it the same way they write about politics.

But this is obviously all speculation on my part. I have no hard numbers to point to that say that having more members of an online WSFS would make the Hugos more respected or not. But I would love to hear competing ideas or support.

I'll be cleaning and writing periodically for the rest of the day.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Google Doesn't Like Webcomicsnation.com?

So when I went to visit today's 'director's cut' of Narbonic I got the following message.
Reported Attack Site!
This web site at www.webcomicsnation.com has been reported as an attack site and has been blocked based on your security preferences.
Attack sites try to install programs that steal private information, use your computer to attack others, or damage your system.
Some attack sites intentionally distribute harmful software, but many are compromised without the knowledge or permission of their owners.

But when I go to look at the specific information about webcomicsnation it says,
Of the 11 pages we tested on the site over the past 90 days, 0 page(s) resulted in malicious software being downloaded and installed without user consent. The last time Google visited this site was on 07/15/2008, and suspicious content was never found on this site within the past 90 days.

Wha? So it's blocked because zero pages had evil/bad code? WTF? I'm sure that whoever is in charge at webcomicsnation is working on this, but anyone know what the heck is up?

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Weather Commentary

It has been quite hot lately. Not weirdly hot, but in past years I remember more thunderstorms to take the edge off in the afternoons. Maybe I'm misremembering in this and I certainly do remember long sweltering stretches without a drop of rain. I note this because today it actually was a bit cooler. I think this is the most pleasant day we've had for about two weeks, but still no rain. I've yet to see a proper drown the frogs thunderstorm this summer here in my little corner of Denver.

Don't try to connect this up to global warming. A month's weather has a relationship to the global climate, but it is far too soon to say exactly what that relationship is yet. Though I would not be surprised if in retrospect this was part of a trend towards drier summers I would also be equally unsurprised if we got more thunderstorms rather than fewer. This would be due to the heat producing low pressure over the mountains that would draw in the monsoon flow over Colorado.

I'm just commenting that so far I'm disappointed. I want the monsoon flow to start to take the edge off this heat. It is certainly active down in Arizona. Searching for monsoon using Google news finds numerous stories about the start of the monsoon season including one about how the frogs emerging after storms are poisonous to pets.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Question to Ask Conservatives

"Did IQs just drop sharply while I was away?" -Ripley in Aliens

She was pointing out that she'd never said the creature was from that planet when asking the quoted question of the company and government goons, but this is the sort of question that I would like to ask of most conservative commentators. Why? Because they never seem to 'get it'. Take for instance the recent 'gay controversy' over a Heinz commercial in Britain. Check it out on YouTube if you want to see what they're blathering about. My first comment is, "This is a gay commercial??" Seems pretty obvious to me that the joke, the premise, of this commercial is that it makes an average British housewife seem like a stereotypical NYC deli man. Don't you people get it? This is about as gay as another commercial I remember when some girl from Brooklyn started talking in a French accent because she ate some potato chip. IT'S A JOKE!

I particularly love how one of the conservative bloviators, AH Dowden on Blogcritics, used this whole thing as a jumping off point to change the subject on his own commentary about attacks on James Dobson. Not only is he wrong about what the commercial is about (I suspect he never watched what he's commenting on, surprise, surprise), but he's also trying to pull a logical fast one. Saying that Wayne Besen's commentary on Dobson is invalid because this other unrelated thing is 'fraudulent'. Ha!

I'd be willing to bet that most people would get this commercial if they saw it. They might laugh or ignore it, but they wouldn't start screaming, "OH my lord! Think of the Children! I don't want to have to explain the gay to my CHILDREN!" I used to be a conservative and I'm positive even I, a self hating homosexual who looked suspiciously at everything for possible gay content, would have shrugged my shoulders and wondered why everyone was so upset. So conservatives, did IQs just suddenly drop while I was away from the movement? Or did I just not see how stupid you all are while I was one of you? Or maybe you're just saying anything to try to score a point no matter how far fetched? Intellectual mad libs trying to fill in the outrage of the day with anything that might fit if you cross your eyes and squint at it.

(Oh and in case anyone is wondering I used the "nofollow" attribute in the link to Dowden so search engines won't think that I think that opinion should be promoted.)

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Pointless Stories: Watermelon Disaster

Today it was exceptionally hot. Early in the morning all the windows and shades were closes up and late in the day I could not stand it and turned on the air conditioner for a while. I'm sure that it was at least 37 C today (98F) and with the merciless sunshine that is to be expected of summer. So this evening we had water as a snack and later with dinner, quite refreshing, but every time I cut a watermelon I am especially careful because I saw it go quite wrong once.

My family was at Great Sand Dunes National Park, though in those days it was only a national monument. We had a nice (if hot) day exploring the sands. We hiked up one of the lower peaks and decided that was enough, we were not going to go all the way in to climb the highest dune. Instead we returned to Medano Creek and played in the sand, all five of us. Mother, Father, Stefan, Christine, and myself. A bit of playing in the sand especially in the creek was followed by Christine returning to the fifth-wheel to cut up a watermelon.

Watermelons have a nice tough rind and she was probably working with a knife that was not exceptionally sharp so she gave it a really good push. Unfortunately her hand was in the way of the knife and she gave herself a severe cut. Nothing life or limb threatening, but enough to ruin her day and also the melon. Ever since then if possible I go after melons with a serrated knife so I can saw through instead of exposing myself to the sudden failure of the rind and the knife flying through what previously seemed quite tough.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Pulling the Arrow

When a person is shot with an arrow the wrong thing to do is just pull it out. Especially if done quickly it will do as much harm coming out as it did going in. Not to mention there is the possibility that, as with any impaling wound, the object will be preventing worse bleeding. I bring this up because it is my analogy for just pulling the funding on the Iraq war. It took months of preparation to get into this mess and it will take months to get out. Not to mention that I think the president is the sort of man who would strand the army to score a political point. I would be worried about thousands of American dead if funding were just cut off. The Democrats in congress do need to stand firm about having the power of the purse and get as much as they can, it is not only their right but their responsibility. But just cutting off funding is the same sort of ignorant idea that President George W. Bush is proud to advance.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

A Dating Question

If you were asked on a date by a person would you be surprised if you were expected to pay your half when the bill came? And vice versa if you were doing the asking would you expect to pay only your portion or for all of it?

Monday, March 3, 2008

Delightful Evening At Cherry House

This Monday has been perfectly delightful. I got a good amount of work done and had a wonderful time with my boyfriend today. He said that he wanted mashed potatoes, I was not thrilled by the idea at first and I was resentfully boiling potatoes until I realized he was right here watching TV and instead we could do that together. We watch a sweet romantic movie (with a touch of comedy) called The Holiday. First while the potatoes boiled, then while I pealed them, mashed them, etc., and finally with dinner. Reheated pork loin (mmm!), peas, and garlic mashed potatoes. And the movie was so much fun to watch with him. Nothing extraordinary happening, just a wonderful evening that I won't want to forget.

Now we're either going to watch something else or do our separate reading setting in for a cold night. I've put on my sweater and I am thinking about what I will be doing tomorrow. Bank deposit, run to the health club, maybe try to get in some bread baking. I've used my new stand mixer once this month already to make frosting and I'm going to bake the last of my cookie dough batch from last Monday.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Almost a Review: I Am Legend

To those who have read the book it will come as no surprise that the later half of does not seem to fit with the first half. That's where the plot deviates significantly from the general outline of the story I Am Legend by Richard Matheson. I am fairly confident that even people who did not read this 1954 novel will find it unsatisfying due to this change in tone.

My comparison is to a sugar coated pickle. This starts out as a downer survival story, man against hostile world in a fantasy setting (albeit dressed up in good science fiction apparel). Like a pickle this is not a sweet story and if the movie director or writer tries to bring in too much of a sweeter story it does not fit. It did not have to come out wrong; it could have become a bread and butter pickle, sweet and sour, but it requires it be made that way from the start rather than putting syrup over it afterwards.

I have never seen The Omega Man, the 1971 schlock thriller, but the plot outline on wikipedia seems to show this version of I Am Legend is closer to it than than book. Who knows why writers Akiva Goldsman (Batman and Robin/ I, Robot) and Mark Protosevich (The Cell, Poseidon) and director Francis Lawrence (Constantine) remade a fundamentally flawed plot. But they did along with its 90 degree turn towards a hopeful save the world (off screen) ending rather than what seemed to be happening up to that point. The whole point of I Am Legend up to that point and in the original story is "The last man on earth... is not alone."

There is nothing wrong with going in a different direction than a book, this happens in the making of movies and with some stories it is for the best. Some of my favorite stories would be dreadfully un-commercial and movies have to make money. However they should have done so for the whole movie rather than just the second half. It almost makes more sense to have the movie after a certain point be a hallucination or dream before the end.

Still, Will Smith in this role is quite good. He is realistically shell-shocked and the sort of person who could survive. His mistakes are natural ones rather than random stupidity that so many characters in horror films are compelled to make by the lazy writers. And there are lots of utterly horrifying moments in it where I wanted to get of the theater it was so scary. The scenes of a totally empty New York are... incredible. Fantastic work there that is well used/done. The monsters are not 'disbelief breaking' unrealistic, but they are too fast, too strong, and too durable in retrospect.

I recommend this movie to people who like other survival disaster monster movies like 28 Days Later, Aliens, or possibly even Mimic. With the caveat that all of these are probably better films than I Am Legend. It is not bad, it just is not a movie I would have been happy seeing for full price and so I cannot recommend it strongly.

Cloudy Eclipse

The eclipse was obscured by a layer of high thin clouds here in Denver when I remembered to go out and check it a bit after nine. It was still nice to see, but hopefully the next one visible from N. America will be more spectacular. I remember the one back during the World Series, that night was perfectly clear and I actually got some decent shots by propping up my camera on my car roof at work. I was still working for the bank then and working late due to end of month. I think I was printing statements. I could probably check my journal. I have no doubt I wrote about it.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Almost a Review: Penelope

This is not an incredibly great movie that your life will be incomplete if you do not see. It is, however, a good movie. And it seems a shame that it looks like it will come and go without a ripple in the pond of common culture.

Classic fairy tale curse that goes awry when trying to teach a rich bunch of bluebloods a lesson, in this case a pig face on Penelope Wilhern (Christina Ricci). I am not giving anything away here since this is talked about in the setup of the movie. As is common with cleaned up fairy tales that will be appropriate for sheltered children there is a lesson to be learned, though in a way it is not the obvious one I thought they were aiming for. Which is good, a simple, "you gotta be yourself" isn't really that satisfying.

The weird thing is that unlike other fairytale movies this movie is full of beer drinking and other bad behavior (hence the PG rating) and isn't a schmaltzy as something like a Nanny McPhee. The feel of the silly action and weird characters is the same though. This is not a movie for lovers of splendiferous CGI or makeup, it is just solidly effective.

I recommend it more for adults than I would children, unless you don't mind your children seeing beer drinking, dumped servant girls committing suicide, and mild language. It certainly will not appeal to most teens as they will be far too cynical to enjoy it for as the light romantic comedy confection it is.

I would put it in the same category of entertainment as Shrek, but without the excessive and endless pop culture references. If you like oddball comedy like Wonderfalls, Pushing Daisies, Dead Like Me, or Into the Woods you might want to give this a chance. It certainly would brighten an afternoon and I found myself laughing quite a bit with it.

Penelope on IMDB (contains spoilers)

Monday, February 18, 2008

Vampire Servants

         – Or –
Why would a human work for a blood-sucking creature of darkness?

It would be easy to say it is all mind control. Far too easy. Mind control is like the fantasy sonic screwdriver. Can't explain why a person would do such a thing? Mind control! Or crazy.

But seriously, real world horrible people have ways to make humans do what they do. And I think they're more satisfying than the "applied phelembotium" or "handwavium" answers previously referenced.

First off vampires need people inside the conspiracy, after all they feed on blood and if they're not going to just make everyone forget using super mental powers then the human knows... or is dead. As I've discussed previously the vampire cannot kill everyone he feeds on or it would stand out like a statistical sore thumb not to mention bringing down the wrath of the local community. Even in downtown DC. But we've got two problems with one solution now. Naturally if you want to limit how many people know that you're a vampire you're going to use your mobile happy meals as minions as well at least some of the time.

This idea gave me the metal tool to attack the problem of a vampire finding a minion and gave me four possible answers to the problem. First off people do crazy risk seeking things all the time for thrills or the pleasure. The vampire bite has been portrayed as pleasurable starting with Dracula. And even if the bite was not a good feeling a certain number of people would have the crazy idea the flirting with death would be neat, just look at the fascination with mass murderers and the groupies they can get even when in prison. Even without unearthly beauty they could end up with a fair number of (probably useless for most tasks) people wanting to be their Renfields.

Secondly there is good old-fashioned flattery and lying. "I've been looking for someone like you to spend eternity with." This exact sort of falsehood was used to good effect by the vampire in Vampire Tapestry by Suzy Mckee Charnas. Nearly everyone is susceptible to subtle flattery of the, "you're special" sort. Especially if backed up by wonderful presents 'proving' the vampire's devotion. Of course those presents are going to be recycled once the vampire gets what it wants... Hey if it works for high school cads trying to get into a girl's pants it should work for a vampire. Even better since past 'paramours' might not be in any sort of a position to clue in the present object of 'affection'.

Third, people can be pretty callous if they're not the ones getting the short end. No different than working for the mob, really. But it would be harder than a mob to set up for a variety of reasons. First off there is the fundamental lack of advancement problem for the inner circle who know about the vampire. The boss is never going to get old and retire unless someone helps it along. For some people this is just fine as it would represent security in an uncertain business. Heck, if somehow the human could verify that the vampire doesn't 'tie up' loose ends at the end of employment it could represent the ultimate in job security.

Throw in a little bit of moral ambiguity, excuses for their behavior (I only kill people who deserve it), and it starts to become reasonable in my mind as to why someone would be working for a vampire. Even if it is perfectly obvious to the vast majority of the population that they're evil, cursed by god, and all the rest.

Next time, the implications of going it alone or teaming up.

Avoid Inheritance Tax

I doubt anyone rich needs this advice, but in the United States it would be trivially easy to give an heir 2.5 million dollars tax free. Here's how it is done. In January of every year give $10,800 in cash or stocks to your heir to invest. Why this amount? Because it is $1,200 less than the annual limit for tax free gifts giving plenty of leeway so that a birthday or holiday gift does not mess one up later in the year.

If you are 30 and only expect to live to 55 this will mean, assuming 5% interest above inflation, that when you snuff it he or she will have 500,000+ in cash. Then you can give in your will $2,000,000 in cash or whatever to your heir without invoking the inheritance tax. Easy peasy. If you live to an unexceptional 75 you could give $1,823,793.56 and then the exempt amount for $3.8 million in total. With more heirs you could give more money. Your heir will have to pay tax on the interest earned from all the stocks, bonds, or whatever he buys to earn it in the intervening years, but avoiding inheritance tax is trivially easy. Provided the person with money is willing to think ahead about death and work on it in advance.

If the rich person is married it gets even easier because both husband and wife have a limit, thus $24,000 a year could be given away to each recipient under the current rules. Staying well clear of the limit gives $3,647,587.12 after 45 years, a reasonable assumption given that Mr. & Mrs. Rich would start to give the moment he or she is born. In the the irrevocable trust it goes and in the end he's got more money than most of us would ever know what to do with, almost completely tax free. And they can all do the same if he or she produces some Rich grandkids.

But if I were an immortal I would not do this to give money to myself. I've thought of a much better way than to keep farming identities and passing money on.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Punch It!

The hardest part of writing, for me, is still just getting my behind in the chair and just writing. Once I start not caring exactly how it is coming out the writing actually comes rather easily. I am a fast typist from years of online chatting and I actually spell fairly well for someone of my generation. Though I still need the help of the spell checker and never a month goes by without learning yet another word. There are just so damn many of the things!

Going back to a chat program without spell check is scary. I did that on connexion the other day an I felt like a performer without a net. Irrational, it is just spelling, but there it is. Our technological tools are a great comfort in performing tasks like this.

And I have spent far too long 'cat vacuuming' rather than writing. Both here to record my everyday events for my future edification and with my fiction writing. Time to get back too it. Thousands of things to do today, punch the keys like you mean it and then put on music to clean too!

Things I need or want to do today:
•Get in contact with people who signed up for DASFA at MileHiCon, particularly Lexa Gregor.
•Talk again to A from Connexion and see if he wants to come to DASFA.
•Clean apartment for DASFA party.
•Work on new entries in Quickbooks for work.
•Talk on the phone with fun people.
•Get a six pack of beer.
•Make cookies? Cookies go with beer, don't they?

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Now It Is Over

Well all but. Unless Huckabee picks up every single Romney supporter he's not in the hunt to move this to a contested convention. But one of them dropping out was exactly what I was waiting for. So, McCain vs. Obama or Clinton.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

It Is Not Over, Republican Delegate Analysis

For the rest of February the states that will be having Republican caucuses and primaries are Washington - 37, Wisconsin - 40, Louisiana - 23, Virginia -63, District of Columbia -16, and Maryland - 37. This means for the rest of the month there are 216 delegates up for the Republican nomination and of them Wisconsin, Virginia, DC, and Maryland are all winner take and Washington is a variation. Louisiana is proportional. This is good and bad for McCain who needs 578 more delegates to lock the nomination. Louisiana being proportional is good because I think Huckabee will take a majority of that state in a walk. Huckabee is also in good position to take Virginia as there are not many moderate Republicans there, but it is open to independents, so who knows? Maryland is closed, but a wee bit more liberal.

But even if he (impossibly) took every delegate he'd still be short. So when does/can he win it? He'll be close in March when Texas -137, Ohio - 85 and Vermont - 17, vote for another 239 votes, total 455. But Texas is only winner take all if he can take a outright majority in the open primary. Can he? Each congressional district then gives its votes winner take all if a winner takes a majority in the district... Or proportionally otherwise. I do not see McCain taking Texas if Romney and Huckabee are both still in it. Maybe if one of them drops out... Otherwise Ron Paul takes his district and everything else is a patchwork. The very first date McCain could lock it up is April 22 in Pennsylvania which is a "Loophole" primary. I'll explain that some other time, but it means that the state could come down to whoever has the best machine supported by local politicians. But conceivable if Texas is especially split it could easy go to May on the Republican side as well. This isn't even close to over despite what the media is bloviating today.

Can Romney or Huckabee win? Not outright. But if one of them isn't secretly angling for Vice President then they could be hoping to go to a brokered convention and get it.

Monday, February 4, 2008

A Small Gift to France

I love America. I love America with all its faults, but of course I love our moments of virtue better. In February I remembered one of those moments I did not love as much when the internet joke about searching for French Military Victories and having a 404 page come up. It was a natural for people who were upset with France for being against the Iraq-American war, but it seems unworthy of Americans to be this petty. We're better than this, or we can be. I want us to remember events like the victory at Yorktown where Frenchmen fought alongside Americans to secure our independence. True, Louis XVI (French King) only sent forces because he wanted to metaphorically stick his thumb in the eye of George III (British King). But a number of Frenchmen came that really did not have to put their necks on the line, as you probably know. Gilbert du Motier, marquis de La Fayette among other volunteers.

Perhaps for their birthday we Americans could change the rankings of the web search for "French Military Victories". It would not be a big thing, nothing like when the people of France gave us the Statue of Liberty for our country's birthday in 1886, but it would be nice. Ah, but you say that France's birthday isn't until July 14th, the famous Bastille Day. I know. But in order to do this we must be subtle and be thinking ahead, under three months might just be enough for something like this.

If you've not already guessed I mean to get searches for French Military Victories to point at an actually informative pages about French Military Victories. This will take careful building of links as that most famous of search engines, Le Google, now has some sort of system to prevent prank link bombing.

So how do we make this work right? Well I suggest that if you feel inspired please write something of your own about French Military Victories linking to one of my three referenced pages. (To make it easy I'll put some plaintext code down in the first comment.) If you feel uninspired and just want to link to the project link using an alternate phrase from the one we are promoting such as "A Small Gift to France", "Mishalak" (I particularly like variations on that one, heh), "Americans Being Nice" or something like that. Easy code down in the first comment, once again.

Anything you'd like to suggest? Good idea, bad idea? Yes I did try to get people interested once before, but I'm not letting this go this time. I want to do this and if other people do not want to join in I want to figure out why. How can I make this fun? And if you don't comment I may come to your blog and pester you! <grin>

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Fear of Pyrrhic Victories

One of the worst things about politics is one never knows if a campaign might end up being a Pyrrhic Victory. One so dearly won that we would have been better off not to have fought for it. But what can we do other than to proclaim the right as we see it? I dearly, dearly hope that whoever wins the American Presidency in 2008 will do a good job. I fear, of course, that someone good might get the nomination, but be so bloodied that he or she might then lose the election. Or that I might be wrong about fearing this. I doubt my own decisions both ways.

I will be going to caucus here in Colorado in a few days. I'm doing it for Barack Obama and I hope that my humble individual decision will be for the best, win or lose.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Why Vertical Farms Will Never Exist

Outside of a few niche applications, of course. Currently the number I'm able to find for actual crop land, as opposed to pasture land, average net returns is about $104.19 per acre in the United States. So for a decent economic return the cost of building/buying an area of land to grow crops on will need to be no more than about (104.19*30)=N*1.02^30-N, or $3,852.41. If anything that is generous since only the very best farmland in Ohio goes for $3,886 an acre. And a 2% return on investment over 30 years... that's just terrible. If you use the more usual 5% return the max drops to about $1000 an acre. There are 43,560 square feet in an acre... You probably see where I'm going. Even at $1 per square foot (I don't know of any skyscraper that rents for less than $30/square foot) it would be mind bogglingly stupid to build a skyscraper to even partially be used as farm space.

Now growing things hydroponically (is that a word?) or in vats in some suburban warehouse type space... that might be conceivable. But I shall laugh at the next 'futurist' that proclaims we'll be growing things on the sides of buildings.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008


It is really dry and electric tonight. Everything I touch gives a little shock. And when I went around purposefully rubbing my feet on the carpet after watching Fly Boys there was enough charge that my extended finger would produce faint sparks of some 6-7cm in length and violet in color. My hair stood on end as if I had touched a Van de Graaff generator. I don't mean a little bit of my hair stood up a bit, my head looked like dandelion ready to release its seeds into the wind. While building up a charge I could hear a bit of noise from my finger discharging into the air with a faint hiss. This is a normal part of living in Colorado in the winter.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Is This Something New?

2 measures Whiskey
1 measure Cherry liquor
1 measure Vodka
4-5 measures sharp ginger ale (Vernors) or ginger beer.

Sweet, but a bit sophisticated. It doesn't taste cloyingly sweet as far too many mixed drinks to. The ginger and the cherry flavors combine to make something new.

Friday, January 25, 2008

The Cat Came Back

I remember seeing this on Channel 12 (one of the two local PBS stations) when I was a little boy. It was hilarious little animation then and it is still funny now. The Cat Came Back... possibly not for cat lovers.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Interpreting Velvet Goldmine

What does this song actually mean? I've heard repeatedly that it was originally about making out with another guy and got toned down before it was released as a B-side without Bowie's permission. But where is the evidence? I've never been able to figure out where this assertion started.

Going to the lyrics as actually released isn't particularly compelling one way or another. I have come up with a sort of gay interpretation, as you can see, but it isn't particularly gay. It could be things other than making out with a guy.

You got crazy legs, you got amazing head
Okay, this could be about someone giving really good fellatio, but it could just as easily be anything else. And it isn't as if women cannot give 'head'. Or it could be about someone with a pretty face expressed in a inarticulate way.
You got rings on your fingers and your hair's hot red
You got wit from my tongue, name on the sun
I gotcha going to my breast
Cause you're the only one, who uses school to pleasure
Nothing else particularly gay here. I can't even figure out what "uses school to pleasure" might mean. Gets lots of sex at school?
You make me act real gone, you make me trawl along
I had to ravish your capsule, suck you dry
This could mean sucking on another guys penis. I think this line and the one following are the most open to a gay interpretation.
Feel the teeth in your bone, heal ya head with my own
This is what I'm talking about. Bone is a pretty common euphemism for a penis and someone playfully biting and then healing with his own? Sounds pretty gay to me.
Why if I don't have you home, we'll have to fight alone
Hang all together
The only thing I can figure is the last two lines are about "us against the world", nothing particularly gay about that, though it could be.
Velvet goldmine, you stroke me like the rain
Stroking could be about stroking a cock, but it could be just nonsense. I mean what exactly does Velvet Goldmine mean?
Snake it, take it, panther princess you must stay
Take his penis? Possibly, but again what does the rest of it mean?
Velvet goldmine, naked on your chain
Got nothing.
I'll be your king volcano right for you again and again
I could see volcano being about ejaculation.
My velvet goldmine
You're my taste, my trip, I'll be your master zip
Sounds like pure nonsense lyrics made up because the rhyme and sound vaguely dirty without actually meaning anything.
I'll suck your hair for kicks, you'll make me jump to my feet
Long haired guy or a girl?
So you'll give me your hand, give me your sound
Let my sea wash your face, I'm falling, I can't stand
Oooh! put your mink on
CHORUS Repeats
Shoot you down, bang bang
Did he change his mind here and 'shoot down' his friend about having sex? Or is it about shooting in another sense?
CHORUS Repeats

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Blogging for Choice

Given today's anniversary in America I think it is a good idea to post about my views on abortion.

I am pro-choice with next to no reservations. I think that if a woman wishes to have an abortion it is fine if she is doing it for either health, wealth, or purely selfish reasons. To me it does not matter because I view abortion as a third or fourth chance to decide not to have a child rather than the ending of a life. This does not mean that I think that pregnancy should be viewed without value or that no wrong has been done to a person who has been forced to get an abortion or given a miscarriage. But it emphatically is not murder or even a homicide.

If a potential mother is so selfish that she would have an abortion just because it is a little inconvenience as it is alleged by anti-abortion people I say it is good that the mother has an abortion. Imagine a child being raised by such a theoretically selfish person or the genes that may be passed on. No, far better for society and children to make abortion easy to get. Not that I believe that more than a few percent (at most) of women seeking abortions are such sociopaths or psychopaths.

I do not know if any of the women I know socially has had an abortion. No one has told me about their experience, but I am convinced of the usefulness of abortion to improve society and the lives of the women who have them by the statistical studies of the legalization of abortion.

I think it might be desirable to have some regulation of abortion to reduce or prevent the problems associated with unplanned genetic editing. For example the selective abortion of girls (as is reported as happening in China and India) or the more theoretical choice to abort fetuses on the basis of having or not have specific genetic traits. Not that I think it would be a bad idea to abort fetuses with defects, necessarily, but it should be considered carefully on an individual and societal level. And forbidding or outlawing might not be the best response either. Perhaps counterbalancing incentives would be a better response. But the first thing to do in this regard is to gather information about reasons given and the actual traits of aborted fetuses, the knowledge of the father, etc... Discover if there are any problems first and legislate carefully (only if required) afterwards.

Saturday, January 19, 2008

New Phone

I now have Sanyo SCP-7050 instead of my old silver Samsung. So far I'm mildly pleased. For one thing it seems rather rugged unlike my old phone which had developed a crack in its case. No camera or the other functions that I would never use, so that's good. I've also figured out how to customize its functions how I want them to work so I can avoid accidentally sending text messages. I still don't get text messages. They seem to cost more than an actual phone call and a quick phone call gets things done so efficiently rather than laboriously typing out a message or a reply.

My old phone also had gotten its contact list corrupted somehow, so I did not transfer things right over. I figured instead that I would transfer one after another if the phone number turned out to be correct. Plus I skipped a number of people who are perfectly nice that I will probably never call again like Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, I only had her in there for convention business back in October after all. And acquaintances with who I never really clicked or never see anymore went into my gmail contact list rather than being transferred.

So I find that I have 29 actual people in my phone. A fair number I suppose. Of those I call nine of them with some regularity. I suppose then I ought to say that I have nine friends, so I guess I don't have more online accounts than friends. (I hope.)

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Best Professional Artist Nominations, Draft 1

John Jude Palencar, he did the cover of The Ivory and the Horn among others last year. He's usually called upon as a dark fantasy illustrator. I've noticed him doing covers of H.P. Lovecraft collections very often, but he's also done covers for books from Connie Willis (Impossible Things) to Charles de Lint (Waifs and Strays). All that is in the past, so why this year? He has a book out full of his illustrations (Origins: The Art and Illustration of John Jude Palencar) republishing his earlier works that may have been missed by nominators and his inclusion in Spectrum 14 clearly show he is both a professional who has 'paid his dues' but is still producing very good art. (However I am open to arguments that he should be bumped down my list as I have not seen a clearly 2007 standout work from him, still my first choice for now.) His website, but I did not notice anything specifically from 2007 there like the cover of The Ivory and Horn (that link is to a review with a thumbnail rather than Amazon).

Todd Lockwood is my second choice. Mostly he does typical fantasy gaming art. But some of his pieces really do stand out. And he even has the recent ones helpfully arranged on his website for perusal. I think of those Mongoose stands out among the fantasy ones. Yes, it has blasters, but it looks like pure fantasy to me and good creative fantasy at that. I wish that Midnight Tides was 2007 rather than 2006 so I could use it as my nominating example, what a beautiful composition.

David Bowers, I'm nominating him on the strength of Leda and the Swan. It is not exactly my cup of tea, but it seems pretty good as fantasy art goes. I know, I don't exactly sound enthusiastic. I got him from the Professional Artist Recommendation Page. He stands out from many of the others as more technically skilled. And it appears to be recent unlike with so many artists that I cannot figure out when a work was published.

Before you write to me saying "What about $artist?" read the following paragraph and think about it.

Bob Eggleton has won eight Hugos. That's not a reason avoid nominating him. I would argue that it would a reason to nominate... if his art was really standing out at head and shoulders above that of his peers. But it doesn't. It has not gotten worse, but it does not stand out as clearly superior to other professional artists or from his own work. If anything I see a bunch of his stuff that appears to repeat what he's done before. There isn't a work that I've seen (correct me on this if I'm wrong) that jumps out saying, "THIS MUST GET A NOMINATION!" Similarly I would not nominate Donato Giancola, Jim Burns, Michael Whelan, or Don Maitz who between them have every Hugo statue in their category for that last 27 years. Similarly there are a lot of other good artists out of there that I think "deserve" a Hugo who have not done anything outstanding recently. If you can't point to something (even a physical something down at the bookstore) that we can point to as a reason he or she deserves a Hugo it isn't going to work out.

Fashion: Holster Bags

A guy I read, The Flee King, posted a link to Skin Graft Holster Bags as something he is interested in for steampunk costuming. I've worn a holster bag somewhat like those and I find it useful, but difficult to find an outfit to wear with it. Not unlike a woman trying to match a handbag to an outfit, but moreso. On the positive side I think either my single side bag or these items are nearly impossible for someone to surreptitiously fish something out of. But this is because the wearer's arms are mostly down over them and this also makes detailing less effective. If I were to buy one for myself I think I would go for a relatively plain one because of this. And there is the cost... women may be used to $120 a bag to carry things when wearing an outfit without suitable pockets, gut I'm not (the one I have was much less expensive). Lastly I would like to wear this item when it is too hot for a coat and the straps can be uncomfortable in such weather.

My verdict is interesting, but not something I am likely to purchase unless I came into a much, much better job. I also think that such purses suitable for men or women could be better designed. My personal inclination is that the bag might be improved if it was hung about six inches below the belt and secured loosely to the upper leg. This would provide easier access and wouldn't be trapping heat against the torso. Even better from a fashion point of view is that whatever detailing would be visible rather than hidden by the wearer's arms.

My advice to people is that this is an interesting fashion experiment, but only for those who don't mind getting a hairy eyeball or two from people nervous about weapons or punks generally.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Almost a Review: Antique Bakery

This is a manga, but I'm still counting it as a book for the purposes of a count of everything I'm reading in AUC 2762 (CE 2008). Written and illustrated by Fumi Yoshinaga it a light creation about three men working in a bakery. Which, of course, isn't usual since gender roles are very defined and the serving person at a bakery is almost always a female. And they all have an interesting background or past. The chef, who is a gay rake, his apprentice who is a former boxer, and the owner/server, who is a young rich man out to make money. And avoid a job where he has to be clean shaved.

Don't worry about it being too torrid, if Chef Ono were having straight sex the scenes might be rated PG-13, no bits or even clothes off. Out of 191 pages there were two with sex or male-male kissing happening on them. So this wouldn't really be called Yaoi, it is more a compilation of stories about particular social situations found in Japan that happen to intersect in a pastry shop.

I found it interesting to figure out how these three very different men came to be working together and the little side stories that come in for cake and tea. I recommend it to people who like light romance and/or slice of life stories and can stand the right to left page layout of Japanese manga.

Book 5

Monday, January 14, 2008

Difficulty of the Hugos

Since I have a membership in Worldcon I can nominate works for the Hugos. Unfortunately I have read very little that was published in the past year. I am remedying the gap by quickly hitting the library with lists of recommendations. Like reading the Ted Chiang novelette (by the Hugo definition) The Merchant and the Alchemist's Gate in the September 2007 edition of Fantasy and Science Fiction, but made available online. It was recommended by Abigail Nussbaum in her journal. I'm going to publish a list of what I'll be nominating later today and as you will all see it is a pathetic anemic thing. So I need anyone within range of this broadcast to point people at me to recommend things.

To answer a question that might otherwise be asked why don't I just use Hugo Recommend over on Livejournal or SF Awards Watch to make my list of things to look at and read? Well because I want more personal recommendations from people who are more closely associated with me by degrees of separation. And won't recommend William Gibson. More seriously I am using them, but I'm wondering if there is something more "Mishalak" that they might have missed.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Almost a Review: Blood Child & Kindred

I read a lot of speculative fiction long after it is fresh. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but it certainly does not help me when I'm trying to figure out what I'm going to nominate for the Hugos. Case and point, the titular short story of Octavia E. Butler's collection Blood Child and Other Stories. It is a weirdly gay science fiction story. I don't think I'd ruin it for anyone by saying so as I think it fairly well known given that it won the 1984 Nebula for best Novelette.

On the one hand Octavia says nothing new with these stories. They're all very ordinary science fiction themes. The disease that makes the ordinary amazing. The sort of things that we'll risk for emotional reasons around making our families safe... and to be loved. Genetics and destiny. Yet, there is an extraordinary quality to her writing. I think it would shine through even if I did not know who she was already, very important late 20th century SF writer.

On the other hand her novel Kindred both impressed me with its unromantic view of people, but it was a sort of deadpan magical realism. The fantasy elements are perfectly ordinary and never explained, but not mysterious as it would be in the classic Latin variety of magical realism. I still do not know what to think of them having finished them the day before yesterday and one week ago, respectively. My ability to review falls short of the stories I have read.

But who would I recommend them to? More than anything I think Kindred will appeal to fans of historical novels. A Uncle Tom's Cabin without the stiff language or black and white view of the world. Blood Child and Other Stories might appeal to fans of Bujold's Ethan of Athos or Tiptree's Houston, Houston, Do You Read?. But it is a short collection and I think everyone ought to give it each of the stories a few pages to grab them.

Books 3 & 4

Friday, January 11, 2008

Auld Acquaintances

Should old acquaintance be forgot, and never brought to mind? I raise my cup and think of them and times long gone by.

Make a post to your Live Journal, blog, MySpace, Facebook, or whatever, with a list of the names of old friends that you haven't seen in a long time, and would love to get in touch with again. Maybe one of them will Google their name and your post will turn up. Maybe someone on your friends list knows them and can pass the word along.

Jenny Stencil, Paul Domes, and Ro Holden.

And in the spirt of this thing I'm going to try to renew some sort of social contact with Gomez Lemuex, Robin LaChance, Christopher Winterburn, and Garfied Lindo.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Geek Out!

In the process of getting everything I read on LJ into google reader I managed to come across something that I missed from CorwinOfAmber's journal from two years ago. A flash animation of a song called Geeks in Love. This may be one of the cutest things I've ever seen on the net. Geeking out now! The only way it could have been better (in my opinion) is with gay geeks.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Glowing Eyes

Thinking about the traditional fantasy or science fiction species/monster with glowing eye my first speculation is that it would be useless. Glowing eyes are not seen anywhere in nature as far as I know and that is often a very good indication of what is useful (though not only). Though many nocturnal animals (and ones in other low light environments) have eyes with a tapetum lucidum, a bright reflective layer behind the retina that improves low light vision by reflecting it back through the retina. This layer reflecting some light back out of the eye is responsible for the impression of glowing eyes. I can also add a bit of personal experience to my book learning. I once had my contacts glow in while I was in a room lit with an UV 'blacklight'. It made my vision fuzzy and reduced my ability to see less illuminated objects, but I could see my contacts glow when I looked in a mirror, with some difficulty.

I suspect if I was constantly had my lens/eyes glowing I would not notice it as a glow after a time. Instead my brain would compensate and I would not notice the glow or objects of the same color hidden in the glow. So my first thought is that any species emitting light from its eyes would be color blind in a section of spectrum near that part and I could not see any advantage to it.

However this is assuming that the glow from the eyes is in the visual spectrum of the species emitting the light. If instead a species gave off ultraviolet light from its eyes and saw in the normal visual spectrum it would cause otherwise invisible things to become visible to it. So my second though about the subject is that maybe some real world species gives off ultraviolet light and uses that along with eyes sensitive in the blue/green region to see otherwise invisible things as a forensic investigator with an ultraviolet light might.

But ultraviolet is very energetic (relatively). So it might not be possible for anything to bioluminesce in the ultraviolet spectrum. I've not heard of anything that does, though it is possible that it may not be as well investigated by researchers. So what then if a theoretical species had eyes that glowed blue and used the re-emitting of light in longer wavelengths such as green, yellow, or red?

But why even have an eye glow? This is the basic problem that objectively a designer would not want to have a detection device like and eye also emitting what it is intended to detect. It would be much better if using blue or ultraviolet light to find otherwise hidden prey to have the light emitting organ separate. At most you would want it around the aperture of the eye like a ring flash on a camera. That at least could give the classic horror/fantasy look of the glowing eye with a black dot of the pupil in it. If the light emission was under the voluntary control of the animal then it would also be useful for signaling.

So my bottom line is that I think it unlikely to have a creature (or robot for that matter) having glowing eyes. But if a sorcerer or engineer had his heart set on it it could be practically designed. With some drawbacks.

Just A Test

I have been working on what system might work for posting to both my blogger account and to livejournal at the same time. I think I have the settings right so that all my posts appearing on blogger will be posted privately here. At least when I post via email which has its own drawbacks. Such as having to remember each time to include each place I want to post rather than having the computer work it out automatically. Also I wish there was to put tags in rather than having to edit the posts later. Maybe I'll search for a client program that could handle posting to both...

Edited: And that did not really work very well. So that theory of posting to both simultaneously is probably shot. On to either finding a client program or something.