Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Goals

I should be writing at this very moment. Instead, I’m typing this up and thinking about Captain Picard and varying degrees of getting published.

A story I wrote for braindouche got podcasted recently. It’s not quite the same as being published, but it’s still pretty awesome (oh my god, oh my god, oh my god—have you heard it? I squealed with joy and then listened to it a few dozen times). I even got my first rejection this year!

I could call myself lucky, but on further examination, I know it isn’t true. The places I’ve gone so far I went not simply because I was in the right place at the right time. Lots of people were there at the right place and the right time. I was the one who saw the possibilities and then put the work in to transform those possibilities into a reality.

That’s not to say that I’m just so awesome, because I’m not. I missed a lot of opportunities because I didn’t put the work in … just like most everyone else.

You have to put your foot in the water if you’re going to go swimming.

Every year, I set goals for myself rather than do resolutions. A goal is something you move toward, a resolution is something you break.

I haven’t always finished my goals, but I have always grown from them. This year, the fact that I’m a pushover became a bit too obvious to ignore. I’m making standing up for myself one of my goals and I’ve gotten an early start.

I actually called a customer service line!

That’s precisely the sort of thing I’ve never been able to bring myself to do.

So, I just want to say how much of an inspiration Jennifer Hudock’s commitment reports have been to me. Seeing the inner workings of her progress have really spurred me on to start submitting my work.

I think I’m a little too boring to bother people with regular status updates, but I put a progress box on the right hand side of the page where you can see a basic overview. I won’t put every little project in there because a lot of what I write isn’t intended to be published … at least not by other people. So, if it’s something I’m going to podcast or post up here, you won’t be seeing it there.

But keep an eye out for it and pester me if everything stops moving, ok?

(Read more!)

Friday, December 25, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Snow-Colored Fabrications

Your mother and I hear you want to open your presents a mere five hours into the day on which we have allowed you to believe the savior was born.

No presents will be opened before our family’s traditional hour, noon, for appropriate consciousness on that most sacred day.

We are not cruel parents. Our yearly hangover is essential to the holiday and not a symptom of regret at our having so many children.

The truth is … this year, Santa used UPS for some present delivery. The wretched UPS tracking shows that your presents are still in the south pole.

#25

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Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Patrick Stewart

The other day, I was thinking about making a change to an ongoing project at work that I inherited from a former co-worker. It’s a big change in paradigm, though not necessarily big in any other respect.

I vaguely remembered being told that things would start to take on my own personal style and that there was nothing like it.

Good advice!

The more I thought about it, the more I realized that I had no idea who had told me that. I couldn’t think of anyone I work with who hands out such sage wisdom.

After pondering it for a bit, I realized that my subconscious had inserted a bit of advice that Capt. Picard had given to Cmdr. Riker (probably The Icarus Factor but I’m not certain).

In a sense, that tells you just how much Patrick Stewart has impacted me. I know the man isn’t his character on the television, but the beauty of acting is that it doesn’t matter. Capt. Picard is real enough to give me advice because Patrick Stewart is that great an actor.

Now, if the writing had been crappy, I probably wouldn’t have remembered the advice positively, but it was Patrick who took that good advice and made it real to me.

If this was just a personal reflection, I wouldn’t bother posting it up. However, there’s a rumor going around that Patrick Stewart may soon be knighted. I hope the rumor is true. I think he deserves it, and it seems the Queen is a fan of him too, so chances are good.

So, what other advice does the Captain have for me this year?

I’m ready for my own ship. Having authority has never been an interest of mine, though I certainly “step up to the plate” when necessary. But that’s ok because it’s my own ship. Not a ship that involves giving orders, but a family working toward common goals.

And, of course, the fearless exploration of the culture and universe we live in.

Because that’s how we do things on the U.S.S. Badass.

Speaking of that grand old ship, braindouche produced an audio story I wrote. It's called Good Will. Check it out!

(Read more!)

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #13

This week has been kinda crappy. The culmination was getting stranded by the bus on Friday … in the snow. It blazed on past me, and ignored me running after it.

I didn’t do much actual writing. I finished plotting Terms of Service and started plotting DSOAW. Part of the reason I haven’t been writing is because I don’t want to start a long project before editing Edgar Kennicot but I don’t quite feel ready to edit it yet.

Anyway, on to the audio.

  • Pseudopod’s Napier’s Bones by Stephen Gaskell. I’m not a huge horror fan so it took me awhile to get around to trying any of Pseudopod’s work. As it so happens, their definition of horror is usually pretty far removed from the Saw and Hostel variety conception. This story is awesome. It has references to John Napier, inventor of logarithms. And, in a way, it’s about performance enhancing substances. Sort of. Haha.
  • LibriVox’s recording of Captain Stormfield’s Visit To Heaven by Mark Twain. This is a very amusing take on what heaven should be like. Well, if Mark Twain is telling it anyway. This is one of the things I really like about LibriVox. I probably wouldn’t have read this story on my own. The fact that someone was reading it to me meant I was more willing to experience something that I had never heard of. Sure, Mr. Twain is pretty famous and I might have gotten around to it eventually, but there are plenty of works that I definitely wouldn’t have heard of otherwise.
  • Variant Frequencies’ Naught But Ash by Ann Stringer. This story is very much like a Twilight Zone episode. But not the Twilight Zone episode you might think. In fact, it’s like someone found a missing episode. I came away with questions. It’s a nice puzzle.
  • StarShipSofa’s The Angst of God, I Kid You Not by Michael Bishop. This story is darkly humorous and puts forth a point of view I completely disagree with. It’s kind of like Pink Floyd’s Fletcher Memorial dipped in Kurt Vonnegut from a demented universe. The story starts at 17 minutes and 30 seconds.
(Read more!)

Friday, December 18, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Awake

The parole officers released the ghosts and there was no way to put them back. It wasn't even possible for them to commit crimes anymore, so they couldn't be re-jailed.

I was awake when they came. Out of my dreams and into my living room. It felt like a thousand years ago, but it was just five weeks.

I didn't really mind. They could watch me eat my frosted flakes every morning for all I cared.

They weren't haunting my dreams anymore, so who was I to argue with a ghoulish breakfast?

#16

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Sunday, December 13, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #12

No excuses for this week, I’m just plain late.

The writing front went pretty well this week. I finished the first draft on my Tony Cello story this week. I also have a decent title for it now: The Transported Town. It’s a bit Philip K. Dick considering it’s a paranormal mystery, but Philip can infect my titles with awesome any time he feels like.

I also started plotting for Terms of Service. I had originally wanted to do a full length novel of it, but based on my experience during NaNo, I’m not sure what I have right now can actually be stretched out to novel length. I may go with a ten part serial (20K total according to my current theory) instead.

  • Atoms, Motion, and the Void did a story awhile back called Dinner in the Dark by Sherwin Sleeves. AMV is a public access radio program produced in New Hampshire. Their release schedule is a little odd, but Sherwin is an incredible story teller with an amazing voice. I’m very grateful to Braindouche for introducing me to this podcast. The story itself is a melancholy look at the past and the confusion that comes with the passage of years and the cultural myth that’s built up around it. But you can enjoy it without putting all that thought into it.
  • Dunesteef: Final Exam by Edward McKeown. Excellent nostalgic science fiction piece with more than a little 50s era nostalgia. There’s also a hilarious intro by Rish and Big, and a bit of discussion about optimistic SF. If you’re interested in optimistic SF, you should definitely give Shineanthology a looksie. Optimistic SF is not my bag of rice, but it might be yours.
  • Poul Anderson’s Security … read by Gregg Margarite, one of my absolute favoritest LibriVox readers ever. This is a great story, and a really great reading. Despite the fact that it was written in 1953, the story is pretty good about not being misogynistic.
  • Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice, read by Karen Savage. This is one of my favorite books ever, and I’ve listened to this version of it at least five times this year. Karen Savage does a brilliant job of reading it and if you have any interest in Jane Austen at all, you should definitely listen to this version.
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Friday, December 11, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Invaders

The invaders weren't bad once you got to know them. The pale ones were a pasty fright, and most were too tall and thin to avoid physical revulsion.

They were obsessed with a convoluted series of inter-operating databases which they insisted contained money. Absurd.

But their grains could be fermented to make a beverage they called “beer,” and that was almost enough to forgive the rest of their offenses.

#15

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Sunday, December 6, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #11

I’m doing things a little bit differently this week. After the recommendations, I’m going to have a review of a movie. That’s the primary reason this week’s Tactical Highlighter is a bit late.

It’s more indepth than my mini reviews and the movie I’m covering isn’t terribly obscure. So, let me know if you liked it, or disliked it or just plain didn’t care.

  • My Father’s Dragon by Ruth Stiles Gannett (LibriVox). Unlike a lot of the stuff I link to, this one is not only safe for kiddies, it’s actually read by a kid. It’s a ten chapter book, and none of the chapters are very long so this might make a fun book for a road trip or bedtime story for a week and a half. I don’t think it will be too annoying for adults either, so even if you don’t have kids, you should check it out.
  • Variant Frequencies’ Fuel Pressure by Dennis Egan. A curious little story about spite and the end of the world.
  • StarShipSofa’s Child of an Ancient City by Tad Williams. StarShipSofa is really an audio magazine, so there’s a lot here you might not find as interesting as the main story. Helpfully, they’ve included the information in the show notes that the story starts at 51:00 minutes in. This story is in the tradition of classic frame stories (such as Arabian Nights). It’s a really phenomenal story. However, if you dislike Arabian Nights, you’ll probably dislike this one.
  • Dunesteef’s His Poisoner by Sean Eads. This is a really intricate and multilayered story that can be enjoyed without getting into the intricacies. I’d love to say more about it, but it would require spoilers and this story is all about the journey.
  • PodCastle’s Marsh Gods by Ann Leckie. I’ve apparently run out of mana for describing these. Let’s just say it involves old gods and very clever little girls.

Now, for this week’s feature presentation:

Mutant Chronicles: A Review

Mutant Chronicles is based on an RPG of the same name. Appropriately, there are a lot of interesting concepts here.

Unfortunately, that’s probably the nicest thing I can say about this movie. It has Ron Perlman, and while normally that would be a plus, in this case, it’s a downside: It proved to me that it was possible to have a Perlman movie I didn’t like.

At first, they seem to want us to believe that Perlman’s character is a man who has more faith and hope than anyone else. However, as the movie progresses they let us see that he has lost the sense of humanity that would be necessary for him to have that faith and hope. What he really has is a desire for glory. That would be interesting if it had not been for horrible pacing and writing.

I think that’s ultimately where most of the problems in this movie come from. The movie tries to play as an ensemble cast, but we are never really given a reason to care about any of the characters.

A character is introduced early on who appears to be there simply so he can be found later on and play a part in the group getting ambushed. One of the ensemble is given a very Nazi air for no discernable reason other than having a minor redemption of a Nazi-like character.

Devon Akoi seems to be in the movie for no better reason than to have her reprise her role as Miho from Sin City. Anna Walton is in the movie to be a critique of blind faith, but at the same time a psuedo love interest for Thomas Jane’s character.

I really could go on and on with that, but I think I’ve covered the character aspects well enough.

There’s a bit of character development via brick bat as well, but it’s really not the worst part of the movie.

The worst part is that so many of the awesome concepts are never brought to any good use at all. The alien artifact was almost certainly not intended to be used for what it accidentally ended up doing, but we’re never given any idea of what it was intended for. Thomas Jane’s character almost had some drive, but aside from being the most “in the moment,” human character, we’re never given any indication of what that might be.

The world is drawn up into four corporations instead of nations (like the capitalistic version of 1984), but we don’t see how that has changed society in any real measure. War is still conducted in a more or less conventional way, even though dividing the world into four companies would probably have a change on that as well.

There are mild steampunk elements, but nothing is really done with them either.

My last thought on this: I’ve heard a lot of complaints about the quality of the special effects on this movie. I disagree. I really don’t know what people are complaining about on this one. The special effects are pretty decent and would be completely unnoticeable if the movie itself wasn’t so bad.

(Read more!)

Friday, December 4, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Stars


There can be no life without death.

The first stars are made of light elements that cannot produce life. Their deaths produce the heavier elements that will fuel the life that grows around their descendants.

It is messy and heartbreaking, but Chaos loves her children and if they have a few hairs out of place or a curious number of limbs, she knows it's for the best.

#13

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Sunday, November 29, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #10

I did relatively well on my writing goals last week … until Thanksgiving hit, and everything went out the window. Whoops. I’ll be back on it this week though. I need to do a bit of plot-work on my current project since winging it isn’t going to work on a piece this long.

Obviously, this isn’t up on Saturday. Turns out it takes more time to make mashed potatoes from scratch than I thought. I should probably figure out how long it takes for me to make one of these too.

  • Let Us Now Praise Awesome Dinosaurs by Leonard Richardson on Drabblecast. They normally don’t do full cast productions on Drabblecast, but it was totally necessary on this one and since they did full cast, everything was perfect. This is one of the funniest audio productions of all time, and if you dislike this episode, I’ll probably cry.
  • The Tinyman and Caroline by Sarah L. Edwards on PodCastle. Interesting concept, but the real catch is the characters. Also, fantasy dystopia? Quite shiny.
  • Infestation by Garth Nix on Escape Pod. Infestation is an actual Science Fiction vampire concept, and one that manages to avoid the biological virus trope. How does it do that? I’ll let you find that out for yourself.
  • Science News Update from November, 2009. There’s no clean way to link to the audio segment except to link directly to the mp3, and I’ll spare you finding out the hard way whether hot-linking works on their server. Just check the last content link on the page. This is a really fantastic science news thing. Podcast doesn’t seem to be quite the right word for it. These segments go on StarShipSofa, so if you already listen to that podcast, you’ve probably already heard the segment.
  • I Should Be Writing #130 LITE: Fear by Mur Lafferty. If you’re a writer and not familiar with Mur’s I Should Be Writing, get familiar. It’s a great podcast about the ins and outs of writing from the perspective of someone who has been a “wanna be” writer. This episode is about dealing with your own fear when writing. Excellent quote from J.C. Hutchins in this episode: “Done is better than perfect.”
(Read more!)

Friday, November 27, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Shrink-Box

You couldn't fight the machine. Everyone told him so and he knew they were right, but he had to keep fighting anyway.

He had lead the machine to dead zones. The box stopped and didn't follow him, but in a few hours it had tracked him down again.

He'd tried several variations on that theme including a Faraday cage. If it hadn't come back with the same dents every time, he would have thought someone had deployed a new machine.

As it was, the familiar husk stared him down as it asked him the infuriating question. “How does that make you feel?”

#12

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Monday, November 23, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #9

I hit my 50K in NaNoWriMo! Woot. I was going to do a first pass edit on it right away and then drawer it for awhile. However, I may end up drawering it first. Helps to get perspective. We’ll see. I’m still going to be writing every day though.

  • PodCastle’s East of Chula Vista by Samantha Henderson. This one is a wee bit on the dark side. Combines elements of death anthropomorphization legends with modern immigration issues. May not be everyone’s taste.
  • Hypersonic Tales’ Herman Meant No Harm by Guy Belleranti. Though perhaps a bit predicable, it is still a fun little story.
  • Drabblecast’s Quantum P.I. by Igor Teper. Every Drabblecast is cast in solid platinum bits and blessed by the gods. Quantum P.I. is just my favorite of the stories on here. The drabble (one hundred word story) by Steve Lidster is quite awesome too.
  • Dunesteef’s The Strange Affair of the Artisan’s Heart by Joshua Reynolds. This one is for all my Steampunk loving folks. First Steampunk story ever done by Dunesteef, and some interesting alternate history concepts. The alt history ideas aren’t explored well, but that’s to be understood due to the length of the story.
  • Tee Morris and PJ Ballantine did a Steampunk story reading at the World Fantasy Con and released a recording of it on Tee’s site. The story is called Books and Braun, and is a prelude to a larger work. Possibly a novel.
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Saturday, November 21, 2009

Tactical Delay

This week's Tactical Highlighter will be late. I had switched it from a Monday schedule to a Saturday schedule so it would be more useful for finding things to listen to on work commutes. If things go really well on my NaNo, I may have it up some time tomorrow. However, it will probably be at some point on Monday instead.

I try not to load the world up on excuses, but I've been sick most of the week. It's affected my writing, and it's affected my listening. So, rather than give you a crappy update, I'll put it off for a little while longer.

Hope you are all well, and have nice dreams about intelligent rats in London and saucy vampire slayers.

(Read more!)

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Walking

It had been six months before she realized her couch was sentient. It wasn't that she was insensitive to the needs of a burgeoning intelligence. The couch just wasn't very assertive. It had probably happened when a friend dropped beer near the circuit. They had gotten on fairly well since she made the discovery, though she really wished it would stop sleep walking.

#11

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Black Maw

I wrote this one on January 26 of this year. I had planned on doing something with it since it ended with the triple tilde which used to mean “new section” in my notes. However, I didn’t leave myself any other info so this one isn’t going anywhere.

It should be written as General Relativity Horror, but I have no intention of re-writing it. Enjoy the appalling unevenness.

Oh, I forgot to mention, swearing disclaimer: There is swearing in this piece. Two words, I think? Same word both times. I'm not offended and I hope you aren't. But if you think you might be, you should skip this one.


Ancient Earther jazz played over the ship’s speakers. If she closed her eyes and ignored the metallic echo, she could almost imagine she was in some cold dark corner of that planet. Assuming there was such place on that giant golf course.

The distorted sound of an alarm quietly clashed with the music. Shit.

The flashing red light that went with the alarm meant trouble aft. She checked the sensors to make sure nothing was going to jump her ship, and pulled herself through the pit door. The gravity was turned off everywhere but the pit, her sack, and the engine room. She jumped out of the pit and went floating aft.

She could see a blackened mark on an instrument box. She pried it open with a screwdriver on her belt.

Two resistors and a capacitor had blown. It was primitive, but it was a critical part of a system that made sure the internal radiation didn’t rise much above the cosmic background radiation that permeated the entire universe. If she was lucky, it wouldn’t matter that it was gone. If she was unlucky, she’d be glowing in the dark.

She had replacement resistors and a soldering gun in the compartment, but she’d have to cannibalize the capacitor from something that mattered less than not getting radiation poisoning. She launched herself back toward the pit.

Beeping persisted in the pit. “Shut up already!”

“Oh, shit. You’re not the radiation sensor.”

Her ship was falling into a black maw. She was too far inside its grasp to pull out again. She turned the ship to face the maw and plunged straight in. There was no sense in waiting for time’s unending approach to zero to arrive.

(Read more!)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #8

This has been a pretty crap week. If anyone has the mystical ability to spend a week in my shoes and was contemplating it, pick some other week. It’s been fairly productive though. I wrote 29,343 words in NaNoWriMo as of yesterday and should be at about 31.2K before the end of tonight. Go me!

Of course, if I ever start thinking too highly of my word count, I’ll remember Nathan Lowell had 44,800 as of yesterday. Gee whiz, dude. Way to make the rest of us look bad.

Anyway, welcome to this week’s episode of Tactical Highlighter. I felt like I did very little listening this week, but still managed to find enough shiny things that I haven’t included all of them. Save some room for dessert, folks.

    Audio:
  • PodCastle episode: The Small Door by Holly Phillips. This story has a lot of elements I really love, but it’s hard to talk about them without spoiling things. Let me just say it has an ambiguous ending, and things aren’t as they appear.
  • Drabblecast B-Side: Jeez Louise by Robert Scotellaro. You hear about the cheeto that looks like some saint or another, the Madonna on the back of a highway sign, or the toast that looks like Jesus? Amateur hour. This is just a wee bit bathroom-humor-esque so if that bothers you, you’ll probably want to look elsewhere.
  • Well Told Tales: The Gangster’s New Clothes by George Wilhite. Well Told Tales is a sort of DIY podcast that features a lot of noir and pulp stories with a science fiction element to them. This particular story has almost nothing to do with the old classic The Emperor’s New Clothes, but really shines as an example of something that combines noir and SF together. Plus, it’s a fantastic story.
  • P.G. Holyfield has been releasing a series of short stories related to his Murder at Avedon Hill story. The short stories are from a variety of writers and I think this week’s story is exceptionally awesome. It’s called The Old Gods and the Sea and was written by Patrick E. McLean. If you like fantasy or just plain enjoy good stories, you should check out Murder at Avedon Hill’s podcast. I’m not the hugest fan of Fantasy, and I absolutely loathe prologues. P.G. taught me a prologue doesn’t have to be boring and Sword & Sorcery fantasy can be thrilling. Of course, it’s not straight up Sword & Sorcery if that bothers you like it bothers me.
    Bonus:
  • Symphony of Science created an auto-tuned song from Carl Sagan clips called A Glorious Dawn. The closest thing I can compare the feeling of listening to this song is spiritual ecstasy. You might not like it, but give it a try. They’ve made the MP3 available for free download if you enjoy the song as much as I do.
(Read more!)

Friday, November 13, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Ladybug

A ladybug winks at a guy in Berlin and Brachiosaurs get their wings.

Chaos theory? It makes beautiful things.

#10

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #7

NaNo is going fairly well. As of this writing, I’m at 15721 words and my OpenOffice.org Calc sheet shows my average per day at just above 2245. I haven't started writing for today so that's why the numbers may not add up.

Unfortunately, that pace throws off my listening because I don’t have as much capacity for listening to stories if I’m working hard on stories. It’s an emotional thing rather than a time issue. So, this week’s Tactical Highlighter is a bit light and it’s being posted later than I hoped. I had wanted to start posting these on Saturdays or early on Sundays to give people a bit more time before the work week to download the stuff I’m talking about. It’s looking like that won’t happen during November. We’ll see how things work out for December.

    Audio
  • Halloween is one of my favorite holidays, Peanuts is one of my favorite comic strips, and Norm Sherman is one of my favorite podcasting voices. Too bad there’s nothing that combines those three things together! Oh, I’m a failure at being a tease. Here’s The Great Old Pumpkin by John Aegard. It’s definitely the best thing ever. I usually delete an episode of whatever I’m listening to right after I finished listening to it. For this one, I listened three times in one day, and I’m sure it won’t be deleted anytime soon. The introduction and outro are every bit as entertaining as the story and I laughed bunches.
  • Jennifer Hudock, author of the Goblin Market podcast, posted up a short story podcast based in the universe of James Melzer’s Invasion storyline. I’m not familiar with James Melzer’s work, but if Jennifer’s story is any indication, I’m sure it’s wonderful. Not appropriate for children, probably ok for most adults.
  • There’s another great Dead Robots Society interview up. It includes some talk about Scott Sigler’s book deal and where he sees the future of publishing, and some hints about a business plan Scott is using for his self-published books. I think Scott has a great idea and if you have an interest in self-publishing, you should definitely listen. DRS’s interview with Philippa Ballantine and Dan Sawyer (who wrote Cold Duty, a story I reviewed for Dear Editor) is also quite good, but it’s more entertaining than informative from a new media perspective. Ugh, I hate saying “new media” about as much as I hate saying “social media.” Someone needs to invent a name for it that doesn’t make you sound like a sleazy douche bag when you use it. Enough with the ramble though.
  • On the subject of Dan Sawyer, his second launchcast for Down From Ten is really good for writers. It’s been awhile since I wrote the note to myself to mention this, so I don’t remember the exact topic, but if you’re a writer, please listen in. I’m sure part three is excellent too, but I haven’t listened to it and part one was more entertaining than informative. Entertaining is good, but I generally stick to linking fiction for entertainingness.
    Bonus: Video
  • I love Pomplamoose's cover of Beat It. Amaaaaazing. I haven't heard the original, but it can't possibly be better than this.
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Friday, November 6, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Cheese

The Martians didn't mind the cows. Really. They were more annoyed when we took them away than when we'd left them there in the first place.

If we'd realized they were going to get on so well, we probably wouldn't have given it a second thought. As it was, wondering what they could find to talk about for endless hours had us a bit paranoid. Can you blame us?

The cows might know many secrets or harbor untold grudges!

There was no way of knowing how the cows felt about hamburgers and leather chaps, and, if they felt weren't fans, the Martians might respond poorly. Neither cow nor Martian was known for rigorous logical exercise.

Unfortunately, the Martian sense of humor decided Giraffe burgers were awesome, and that they should be made out of humans.

According to my sources, we taste good with barbecue sauce, but forget the cheese.

#9

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Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Triangle Transit for Complete Nubs

With a title like that, it’s only fair to explain that I am writing this article because when I was a Compete Nub in this area, I very much would have appreciated the opportunity to read this article or one like it. There’s a first time for everything, and if you can’t do adequate research because information just simply doesn’t exist, then being a nub isn’t your own fault.

This article is a supplement to the GoTriangle websites, not a substitute for reading what’s already there. Do your own research.

If you’ve already ridden on buses, this article will be pretty boring. If you spot any mistakes, let me know.

Park and Ride

Park and Ride is a pretty handy concept in an area like Raleigh. You literally drive your car to the Park and Ride you need and catch the next bus. Parking there is free.

I use the Sertoma Arts Center and unfortunately both the signs and the information available online is inaccurate for this site. The information on line will kind of get you to the right parking lot, but the signs themselves are horribly incorrect. You can’t take the Millbrook entrance to Shelley Lake to get to the Park and Ride. You have to go into the Sertoma Arts Center, take the first available left, drive to the second entrance, and drive all the way back. On your left hand side facing opposite the Sertoma entrance road, there’s a sign for the TTA 201 bus route. That’s the only route that picks up from that location.

Make sure you pay close attention to which bus routes serve what or you’ll likely end up stranded somewhere.

Stopping the Bus

Some buses (possibly all?) have certain stops where they only stop if it’s requested. Old buses have a nice cord to pull on. Raleigh’s newer buses have a different system that really isn’t that obvious. There are tiny little signs on either side of the front end of the bus to explain it, but if you don’t know what you’re looking for, you won’t find it.

It’s a black, rubbery strip that runs along the length of the bus on the side of the top consoles. Press the button far enough in advance that the driver can easily stop in time. If you can estimate 500 feet, I’d try that distance.

Regional Pass

The 30 day regional pass is pretty nice. You can use every bus system in the area (except the Express Buses) with one low fee. The problem comes into play if you’re like me and can really only use a particular TTA route. If I was only using Raleigh buses, I could get a month long pass for 33 USD (after electronic handling fee). However, there is no discount for only using TTA buses. It costs me 65 USD (after fees) for 30 days of regional pass.

One of the awesome things about transit in this area is that you can order the tickets online and they’ll be mailed in 1-2 business days. I’ve looked into public transportation in other regions, and this sort of turn around time seems to be a rare exception. Other places may make you wait as many as three weeks. I ordered mine Sunday, and I was out of town so I don’t know what day they came in. However, they were post marked for Monday, so they probably arrived Tuesday. Super shiny.

The 30 days on this regional pass starts on the first day you use it. You could order yours today and not use until two weeks from now and your 30 days would count from the date two weeks from now, not from now. When you put your card in for the first time, the machine will print the start date and end date on the back of it.

The website says to swipe your regional pass through the swipe thing. In my experience, the swipe thing doesn’t work for that and you can just put your card into the fare card slot.

Buying Tickets On The Bus

There’s decent information on GoTriangle about buying your tickets on the bus. The only thing I have to add is that the bus uses a vending machine cash reader. If the soda machine won’t take your cash, I doubt the bus will. Bring pretty paper or buy ahead of time.

Times

The Triangle Transit sites all say that you should arrive 10 minutes early. That’s probably a good idea in general. North Carolinians seem to count “five minutes late” as “just about on time.” There’s a time and a place for that, but the bus driver doesn’t know you’re just two minutes away. He or she only knows you’re not there, and he or she is going to drive off.

That said, once you understand how punctuality works in a world based on accurate clocks, you’ll probably notice your bus is 4-6 minutes late every time. I’ve never seen a bus in Raleigh arrive early. If you have actually seen the bus sign and you can arrive at a specific time, then five minutes early is probably good enough.

Other Stuff

Oddly, the best way to get answers about things that their sites don’t cover is to ask on their Facebook page. I got answers to my questions within 24 hours. I will warn you that the answers were somewhat incomplete, but you also get a chance to see what other people have been asking about. I used some of the information that other people had received in order to fill in the gaps of my own knowledge. A lot of that ended up here.

Previous Post in Series: Thoughts About Public Transit

P.S. Did you know that you can hire me to make lousy graphics like those above for a mere 60,000/yr USD? Well-written guides like this come free with the deal!

In all seriousness, though, sorry about the graphics. I tried.

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Monday, November 2, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #6

I'm thinking about having these release on Saturday or Sunday instead of Monday because I figure if you listen to podcasts during your commute, you probably load up your player before 6AM Monday morning. Thoughts? Leave them in the comments or send me a tweet.

It’s been a long week, but I have finally figured out the bus! I ran into some hitches that I wasn’t expecting, but that’s actually going to make my eventual post about RTP transit that much more informative. But I’m sure that’s not what you’re here for. Lots of good stuff this week. Enjoy!

  • Christiana Ellis and, briefly, Mur Lafferty discuss SF&F from a female perspective in a pretty awesome episode of the Dead Robots Society. It’s actually inspired me to finally read Twilight so that I can do a proper feminist critique of it. So, that may not be such a great thing overall. Whoops.
  • Gabrielle Harbowy did an interview with P.G. Holyfield which was divided into two pieces. Gabrielle is one of the main editors for Dragon Moon Press, a small but growing independent press. The interview is not about the press, however. It’s all about the process of editing and submitting. If you’re a writer, this is an invaluable interview. It takes up about an hour and a half. It made me sad though. Apparently, ‘alright,’ ‘towards,’ and ‘nevermind’ are UK conventions and should be replaced with ‘all right,’ ‘toward,’ and ‘never mind’ in the US. Weak. Sauce. Not her fault, them’s the breaks.
  • Escape Pod episode 221: Little Ambushes by Joanne Merriam. This is short, very sweet, and gives an incredible perspective on art and human life. Plus carnivorous squirrels! If that sounds disturbing, don’t worry, they’re only mentioned.
  • PodCastle episode The Curandero and the Swede: A Tale from the 1001 American Nights by Daniel Abraham. I actually read this in the March 2009 issue of Fantasy & Science Fiction and was really delighted to hear it read for PodCastle.
  • Drabblecast 134: Bone Sigh by Tim Pratt. This one is really disturbing, but really awesome. Norm Sherman classifies it as horror. It’s not Saw or anything like that. Tim’s character is truly disturbing, but at the same time incredibly sympathetic. Not for kiddies!
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Sunday, November 1, 2009

November: The Plan

For any one paying close attention, I blogged the place up in October. An average of .5 posts per day.

November is going to be a bit quieter than that. I’m participating in NaNo again this year. Some things will continue as planned. The Bedtime Stories for the ADD have already been written, and I’ll probably keep listening to podcasts during November so Tactical Highlighter should also continue on track.

The random essays will probably not happen so much. My “Triangle Buses for Nubs” essay has already been written (just needs illustrating) so it will show up on Tuesday … with or without illustrations.

I’ll probably post a few status updates for NaNo, but I won’t be posting a daily word count. I sincerely doubt the number matters that much to you. If it does, check my twitter. My planned strategy is to write 2000 words per uber-writing day so that I can have two days of reduced writing per week. Mondays and Wednesdays are reduced days so if you see a low #wordcount on those days, don’t fret. I’m not much of a joiner, so it actually won’t be possible to friend me on NaNo’s site. Well, if you bribe me and I accept the bribe, I may create an account for that purpose. Otherwise, not so much.

My idea is Neo-Victorian Romantic Science Fantasy. Yes, I know. It sounds complicated. It’s really not.

If I finish it, I hope to use it as my first podcast novel. I’ll probably take the month of December to edit it and then start trying to get vocal talent together in January. In short, don’t expect to hear my story before March at the very earliest.

So, about the October Noise … how do you feel about the extra essays and stuff? Some of it is going to happen regardless, but there was a lot of optional content like Thoughts on Florida, Florida Revelations, and Markdown: Web Dingus which I could have just posted up on Facebook and left alone. Not really about writing, but still creative.

Hit me up in the comments or on Twitter if you have a feeling about them one way or the other. This isn’t a democracy, but I am listening.

P.S. I have two stories ready to be sent off for rejections! October was an awesome month so far as writing goes.

EDIT: Sorry if this shows up in your feed again. I had a misunderstanding with respect to how Dingus treats certain types of links which resulted in a broken link that I only just now remembered to fix. Blah! 2009-11-08 2:51 PM EST.

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Friday, October 30, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Them Who Wait

The people of the Virgo Stellar Stream—a resource-poor galactic fragment who call themselves ‘Them Who Wait’—were looking forward to the completion of their emigration to the Milky Way. Which, coincidentally, they call ‘Good Things.’

Residents of the Milky Way were unavailable for comment.

Note: Virgo Stellar Stream (Wiki)

#8

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Thursday, October 29, 2009

Markdown: Web Dingus

I used to do the curly quotes, em-dashes, paragraphs, bulleted lists, and really all the HTML on this blog completely manually because it offered a great deal of precision over using Blogger’s built-in editor. Unfortunately, maintaining pure HTML that way is error prone and leads to a lot of extra edits. A recent question asked by Cory Docotorow on Twitter led me to wondering if there was a better way.

As it turns out, there is. At least there is for me. One answer that was posed for Cory—which I doubt would satisfy his 300K request—is Daring Fireball: Markdown Web Dingus. If you set the Filter to Both and Results to Source & Preview, it’ll spit out the magic formatted code.

I’d heard of Markdown before. It’s a simplified markup language that I didn’t see much use for until I found out Dingus combined it with the conversion of regular quotes and double-dashes to HTML. That makes for a killer combination and highly useful.

There are a few snags for me though. There isn’t a way (so far as I can tell) to tell Dingus to assign a style to a given paragraph, so it’s a little Tag-centric instead of CSS-centric. Most experts seem to agree that formatting should all be Style-sheet oriented, and I’ve been doing it that way myself for a few years. So, that’s not entirely convenient. An interesting example of this is what happens when you want to double-space between lines in a list. It inserts paragraph tags inside the LI tags. Eww.

Markdown also dislikes putting text in the heading of any sort of list. I have the choice of not putting a heading there, or of adding it manually. Not the worst choice in the world, but I do this frequently and the added complexity isn’t a positive thing.

Minor complaints aside, I’m quite happy with it. It saves me a theoretical 30 minutes when posting a 1000 word story, and 10-15 minutes plus minor after-the-fact edits on 500 word essays. Because of the Tag-centricism, I still have to do some tinkering with Bedtime Stories for the ADD, but it’s nothing too bad.

If you want to use curly quotes, real em-dashes, and so on in your blog, this is the stuff for you. If you’re wondering why you would care about all that, I’m really sorry for boring you with this post. Basically, it makes everything look more like a proper book or magazine would. Many office suites will do the conversions automatically, but you can’t copy-paste direct into HTML and get consistent results. Even if you could, it wouldn't be appropriately standards-compliant and so it would likely break at some point in the future.

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Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Thoughts on Florida

I went on a business trip to Florida last week, and I'm a little concerned about the spate of churches I saw there. The problem isn't the number, but the type. Many looked like the sort of places that shouldn't be a 503c. This isn't a thinly-veiled political comment insinuating that churches that disagree with my political beliefs shouldn't get tax write-offs.

Every one of their signs pointed to a name-it-and-claim-it, send me money and God will bless you mindset and theology. If they only fed on those who could use a little less attachment to their money, they could be accused of philanthropy. Unfortunately, they don't go after those people because they aren't easy victims.

It's the people in desperate situations who fall for this sort of pseudo-spiritual shucksterism.

Because I don't hang out with the health-and-wealthers anymore, I've failed to notice that this shallow doctrine marches on. Americans want to believe. We want to believe that there's an easy solution just around the corner. We want to believe that God or some other divine element in the universe will give us loads of money if we just follow ten simple steps.

If there is a divine element in the universe and that element is benevolent, it will never make our lives that easy. It's not in our best interest.

So, what can you do? If you have elderly loved ones in your life, make sure they're not getting tangled up in this stuff. If you know people that are into this sort of theology, challenge them to seek a deeper doctrine. A doctrine which doesn't gloss over Jesus' actual teachings and the sufferings of Job. And if you meet the health-and-wealthers, remind them just how difficult it is for a wealthy man to enter the Kingdom of Heaven.

Particularly if the wealthy man's pockets are filled with money taken from the poor.

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Tuesday, October 27, 2009

J.C. Hutchins' Personal Effects: Dark Arts

Hey, everyone! I have a review of J.C. Hutchins’ Personal Effects: Dark Arts up on Dear Editor in blazing podcast glory.

J.C. Hutchins’ awesome new book, 7th Son: Descent is coming out tomorrow. I’ve listened to the original podcast of 7th Son: Descent, and this is one of the most incredible books I’ve ever read. I spent days obsessing about the awesome possibility of having my own clone army. The original was so awesome that it was actually optioned to become a movie, and you’ve definitely heard of the studio that optioned it.

My previous statement on it is “Your Jack Bauer loving momma will love J.C.’s work as much as you will. And that’ll be quite a lot in both cases.” I stand by my statement, and more. J.C. has updated the book to be even more awesome, so even if you have listened to the original, you need this book.

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Monday, October 26, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #5

Here's some awesome stuff for you to check out. Love it, adore it, and send some money their way if you're able.

  • Drabblecasts's Annabelle's Alphabet by Tim Pratt. This is a pretty dark urban fantasy, and you shouldn't listen with kids around. Violence and child abuse specifically.
  • Escape Pod episode 214: Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast. What if you could change your entire personality and sex by changing masks? What if it was a method of controlling society? Dun dun DUN! Fair amounts of sex and violence in this one. You have been warned.
  • If you're looking for less ... salacious fare, you're in luck. Escape Pod episode 209: On The Eyeball Floor is just what you need. Norm Sherman from the above-mentioned Drabblecast narrates and does a very shiny job of it too.
  • PodCastle's episode 54: Dreaming Wind. They accidentally had two readers for this one. I listened to Rajan Khanna's version, though aside from different readers, they should be identical. This is a fairly surreal story ... to the point where they put a warning on the episode for anyone who wanted to protect their kids from surrealism. That boggles my mind, but I'll ignore it. Listen to this story. It's awesome.
    Other:
  • Eight Unstoppable Rules for Writing Killer Short Stories. This is about a year and a half old, and showed up on my beloved io9 before I knew anything about them. I don't think this post is particularly profound, but I think it's a critical starting place. If it helps you, great. If not, then forget about it. And that's a piece of advice you should apply to every piece of advice you ever get. Speaking of io9, Bedtime Stories for the ADD: #4 was originally about them before it took on a life of its own. I am a seriously ridiculous fan-boy.
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Friday, October 23, 2009

Florida Revelations

I've spent the past week in Florida. I had some revelations. I've tried to keep them entertaining. Enjoy. Or skip.


  • Being hundreds of miles away doesn’t stop your home douche bags from finding ways to douche things up at a distance. There should be a theory of douche efficiency. It may be critical to solving quantum physics. Possibly related to spooky action at a distance.
  • My phone’s battery can last indefinitely if the screen is off and it’s in airplane mode. Useful as an alarm clock. Pointless for anything else. But it does bring the battery life up to the advertised standard. Ha.
  • What inspired the TSA to harass my check-in luggage on the way back? There were six things in my check-in that might have inspired their obsession with my check-in. All six things were in it on the way there. Which one was it? My St. John's Wort, wireless mouse deprived of batteries, several CAT5 network cables, ibuprofen, leatherman rip-off, and shaving equipment.
  • Florida is pretty unwalkable even being in a different city than Miami.
  • Instead of doing a do-or-die attempt at the park-and-ride, I could show up in time for the previous bus and see where it stops so I know where to go to find it when my bus comes. I am really stoked about riding the bus.
  • If you are in a crowded walking area, do not block traffic. This is not my revelation, but it's possible it should be yours. Especially you, Mr. Having A Mac Entitles Me To Park My Ass PERPENDICULAR To The Traffic I Am Sitting In With My Mac Propped On An Over-sized “Carry-on” That Doubles As A Douche Bag Desk. I wish I had the chutzpah to take photos in U.S. airports so you could see exactly what I mean.
  • Many otherwise intimidating people are not as intimidating close up. However, if they're holding knives, be somewhere else. Previous sentence added for moron safety and not because of any actual events.
  • If your “What Evanescance Song Are You” quiz doesn’t have a Bauhaus option, count me out.
  • If your “Which Twilight Character Are You?” quiz doesn’t have a Buffy option, count me out.
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Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Candy

Voices in the dark! Voices from the park. Selling gremlin candy to the damned and to the waiting, dreaming in a place where truth is fading.

#7

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Monday, October 19, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #4

If you're wondering what happened with the public transportation thing, I'm still working on it. Turns out the best way to get answers about Triangle Transit is to fan them on Facebook and ask on their page. They respond within 24 hours. I'm not stoked by that method of contact, but they were very responsive and I appreciate that. I bought a 30 day regional pass and should ride the bus for the first time ever at some point next week. I'm sure I'll have some stories to tell about that.

    Audio:
  • The Strange Case Of Dr. Jekyll And Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. I've been using LibriVox to read a lot of classic books, with mixed success. I'll save the boring details for another day, preferably when you've earned my ire. Everyone knows the story of Jekyll and Hyde in its most basic form, but it's worth a listen. Even though I knew the secret, I still found lots of surprises in it. In fact, I think the story is an allegory of substance abuse. Wikipedia disagrees with me, so I'm probably wrong. Many thanks to SFFaudio for making me aware of this audio.
  • LibriVox has put up History Of Egypt, Chaldea, Syria, Babylonia, and Assyria, Volumes 1 & 2. These were originally published in the early 1900s. While I have no way of knowing how much our theories about ancient Egypt might have changed since then, the books are proving fascinating. You just have to get past the first four chapters, and then it's amazing. The link to the second zip file is broken, so I've put it here for your convenience.
  • J.C. Hutchins has released a prequel to his 7th Son series in podcast form. J.C. writes incredible stories, and, unlike a lot of what I link, has a broad general appeal. Your Jack Bauer loving momma will love J.C.'s work as much as you will. And that'll be quite a lot in both cases.
  • PodCastle episode 73, Rapunzel by Tanith Lee. Fascinating new take on the classic fairy tale of Rapunzel.
  • Drabblecast's Trifecta IX contains three short stories. The first two, Dinosaur and Monster Talk, are my favorites. Both are quirky and fun. The Curse of the Android's wife is good too, just a little too serious for the mood I was in while I was listening. It's probably a good thing to avoid listening to Monster Talk and The Curse of the Android's Wife while around people who are young or easily offended.
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Friday, October 16, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Delivery


She was wild with anticipation. It was scheduled to arrive Tuesday by overnight air. Of course, it would have to be charged for a few hours, but she could look forward to waking up Wednesday morning to the smell of dirty diapers and the screaming sounds of a baby boy.

#6

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Monday, October 12, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #3

I have two movies on here thanks to my new subscription to the DVD delivery service with the hideous red colors and the unaccountable pop-unders which it continues to use to advertise itself despite the year being 2009. I don't know that I'll be posting movies regularly, but if I do, I'll keep them nice and obscure like the ones here.

    Audio
  • Some highlights from Hypersonic Tales: Big Wheel Estrangement, Delectable Cakes, and The Tea Party. Hypersonic Tales publishes very short stories in audio format. Their stories tend to be quirky science fiction fare and if you don't like a story, it's less than ten minutes before you're listening to the next one.
  • James Durham's FETIDUS, a noir post-apocalyptic science thriller with ... ZOMBIES. This is probably the darkest thing I've ever recommended, and it is emphatically not for children or the easily offended. It is, however, one of the best podcast dramas produced to date. James Durham's talents aren't limited to writing. He also wrote and produced all of the music used in the podcast and some of the sound effects as well. Many of the characters are voiced by professional voice actors, and the amount of care and love that went into this production shows through. FETIDUS recently won two well-earned Parsec awards.
  • J. Daniel Sawyer did a full cast production of the first chapter of Gail Carriager's Soulless. It's been described as Austen meets paranormal. The distinction I would make is that it is Jane Austen herself meeting paranormal with aplomb. I want the book yesterday.
  • Dunesteef is a quirkly short-ish stories plus talking podcast I checked out recently. A lot of their work is Science Fiction in light terms, but they do a bit of thriller, horror, and quirk as well. My favorite pieces were Restoration Blues by Stewart S. Smith, and Scriptopia by Michael A. Kechula (second feature in a poem, story, story event). Restoration Blues is along the lines of classic White-Halls-and-Shiny-Buttons SF, but not by any means antiquated. Scriptopia is ... a very playful piece and I'll leave it at that.
    Movies
  • Primer. I happened upon this movie and the premise was too good to be ignored. It's a great movie, though the scientific content of the dialog can be more than a little difficult to understand. Other than that, its only real flaw is the title. It's not attention grabbing, just kind of mundane.
  • Repo! The Genetic Opera is a dark dark allegory of the American health system. I'm not sure it was meant to be, but it fills the position very well. Definitely not for the kids, and there's quite a bit of violence. But it has Anthony Stewart Head, and it's very entertaining. This one doesn't feel that obscure to me, but only because some of my friends are in love with it and talk about it all the time. I've never heard anyone else talk about it, so I feel free to assume that this is pretty obscure.
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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Buttons

Buttons and thimbles, and needle and thread
Wander in the dark until they are fed!

A thousand white mares run up and down stairs
With pretty dark sleep that is filled with night terrors!

#14


I recorded this as a Promo for The WEIRD Show, which is a podcast that examines a large number of very odd news stories. Encaffeinated ONE recently put out a request for Halloween themed bumpers, and I was happy to oblige. You can find the bumper on TWS137: Things That Go Harumph In The Night.

The WEIRD Show comes with my highest recommendation.

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Friday, October 9, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Ashes

He stood in the ashes of a dead world. Where had it gone wrong? One had been alright, but the limit was clearly below seven billion clowns.

#5

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Thursday, October 8, 2009

Thoughts About Public Transit

A Tale of Three Cities

I want to start using the bus system in Raleigh (more generically, the Triangle Area). I don't have an unhealthy obsession with buses, I just hate driving. Thanks to a month-long trip to Russia in 1999, I know there's a better way. St. Petersburg's Metrolink system is the best way to travel. If you happen to be in St. Petersburg. The other city I'll put in the mix is Baltimore.

St. Petersburg is an incredibly beautiful city, and they have subway entrances nearly everywhere. It's been awhile, so I can't say if it's still good. However, when I was there, you could buy a Metro card pretty much wherever you were at. I can't say anything about their website. I'm sure they have one, but I haven't been there. It really wasn't necessary to use their website to find out anything. It was intuitive, and I know about as much Russian as you're likely to hear in a James Bond movie.

The Triangle Area is so suburban that it's not practical to have closely arranged stops. That said, the simplicity of using public transportation in St. Petersburg is so phenomenally greater than using it in Raleigh or Baltimore that it's unlikely the city layout is to blame for the disparity in ease of use.

I'm sure Baltimore is a great place. I didn't spend much time there. It's way too close to DC for my taste, but it could be worse. There were lots of bus stops, and a light rail. The one complaint I had with Baltimore over Raleigh was that I couldn't get tickets mailed to me in a reasonable time frame.

Why I'm Annoyed Enough to Write This

Both of Raleigh and Baltimore have incredibly unusable websites. I would have given up already if I wasn't such a glutton for punishment.

Raleigh's situation is complicated in that there are six bus systems for people to deal with, not one. A central website covers all of them (owned by the TTA) but a lot of information is only available on the individual sites.

Even with Google's magic assistance, I have a lot of questions. The first one is where the bus stop is heading west on Lynn and Bent Creek? I can plainly see the one heading east, but I doubt the every bus on that route makes two U-turns there every morning. There are no pictures of it online and I drove past it twice and didn't see it.

The second trouble is the park-and-rides. The online information is spotty. Do they charge? Do I need a placard? And, most importantly, where the hell are they? I've been to Millbrook Exchange and drove past Shelley Lake Sertoma Arts Center and didn't see a sign telling you where to park or that there even was a park-and-ride there. (My spies say that they could only see three parking spaces at the Park-and-Ride at Sertoma)

They need detailed information and should be clearly marked and visible from the main road they're attached to. Fortunately, NC Division of Air Quality has a marginally useful description of some locations.

The next point of contention is route planners. Baltimore's has some Google Maps integration, but because of the way it was integrated, it's difficult to find good routes. Maybe I was doing it wrong, but it shouldn't be that hard.

The TTA route planner has the opposite problem. It has no Google integration. Their route planner seems to be a clunky home-grown solution. With how spread out Raleigh is, it should give advice about bus stop options near you. When I plug in my address, it never tells me anything about park-and-ride locations near me. Taking the routes at face value is incredibly disheartening.

Last point: There's a bus stop that is too far away for me to walk to. I could bike to it but they only allow two bikes per bus. Foldable bikes are allowed on the bus, but with the caveat that they must fit in a carrying bag. I've never seen one that fits in a carrying bag, so cyclists roll the dice every time they take a bike to a bus stop. Totally unacceptable if you're commuting. I have to get to work on time every day, not just on the days my bus-riding compatriots didn't bring a bike.

What?!

They're trying to boost use of public transportation in the Triangle Area so they can justify a light rail. There are tons of reasons to use public transportation in the Triangle Area, but with the difficulties involved, can they seriously expect people to give up their cars?

Please, Raleigh, get your act together.



Addendum: Strengths

Each place has its strengths. I don't want it to seem like theres nothing good about Baltimore or Raleigh.

St. Petersburg's public transport is intuitive, places to purchase fares are everywhere and simple, and the routes are frequent and easy to understand.

Baltimore's strengths are that they have a light rail system, and lots of buses.

Raleigh's strength is that you can receive the tickets in the mail in 1-2 business days. In Raleigh, there are also lots of places to buy tickets.

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Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Dreamers Light

We are the dreamers, we are the light
A thousand tiny pieces preparing for a fight

We bring an opiate of hope to a world on fire with pain
A red cloak holding bitter truth: our lives are but a stain

Oh, we'll back down, you know we always do
In the din of greater wisdom, and things we know untrue

But if you see a fury glint deep burning in our eyes
Remember that our dreams pass glory 'fore they die

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Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Guest Review on Dear Editor

Howdy ladies, gents, and malcontents of all flavors and persuasions. I did a guest review of Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go on Dear Editor yesterday. I mentioned Never Let Me Go in last week's Tactical Highlighter, but didn't say a whole lot about it. Definitely check out my review on Dear Editor

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Monday, October 5, 2009

Tactical Highlighter #2

This week's Highlighter is a little light. I spent most of my available listening hours on the podcast version of Michael Nagler's Nonviolence Today course. If you're not already a committed pacifist, it will probably bore you to tears or infuriate you. So, I'm not recommending it to anyone who isn't a pacifist. At some point, I'll find a good introduction to pacifism and promote that.

    Audio:
  • LibriVox's recording of Bram Stoker's Dracula. The original vampire novel for free! Van Helsing could kill Edward Cullen with a look and Dracula would find it quite funny. The book meanders on a bit, but some of the readers are incredibly good and even with the meandering, it's way better than Twilight.
  • Escape Pod 216: ╬▓oyfriend by Madeline Ashby. What happens when AI becomes advanced enough to be a boyfriend or girlfriend? There's a few snide remarks at our present society too, but I'm not sure they're easy to spot.
  • PodCastle 072: The Exit Sign by Ursula Pflug. This one is quite a bit saucier than most stories I'm likely to link to. It isn't that alluring, actually, but there are lots of clear mentions of various fetishes. The story itself is an examination of new types of prejudices, the dangers of these prejudices, and the beauty and strength that go to those who overcome them.
    Non-audio:
  • Who You Are and Who You Ain’t by James N. Frey. This is a somewhat longish essay on the importance of writing, the persecution of the writer, etc. In a way, it reminds me of aspects of Neal Stephenson's Snow Crash (which is a great book and you should read it). Anyway, if you're a writer and you're not struck with the feeling of being a superhero or a prophet by the time you finish reading this, you're doing it wrong. Either your writing, or the reading.
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Friday, October 2, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: #4


They

They are the cool cats. They sleep all day and weave words all night, read with one eye and with another watch the light. (Read more!)

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Toilet Seat Communism


I wrote this on July 7, 2007. I've made a few formatting changes and added a postscript, but haven't made any other changes. Enjoy!


Of all the philosophical debates that the great minds contemplate, the one that has the most immediate impact on our society is the Toilet Seat Position debate. I have a new solution which may finally end the debate once and for all. A refresher: should the toilet seat go up or down after use?

Usually, the argument is divided along gender lines with women taking the position that the toilet seat should always be in the down position when leaving the bathroom. Men generally argue that the toilet seat should remain up, or in the position most useful to the person who last used it.

To this day, the men have been losing this argument.

Today, I trump both positions with a new position in which toilet seat inconvenience will be shared evenly amongst all affected parties.

My solution is this: since residential toilets have a lid, the lid should be put down on the toilet after each use. Men will have to lift the seat while using the toilet, and then put it down after they are finished. Women will have to lift the lid and put it back down after they are finished.

I call this position “Toilet Seat Communism.”

I have been subtlety practicing this doctrine for a few weeks in my own house, and no one seems to have noticed the difference. I should add that the “seat down” position had been the previous victor in the Toilet Seat Position debate in this house prior to my campaign. Now, everyone has to lift something in order to use the toilet, and no one has to look at the ugly innards of the toilet.

To further bolster my position, I suggest that the lid and seat combination be made air-tight to cut down on the amount of toilet water lost to evaporation. Toilet Seat Communism is not only the most equitable solution to the issue, it is also the environmentally friendly position.

Despite my tongue-in-cheek manner, I am totally serious.

P.S. Sort of.

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Monday, September 28, 2009

Tactical Highlighter

I get a fair number of requests for information about the podcast fiction I like. This will highlight that and anything else I find interesting.

The stuff I'm linking here is a bit on the older side. This is partly because I should have been linking these things before so I'm a bit behind, and partly because you might miss these stories if I just told you about the websites.

    Audio:
  • The Stars My Brothers by Edmond Hamilton (read by Gregg Margarite). This 1962 story is about the first man to be frozen in space, and then unfrozen. It plays with the cliché of finding human life on other planets, and is a bit more forward thinking than a film that would come six years after it: The Planet of the Apes. And, as I mentioned, Gregg Margarite is the reader, and that's always a treat.
  • Decoder Ring Theatre's Shinkei and Thinking in Ternary. DRT does their work like old school radio dramas. There's a lot of love in these productions and even if you're not nostalgic for the good old days of crowding around the family radio to listen to a story, I think you'll love these. Shinkei is a story about the last hacker on Earth, and Thinking in Ternary is about the first viable artificial intelligence.
  • Will McIntosh's One Paper Airplane Graffito Love Note, presented by PodCastle. Ever thought a book, movie, or TV show ‘stole’ one of your ideas? Well, at least they weren't stealing the story of your life one treasured event at a time. One of the things I enjoy about PodCastle's selection choice is that even though the stories are Fantasy, they are generally not stereotypical Fantasy. This one is technically Urban Fantasy, but no one is running around casting magic and the story is the most important thing.
  • Nancy Kress's Patent Infringement, presented by Escape Pod. Did you know that pharmas are allowed to patent genes you were born with? This story centers on a man whose genes were used to cure a cold ... and the trouble he gets in when he asks the pharma for compensation.
  • SFFaudio put up a post with Chris Anderson's Free: The Future of a Radical Price. This is a non-fiction book (and audiobook) on the economic dynamics of providing goods and services without charge. The third paragraph of SFFaudio's post has a link to a zipped, unabridged, DRM-free copy of the audio book. If you work in business, own a business, or are thinking about starting one, you seriously need to listen to this book.
    Other:
  • Kazuo Ishiguro's Never Let Me Go. D.B. Grady's review introduced me to this book. I actually didn't read that far into the review because I was intrigued enough to know I wanted to read the book and didn't want any spoilers. I finished reading the book in two sittings, and this is the first book in years that I've sacrificed sleep over. Very light science fiction elements. For a more in-depth review, check out my guest review on Dear Editor.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: #3

Nostalgia Tea (aka Missouri Iced Tea or Mississipi Mud)

Buy “Orange Pekoe and Pekoe Cut Black Tea.”

Bring tea pot full of water to boil. Allow water to cool for 10 minutes.

Steep 3 family size bags for 15 minutes. Discard bags. Don't use sugar.

When cool, pour tea into a glass with ice in it.

Best enjoyed at 2PM on a summer day spent outdoors under oak trees. Do not substitute pine unless impossible to avoid.

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Friday, September 18, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: #2

Stranger Photos

She smiled only when getting her picture taken. Her children never recognized her face in photos. (Read more!)

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: #1

Living Dangerously

We were going to be immortal, but it sounded boring.

I'm going to be making this blog a little more posty for the times when I can't release anything because I'm a) not finished with anything, b) going to try to publish what I am working on, or c) not being particularly productive with regards to writing. One of the things I do regularly is write crazy ultra-short stories. I usually end up posting these on twitter or facebook (or both). Usually, the first time I post them up, they've got mistakes in them.

I've found all the ones I posted on Facebook and I'm editing them for awesomesauce. Then they'll be posted here. I won't be promoting this feature because the originals showed up in all of the places I would normally promote. If you feel a strong desire to promote them, go ahead. Otherwise, enjoy and so on.

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Friday, June 12, 2009

The Final Report of Chrissmas Collins' Fancy Foods Stand

Warning: This story contains several "naughty" words. I don't mind 'em, and hope you don't either, but c'est la vie.


I'm Chrissmas Collins and I had just gotten my first order of the day. One of the Grays came by and asked for depilatory cream. I shit you not, they stop here for depilatory cream.

I may be the only human who knows why. When that Gray thinks he's out of sight, he'll pop the cap off and squeeze a bit out and eat it. It's like junk food to them. The way they eat it, it must be awesome. I'm not stupid enough to try it myself. I'm just following the good old Earther way: earning my keep through private enterprise. Chrissmas Collins' Fancy Foods stand. Yes, I'm that Chrissmas Collins. Blond Bombshell of the Stars! My hair isn't really blond, my boobs are real, and my life isn't as glamorous as that special made it seem.

For instance, you saw me cleaning up after carrion, but you don't have to smell it in cramped quarters every day.

Earth wasn't always an abandoned theme park. Admit it, Earth was a theme park. The interstellar thoroughfare brought us out of a decades long depression. And then the Bellitans pulled a Route 66 on us. Now you can buy an Earth putt-putt place for a few hundred ounces of depilatory cream. No one likes putt-putt that much.

I don't like making depilatory cream. Sure, it's steady work, but I'd rather park my stand along the new highway and steal whatever business I can from space restaurants.

One of my buoys picked a Spryde ship. I punched the button to transmit a Spryde version of my blurb and let it wail on. I don't understand a word of Spryde, but according to the guy I paid to program the tone, it says "Chrissmas Collins' Fancy Rocks! We've got the most interesting rocks from the most interesting places in the Galaxy, fast and cheap! Come [untranslatable verb] our rocks!"

Luck was on my side. The ship docked with my stand and in an hours' time, I served about thirty Spryde. They're easy to please and hard to understand. Fortunately, they knew about my shortcomings and tried not to make things hard. They always love rocks from Earth and Mars, whatever the kind. They'll float it in the dark cloud of their body and their little purple sparklies will dance around the rock for a few minutes. Then, they'll give the rock back no worse for wear.

I can "sell" any rock an infinite number of times. Whatever they're doing to the rocks isn't noticeable to even other Spryde after the fact.

The rush wasn't all ease, though. One Spryde tried explaining something to me. Its sparklies kept going reddish. I couldn't understand what it was saying. "Bob's anthem marjoram parsec intersection banana hafflouty" was part of it. Yeah, I don't understand it either. Another Spryde came by and made Red see things my way. Red and my defender floated away after that.

It was a tense situation, but I kept cool under pressure.

As they left, one last Spryde approached the counter. "Bureaucrats. Coming. Affection feeling. Refuge."

That made sense, thank God. I thanked the Spryde and waited for them to leave my stand. As soon as they were out, I closed every container, clamped everything down, and got ready to make way. The bureaucrats want stands to pay a licensing fee.

If I could afford the license, I'd get real inertial dampeners so I wouldn't have to batten everything down. And I'd get real gravity plating to replace these gravity boosters I scrapped from an abandoned Mars facility. These don't even give one full Earth Gravity and I have to turn them off when I get the engine going or I'll blow a fuse and spend a week repairing life support. That's always fun.

I busted ass but wasn't fast enough. I heard the swooshy sound of a Bureaucrat ship connecting to my stand and about half a minute later a very old Garzango walked to my counter. His middle left leg seemed completely useless to him. I felt bad watching him struggle his way across the floor.

"What can I do for you, sir?" I asked. He wore the red pendant of a Bellitans bureaucracy high ranker.

"Stop selling without a license!" He growled.

"Oh really?" It was time to see if the way to this Garzango's heart was through his stomach. "I think you'd much rather a well-aged raccoon carcass. You should see how succulent it is. It's about three days old and I kept the temperatures rotating between 15C and 49C. I even have some of the original flies with it. Five in total, I think, sir."

The Garzango considered this. "My name is Uyullank. And no, I think not. It sounds very tempting. You humans really do make the best food. But you need to learn your place in the galaxy. You could make lots of money working in a Garzango restaurant.” He waved one of his feet to emphasize his point. “More than you could running this stand with a proper license!"

"Maybe so, sir, but I can make more running this stand unlicensed and I'm barely making enough money as it is. Why do you hate us so much?"

"The Garzango don't hate humans," he squinted.

"I didn't ask why the Garzango hate the humans," I put down my towel. "I asked why you hate us. I have many many Garzango customers and none of them have ever been anything but kind to me. Why does Uyullank hate humans?"

"You're trying to take our place. You take money from our restaurants. Even our kin eat here!"

You can't talk sense into someone who feels their family is threatened. I flashed the sign for family duty, nodding. "We aren't trying to take your place, but even if we were, we have as much of a right to be in space as anyone."

"Perhaps on Garzango dinner plates," his back legs flexed.

"We're not dead, Uyullank."

"Not yet, Collins. Not yet." Uyullank slapped a fine on my counter and hobbled out.

I hope his threat was an empty one, but if it's not, maybe someone who can do something about it will read this.


Attention Ms. Collins,

Thank you for your colourful report, which I believe could have been summarized as “Grays eat depilatory cream and some Garzango would like to kill all humans.” If you send further reports, please keep to the point. Do you think the Grays are interested in different flavors?

Sincerely,

P. Jacques, Earth Information Administration

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Tuesday, June 9, 2009

I still exist!

Hey, everyone! Just wanted to let you know that I still exist, and I'm still writing. Various annoying things have slowed my progress, but I'm hoping to have some things up soon.

My VD project is still in the works, even though it is painfully late. However, if it turns out well, I may be submitting it to some publications rather than posting it here. That doesn't mean it will never show up here in any fashion, it's just not likely to show up that soon.

I've also discovered a new path to writing success (I'm being ridiculous on purpose, I know how it sounds, haha). No, it's not some sort of crazy scam. One of the issues with trying to get your work published these days is that unless you're already famous, it's very hard to convince a publisher to take a chance on you.

If you already have a proven audience, however, things are a lot different. A community of writers has grown up around the concept of Podcasting fiction. Some of the Podcasts are full audio drama productions (like Metamor City Podcast and Murder at Avedon Hill) and others are more like audio books (J.C. Hutchins's 7th Son trilogy and Christiana Ellis's Nina Kimberly the Merciless). Almost all of the ones I've mentioned here have turned their podcasting success into opportunities to be published.

I've actually been concerned for awhile that traditional book-and-mortar publishing is going away. Even people that I would consider real "readers" aren't sitting down with books that much any more. They are listening to podcasts. Most of them aren't listening to podcast fiction yet, but I think they will be in the future.

For the moment, I've set aside the idea of getting a book published traditionally. I'm hoping to start my own podcast, but I will probably start with a one off production like Dr. Horrible's Sing-A-Long-Blog, but we'll see.

In other news, you really want to buy J.C. Hutchins's new book, Personal Effects: Dark Art, which you can find in a bookstore near you, I kid you not.



P.S. The "Read More" link from the homepage is a lie unless someone comments, and then it isn't a lie.

Also, I just realized I'd left the default CAPTCHA system turned on for this blog. I don't believe in CAPTCHAs because they are ineffective and make sites inaccessible. I have turned the CAPTCHAs off and taken steps to ensure that I'm aware of spamming as soon as it occurs so I can remove it.

I understand this isn't reasonable for every situation, but if you have a blog, I urge you to look for ways to counteract spam without decreasing access for disabled people.

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