Friday, August 30, 2013

Brain Dead, Try Again Later

So, my brain has decided to pack up all my thinking processes and go bye-bye. That being the case, instead of giving you anything of my own to read, I'm going to recommend some writings by other people:

In the news: Can We Just Pretend We Already Invaded Syria? (Note: this is actually from back in June. So when you hear people say things like "nobody could have anticipated..." you're allowed to laugh at them.)

For your amusement: The Saga Of Fred and George (Two ceramic squirrels on a journey of discovery.)

Social Issues: This is what a Feminist looks like (I can't imagine that anyone I know hasn't seen it already, but it's awesome so I'm posting it again.)

Discussion elsewhere reminded me of this: Train up a child in the way that he should go... (Protip: children are people, too, and like it or not they will go their own ways.)

That's what I've got. I have at least three things I'm hoping to get back to this weekend, but the first week of school has officially kicked my butt. Again. Right on schedule. So, what are you reading right now? What else should I be reading?

Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Ghost Witch

The witch was everything you might expect: withered and aged, dressed in ragged black with a cowl to obscure her face, relentless, implacable.

I'm not sure why she was after me. (I might have known at some point during the dream, but I can't remember now.) But she stalked me through a park, then followed me into a grocery story - misting her way through a couple of locked doors to do it, which was pretty creepy.

What finally defeated her? She randomly attacked a shelf full of spices. Since there was something there she didn't like, we started opening up cnanisters and throwing stuff at her. The one that finally did it was something-bane. Wolfsbane? Monksbane? Ghostwitchbane? I dunno. Somethingbane, anyway. Good against spooky ghost-witches. Get your jar today, and keep it handy.

Perhaps more interesting than the earlier part of the dream (which was, after all, fairly typical being-chased-by-something nightmare material) was the next bit. Whatever the stuff was, it caused her to collapse in a puff of smoke. When she stood up, she wasn't anywhere near as old, or as... floaty? she had been. And she wasn't hostile, though she was still a little odd-looking.

This, apparently, is what happens when I start trying to get enough sleep.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Gravity Belt

Three weeks ago, I completed an anti-gravity belt.

Now, mind you, this was mainly an exercise in design as far as I was concerned. Professor Oddity's work on anti-gravitons was well-documented by the Mad Science Consortium. The man kept copious notes, and the Consortium employed a number of researchers to collect them after his house hit that 747. So this was hardly testing any ground-breaking theories, or even exploring any particularly new avenues of technological achievement.

That said, I was rather proud of the prototype. It's one thing to establish anti-gravity generators in something the size of a house; doing the same thing in something as small and as flexible as a belt required a rather more... elegant... design. Also, unlike Professor Oddity's design, the anti-gravity generators in the belt did more than provide localized lift: they used a Tesla Field to apply the effect throughout the area of an object, and a set of sensors to determine how much power should be applied.

The result was a belt that, when wrapped around an object of the proper composition, would effectively negate the effects of the Earth's gravity on that object. An astronaut could practice zero-gravity movement in the comfort of his or her own living room; accident victims could be lifted and moved almost effortlessly; construction workers would no longer need to fear falling... Even better, I equipped the belt with a power sensor; if the supply began to get low, it would gradually lower the total anti-gravitons produced, and so deliver the wearer gently to the ground.

It worked beautifully, right up until the past weekend... when my son decided that the cat would like to fly.

I first learned of this when he burst into the living room, screaming that Fluffy was gone. Apparently he had wrapped the belt gently around the cat, fastened it in place, carried the cat lovingly into the back yard, and thrown the poor beast like a football. I imagine he expected Fluffy to soar into the sky, and then gradually arc back down to the Earth. Instead, well... the cat continued going up, yowling all the way. The belt, you see, was calibrated for objects of roughly adult human mass and weight. I doubt it could scale down far enough to neutralize the mere weight of a cat, and even if it somehow managed, well, the boy had thrown the cat upwards. Even if the belt was neutralizing the cat's weight, and not providing additional lift, Fluffy wasn't coming back down until the batteries ran out.

At that level of output, that could easily be half an hour, or more. Without knowing the angle of the throw, there was no way to estimate how high the beast might reach.

Fortunately, I have robotic drones that I keep ready for such occasions. Once I understood the problem, I dispatched them immediately. Given the amount of area they had to cover, and the difficulty involved in picking out one lone feline at any sort of range, we were lucky that they found him at all. We were even luckier that they were able to retrieve him before he got high enough to freeze, suffocate, or both.

All's well that ends well, I suppose. Still, Fluffy didn't wait around to hear my son's tearful apology; and, in fact, I don't believe he's come out from under the couch for the last three days. My son is heartbroken, but that's to be expected. I can only hope that he's learned something from this: one should always check the calibration before applying anti-gravity fields to the family pets.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013


It's well past time that Narwhals had a theme song. (Maybe not entirely work-safe, but FUN.)

Monday, August 26, 2013

Obligatory In Front Of School Picture

So, here you go. See? He's smiling:
...Sort of.

And here, courtesy of the Beautiful Woman, is a photo of us walking towards the school:

First Day of Second Grade

We got Firstborn off to school this morning. This year our schedules worked out so that the Beautiful Woman was able to come along, so we bundled the whole family into the car, drove to the school, and walked Firstborn up to the front door. We took the obligatory round of pictures (I may be able to post some, later) and sent him on his way.

Firstborn managed not to scowl through the picture-taking. I consider this quite an achievement on his part. (Actually, I think he was pretty happy about going back to school. Having his parents follow him to the door to take pictures, maybe not so much.)

Then I dropped the Beautiful Wife and Secondborn back at the house, and went off to work.

This is a substantial improvement over the first day of First Grade, not to mention the first day of Kindergarten. (There was a week or two there where I wasn't entirely sure that I was going to survive the transition into having a child in school.) Apparently, once you have a system in place, it's a lot easier to fall back into it. Hopefully. 'Cause there's always the possibility that this morning went as well as it did just to lull me into a false sense of security.

We'll see.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Why I Want A Wife

Somebody linked to this earlier... yesterday, I think. It was written in 1971, but an awful lot of it still seems awfully relevant...

Why I Want A Wife
I would like to go back to school so that I can become economically independent, support myself, and if need be, support those dependent upon me. I want a wife who will work and send me to school. And while I am going to school I want a wife to take care of my children. I want a wife a wife to keep track of the children's doctor and dentist appointments. And to keep track of mine, too. I want a wife to make sure my children eat properly and are kept clean. I want a wife who will wash the children's clothes and keep them mended. I want a wife who is a good nurturing attendant to my children, who arranges for their schooling, makes sure that they have an adequate social life with their peers, takes them to the park, the zoo, etc. I want a wife who takes care of the children when they are sick, a wife who arranges to be around when the children need special care, because, of course, I cannot miss classes at school. My wife must arrange to lose time at work and not lose the job. It may mean a small cut in my wife's income from time to time, but I guess I can tolerate that. Needless to say, my wife will arrange and pay for the care of the children while my wife is working.
The author's name is Judy Syfers. Go read the whole thing (if you aren't familiar with it already).

Thursday, August 22, 2013

One Side of a Phone Conversation

We've had several calls in the last several days purporting to be from "Windows Technical Support" and calling to tell us - or, more specifically, the Beautiful Woman - that her computer had a virus. This a fairly transparent scam, probably aimed at getting her to download an actual virus - or possibly pay them to fix a nonexistent problem. So, this evening, as we were cleaning up after dinner, the phone rang (again) and the Beautiful Woman answered it. Thus, I was treated to the following side of the conversation.

Ladies and gentlemen, my wife:


"Really? You are from Microsoft Office and I have a virus on my computer? Please, PLEASE tell me about it."

"Keep talking. I'm fascinated. I'm RIVETED."

"I'm sure you have so much to share. Tell me more!"

"...He hung up." (Insert impish grin here.) "He probably thought I was keeping him on the line so we could trace the call."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Bovine Psychiatry

I can't remember if I've used this on the blog before or not, but it's one of my favorite stupid jokes.

Two cows are standing on a hilltop.

First Cow: "Did you hear about this Mad Cow Disease that's going around?"

Second Cow: "Sure did."

First Cow: "Are you worried about it? I am."

Second Cow: "Why should I worry? I'm a penguin."

Lovely Creature

I have nothing for this morning, so I'm going to play some Nick Cave.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Semicolons! In! Space!

In a press release today, the International Society Of Semicolons announced that their entire population would be leaving Earth later this week. Reasons for the decision included grammatical abuse, a lack of appreciation from the English-speaking world, and a general dislike of being included in "winks" in online text communications.

The Semicolon Science Academy, with the help of several disgruntled ex-NASA engineers, has spent the last several years constructing a rocket big enough transport the entire semicolon population to a small planet orbiting the star Alpha Eridani, which appears to be populated entirely by ink-based lifeforms.

While they eventually plan to inhabit the entire planet, their initial settlement will be a small semicolony.


This is a band I'd really like to hear more out of. They're also part of the increasingly large portion of my music collection that I discovered through my children's entertainment. Anyway, join us below the cut for some Cryoshell:

Monday, August 19, 2013

I'll be in a white dress with three roses on the table in front of me...

So... is it wrong that, upon noticing that Rachel Held Evans had posted a piece entitled How do I involve God in my sexuality? my first thought was, basically: I'd imagine you start with a personal ad; maybe correspond for a bit; and if you seem to be compatible, meet at some sort of neutral ground, like a restaurant, to see if you get along in person. After that, well, if everybody's comfortable with the arrangement, off you go.

I'm going to Hell, aren't I?

Hearing Test for Firstborn

Parenting Note #23761: Firstborn tends to get caught up in whatever he's doing, to the point where he may not hear me even when I'm standing in the same room and addressing him directly. This is not symptomatic of any sort of hearing problem, as he can still detect the soft beep of the Playstation 3 firing up, with perfect accuracy, from the other side of the house.

Friday, August 16, 2013

Rocket Man has a Little Toy Gun

We're troubleshooting an iPad for one of the managers here at work. The problem is that the wee beasty seems to lose power when he's using it - which sounds pretty normal until you realize that it he has it plugged in. That shouldn't be possible. The thing should be able to charge no matter what it's running.

We've tried just about everything. We've made sure it really is plugged in. We've switched out the cables. We replaced the tablet itself.

It's still doing it.

At this point, we've pretty much narrowed it down to the brick - the piece that converts the power from the wall plug into something the iPad can use. We think it's just an elderly brick that isn't working as well as it should. (We actually tried replacing the brick earlier, but apparently changing it out for an equally elderly brick didn't solve the problem. Go figure.)

To test this, we've plugged the iPad into a new brick, and turned on everything - every app it has on it is running. Which means, of course, that we are now... privileged... to listen to the music of upper management. Unfortunately, Upper Manager only has two songs on his iPad, so we've been playing them on a loop (and presumably in random order, but as you might imagine it's a bit hard to tell).

To help you better envision the effect this is having, I'm embedding both songs below the cut. All you have to do is play one, and then the other, and then repeat this process until you run out of electricity.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Celebrity Dreaming

I woke up this morning from one of the weirdest dreams I can remember.

I mean, why would I suddenly decide to take a trip to Japan. I speak Japanese with all the fluency and ease that I speak Romanian, Classical Greek, and Esperanto. In other words, I don't understand a word of it. But, you know, it was a dream, and by dream standards that's only a little weird.

This particular hotel, though... They didn't number the floors of the hotel. They used symbols instead: square, crescent, filled circle, star, triangle, empty circle... That was pretty weird. I mean, how are you supposed to figure out the sequence?

What really tipped it over into WTF territory, though, was the company. I mean, seriously: how on Earth did I end up on the same trip as Britney Spears and Kevin Federline? It's not like I know either of them. Britney, I can sort of understand. She was reasonably famous, and if my brain just randomly picked someone I'd heard a lot about, well, there you go. Not someone I'd heard about recently, but still someone with a slot in the back of my mental filing cabinet. Federline, on the other hand, is one of those people that... well, I really shouldn't even know he exists. I shouldn't be aware of him at all. Which means that the only reason for him to appear in my dream is by association with Britney - which is pretty much the only reason I know about him at all.

That said, neither of them did anything particularly odd or obnoxious in my dream; the bizarreness of the dream came entirely from the setting (big, peculiar hotel staffed by people whose language I don't speak at all) and from the fact that they were there at all. (In the dream, as in real life, I was not at all famous; so ending up on some sort of travel tour with a pair of famous people [or, well, one famous person and her ex-husband] struck me as odd even in the dream.)

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

A story by Firstborn

I am sick today, so Firstborn is filling in with a story.

Red and the zombie
By Firstborn (age 7)

It all comes with a phoenix named Red. He was a great guard. When a friend needed him, he would teleport there to help. And help he would. Unluckily one day he found a zombie.

The zombie was on the loose, and the zombie could create other zombies. And so there were zombies everywhere. Red wasn't expecting the zombie to multiply. The zombie bit him! Red put out his flames and left an egg. The zombie was all like "I win! I win!" and then, "Uh-oh."

The egg was hatching. A little baby phoenix came out of the egg and grew into a big phoenix. The new Red decided to teleport behind the zombies so the zombies would think the new phoenix just automatically died because it was a hologram. The new Red shot fire behind and burned them all up.

The End.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Real Work Conversations: Because I'm Awesome!

Me: "...That's because I'm awesome."

Boss: "Is that what it is?"

Me: "Obviously. It's the only possible explanation. In fact, I think it'll be my explanation for the rest of the day. Whenever anything goes right, it's because I'm awesome."

Boss: "You're an optimist. What makes you think anything else will go right?"

Me: {shrugs} "Eventually I'll get to go home. Because I'm awesome."

Dollyrots below the cut. (This is Geds' fault.)

Nothing on my mind...

Seriously, nothing. Not even enough to write a song about it...

Monday, August 12, 2013

Writing is Research

Still working on the short story for Midian Unmade. Just a short story, mind you, but it has me looking up information on alopecia, Merlin, and herpetological symbolism in the Catholic church. (Spell-check recognizes one out of three of those terms.)

Research is a vital part of writing, even when you're writing about things that you're, well, completely making up.

A friend of mine once had the pleasure of watching a college librarian realize that the pile of a dozen books (everything the library had on the topic, plus some inter-library loans) that she was checking out were all, every single one, on the topic of human sacrifice. Admittedly, that was was academic research, and nothing to do with writing fiction, but even so: what's the weirdest piece of research you've ever done? The one that makes you wonder just how freaked out the NSA might be getting?

Friday, August 9, 2013

Conductor of the Poop Train

I have absolutely nothing written for this morning - server install is driving me completely insane. So, here's a gory little animated video that I've been enjoying. (This is absolutely NOT safe for work, unless maybe you're using headphones and you're in a small closet with the door locked.)

(My seven-year-old has been playing the Mechromancer in this game, so he keeps wandering around saying things like, "Third place in the science fair!?" in a faintly aggrieved tone of voice.)

Thursday, August 8, 2013

Notes from the Mad Science Lab: Long-Tailed Mice

My son has been playing with the gene sequencer again. Honestly, I try not to let him run around unsupervised - especially in the lab - but he's too quick for my current assistant, the indomitable Ms. Taft, and the others are distracted by their duties. (Commendably so, I might add.) Drake, for example, is extremely good with the boy - but he also has a strict schedule of feedings, waterings, exercisings, and cleaning enclosures in the Crypto-Zoo, and for him that schedule takes precedence over everything else. This makes him very little help with my son, but it represents a substantial improvement over his predecessor, the late and unlamented Mr. Howell.

Moreover, ever since our first attempt at creating a Hippofishimus, my son has been interested in creating new and better forms of life. His ideas on how best to go about this have changed several times over the years, but I can't deny that there's a distinct theme to his interests. So this discovery, while unexpected, was hardly a surprise.

It began simply enough: Drake mentioned that some sort of small rodents had been chewing their way into his feed bins. This happens sometimes, and we usually solve it with small mechanical drones: hunter-killers programmed to eliminate small targets. This time, however, the drones proved ineffective. Drake brought me the broken pieces of two of them. That was unusual, but we've dealt with stubborn pests before: a combination of motion sensors and chlorine gas (along with a mask for the Cryptozookeeper) usually does the trick. This time...

Well, the bins remained intact, but we lost one of the Chupacabras from the zoo itself. The beast had suffered from several small bites, but when I dissected it I found that it had actually died of strangulation. Considering the timing, I hadn't expected anything of the sort, so my first thought was that something must have escaped from elsewhere in the Crypto-Zoo. Drake and I conducted a thorough inspection, and found... nothing. Everything was in its place; nothing was missing. Even the Torglind Metamorph was right where we left it, pretending to be a rock in the hope that one of us would be stupid enough to step into its enclosure.

At that point, we gave up for the night. Drake went back to his suite, and I took the secret elevator back up to the house. It happens to come out in the kitchen, so I immediately noticed that the refrigerator door was open. It looked like a furry snake had slithered up inside.

I flipped on the light, and opened the door, and that's when I saw it: a long-tailed mouse. Its body was mouse-sized, but it was the tiny front end of a tail that was nearly a full meter long. When it saw me and fled, it was half running and half slithering. It went into a small hole in the wall, and when I put my ear by the opening I could hear chittering from many, many throats.

My house, as part of the lab, has a number of defenses built into it. I retreated to the safe room, sealed the door, and sounded the alert so that my staff could get to safety. Then I activated a couple of the anti-viral measures, and sent the pest control drones in to clean up the rest.

This was, it seemed, completely effective. According to the drones, both my house and the lab below are completely free of long-tailed mice. So I went to sleep in relative confidence, and it was only the next morning that it occurred to me to call my son (at his mother's house) and ask if he had created them. He had, of course, so I congratulated him and apologized for destroying them.

An hour later I called him back, because the drones had returned a zero kill count. Not only had they not killed anything, they hadn't found anything to kill. They hadn't even found any remains. In terms of cleanup, this was ideal. In terms of ecological balance... who knows? They understood the alert, or else they just panicked, and they fled. They are still alive out there, somewhere - in a neighbor's house, or somewhere further afield. They might be plotting revenge, or they might just be eating and breeding. They might be solving quadratic equations, for all I know.

Wherever they are, they aren't dead.

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Real Work Conversations: Infiltrating The Humans

Me: "LV-426, we need to discuss your behavior among the Earth-humans. There is a thing they do, called 'sleep'..."

My boss: "Yeah. Let me know how that works out for you."

Me: "If you fail to 'sleep' while you are among them, they will realize that you are not one of them. Also, your biomorphic disguise requires this 'sleep' in order to function efficiently."

My boss: {snorts in a vaguely amused manner}

Me: "That is all, LV-426. You may return to your research. Ruaxor prevails."

Tuesday, August 6, 2013

Millennials and Church: They're just not that into you.

So, Rachel Held Evans and sundry others have been discussing why "Millennials" are leaving the church in droves. (This is the sort of question, by the way, that always makes me wonder whether decent droves are available second-hand, and what sort of gas mileage they get.)

I've mainly been watching this from a distance, because most of the discussion has been off in the Christian corner of the blogosphere, and most of it has been focused on what the church can do help keep the younger generation involved (or at least avoid actively driving them away). That's interesting to watch, but for the most part it isn't something that affects me directly, so I haven't felt compelled to have an opinion about it. The suggested solutions vary widely, mainly based on varied perceptions of how much of a problem this is, and how the people doing the opining perceive the problem. So you have, among other things, suggestions that the church itself needs to change: becoming less homophobic, more open to women in leadership roles, more focused on doing good in the community and the world. (Details, again, vary widely.) Alternatively, the church is doing fine, and this current generation of spoiled consumer-driven young adults needs to quit expecting the Almighty to cater to them, and start listening and learning. (Annnnd again: details vary.)

Meanwhile, over in the unchurched areas of the blogosphere, Hemant Mehta (The Friendly Atheist) suggests that us atheists are pulling the young'uns away. So, y'know, yay us - or something.

I'm dubious. So is Vorjack, over at Unreasonable Faith, and he offers one of his intriguing bits of historical perspective on the matter. It helped solidify some of my own thoughts.

One of the reasons that I've stayed out of the conversation is the mostly-unspoken assumption (from Christian commentators) that attending church is a good thing, and not attending church is a bad thing. I'm not so sure that's the case. In fact, I'm fairly sure that such is not the case for everyone. Rachel Held Evans is, I think, not really considering the full ramifications of a fairly obvious factor: church just isn't as important to most millennials as it is her. If it was, they'd still be there. (And then you'd probably have a schism instead of an exodus, but that's a thought for another time.)

Look, I'm not a historian. I'm not even a sociologist. I have a minor in Anthropology, but that was years ago and I've done essentially nothing with it. But one of the things that I picked up from Anthro classes was that essentially anywhere you find people, you find two things: art and religion. What kinds of art, and what kinds of religion, are completely open questions - no two groups come at either topic in precisely the same way. But the general tendency is there, and it seems to be wired in to the species.

But, like a lot of what we call "human nature", the strength of the tendency varies a lot from individual to individual. Some people seem to be extremely religious by nature, while some of us just... aren't. Which leads me to suspect that the big difference between the current generation and their parents and grandparents is that a lot of the things that used to be available (exclusively, or primarily, or most easily) through the church are now fairly easy to find without the church. So the exodus we're currently seeing isn't so much because "millennials" have a compelling disagreement with the church; they're leaving because they don't have any need to be there, and they don't have this sense that attending church is important for its own sake.

Are there things that "the church" (said as if Christianity were some sort of unified, monolithic entity - ha!) could do to be more appealing to the current generation of young adults? Probably. But people want different things, so it's not going to be any one thing; it's going to involve a variety of approaches, and a certain amount of trial and error. Is that going to solve the problem of millenials leaving the church? Probably not. Are atheists responsible for pulling people away from the church? I seriously doubt it. At most, I suspect we've made it more acceptable for people not to go to church; and with the possibility there, people are finding their own reasons not to go.

Monday, August 5, 2013

I don't like Mondays...

So, Friday pretty much kicked my butt. Long day of trying to install The World's Most Recalcitrant Software, then an emergency room visit for the three-year-old. (He needed stitches - his older brother wound up in the emergency room a couple of times, but it was for things like croup. Secondborn, for whatever reason, hasn't been in for any sort of disease; both of his visits have involved stitches.) We finally made it to my brother's house to catch up with some friends, but by then everyone was pretty worn out.

Beautiful Wife let me sleep in on Saturday, and that was a huge help... but Sunday was given over to trying to figure out where the power supply for my laptop had gone (I still don't know), bringing Secondborn back to the doctor for a follow-up visit, and generally trekking about in the hundred-and-five degree Texas heat.

So now it's Monday again. I have a dental appointment (for a cleaning) and then it's back to working on the Software Install From Beyond The Grave.

...I'm just sure I had some writing projects I was working on. But anyway...

I don't want to go to Monday. I just want to crawl in a hole and hide. So, um, have some music:

Saturday, August 3, 2013

Write and Crash, Write and Crash

So, I haven't touched the short story for a couple of days. Combination of work and illness (either allergies or a tummy bug, no way to tell) pretty well took me down. Now, not actually writing for a couple of days isn't necessarily a crisis in itself. The problem here is that the interruption has taken my head completely out of the story. That's the sort of interruption that tends to capsize, or at least indefinitely delay, my projects.

Now, that sounds (even to me) like I've run aground, and I'm giving up. No - not yet, anyway. I have a good five pages or so already. Even allowing for some changes I'd like to make, that's enough that if I can sit down and read it through, I can probably drop my brain back into the story.

So that's the plan for tonight: put the boys down, sit down with the story, read what I have so far, and pick up from there. That used to be my methodology back in high school, when I was writing for a couple of hours every night: read the last page or two so I was caught up on exactly where I'd left off, and go from there.

We'll see how it goes. And if this doesn't work, I have at least two more ideas I can try.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Blech. And also, ick. And generally blah.

So, yeah... Remember when I said earlier I was probably coming down with something?

...I hate being right.

Spent yesterday at home. Slept a lot, and didn't move around any more than I strictly had to. It helped. Whatever was upsetting my stomach seems to have passed, and that weird bout of extreme crankiness as well. I still feel like I've been run over by a truck, though.

Anyway, I'll try to have some more, um, actual content later on. (That may not be 'til Monday, though.) Meanwhile, let's all just get down with the sickness, shall we? (Definitely NSFW.)