Sunday, February 28, 2010

Tactical Highlighter #21

LibriVox is one of my favorite organizations ever. They take public domain work and record audio versions which are also in the public domain. Their work overlaps with another one of my favorite organizations, Project Gutenberg.

LibriVox and Project Gutenberg are rescuing our literary heritage and preserving it for all time in a form that can be enjoyed and benefited from for all the generations to follow.

Unfortunately, thanks to U.S. Congress’s willingness to be purchased by the big media industry (and the health insurance companies, and anyone else who has the money), nothing new will pass into the public domain. Essentially, most of our literary heritage after 1923 will be lost forever, excepting only the parts which are profitable enough for companies to keep in print.

I’m getting a little off track now.

Back on the subject, LibriVox needs our monetary support to keep running. They’re not public access radio or television and they can’t interrupt our lives to annoy us until we give in. They have to rely on people like me pestering you.

Consider yourself pestered. I donated 25 USD and plan on donating more in the months to come.

Please send a little their way.

  • Spark 101. Spark is a bit like a morning show … that’s a podcast, and focuses on technology. This episode is packed with interesting stuff, including analysis of the iPad, user interfaces in movies and their relationship with real life user interfaces, and workplace monitoring of internet usage. The segments on internet filtering and workplace monitoring are absolutely critical listening.
  • Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (LibriVox). In Tactical Highlighter #19, I linked to Mike Resnick’s story, A Princess of Earth. Thanks to public domain laws in the U.S. working at one point and the hard work of the folks over at LibriVox, you can listen to the story that started off the John Carter of Mars series that A Princess of Earth was based on … for free. Since they’re making a movie of A Princess of Mars, this is the perfect time to listen to the work that started it all. And it’s also the perfect time to look at my introduction and donate a few dollars to help keep LibriVox running.
  • Three Skeleton Key adapted from a story by George Toudouze (Final Rune Productions). A classic horror story adapted to a marginally more modern recording which took place in an actual lighthouse like the story did.
  • When Shakko Did Not Lie by Eugie Foster (PodCastle). I linked Eugie’s phenomenal Sinner, Baker, Fablist, Priest; Red Mask, Black Mask, Gentleman, Beast (not safe for kiddies, seriously) back in Tactical Highlighter #5 and I’m really happy to have another awesome story of hers to link to. This one plays with fox legends and I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.
(Read more!)

Friday, February 26, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Mage

I drew a bright dividing line across the apartment.

Petty? Maybe.

Ineffective? Not when a thirtieth level mage drew it.


(Read more!)

Sunday, February 21, 2010

Tactical Highlighter #20

It’s been an incredibly long week. Hope you’re all doing well and that this week is as awesome as possible.

  • The Resident Member by Paul Marlowe. This is a steampunk/paranormal adjacent story which reminds me a bit of a Sherlock Holmes story. Without the Sherlock Holmes. This one sat neglected on my fauxpod for awhile because I listened to it before Christmas and forgot about mentioning it. The acting and production are a wee bit thick, but it’s still an excellent story.
  • Another End of the Empire by Tim Pratt (PodCastle). Tim writes a lot of really phenomenal short fiction and I’m disappointed I didn’t get a chance to experience any of it until I started listening to fiction podcasts. This story is based on the Downfall of an Evil Overlord Brought About By a Prophesied Youth trope. But, of course, Tim twists it to make a story that tickles me just right.
  • Candy Art by James Patrick Kelly (Escape Pod). I recently linked to JPK’s Going Deep which was a bit of a pain to get to, but totally worth it. This one is way easier to get to and it’s a great story too. You should listen to Going Deep anyway, but definitely don’t miss out on Candy Art. The premise: What happens when everyone lives forever (AI immortality) so their kids can never afford to move out?
(Read more!)

Friday, February 19, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Bottomless Fries

James knew how to time travel and would have shared if the physical entry-point wasn’t random.

Good thing he had the bottomless fries to keep him going.


(Read more!)

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

The Adventures of Capt. McClain (parts 1-3)

“They can chew on my wrist if my fist is down their throats.”
-Capt. McClain

I invented Capt. McClain for the express purpose of putting quotes in his mouth like the above. And then he took on a life of his own. Here are three drabbles I wrote on his life. Given the popularity of Capt. McClain’s adventures amongst my friends, it’s safe to expect more to be written eventually.

It's also safe to expect at least some of these will have swearing.


Capt. McClain was the envy of every sensible man and of several less sensible women.

Who could help but admire a man with the untamed sagacity to sharpen his bayonet on his teeth? Not to mention having the teeth to accomplish the task.

Very few envied his regimen. Getting up at three every morning to walk a dozen miles in lead-weighted trousers before milking the cows by just looking at them?

And that was the least substantial of his extraordinary chores.

What McClain did with the milk is a serious mystery. Mrs. McClain said he took his cereal with vinegar.

Update: This story has been featured on The Dribblecast, a community-run podcast made by fans of The Drabblecast, a podcast I mention here frequently. Forum member Phenopath did a brilliant read of it, which you can listen to here.


We should mention the great depths from which the tremendous man, Capt. McClain, climbed to reach such heights.

He was born the regular way. Imagine! Though he was bearded and five months early.

I won’t say he shot the doctor for slapping him. That would be absurd. He just enjoyed a cigar and scotch with his father.

He didn’t begin reading until the usual age. He finished learning in just three hours.

The lowest point in the Captain’s life was courtship. Though pretty women abounded, three turned his proposals down.

Maybe he shouldn’t have asked three women at one time.


When Capt. McClain turned sixteen, he was turned out of the house on the general principle that he wasn’t living there anyway.

If he’d been there for the event, we might know whether Capt. McClain would have understood his father’s actions.

Historians believe Mr. McClain was drunk at the time.

Shortly after the Captain was kicked out, the war began. It would be overly simplistic to say the Captain fought on this side or that. Capt. McClain’s primary interest was in kicking ass.

And what a fine amount of ass he kicked.

The records were amended to avoid military embarrassment.

(Read more!)

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Tactical Highlighter #19

Sorry it’s a bit late. Lots of really good stuff this week. And if you haven’t read them, my VD2009 and VD2010 projects are up. They are Shades of Grey and Paranormal Romance respectively.

  • If you’re paying attention to the Amazon/Macmillan kerfluffle, you’re probably already bored of it. That said, Mur Lafferty’s episode of I Should Be Writing on it is brilliant. And includes an awesome interview with Ursula Vernon. And while you’re at it … read, memorize, and apply the lessons of her post Apologies and Confidence.
  • A Princess of Earth by Mike Resnick (Dunesteef). This story is based on The John Carter of Mars series, and it’s a real tear-jerker. I hadn’t read any John Carter prior to listening to this and I still enjoyed it a lot. I think you will too.
  • Debris by Kiini Ibura Salaam (PodCastle). Creepy little tale about the afterlife and the wisdom of people who seem a little bit insane.
  • Going Deep by James Patrick Kelly. Part 1, 2, 3. I’ve been trying to find an easy way to link to this story for awhile. Easy for you, not for me. A few extra links don’t chuff me at all. This story is really great and I was really pleased when it came to audio format. Don’t let the inconvenience of downloading it get in your way.
  • Life Insurance by Matthew Warner (Variant Frequencies). An urban fantasy story involving a very unusual insurance policy.
(Read more!)

Monday, February 15, 2010

VD2009: Shades of Grey

A year and one day late, VD2009 project complete. No promises that it will remain in its current state.

I wanna love and treat you right
We’ll be together with a roof right over our heads
We’ll share the shelter of my single bed
We’ll share the same room, Jah provide the bread
- Bob Marley

Toby drove the car. That was one of those weird things he thought about from time to time. Why was it the man’s job to drive the car?

“What are you thinking about?” Val asked.


“Oh, come on. Don’t do that to me.”

“Don’t do what? I was really thinking about driving. Like did you ever think about why we drive on the right side of the road while the English drive on the left? And why do some cars have the tank on the left and others on the right? Ooh, did you know they used to have the tank under the license plate on some cars?”

“God, I shouldn’t have gotten you started.” She settled back in her seat. “So, I got dad a foot spa from Sharper Image back in May before they went out of business. What did you get mom?”

“I got her one of those Snugger things. You know, the blanket with sleeves.”

“Oh, Toby, please tell me this is one of your sick jokes,” she whined.

“Nope, no joke. I’ve got the feeling she’s going to love it.”

Her look turned sour. “Toby, it’s too late to get her another present. It’s Christmas day! How could you do this to me?” She swore under her breath and looked straight ahead for the rest of the trip.

Toby knew better than to say anything else. It was a good thing her parents lived so close. He didn’t mind silence, but Val’s silent treatment was pretty harsh.

Lu was watching Hunter do his business near a snow-covered bush when Toby and Val arrived. He smiled and waved as they pulled into the driveway. Their arrival distracted Hunter, who started yipping and ran to the car.

Toby opened the car door gently and climbed out.

Hunter backed up, but continued yapping.

“Hey kids, how was the drive?” Lu asked.

“Pretty good. Not too many people out on the roads on Christmas day,” Toby said.

Lu helped them bring in their bags.

Val was a hell of an actress so Lu didn’t catch on. But she was clearly still not speaking to him.

Gift time seemed like a big success for those who were unaware of the argument. Lu loved the foot spa. Hunter spent the rest of the day playing with his new toy. Lu and Gracie got a sapphire necklace for Val and a black titanium dress watch for Toby.

The trouble was with Toby’s present for Gracie.

Gracie loved it. She spent much of the day and night wrapped in it.

Toby knew he was going to pay a hefty price for this one. Val glared at him whenever she thought he wasn’t looking.

Toby woke up with a shock. He had to be to work in forty minutes.

He swore. “Why didn’t—”

Val wasn’t there. She’d left him a week ago. He jumped out of bed and walked to the sink to shave. As he started to wake up, he noticed a thin, perfectly straight scab on his forehead. He got them from time to time and liked to joke that they were leftover from alien abductions.

Maybe his weirdnesses were the reason he couldn’t keep a girlfriend. Didn’t apply in Val’s case.

He knew why she left. Upset that he had been right and she’d been wrong. He didn’t rub it in, didn’t say anything about it at all, was perfectly understanding. She couldn’t deal with him being right and being dispassionate about it.

She wanted him to gloat so she could feel better about being wrong about her own mother.

Toby’s knees buckled under him, and the room seemed to swirl around. He felt his forehead where the scab was as he crumpled to the floor.

The scab was so straight, so narrow, and it was the only thing he could think about. A white blur was growing all around him, drowning out his apartment until he could see he wasn’t in his apartment.

He wasn’t holding his head either. His hands were strapped to his sides and there was something attached to his head where his scab was.

Pale, sickly translucent figures stood around him, examining devices and talking about something. He couldn’t understand what they were saying, but they seemed to be concerned about him. Concerned at him, maybe.

The room was an oval shape, and the bed Toby was strapped to was slightly inclined and near the room’s center. A rail ran a few feet around the bed and controls were situated all around it.

The creatures weren’t wearing clothes and seemed to have an almost plastic consistency to their flesh. It wasn’t immediately apparent if there was a distinction between male and female.

Their eyes were huge and black, as if they had no irises at all. Their similarity to cheesy science fiction movies was startling. If this had been happening to someone else, Toby would have gotten quite a laugh out of it.

One, who he was starting to get the idea was a girl, was trying not to look at him. Trying not to look at him in a way that seemed a lot like attraction.

Suddenly, all of the other aliens looked up at him, and then at her. The room was quiet for a moment before one of the aliens started gibbering rapidly. He couldn’t understand any of the words, but a few things seemed to be clear.

Most of them didn’t think much of Toby at all and she wasn’t saying much of anything. Toby thought he might have seen her blush.

This went on for two minutes before one of the aliens activated a control, and Toby felt his consciousness fading into a swirl of ethereal music.

Toby awoke a little early feeling exhausted but without any intention of going back to sleep so close to work time. He stumbled out of bed and walked to the mirror. He needed a shave, but he didn’t really feel like one.

His vision was still blurry with sleep, but there seemed to be a scratch on his forehead. It was so thin he almost didn’t notice it, and wouldn’t have if it hadn’t been so very straight. He rubbed it.

Aliens again, he joked to himself. The work day felt especially long and when he got back, the sun was setting and his apartment was growing dim. He tossed his bag onto the floor, slumped down on a chair, pushed his shoes off, and leaned back.

He would have fallen asleep had he not suddenly realized that someone was in the apartment with him.

Before he had a chance to wonder where the intruder was at, he heard a quiet padding foot and spun around to face the sound.

He picked up his cell phone and dialed. “Yeah. It’s Toby. I’m not coming in today. I have the SARS or something.”

He pressed a button on the phone and tossed it aside.

She couldn’t possibly be in a costume. Even the movies didn’t have costumes this good. She looked like a real cliche grey.

Her eyes fluttered for a moment and he found himself on his back. She sat on his chest and was examining his head. She pushed it to one side and then the other.

She cupped his head in her hands and pressed her forehead to his. He fell asleep.

When he woke up, it was dark outside. The lights were on, and his place was completely torn apart. Every box’s contents were emptied along with the cabinets and drawers. The place was a tragedy.

The alien was still sifting through stuff and Toby felt a little too comfortable to get out of bed and stage an attack on her. He rolled gently out of bed and walked up to her.

“Hello,” he rolled his head side to side, “I’m not sure if you understand me or—”

She put one translucent hand up.

It had been a week and a half since his visitor had shown up. They still couldn’t speak each other’s languages and he had given up entirely on trying to make the sounds she did when talking. It seemed to offend her ears.

Their communication wasn’t hampered much, however. They were developing a sign language for things which couldn’t quite be expressed with a look or an emotion.

She liked orange juice and hated coffee. Creamer made her sick and she had refused to try coffee with sugar in it, so orange juice it was.

It only took her three days to realize that the bathroom door was shut for a reason. Even if she couldn’t quite comprehend what that reason was.

Toby wasn’t quite sure where things were going, and it was slowly starting to dawn on him that he might ought to be curious about it.

Reading humans had unconsciously become second nature to him, but he had assumed it was something like sympathetic vibration. He saw their emotions and understood them.

He seemed to understand her without a common emotional frame of reference, though. He looked at her straight in the eye and tried to understand.

At that moment, his place was suddenly filled with grey aliens.

They were having an argument. Somehow this seemed very familiar but he couldn’t place it. The strange greys were trying to persuade her to leave. He was sure of it.

“Hey, no! Why are you trying to make her go?”

They were all silent and looked at him for a moment before looking back at her and continuing their conversation.

He slumped down in a chair. There was still so much to learn. So much to do. He didn’t want her to leave.

“Honey, please don’t leave.” If the room had been filled with humans, she wouldn’t possibly have heard. He knew she wouldn’t understand the words. He felt the meaning of them at her as hard as he could.

Suddenly, she was beside him and petted him.

The crowd was very angry about this.

There was a sound outside like a screeching zebra floating in the sky. He felt drawn to it and he followed the greys out to see what the fuss was about.

What Toby could only call a dragon was swooped in the sky. It was shiny black and seemed almost insubstantial. It wanted to be friends.

The greys didn’t mind being friends with it either. Several rushed close to its path and it caught them in its jaws and swallowed them whole.

Toby was shocked and was torn between the desire to follow their example and the desire to run away.

He chose a middle path. He ran toward the dragon’s path and herded the greys out of the way, back into the apartment.

Things got better after that. Unless you counted all the blood samples they took and the fact that all the little grey nephews and nieces they brought over after that seemed to have a special familiar glint in their eyes.

It reminded him of someone he’d seen in a mirror every day of his life.

He didn’t think about it too hard, though. He spent too much time explaining Reena’s appearance to everyone they met. At least her English was getting better.

(Read more!)

Sunday, February 14, 2010

VD2010: Paranormal Romance

Every year, I try to do one creative project related to Valentine's Day. I've missed a few years here and there, and I've been late a few times. If you're seeing this sentence, it means I still haven't finished VD2009. But here VD2010 is! Hope you enjoy it. If not, well, at least it was free and it didn't poop on the carpet.

If you’re interested in listening to an audio version of this, Pendragon Variety Episode 5 features Paranormal Romance amongst commentary and delicious miscellaneous.

A few years ago during a bitterly cold February, I got over my bitterness about being alone on another Valentine’s Day.

It was a temporary truce with love.

As I walked home from work, I passed a pet store. They say that dogs are a great way to meet girls. I wasn’t that pathetically desperate, but fate inspired me to look in the window.

There was a black puppy there with thick matted fur. It wasn’t a show dog. I can’t imagine what the store was thinking when it put that dog in the window, but I was intrigued.

I shifted weight a few times before I decided to walk in. When I found a cashier, I asked how big the puppy was expected to get.

The lady didn’t know what I was talking about.

I showed her the puppy. She looked over the top of her glasses. “Did you put the puppy there?”

“No, why would I do that? Listen. All I want is to know what breed it is and how big it’ll get.”

She walked over to the puppy and put a hand down. It growled and she pulled her hand back. “It’s a black lab.”

She was wrong, I just didn’t know just how wrong.

I played with the dog for a few minutes. It seemed sad or subdued or something. I asked if it was a girl or a boy. She didn’t examine it at all. She just said it was a girl.

Then it lifted a leg to take a whiz and it was pretty obvious it wasn’t a girl even through the thick fur.

I bought the dog for fifteen dollars. I’m pretty sure my money never went in the register.

The vet declared the puppy healthy and a mutt, though what breeds exactly he wouldn’t hazard a guess. “You should probably treat it like a St. Bernard. Teach him to get along with children or you might have problems.”

“So, he’s going to be huge?”

“Probably. Maybe not, but I’d count on huge.”

He seemed vaguely interested in the fact that I got him at a pet store, but quickly lost interest.

When I got the puppy home, I realized I hadn’t given him a name yet.

I tried a few on for size. “Raydan?”

The dog didn’t respond.


He gave me a look of disdain I never would have imagined coming from a puppy.

I decided to try more classical names. “Robert? Justin? Julius?”

He growled suspiciously at the last. “You don’t like Julius do you? Et tu, Brute.”

He barked and barked and ran around in a circle.


He sat, wagged his tail, and looked at me attentively.

As I turned out the light, I could have sworn I saw two red eyes glowing back at me in the dark. They reminded me of cartoon hearts. I shivered and turned over to sleep.

It was March before the temperature got sensible again. Aside from the walk to and from work and my twice-daily jaunts with Brutus, I stayed inside most of the time.

Brutus was good company. Whenever I was feeling down, he seemed to sense it. He’d walk over, stand on all fours, tail erect, and bark short repeated barks until I’d stop whatever I was doing and go play with him.

The first warm Saturday, I was feeling fine, but Brutus barked and barked and hopped around. I finally decided that was enough of that and he was going to start getting acclimated to kids that very day.

“Oh, do I have a surprise for you, Brutus!”

I put him on his leash and we walked to the park. I’d had him only about a month at that point, but he was already well on his way to being huge. That didn’t stop the kids from coming up and petting him.

He tolerated it fairly well, but if I’d been paranoid, I would have thought he was eying me chatting with the moms.

This batch of kids had a mom who was a bit bonkers. They were dressed in heavy coats, mittens, and hats. They looked more like colorful marshmallows than kids.

“You’re a good dog, Brutus,” I petted him as I kept eye contact on their mom. If Brutus was a match maker, he was a pretty lousy one.

But it would be silly to think that a dog dragged me out to try to get a girl.

It was June before I managed to get a date. Things went pretty smoothly. I took her to a little hole in the wall that no one who didn’t live in what passed for ‘down town’ around here would have known about. Good food considering it’s mostly a bar.

We both lingered a long time. “Well, would you like to get coffee at my place? You can see my huge—”

She started giggling.

“No, seriously, I have this dog, and he’s just a puppy but he’s already gigantic.”

She couldn’t stop laughing, but managed to choke out that she’d love to see my dog.

The lights were off when I unlocked the door and stepped in. Brutus’s creepy eyes were staring in the dark and some part of me left over from thousands of years of primordial instinct nearly panicked.

I switched the light on and Brutus came bounding in to lick my face and submit to Lindsay’s petting.

Things get a little fuzzy after that. I woke up the next day and found a note saying I was a wonderful lay and I should call Lindsay soon. Also found a used condom on the trash, thank the fates.

But I don’t remember any of it, and I never could find where I’d left her number. I can’t remove just one number from my phone’s history, but her number wasn’t there.

I didn’t see her around town either.

The clue that something really odd was going on was that I wasn’t upset. I didn’t even realize that I was really not upset. I liked Lindsay. I liked her a lot. Why wouldn’t I be upset that she up and moved after spending the night with me?

In October, the office announced that we could dress up on Halloween. I had the greatest idea and asked my boss if I could bring Brutus in that day.

She said it would be fine, so I started on my plan.

On Halloween, I put a huge collar on Brutus. It had an over-sized name tag that made him look like he was a wee puppy again. Then I put on a blue dress and white shirt with poofy sleeves. Yes, along with sequined red shoes, a brown wig done up in pigtails and bright red lipstick.

Our costume was easily the best costume in the office, and Brutus was a hit with my co-workers.

The highlight of the day was walking home though. I passed a group of trick-or-treaters and of course the kids all had to stop and pet Brutus.

He was a really good sport about it considering some of their costumes were a little frightening for a dog who hasn’t seen that sort of thing.

He even licked some poor girl who was dressed up as a devil. She laughed, giggled, and screeched while he was doing it. No harm no foul.

While that was all going down, her mother slipped a card into my wicker basket.

Her name was Sylvie and I called her the next day during my lunch break. She said she could get a friend to take the kids Friday night so that would be the best night to schedule something. I decided against the place I’d taken Lindsay to before she disappeared.

I took Sylvie to see a movie. It was supposed to be a romantic comedy, but it wasn’t so bad.

And this time I didn’t remember anything after she drove her car up my street. I woke up in my own bed at about 1 AM when Brutus licked me.

No note this time. I didn’t bother checking my phone to see if her number was still around or if I could find her business card. I sighed, stumbled out of bed and put on enough clothes to take Brutus out.

1:30 AM is a really bad time to be out walking in a city. Even a city as small as mine. Getting Brutus is the best thing that ever happened to me, but don’t think caring for a dog is easy work.

Brutus wasn’t satisfied with a short walk. He wanted a nice long one, and I felt like he had a point. I’d spent all night out having fun while he was cooped up in the house. I let him lead me, and we ended up at a graveyard.

He stopped a few feet from a grave and sat. Like he was waiting for something. For some reason, I didn’t think anything of it at the time. A few minutes later, a woman walked up. I didn’t turn to see her, but I could hear her heals thocking against the pavement of the sidewalk.

She walked beside me and reached down to scratch Brutus’s ears. “You’re a good boy, Voltain.”

“His name is Brutus,” I said. I tried not to sound like a dick.

“Of course it is. Isn’t that what I said?”

“You did?”

She petted Brutus and I could see the glow of his eyes reflected on nearby granite.

Every inch of me wanted to look at her, but I felt compelled to keep looking straight ahead.

“Brutus tells me you’re not entirely boring.”

I laughed. “I’m not sure I agree, but I’m glad he thinks so.”

Brutus stood up and walked away. The leash slipped from my hand and I tried to look her in the eye. She had turned to face me and I could see her eyes. They were a yellow color that really intrigued me. Her skin didn’t quite look like a natural color, but I couldn’t place it at all.

“C’mon, let me buy you a drink. Stay, Brutus,” she said. Somehow, I knew there was no danger of Brutus going wandering.

“I heard about your Halloween costume,” she laughed. “Very original. I had to explain it to Brutus. He thought it was great.”

“Good. Wasn’t sure how he liked the collar.”

“He’s had worse.” She held my hand and set her head on my arm as we walked to the bar. She smelled faintly of ashes.

I never told you this would be a happy story where the guy gets the girl. Didn’t say anything about bitterness either.

I don’t know how it ends.

And if I did know, I wouldn’t tell.

She told me it’s hard for a three thousand year old demon who is trying to turn her life around to find interested men. As crazy as it sounds, I’m not sure she was kidding.

(Read more!)

Saturday, February 13, 2010

VD Announcement

On my list of things to do: learn to read a calendar.

For most of the past 30 days, I’ve been under the impression that Valentine’s Day is on Monday. Clearly it’s on Sunday.

I put the VD2010 story in the system to post on the 14th so that’s going ahead according to schedule. However, VD2009 is not going to be ready today, so I won’t be posting it “the day before Valentine’s day” like I said in last week’s Tactical Highlighter. I dislike posting more than one thing a day, and I won’t have a decent Tactical Highlighter available by the end of today, so this week’s edition will come Tuesday. Unless I can’t get VD2009 to cooperate.

Hope you’re having a wonderful weekend with your loved ones,

(Read more!)

Friday, February 12, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Mistakes

The Sunnydale Retirement home was the site of a tragedy Sunday night when the local chapter of the Hellen Keller Society for the Wanton Destruction of Vampires mistook it for a coven of the undead.


(Read more!)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Tactical Highlighter #18

It’s been a long week. I did, however, get my VD2010 first draft finished so this year there will definitely be a VD project. It’s scheduled for automatic posting. If I get kidnapped or distracted or something, you’ll still get your VD2010. It just might be a bit rough.

I’m going to try hard to get VD2009 finished (yes, nearly a year late) and have a double-header. If I manage it, VD2009 will post up the day before VD2010.

In the mean time, here’s this week’s Tactical Highlighter. I’ve changed the formatting a bit. I think this works better. It’s certainly psychologically easier for me. Let me know if you don’t like it.

  • Greek and Roman Ghost Stories by Lacy Collinson (LibriVox). SFFaudio’s feed puts unusual stuff into my catcher and since my fauxpod organizes it by its tags rather than by the podcast it came from, it sometimes takes awhile before I figure out what filled up my fauxpod. I found Ghost Stories this week and decided to give it a listen. If I had realized that it was going to be historical discussion rather than fictionalized accounts, I probably wouldn’t have bothered. But then I would have missed out on this awesome book. The first chapter is absolutely essential to SF and Fantasy writers. Excellent story fodder.
  • Littleblossom Makes a Deal With the Devil by S. Hutson Blount (Escape Pod). This is a really subtle story about human interaction with artificial intelligence, politics, and the nature of patriotism and loyalty. Good near-future SF elements. The setting is a little chilly so if you’re bothered by being cold physically and imagining being even colder, you’ll want to hold off for March or April before listening.
  • Excision by Scott H. Andrews (Dunesteef). A fantasy medical story told with the kind of rigor you might expect in a hard SF story. Of course, it’s not about that, but it is an interesting feature of the story.
  • The Twa Corbies by Marie Brennan (PodCastle). A phenomenal twist on the “fantastical gift” scenario, and a great story to boot.
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Friday, February 5, 2010

Bedtime Stories for the ADD: Gerald Thomas Frankfurt

Gerald Thomas Frankfurt was the sole proprietor of a smallish interstellar shipping company. The shipping company was named—very unimaginatively—GTF. His first ship was the Out of Here, his second ship was the On With It, and his third ship—constructed briefly after Gerald’s theoretical death—was the Over It.

He made good use of his parents’ shortsighted naming scheme, and people assumed he was happy-go-lucky before they even met him. In the shipping business, being happy-go-lucky is seen as a positive. Anyone who doesn’t sweat it must be extremely confident. Not brash, or egotistical. Confident. As in, I’ve done that before a million times. This isn’t hard. Why are you sweating it?

Of course, it isn’t that hard to fake that sort of confidence if you are too dumb to know otherwise. Considering how close Gerry got to the black hole that killed him ...


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Monday, February 1, 2010

Your New Mantra: Cooking!

On Sunday, I read through a blog post about five things you should eat for breakfast.

Even with its health food bent, the first commenter on the blog complained that the food wasn’t healthy enough and then spouted bull about how every meal should be 25% protein (WHAT?!), 50% vegetable, and I forget what the remaining 25% was. The original list was disgusting and tasteless enough as it was without following this bizarre advice.

I’m an overweight person. I didn’t get this way by eating delicious food. I got this way by letting stress rule my mind (and thus body) and eating processed food. Stress signals your body to store food, and it is a contributing factor in many cases of insomnia. Insomnia also prevents you from burning stored energy effectively.

America’s obsession with healthy eating is something I totally understand. I’ve lived with health nuts all my life. I’ve seen people seriously trying every diet fad short of the “one food only” (ie rice-only, grapefruit-only, whatever-only) diets.

I’m here to tell you as an internet know-it-all and lover of good food: I don’t care if your diet helps you live to be 200 years old. If you’re not eating awesome food every day, you didn’t live those 200 years, you tolerated them.

This is your new mantra: I deserve awesome food. I deserve a mouth-wateringly delicious meal at least once a week. And if the only way I can get it is to learn to cook, then—by all that is good in the universe—that’s exactly what I’ll do.

Here are my four hints for awesome food:

  1. Vegetables are awesome. Don’t make corn or potatoes your primary veggie. Make sure you have lots of dark leafy greens. Veggies should be the bulk of your food. Use sauces (preferably ones you make yourself) and seasonings to bring out their best flavor. Don’t use the microwave for vegetables. I don’t care what anyone says, microwaves make veggies rubbery and 90% of good food is texture. Rubbery is for Calamari, not veggies.
  2. Don’t overcook. Overcooking is a sin. If you don’t already know what I’m talking about, then I guarantee you that most of the food you eat is overcooked. Chicken is especially difficult to get right. It should be juicy without being oily. Use a heat thermometer, but remember that meat’s temperature keeps rising after it is taken out of the heat. Work with it until you figure out how to get it to the safe temperature without going over after the cooking stops. If your veggies are mush, you’ve overdone them.
  3. Use simple recipes. I don’t mean ones that tell you to put in a can of Brand Name Nacho Cheese, but ones that don’t have a lot of complex ingredients. Brand Name Nacho Cheese is a complex ingredient. Good food is simple food that’s well-prepared. If the recipe you’re looking at has lots of ingredients, see if there’s one that involves fewer ingredients. For the oil painters out there, just like you shouldn’t combine more than three colors of oil paint, you should avoid combining too many ingredients. There are exceptions (like with cajun cooking), but mostly too many ingredients complicates without adding anything worthwhile.
  4. I care about this a lot and could probably be pestered to give out more advice. That said, my friend Dino (Dino knows me better as Zeeb Ra, long story) is a phenomenal vegan chef and has a lot more experience than I do. Dino, like me, does not believe in substitutes. No Tofurkey, that sort of thing. Even though I’m not a vegan, Dino’s advice is really practical and informative (I just have to go elsewhere for meat advice). His podcast on oil is literally the most important thing you can listen to if you’re going to be using oil in cooking. If you’re going to be cooking, you’ll be using oil, so just go listen to it.

So, from time to time, I'll probably blog about some of my experiences with cooking. And I'll try to keep them more practical rather than emotional like this one.

Love you all. Eat awesome. -J

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