Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Random Access Nightmares...

I spent a fair amount of Sunday playing Dead Space II. If you aren't familiar with it already, it's a video game of the "survival horror" variety, with a science fiction setting. So, basically, take the scary elements of every outer-space horror movie you've ever send, stir them up in a hydroponic vat, add extra blood, and then bake them all together into a video game. It's all there: ancient alien artifacts of uncertain purpose and origin, madness, isolation, horrible monsters, dark corridors, uncertain lighting, unreliable equipment, uncertain allies...

So I really wasn't surprised to find myself having nightmares Sunday night. I mean, that was pretty much what I'd signed up for, right? What I hadn't expected was for the necromorphs to sometimes be the Flood (from the Halo games). The flood are in some ways similar to necromorphs, but in other ways very different: they use weapons, and they have recognizable goals and tactics. So the dream drifted from fighting-in-scary-corridors to fighting-scary-things-in-something-more-like-open-battle to -- of all things -- some of the battle scenes from Advent Rising, an even older game which also happens to be set in outer space with hostile alien enemies.

Seriously, how did my brain get from being hunted in the corridors of a space colony to a beach invasion culminating in a pitched battle outside an ancient alien fortress?


...Not that I'm complaining, mind you.

Monday, June 29, 2015

Short Horror Film: Thresher

Sorry, nothing written for this morning. But when you get home from work, you should watch this:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Homosexuality and the Bible

These are just some (probably incoherent) thoughts on the Christian view of homosexuality, in relation to the recent Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality.

Does the Bible say that homosexuality is a sin? A lot of people read it that way, certainly. There are other, more nuanced readings that suggest that the "clobber verses" (Romans 1, 1 Corinthians 6, 1 Timothy 1, Jude 1:7 in the New Testament) are considerably less certain and/or more ambiguous than English translations make them appear. There's a decent case to be made that what the Bible condemns doesn't really have anything to do with our modern conception of homosexuality at all. Social conservatives, however, tend to dismiss those arguments as products of sinful people trying to make the Bible say what we want it to say, rather than what it clearly says. So, for the sake of argument, let's assume that those verses do refer to homosexuality, and the Bible does condemn it.

That's still not a massive condemnation. I mean, yeah, there are some strong words in there (it's hard to see "abomination" as a term of gentle reproof) but even if those verses all mean what socially-conservative Christians say they mean, the Bible overall just doesn't pay much attention to homosexuality. You have to go hunting to find those clobber verses, and they're generally included as part of other discussions rather than topics unto themselves. As something that Thou Shalt Not do, homosexuality doesn't even make God's Top Ten list. Compare that with the topic of, say, usury, or divorce, and you'll find that the Bible addresses those issues much more directly and much more comprehensively.

Yet, as a general thing, I don't see Christians threatening to set themselves on fire if divorced people are given the right to (re-)marry, or calling for civil disobedience if we don't make it illegal for banks to lend money at interest. Even those incredibly predatory payday lending places, which are just about exactly the sort of usury condemned in the Bible, aren't what you'd call a popular topic for Sunday sermons.

And then, of course, there's Romans 13:1-7. I mention this one specifically in relation to the Supreme Court decision:
1 Let everyone be subject to the governing authorities, for there is no authority except that which God has established. The authorities that exist have been established by God. 2 Consequently, whoever rebels against the authority is rebelling against what God has instituted, and those who do so will bring judgment on themselves. 3 For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and you will be commended. 4 For the one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer. 5 Therefore, it is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also as a matter of conscience.

6 This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. 7 Give to everyone what you owe them: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect, then respect; if honor, then honor.
"Now this was the sin of your sister Sodom: She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy." Ezekiel 16:49

Friday, June 26, 2015

Just watch...

It's awesome. In both senses of the word.
The march of marriage equality

Watch marriage equality come to all 50 states. Read about it here: http://bit.ly/1LtTaeD

Posted by Vox on Friday, June 26, 2015

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Music: Cheap Flights

Beautiful Wife has taken both boys up to visit her sister's family in Ohio. It's Secondborn's first time on an airplane. So, in honor of their journey...

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Apparently I want popcorn.

I'm working on my laptop in the living room while Secondborn plays Lego Star Wars II (The Original Trilogy!) on the Playstation 2. (We're retro like that.) Firstborn enters the room.

Firstborn: "I want popcorn."

Me: "You want popcorn. Secondborn, do you want popcorn?"

Secondborn: "I want popcorn."

Me: "Secondborn wants popcorn. Do I want popcorn?"

Firstborn: "I want popcorn."

Me: (pointing at myself for emphasis) "Do I want popcorn?"

Firstborn: "Yes." He approaches me and raises one hand in a sweeping motion in front of my eyes. "You want the popcorn. You... want... the popcorn."

Me: "I want popcorn. I will make the popcorn."

Firstborn: "No, you're supposed to say it slowly. Like, 'I... will make... the popcorn...'"

Me: "I'm supposed... to say... it slowly... I... will make... the popcorn..."

It's not my fault. He hypnotized me. Good popcorn, though.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Links and readings

1. How my first novel nearly ended my career. This isn't unique to first novels, either; I know of authors who have hit similar crises in the middle of successful careers.

2. Kids explain how best to be a barbarian conqueror. Because research is the most important part of any writing project.

3. Is the Grail a force for Evil? Really a fascinating take on Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade.

Friday, June 19, 2015

Selfie

I know some of you wonder what I look like in person, and how this blog gets written. Well, today all will be revealed:
Just kidding. He's actually writing a column for the New York Times about how Kids These Days are spoiled, arrogant, and entitled, and how they lack respect for their elders and betters. As one does, when one is a dinosaur.

Here's a brief excerpt, if you want to know what the dinosaur has to say about the steady decline of our morality and culture: "All because of one man: Elvis. Aron. Presley."

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Parkour Fails

So... I've been watching video compilations of Parkour fails on Youtube, because...

...

...Okay, well, probably because I'm a bad person.

(You want an example? Here's a relatively mild compilation. It's still not safe for work, though -- language, mostly, but also, well, people hurting themselves doing improbable things.)

So anyway, I've been watching these things -- could I say I'm doing it remind myself why I shouldn't, at forty-two years of age, try to take up this particular hobby? Would that sound better? Probably.

So anyway, I've been watching these things, and it strikes me that these failures break down into three basic categories:

1. This Was A Colossally Bad Idea. This would include, say, the guy who lined himself up so that the landing zone for his backflip was right in the middle of a plant, or the pair who tried to jump in tandem and wound up with one landing on the other. Or -- a personal favorite -- the one who decided to start his stunt from atop a sloped, icy roof. In fact, jumping to or from anything slippery falls into this category. So does any such attempt that starts with drinking.

2. This Is Beyond My Abilities. A surprising number of these people seem to crash by failing to get their ankles high enough to go over the obstacles -- they essentially trip at high rates of speed. Others hesitate at the last minute and trip themselves up (which, in those cases, would probably have been a good idea -- hesitating, I mean -- if they'd done it half a minute earlier).

3. This World Is Not Strong Enough For My Mad Skillz. If you're going to jump onto something, rebound off something, or swing around something, well... do yourself a favor and make sure it's strong enough to withstand your weight (and more particularly, your weight coming at that speed from that angle). The number of people who make perfectly serviceable leaps onto roofs, fences, walls, and play equipment that promptly collapse rather boggles the mind.

That said, there's some great material here. I would love to see a movie in which, say, the police (or the city guards, or the avenging heroes) are chasing the bad guys across the city, leaping over obstacles and dodging around obstructions, only to have the chase end when one or both parties thoroughly screws the pooch. I would pay money for that. I would watch the shit out of that. Hollywood directors, please take heed.

Monday, June 15, 2015

Music: Family

This is another of those songs that I probably would have missed if it hadn't been for Firstborn...

Friday, June 12, 2015

A Promotion Within The Family

Firstborn, age 9, has just been promoted to age 19.

Why?

Because Microsoft is being an massive bag full of dicks, and has apparently decided to make setting up a new Windows machine as much of a colossally intrusive pain the ass as humanly possible. Either that, or they've come up with a plan to make the whole thing much more user-friendly, only they turned the implementation phase of the plan over to a bunch of socially-challenged software engineers. But personally, I'm going to go with the "giant bag of dicks" explanation.

Firstborn got a new computer for his 9th birthday. It's both a laptop and a touchscreen, so it's Windows 8.1 -- and setting it up as his computer with his own user account turns out be even more horrible than setting up Windows 8. And Windows 8 was... No! I won't think of it! You cannot make me think of it!

I use Windows machines because that's what I'm used to, because I can generally get one that suits my preferences for less money than I would need for a Mac, and because there a few programs I like -- games, mostly -- that only run on Windows. But if Microsoft is going to insist on making it hugely difficult to install their software -- as they are -- and if their software is randomly going to deactivate itself -- as it apparently does -- then I'm perfectly prepared to abandon their platform completely. I use my computer mainly for 1) Writing stories, 2) music and movies, and 3) browsing the Internet -- and there is nothing that Microsoft produces that's essential for any of those functions.

Listen up, Microsoft. I should not need to have a "Microsoft ID" in order to install your software. I shouldn't need to have a Microsoft ID at all. But if that's too much to ask, then at the very least could you manage to not reject the account that I just created -- at your insistence -- for my son's computer, on the basis that he's too young to have an account?

Seriously, fuck you. Keep this up, and I will shell out the extra money for a Mac. Hell, if it comes down to it, I will learn NFBSKing Linux. You are not the only game in town. You are not even the best game in town. Stop acting like you are.

The Night That Never Ends

Had in intruder in the kitchen at about 4:00 this morning. Unsurprisingly, it turned out to be Firstborn. He was trying to get a cup of water... quietly. He succeeded at the getting-himself-a-cup-of-water part.

Hearing people moving around promptly set off the FAMAS (Feline Autonomous Mobile Alarm System, better known as Captain Meowy-Pants). "Meow, meow, meow. Mrrrrrrrrrow??? Mrrow!! Meow. Meowwww? Mrow. MRRROWW!!!" ...Etc. When I finally climbed back down from the loft bed to turn off the cat, I discovered both boys sitting on Firstborn's bed, looking at the instructions for the Lego Bionicle characters that Firstborn got for his birthday.

Patiently, I explained to them about how it was four in the morning. Gently, I pointed out that it was still completely dark outside. Calmly, I mentioned that nobody in the house should be waking up for a good three hours yet. Serenely, I asked if they would consider shutting the light back off and at least attempting to go back to sleep. And they did. Attempt to go back to sleep, I mean.

This time, I collapsed on the couch. Officially, this was because my presence there made the cat less likely to go off again. Unofficially, I might have been afraid that I lacked the coordination to make it back into the loft bed intact. Regardless, I drowsed there until it was time to start getting ready for work... and then I drowsed there about twenty minutes longer.

When I finally stumbled to my feet, Firstborn was putting the finishing touches on one of his Bionicle guys. Whether he went back to sleep at all, I have no idea. Secondborn, at least, was passed out on the bed.

So, here I am at work. I'm just going to sit here and chat with my breakfast while I eat my co-workers. Hopefully I'll be awake enough after that to do actual work.

Thursday, June 11, 2015

Small boys...

I stumbled across these while I was cleaning up the laptop yesterday. So, here are the boys... when they were small.


You guys, they are so, so, SO much bigger than this now!

I am boggled.

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

If I can just... get... the opening scene...

I have a story idea. I think it'll be fun. There are pieces of it in my head that I'm already looking forward to writing.

I can't quite seem to start it.

For a while, I just didn't like my opening scene -- either of them, actually, since I'd come up with two alternatives. (One of them started with my main character reanimating dead mice, which the the cats would then hunt and tear apart for the amusement of the younger acolytes; the other involved my main character and another acolyte witnessing strange events at the yearly harvest festival in a town not far from their monastery.) Neither of them were bad, exactly, they just didn't quite do it for me.

Now, I know there are people out there who could (and would) simply skip ahead to the parts that they're looking forward to writing, and then go back and fill in the blanks. I'm pretty sure I would tangle myself up if I tried that. I have a tendency to over-explain (even in the best of circumstances), and I'm pretty sure it would be much worse if I didn't know what information I'd already supplied earlier in the story. No, I'm vastly more comfortable starting at the beginning and working my way to the end.

On the good side, I have a third opening scene in my mind, and I like it. On the bad side, the last two times I've tried to write it, it bogged down -- not with my visual, but just in trying to get it all down on paper without burying the reader in a Wall O' Description. That is, it isn't a problem with the plotting or the characterization; it's a technical difficulty with pacing and rhythm. (Did I mention my tendency to over-explain? 'Cause I do that. A lot.)

Sooooo... My plan is not to work on it tonight. Instead, I'll go to bed as early as I can manage, let my brain relax a bit, and take another run at it when I'm fresh.

Flying ships, dark magics, dead bodies, chases, escapes, and desperate struggles for survival. Should be fun, if I can just get it going.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Lament Configurations: Pop Music Edition

If you don't recognize the first image... meet the Cenobites. (Video. Not safe for work. Also, gory.)
If you don't recognize the second image... meet Taylor Swift. (Video. Probably safe for work. Depends on how tolerant your co-workers are.)

Friday, June 5, 2015

The Cuteness That Devoured Tokyo!

"It's so cute!"
"It will destroy the city!"
"But it's so cute!"
"But it will destroy the city!"
"Cute!"
"CITY!"
"CUTE!"

Carpe Demon

I leaped up, caught him, and pulled him down out of the opening in the ceiling. It was still dark, and everyone around me was still confused; I was the only one who'd seen the movement over our heads.

"I love you, Daddy," said my son's voice, as I laid him on his back on the ground. He twisted under my hand, but I held him there and slid my other hand under his neck, cradling the back of the skull. The bones were small, delicate beneath soft tissues and the smooth skin of a small child.

"I love you, too," I said.

"I love you, Daddy," it said again, as it sank the tiny needles of its claws into my arms. I think if I'd flinched and let go, it would have run away laughing -- laughing in my son's voice. I held it carefully, my fingers positioned to block the lower jaw and keep it from taking a chunk out of me with those small, sharp teeth.

Someone finally turned a light on us, revealing the white skin and sunken features, the large red eyes with their bottomless black pupils. Any resemblance to a human child was gone in that moment; the illusion held only in darkness.

"I love you, too," I mimicked, and gathered it up to hold it close. It struggled, sinking claws into the front of my chest, tracing tiny lines of fire along the skin across my ribs. "I'll never let you go."

It thrashed, suddenly panicked. "I've changed my mind," it said, still in my son's half-lisping child-voice. "You can have him back."

"I don't want him anymore," I told it, as I stood and started for the outside door. "I want you."

It strained against me, but it wasn't strong and it already knew that I didn't care about what little damage its claws could do. "We'll bring him," it said. "You can have him. We won't touch him again. We won't touch any of you again."

I cocked my head, looking down at that horrible, mocking face. "I could never believe you." I reached the door, twisted to put my hip against the bar, and pushed it open. "I could never trust that what you brought would be my son, and not just another one of you biding your time in his place." Sunlight spilled over us as I stepped outside, and the thing's white skin began to smolder over its frame of misshapen bones. "And even if you did bring him... I've seen what you've done to us. What would be left after whatever you've been doing to him?"

The sun bit into it, and it writhed. It clawed, cursing me, calling me a fool... but I wasn't, not any more. The things weren't strong, or even very smart. Their only real power was that they were endlessly, relentlessly cruel. Everything they were, everything they did, was bent towards the misery of others.

"Daddy!" screamed my son's voice. "It burns!"

"I know," I told it. "It should."

I held it there for hours as the sun chewed slowly through its body. Someone brought me water; I didn't see who. In the end there was nothing left of it but a few scattered ashes and the stain on my shirt. Claws, teeth... even the bones were gone.

My world was broken, and nothing in it would ever be right again. There was only ever going to be pain, and sorrow, and loss. And since that was the case, I was determined to share them with the things that deserved them most.

I went back inside to look for the nest.

So... yeah. This is why, despite desperately needing a full night's sleep, I'm awake again a mere two hours after lying down. Thanks, Morpheus, you utter bastard.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Subject: Random Spammer via LinkedIn Network

So, this appeared in my inbox at work:
Hi [My First Name],

I read your profile on LinkedIn and wanted to reach out. I’m [Random Spammer] with [Some Tech Service]. We’ve developed a powerful Crowdsourcing Platform, design and data science that provides efficient access to the world’s best technical talent for accelerated creativity and innovation.

A community of 700,000+ technical/design experts powers [Some Tech Service]. We help you rapidly scale your creative resources, technical capabilities and development capacity by providing on-demand access to a global team of leading designers, cloud developers and data scientists.

We’ve developed an impressive track record helping world-class organizations accelerate their innovation from proof-of-concept all the way through execution. Some of our clients include Amazon, Box, eBay, Facebook, Google, Harvard, Salesforce.com and NASA.

I look forward to connecting to discuss how we could become a powerful strategic asset for you and your team.

Please, let me know a couple of dates and times that work with your schedule. Looking forward to the conversation.



Best Regards,

[Random Spammer]

[Some Tech Service] | [Corporate Tagline that probably cost a bundle]

[Physical address for Some Tech Service, which may or may not correspond to any real-world location]

email: random.spammer@SomeTechService.com | Office: [phone #] | [www.SomeTechService.com]

I am never going to do business with these people.

Why?

This email. This, right here.

Why?

It's dishonest. Not in an "Oh, you know, marketing" sort of way. It's actually, directly dishonest. The very first line is a bald-faced lie, and when you open your pitch by lying to me, well... I'm done talking to you. No, I'm not going to hear you out. We're done. Go away.

"I read your profile on LinkedIn..." No, asshole, you didn't. I don't have a LinkedIn profile, so however you got ahold of my email address, it wasn't "via LinkedIn Network". (Hell, I'm still marveling at the fact that LinkedIn was anything more than a passing fad, let alone at the idea that it's essentially a prerequisite for new hires. I know, I know... "You kids get off my lawn!" and like that.)

Secondarily, if you were actually researching potential business partnerships instead of just spamming anyone who seems to be even vaguely involved in any sort of IT (educated guess, obviously) then it would be immediately and glaringly obvious that I have exactly the same authority to make business decisions as the banana I just had for breakfast -- which is to say, slightly less influence than our CIO's coffee cup.

And I don't have a team.

But let me tell you, if I ever do have such authority, any such authority, I will make it a point to avoid doing business with you. Especially since this is the third time I've received this exact same email, word for word, from the same source.

Think about it, Dumbass.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Yurgh.

Took yesterday afternoon off from work. I'm putting it down as sick time, because I'm still not feeling well and I'd run out of energy and all ability to concentrate, but if I'm being completely honest I mostly left because I realized I was crazy. Like, "I have no sense of perspective, everything is massively irritating, and I have lost all ability to conceal my frustration or respond in a patient, measured, and proportionate manner." Basically, what tipped the balance wasn't so much exhaustion as the realization that if I stayed at work, something was going to set me off and I was going to blow up at someone -- anyone -- in a hugely unprofessional manner.

Ugh.

It's still better than Sunday. Sunday was miserable. But I'm not bouncing back anywhere near as fast as I'd like to be doing.

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

The Writer Will Do Something

I was horribly, horribly sick on Sunday. I'm still not entirely recovered. So, go play with this -- it's sort of a Choose Your Own Adventure.

The Writer will do something.