Friday, December 30, 2016

Thulsa Trump

So, my brain did one of those things where I wondered what it would look like if you had Donald Trump speaking Thulsa Doom's lines. It... works pretty well, actually.
But it's the final run of dialogue, when Doom is preaching to his disciples, that really works best for me:
The only real problem I have doing is this is that Thulsa Doom makes Trump sound far more literate and coherent than he actually is.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Music: Back to the River

The Pretty Reckless:

I've been feeling exhausted and out of sorts for the last couple of days, so I'm trying to get lots of sleep (as opposed to, say, writing articles for the Blog o' Doom, here). I'll probably have some more stuff after New Year's, right about the same time that Surreal Situations picks up again.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Other People's Thoughts On Writing, Part 27 or so

From Writers in the Storm: Coffee, Chocolate, and Whine

Walter Jon Williams, with a rant about having your characters behave stupidly: That Warehouse, Looming

Chuck Wendig:
How To Create Art And Make Cool Stuff In A Time Of Trouble

Finally, from the Rocky Mountain Fiction Writers blog, a post about balancing your goals: The Greatest Blogpost Ever Posted

Tuesday, December 27, 2016


There are things you expect as a parent: preparing meals, changing diapers, sharing jokes, helping with homework, and eventually driving lessons and suchlike. Then... there are the things that you didn't expect.

Take last night, for example.

I did not, when I made the announcement that it was bath time, expect to be met with an armed insurrection that rapidly exploded into house-wide rampage of Total Nerf War. I did not expect to be tossing enemy ammunition out onto the floor in order to lure Secondborn out of hiding. I did not expect him to use the laundry hamper as a mobile shield while he scooted out from behind the table to get the ammunition. I did not expect to find us covering each other with empty Nerf guns while we gathered up our ammunition, and then while we each retreated from the room to reload.

I especially did not expect Secondborn to take a running slide between my legs so he could shoot me in the butt.

Still, you go to war with the children you have, not the children you wish you had; and no plan survives first contact with your children.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Vignette with Bacon


Firstborn: "Ooooh. With my one working nostril, I smell bacon!"

Me: "That is because I am COOKING THE BACON."

Firstborn: "Mmmm. Bacon."

Me: "Step away from the bacon."

Firstborn: "..."

Me: "..."


Me: "You have stolen my freshly-cooked bacon. I can never forgive you for this."

Firstborn: ::munching sounds retreating rapidly into the distance::

Music: Christmas at Ground Zero

"Weird Al" Yankovic:

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Writing Advice: Read!

One of the best pieces of advice I've ever been given is that if you want to write well, you need to read - and you need to read good writing. Reading will show you what works and what doesn't in trying to tell a story. Reading will show you how good writers work their magic tricks. And reading outside your chosen genre will give you new information and new perspectives that you can bring into your own efforts. (The classic advice is "Write what you know." In practice, that's often backwards: it should be "Learn what you plan to write." Same coin, other side.)

Reading good books in helpful in a variety of ways, but lately I've found that it isn't always as helpful as reading badly written books. Yes, reading good books (and looking at how they're written) can help you hone your technique... but reading a good book always leaves me feeling satisfied, content, and settled. It's good to see how another author did something, but it's something that's done. Reading bad books, on the other hand... it kind of pisses me off. It makes me want to write things that are better than what I've just been reading. It's downright motivational.

Music: I Wanna Rock You Hard This Christmas

The Dan Band:

Saturday, December 17, 2016

That One Time I fell Off A Cliff

Near the town of Monteagle, Tennessee, there's a place known as Foster Falls, where a waterfall goes over a sixty foot (or so) cliff into a large (and deep) pool of water that's well-suited to swimming. I first came to the place as part of a outdoor activities group, at the tender young age of sixteen. We'd hiked out wearing bathing suits, found the waterfall, and settled in for an afternoon of swimming. Someone mentioned jumping off the top of the waterfall, since the water was supposed to be deep enough.

The idea intrigued me, so I swam out to where the waterfall hit the pool. I made a note of where I was (just on the front edge of the falling water), then swam down to see how deep it was. I didn't actually find the bottom, which meant it was deep enough. Then I went back up and repeated the process a couple of more times, just to make sure that there weren't any hidden underwater rocks or suchlike waiting to snap my spine if I didn't land quite where I'd intended.

There's a path that leads up and around to the top of the waterfall, but after some consideration I decided that I wasn't going to do the whole sixty-foot drop. For various reasons, including the fact that I was there with a group, I decided to play it somewhat safer. So I got out of the water, and went up the rocky shore to the face of the cliff. The cliff, I'd noted earlier, had a nice little ledge that was just deep enough to offer a really good grip for my feet. (It was two or three inches wide, and the surface was actually tilted towards the cliff. On top of that, there was a second ledge running at about forehead level above it. This ledge was only wide enough for fingertips, but with the other ledge below it that would be fine.

So I put my toes in the wide ledge, and clung to the narrow one with my fingertips, and started making my way sideways until I was back out over the water. The plan was to get all the way out where I was even with the waterfall, and then jump backwards. I'd be able to kick off the rock hard enough to land pretty close to the spot I'd scouted earlier.

All of this was going fine until I reached a spot where the fingertip ledge began to climb. It went from being in front of my forehead to being over my head, but that was fine. Then it made another little diagonal ascent, at which point it was no longer possible to have my fingers on that ledge and my toes on the lower ledge. That was not fine.

So I stopped, and took a couple of deep breaths, and considered my options. For slightly complicated reasons involving how balance works, I decided it would be safer and more stable to be hanging down from the upper ledge (as opposed to having my feet safely on the wider bottom ledge, but with no good way to hold my torso against the rock). I thought through what I'd do if I fell. Then I took another breath and started off again, this time hanging by my fingertips from the upper ledge.

I got about five feet. The upper ledge finished its diagonal run, briefly became horizontal, and then turned back down and vanished completely. I had just run out of ledge to hang on. Well, okay, thought my sixteen-year-old self. I'll just go back until my feet can touch the bottom ledge, and try again that way. At which point I removed my left hand from the rock, and began shifting it back to my right so that I could, um, retrace my "steps".

It was at that precise moment that my right hand came off the rock as well, an event which let me clinging to nothing but empty air. I was about thirty feet up. I was not all the way out to the waterfall, so I didn't know how deep the water under me might be. Also, I knew that there was a ledge just a little bit below me, a nice wide ledge that could catch my feet and send me tumbling away from the rock in an uncontrolled back flip. So I did exactly what I'd decided to do if something like this happened, and kicked off from the rock. Now I really was hanging in empty air; gravity hadn't quite gotten a solid grip on me yet.

My heart gave this one tremendous contraction: Ka-THUD.

I started to fall.

My heart did it again: Ka-THUD.

I stuck with the plan. I got my knees bent, back a little curved, elbows tucked in, body loose. If I landed on anything solid I was probably going to break my legs anyway, but by God I was going to at least try to tuck and roll.

My heart did a third of those amazing, chest-absorbing contractions: Ka-THUD.

Someone screamed. Unbeknownst to me, the entire group had gotten out of the water and they were all watching me from the shore. I had time for my first coherent thought: You think you're scared?

Then my feet touched the water.

The moment I went under the surface I flung everything out: arms, legs, hands. Anything that would slow my descent.

I came to a stop just as my feet touched a rock on the bottom. I wasn't dead. So I kicked my way back up to surface and swam to shore.

Nobody talked much on the hike back. Not that I remember, anyway.

Edited to add: Huh. Apparently I wrote this event up once before. Well, if you want to look at two different retellings of the same incident, there it is. Might be interesting from a writing/storytelling perspective.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Plot Summary for Rogue One (minor spoilers)

In order to stop the Empire, Derek Wildstar disguises himself as a storm trooper and infiltrates the Enterprise. With the help of a feather-haired alien named Hawk (the last of his race) they steal the holodisk with the secret plans from Emperor Ming.

The Daleks corner them on the mining ship Red Dwarf, but they escape with help from a young man named Ken Washio. Traveling in secret, they return to the Nostromo with the plans, thus allowing the Rebellion to build a Super Dimensional Fortress Macross of their own so that they can fight off the Cylons.

Did I forget anything?

The reference are, in order:
1. Star Wars (The Empire)
2. Starblazers/Space Battleship Yamato (Wildstar)
3. Star Wars (storm trooper)
4. Star Trek (Enterprise)
5. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century (Hawk)
5. Flash Gordon (Emperor Ming the Merciless)
6. Doctor Who (Daleks)
7. Red Dwarf (Red Dwarf)
8. Battle of the Planets/Science Ninja Team Gatchaman (Ken Washio)
9. Alien (the Nostromo)
10. Star Wars (the Rebellion)
11. Robotech (Super Dimensional Fortress Macross)
12. Battlestar Galactica (Cylons)

It's a basically a free-association map of the science fiction influences from my youth.

Thursday, December 15, 2016

What's in a name? Apophenia vs. Intuitive Theism

This is me responding to this post by Tony Breeden, which in turn is responding (sort of) to the loss of faith of former Baptist pastor Bruce Gerencser. I expect my comment to show up on Tony's blog shortly (it's currently queued for moderator approval), but just in case it doesn't make the cut, I'm reproducing it here.

Mr. Breeden disagrees with the idea that children are "born atheists".
I’d actually partly agree with you, in that:
A. I don’t think that children are born “atheistic” in the way that adult atheists use the term, and
B. I do think that a general tendency towards religious belief and expression is “wired in” to the human species.

Where we differ is that I don’t see that either of those things requires or even offers evidence suggesting a “creator god”, let alone the specific deity of the Christian religion.

What you keep referring to as “intuitive theism” has other names, and it’s worth reading their definitions: Pareidola, Apophenia, and Hyperactive Agency Detection. And while those add up to a tendency towards religious belief, they don’t add up to any sort of intuitive or pre-programmed monotheism – let alone anything as specific as Christianity.

Historically and socially, monotheistic religions are a statistical outlier (though admittedly, one that’s been so successful that at the current moment, in Western countries, it’s popular enough to seem like the default). That sort of belief is neither “programmed in” nor particularly intuitive; it only seems that way because we’re swimming in it.

Basically, while the phenomenon you’re describing is real, it is (at best!) an extremely weak argument for the truth of Christianity (or even the existence of some vague, generic, Deist sort of Creator). We aren’t born “with eternity in our hearts”; we’re born with a tendency to assign personalities and purposes to the events that affect our lives.

Edited to add: Mr. Breeden responded that I'm not arguing with him, I'm arguing with peer-reviewed Science! (which, um, isn't exactly how science works; a peer-reviewed article suggesting a specific conclusion is not the same thing as an established conclusion), and then deleted my response. So, I'm guessing that conversation is pretty much over.

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Better King Wenceslas

Jonah Knight provides a new take on an old song, and vastly improves it:

The Season's upon us!

Courtesy of the Dropkick Murphys:

I think we've got the worst of the Christmas shopping done, and we'll see how the rest of everything goes.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Friday, December 9, 2016

No, no idea...

Started to go to bed early last night... Instead, I wound up staying up with Firstborn to help him finish math, a study guide for Social Studies, and his weekly reading log. So this morning, I crawled out of bed and tried to get everybody else moving, and...

No. Just no.

Nobody else was moving. Nobody else was going to get up and Do All The Things. So I crawled back out, microwaved a couple of sausage biscuits for the boys, and made the faces- erm, made the lunches. ("Did you have that dream where the little gnome-bugs are putting lunches together for the boys, but when you open them up they have our faces inside?" Apparently my wife did not have that dream. Probably just me, then.) Which is fine, but I have sworn a mighty vow that tonight I will come home, climb into bed, and fall directly asleep.

Meanwhile, the heating in our house isn't working. Which is probably why nobody wants to get out of bed.

So... have some Christmas music:

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Real Work Conversations: Witches

Big Boss: "Did you find the witch's name?"

My Boss: "Hang on, I'm still logging in."

Me: "If we have the witch's name and a silver nail, we can put an end to her for good."

No, I have no idea what they were talking about.

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

O Come All Ye Hungry

Me, singing:
"O Come all ye hungry
Come and eat the tacos
Yummy breakfast tacos
that Mommy brought."

Secondborn enters the room and begins attempting to punch me in the kidneys.

Me, still singing:
"Come and devour them
full of eggs and bacon
O come let us consume them
O come let us consume them
O come let us consume them-"

Secondborn continues flailing. Firstborn enter the room.


"I promise to stop singing
I promise to stop singing

"You're still singing."

Me, without missing a beat:
"I promise to stop singing,
If you all will eat."

"What if we promise to eat as soon as you stop singing?"

"I would preemptively stop singing to see if you followed through on your side of the bargain."

Firstborn shrugs, sits, and eats. Secondborn adds one good kick to the shins for emphasis, then seats himself and begins eating as well.

Me, very quietly, and in a completely different room:
"Eat all your tacos
All your yummy tacos
Eat the yummy tacos
that Mommy brought."

Monday, December 5, 2016

Music: Cool Guys Don't Look At Explosions

Spent most of the weekend sorting laundry and excavating Secondborn's room. I feel like a badass.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Real Work Conversations: Panda Style Kung Fu

Me: "Naw, if I was going to study anything at this point, it would have to be Panda Style Kung Fu."

Co-worker: "Nice."

Me: (lifting hands) "I've already got the build for it."

Co-worker: "And you get dumplings."

Me: "Exactly."

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Weird Dreams Part I Don't Even Know Anymore

So, the two kids we were supposed to be watching were perfectly nice. The girl was about eight, the boy a couple of years younger. Mostly they just sat on the couch and watched TV while we were waiting for bedtime.

The problem was the house.

Well, the house and the ghosts. If you turned on the lights - or maybe particular combinations of the lights - you could see them. They were these figures outside the windows, screaming and pounding on the glass, but completely silent. And if you got enough of the lights in right combination of which ones were on and which ones were off, the rooms changed: different paint, different furniture, different hangings. Something about getting the lights arranged brought the house (or sections of it) closer to how it was when whatever created all these ghosts first happened.

We finally got enough of them right that the living room changed. Suddenly, the children we were supposed to be watching were gone, and there was another pair (another sister and brother) there instead... only these were ghosts. Kind of nasty ones, too. And once again, the only way to get rid of them was to complete the process and then deal with them somehow: as they had been? As they wanted to be? By preventing whatever had happened? Something. I'm not sure. I wasn't sure in the dream, either; I remember worrying that solving the puzzle might be going to trap me somehow, or make me vulnerable to the ghosts, I just didn't see any real choice.

So I finished arranging the lights, and the two child-ghosts went away. The other ghosts all melted together and flowed into the house as this sort of creeping black shadow, but I was somehow able to absorb them or consume them.

There was some other stuff later - the two kid-ghosts showed back up, and had to be settled into moving on - but that was after I'd woken up once, and it was much more disconnected.