30 November, 2010

One (or Two) For the Road

Silver Fox has a post up about road songs:
So one day, I'm in the passenger seat of some other geo's truck, being driven from place to place through thick trees and over rutted and roily dirt roads somewhere in central Idaho, in search of particularly fascinating outcrops — any outcrops would do, given the number of trees and lack of visibility — and JS, the geo-type whose projects I was visiting, pulled two of his newly made road tapes out of the glove box. The tapes, filled with road songs, were meant to be played while on the road, any road. Brainstorming while we listened, all the while watching for outcrops, we came up with a million more road songs, and a rather loose definition.

A road song must contain a word pertaining to roads — road, highway, freeway, byway, street, interstate — or it can instead contain words pertaining to cars, trucks, semis, and railroads or railway cars. Travel songs without mentioning the roads or railroads or the vehicles don't count, and airplane or boat songs are generally out. Exceptions to these rules may exist, but I can't think of any.
And it occurs to me, there's a perfect road song she may never have heard:

See? It's even got the word "interstate" right there in the title.

And there's a second song that doesn't quite qualify as a road song, but it's about being a long way from home, and it's wonderful, and so it shall be included here:

Silver, my dear, if you enjoyed those, and wish for just a little bit more, let me know, and a CD shall be on its way to you directly.  The Peacemakers have plenty more where that came from.

Lyrics below the fold.

Such Civil War Is In My Love and Hate

(This is soooo last minute, so for those breathlessly awaiting another Dojo post, you shall be disappointed until tomorrow.  Forgot all about November ending so soon, didn't I?  Had to get in my Accretionary Wedge post under deadline, and that means the Dojo gets the boot.  I'm sure you shall all survive.)

Shakespeare fans may note the shout-out to Sonnet XXXV there in the title.  That's because our lovely hostess Ann has asked, "What Geological features about the area you call 'home' do you love? and what do you not like?"  Simple answers to simple questions: love the variety, hate all the damned biology in the way.  Well, I only hate the biology when I'm trying to look at geology and when it's giving my asthma fits - apart from that, I actually love it quite a lot.

That's the simple answer.  But nothing's ever simple, is it?

We'll discuss Washington State as a whole, though I live very nearly in Seattle.  And I'll tell you what I love: I love living on a subduction zone.  I love the mountains thrown up by it, and the exotic terranes stuck on any-old-how.  I love the fact I can drive a half-hour from home, and see an old volcanic island floating in a sea of grass:

Mount Si, Snapped by my Intrepid Companion
In the West, we've the ocean, with mountains crammed up and jammed up by the North American Plate busily overriding the Juan de Fuca Plate.  We've the Sound, dropped low by earthquakes and carved out by Pleistocene glaciers.  We've the Cascades, walling us off from the east.  And they're the reason I'm here: when I visited in 2000, saw Seattle nestled between the Olympics and the Cascades, those snow-capped peaks holding a city in the hollow of their cupped hands, I knew I'd come home.  So what if it took another seven years before I managed to actually move here?

And of course, one of the first books I bought in preparation for the move up was Roadside Geology of Washington. I didn't think I was moving up for the geology, actually - I'd come because it was where I set my books, and rationalized making the move by listing things like nice city, research purposes, all that rot.  But when it comes down to it, geology brought me here and geology entices me to stay.

I have two things against this state: so much of its interesting geology is completely covered in biology, at least west of the Cascades.  What's not buried under plants, trees, brambles, ground cover, and other forms of life is usually lost under a deep cover of glacial till, so as far as seeing some of the features we know must be there, forget about it.  Still, things peek out here and there.

Mount Rainier Peeking Through Clouds and All the Damned Biology
The other thing I have against Washington state is that so much of it is terribly young and overwhelmingly volcanic.  Sometimes, I miss the limestones and sandstones of Arizona.  But then I get the opportunity to see what happens to flood basalts that have had the mother of all floods scour them, and I feel much better about matters:

Dry Falls
No one can look at that and say it's not awesome, and then credibly claim to be moved by natural wonders.  That, my friends, used to be a sea of basalt; millions of years later, Glacial Lake Missoula broke through its ice dam and unleashed the mother of all floods, turning this segment of basalt into a waterfall that dwarfs Niagara - all in the course of a few hours, and for just a few days.  The marks of that flood cover an enormous area of eastern Washington.  You can find traces of it under the Pacific Ocean.  Arizona may be able to lay claim to about 2 billion years of geological history on display, but it ain't got glacial floods and flood basalts like this.

It doesn't have mountains like this.

Tarn Near Sunset, Hurricane Hill, Olympic Mountains
This is a complex state with young but fabulously complicated geology.  When it comes right down to it, what I love is far greater than what I don't.  Even when the rain keeps me off the rocks, encourages more bloody biology, and makes some of the local geology go slip-sliding into the sea.
Such civil war is in my love and hate
That I an accessory needs must be
To that sweet thief which sourly robs from me.

29 November, 2010

Sit and Watch the Sunset

It's Monday.  Moreover, it's the Monday after a holiday.  I know all you all need a little something beautiful right now, so go over and watch the sunset at Suzanne's:

That's just the first of many gorgeous images.  Go on.  Go enjoy.  You've earned a beauty break.

Why Talking to Idiots Gets You Nowhere

Finally finished this paper that's been in my tabs for days: "Irreducible Incoherence and Intelligent Design: A Look into the Conceptual Toolbox of a Pseudoscience."  Stumbled across it playing on The Panda's Thumb, and while it took me forever to read because I've had the attention span of a spastic on caffeine pills lately, I got quite a lot out of it.  Namely: if one goes about disproving IDiotic blathering about how evolutionary theory can't explain X, they'd better not be doing it in order to convert the cretins.  May as well spend your time trying to convince me that curling is an exciting and dramatic sport to watch - you'd have better luck making a conversion.  Mind you - I find nearly every sport in the universe dead boring.

No, the only time the IDiots become useful IDiots is when they inspire evolutionary biologists to figure things out and demolish IDiotic arguments from the foundations up - not because any amount of evidence will make these dumbshits realize they're wrong (none will), but because of the ricochets.  Knocking down an IDiot's argument is a fantastic way to teach ordinary folk like me about biology.  It makes it more interesting, what with the controversy and the smart people vs. the Dumbskis sorta thing.  It's also a good idea to have a refutation ready so that innocent bystanders don't get snookered. 

Besides, it's fun.  Especially when the poor howling IDiots snivel and have to rush out to move their goalposts.

Anyway.  There's my thoughts.  It's an entertaining paper, too, so you lot may enjoy reading it yourselves.  Which you should go do now, because I'm off to watch another Harry Potter film.

28 November, 2010

Night Off

It happens.  Busy watching Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, wasn't I?  Hadn't pre-loaded enough posts, had I?  So here we are.

If it makes you feel any better, I spent time in between calls at work today researching up a storm for our next installment of Seward Park Geology.  Got so much information that my brain very nearly melted away.  So I'll have that up for you soon, and then there's a little something special Suzanne sent over that I'll present to you, and the Dojo, and - well, let's just say we shall have a very busy week.

I hope you all had a lovely Thanksgiving.

And, incidentally, for the fans: feel free to share the story of how you became obsessed with Harry Potter here.  I'll tell you mine if you tell me yours.  ;-)

27 November, 2010

One of the Most Beautiful Things I Have Ever Seen

Courtesy of Jessica Ball at Magma Cum Laude:

That’s right – it’s under a waterfall! The flame is sheltered just enough that it doesn’t go out very often (although it’s always a good idea to bring a lighter along if you’re going to visit). Gas wells in this area are generally drilled into the Medina Group (a collection of sandsones and shales, which you can see exposed in the base of Niagara Falls to the north), but the seep itself is in the Hanover Shale, which apparently also has a bit of gas in it.
There's much more to that post, including some more lovely photographs, so do make sure you go.  And, incidentally, who wants to take a road trip with me?

26 November, 2010

Imaginary Death Panels vs. The Real Deal

I've been trying for several days now to figure out how to capture my outrage in words, but it's impossible to do it.  Let's just say that if I ever get a chance to do it, I will gladly punch Arizona's political overlords in the face.

The same pieces of shit who have no problem going on and on about imaginary death panels in order to defeat health care reform also have no problem with creating death panels of their own (h/t):

The only political effort to implement death panels since Obama got his health reform bill passed has been in the state of Arizona. There the Republican-controlled legislature with the approval of GOP Governor Jan “there are headless bodies turning up all over our desert” Brewer has told 98 people waiting for transplants that they must die.

Those 98, who are either poor or uninsurable by private insurance due to pre-existing conditions, need bone marrow, lung, heart, and other forms of transplants. They were told by the state’s Medicaid program—Arizona Health Care Cost Containment System, or AHCCCS—that they qualified for coverage. But, this October 1, AHCCCS said it could not in fact pay for their transplants. Facing a billion-dollar-plus budget deficit, the Arizona legislature cut out all state funding for transplantation retroactively!

This means that people who were told they had a chance at life had the rug pulled out from under them without any warning. The Republican legislature not only acted as a death panel; it chose to balance the budget on the backs of the poorest and most desperate of Arizonians by welshing on a promise.

Just to be clear, the legislature and governor did not say there would be no more transplant funding going forward. They said they are telling those to whom coverage has already been promised to drop dead.
I hope Arizonans have the decency to realize just what kind of murderous assclowns they've elected, and remedy that the next time they go to the ballot box.  Otherwise, my old home state will gain a deserved reputation as the worst place in America to live.  Jan Brewer & Co. seem intent on proving that when it comes to treading on the poor and immigrants, nobody stomps harder than they do.  Once suspects she and her cronies rather enjoy the sound of bones breaking under their boots.

This, America, is what it looks like when the modern Cons get their way.  This is what they think this country should be.  If it doesn't horrify you, then there is no trace of morality or decency left in your shriveled little soul.

25 November, 2010

Thinking of Thanks and Thankful for Thinking

I'm about to dive head-first into a marathon of Harry Potter movies, after a nice leisurely bath.  I guarantee you, I'm thankful for both of those things.  Some may think I'm crazy for being thankful for Harry Potter, o' course, but that's their loss.  Quidditch rules!

This is a day of giving thanks.  First and foremost, I'm thankful to you, my darlings.  This blog has brought me great friends and readers, forced me to expand my interests and oftentimes question my assumptions, and all of you have had a huge part in that.  You bloggers, you commenters, you outstanding human beings - you give me hope for this crazy ol' world.  So, thank you for being here, being you, and being awesome!

Thanks to science, and scientists, and people curious enough to invent science and keep becoming scientists.  Without science, a great many of us likely wouldn't have been born at all.  Of those who were, a great many would've died young.  Science has given us food, medicine, and incredible technology.  And it's given us a far greater understanding of the world, which makes the world a damned sight more interesting.

Thanks to writers, who suffer for our enjoyment.  Putting words on a page is far more difficult than it sounds.  Thank you for pushing through the pain, creating wonderful new worlds and putting new spins on old words, for having not just the imagination, but the skill and determination, to weave tales that keep us enthralled, entertained, and help us realize things about our universe and our humanity that we never would've thought of otherwise.  Thank you, crafters of both fiction and non-fiction, for the words you've smithed!

Thanks to family, friends, and those occasional strangers who are there to share the adventure.

Thanks to all of those who, in a variety of ways, make life livable.

Just, simply, thanks.

Oh, and pass the platter!

Los Links

Bored on a holiday weekend, are ye?  Had your fill of turkey, football, annoying relatives, Black Friday, all that rot?  Well, that's good, because I've got lots o' interesting links I've been meaning to do something about but never managed to get round to blogging.

Pour yourselves a glass of something tasty and hopefully strong, and nibble away at some delights, my darlings.

The "Lost Women": science popularizers and communicators of the 19th century:  We sometimes forget that, even in the days when women were pretty much third-class citizens, a few of them broke out of the barefoot and pregnant mold and managed to make some impressive, not to mention important, contributions to science.  Here's a start on remembering them.  And, in case that wasn't enough for ye, here's my paean to a few of the Unsung Women of Science.

For those who might've missed it the first, second, and ten billionth time this got handed round the geoblogosphere, Ole Nielsen has an excellent explanation of How Drumlins Form.

And while we're on about glaciers, might as well go From end to end: Traversing the Terminal Lines of Long Island.  

Hannah Waters has the definitive post on Developing a scientific worldview: why it’s hard and what we can do.

Remember when we were all supposed to have flying cars?  How about this instead: Trees Infused With Glowing Nanoparticles Could Replace Streetlights.  Pretty damned awesome.

Here's an excellent read for anyone who loves reading, writing, or understanding how the brain works: This Is Your Brain on Metaphors

And, finally, Orac's got a thought provoking (and snarky) post up: So Al Gore didn't invent global warming? Who knew?

That should keep you busy enough.  Now if you'll excuse me, I'm off to watch every single Harry Potter movie filmed to date because that's the sort of idiotic thing a writer does when they're blocked...

24 November, 2010

Scenes from the Frozen Life

There's been this fly on the porch since the storm started.  He appears to be frozen in place, but he's been veeerrryyy slowly crawling up the side of the post.  He's moved about three or four inches in two days.

Just cuz, I decided to take pictures and foist them upon you:

And a side view, just cuz:

I've been tempted to bring him inside, but I'm afraid a quick thaw will kill him.

Tonight, I managed to capture the raccoon.  Not well, due to lighting conditions (i.e., none), but I got 'im:

Still no idea what he's finding out there, but he's been back at least twice so far, so it must be good.

No turkeys to offer, alas.  But I'm sure by the end of tomorrow, you'll have seen quite enough of those anyway.

Happy night-before-Thanksgiving, everybody!

Frozen Hydrology on My Geology

Three words: butt-ass freezing cold.

Seattle's not equipped for this Arctic air shit.  Inch or so of snow and ice, and the entire city shuts down.  Having already been in one car accident this year, I decided to forgo a second.  The car stayed home, and I hoofed it to work.  At least the sun was shining, although it was too fucking cold for the birds to sing.  A coworker mercifully dropped me at home tonight, where I promptly immersed myself in a tub of hot water until all the bits thawed.

Yesterday, the cat and I lounged around inside and watched it snow.  Well, I watched it snow - she watched the crows playing in it and developed aspirations of becoming an apex predator:

More Seattle snow scenes after the fold, including what the weather's done to my balcony-crops.

23 November, 2010

Dana's Dojo: Killing Your Darlings II

Today in the Dojo: Getting over the fear of being a killer, and keeping the story going strong after killing off somebody essential.

There's blood on my hands
But I'm sure in the end
I will prove I was right.

Demons and Wizards, Blood on My Hands

There are a few major classifications of writers.  There are those who will never kill off anybody near and dear to them: you can be assured that, if the writer is spending any length of time with and shows any empathy for somebody, even for just a few pages, that somebody isn't going to end up a body.  There are those who will kill off absolutely anybody they feel like killing off, helter-skelter, with no regard for either the characters or the readers.  There are those who will sacrifice one or two people of middling importance, along with gleefully killing all the important baddies in horribly satisfying ways, but won't touch the main characters. 

And there is nothing really wrong with any of these types, but while they may be sensei masters of just about everything else in writing, they're not sensei masters of the authorly art of character killing.

So what makes somebody a sensei master?  Many things.  We're going to start exploring them here.

22 November, 2010

Adios, Ozma

Your papa delivered one beautiful eulogy.

Great Scarp! Seattle Has Faults!

You know how I promised you a tour of one of Seattle's most prominent fault scarps a few months ago?  You'd probably given up hope I'd ever get round to it.  But here we are at last, taking a trip through the southern end of the Seattle Fault Zone, and seeing some pretty dramatic evidence of what happens when the ground rips.

Wacky Trees on Ginormous (Presumed) Fault Scarp
We'll begin with a bit o' scarp that I've been unable to confirm or deny as a fault scarp.  It certainly looks like a fault scarp.  In fact, the only thing that it doesn't have in common with the known fault scarp at Seward Park is the fact it's enormous and easily accessible.  There you are, walking the nice, wide, paved path around the boat launch area and Andrews Bay, and all of a sudden the hill gives way to a cliff.  It looks like the end of the drumlin was just sliced right off by a giant's meat cleaver.  It's dramatic and a little shocking.

By now, the non-geologists in the audience are probably wailing, "But Dana - what the fuck is a fault scarp?"  It is, quite simply put, what happens when, during an earthquake, one bit of earth either goes zipping up or another goes down (or possibly both at once, I suppose).  Here, you can easily create your own right there at home.  Hold your hands together like you're praying.  Then aim them like you're about to shoot somebody.  Let your left hand slide toward the floor a good inch or two, and you will see your right hand become a fault scarp justlikethat.  Neat, huh?

Here's a nice, simple illustration showing you all the relevant bits:

So, you wanna know why there's a ginormous fault scarp or two hanging about one of Seattle's city parks?

21 November, 2010

Give Lockwood and Ozma Some Love

Ozma's dying.  She's Lockwood's beautiful feral baby.  We didn't get a chance to see her when we were there - she'll only associate with Lockwood - but we caught a glimpse.  She's a gorgeous girl.  I'm glad she's got someone she loves and trusts who will stay with her to the end.


Love and hugs to both of you.  I'm glad you had each other, even though it's never long enough.

Tomes 2010: Written in Stone Edition

When this book:

came in the mail after I'd waited literal years for it, I was like, ZOMG,

And now that I've finished it, I'm totally feeling like

Brian, this had better be the start of a long and prolific career, because one's not enough, buddy.

This book constantly surprised me - not because it was good (it's Brian Switek, so obviously it's good!), but because of the number of times it made me say, "I didn't know that!"  It's populated with bajillions of scientists I've read a lot about, people like Charles Darwin and Nicolaus Steno and Richard Owen, some of whom have been so extensively babbled about in the pop sci books that it seemed nothing new and interesting remained to reveal - but Brian almost always managed to find a little something awesome that hasn't made it into the 42,000 other books about them.  And lest you think this is merely a history of paleontology, keep in mind that Brian fleshes out that history with the newest of the new discoveries.  I'm amazed by how much territory he managed to cover without seeming to skimp.  It's not that big a book!

It wasn't just things about people I didn't know, but how and why certain traits evolved.  Brian's filled gaps in my knowledge I didn't even realize I had.  That chapter on horse evolution: definitely worth the wait.  Got me thinking in whole new directions, that did, and that kind of thinking is like solid gold to an SF writer.

He set out to prove that the fossil record, despite some arguments to the contrary, is essential to understanding evolution, and I do believe he succeeded.  It certainly seems like we wouldn't have discovered as much as we did without the evidence those big, extinct critters showed us.  I love the way he lays things out, like a poker player spreading out a particularly fine royal flush.  Booyah, cretinists!

Like Ron Said
Brian's not a particularly combative person - he doesn't jump hip-deep into frays with the zest and verve of people like, oh, say, PZ - but don't let his polite, sensible prose fool you.  He gives no ground.  I love this book not just because it's Brian's and it's wonderful, but because it's unflinching.  Evolution is fact, paleontology's got the evidence, no quarter given.  And when the time comes in the human evolution chapter to talk about Piltdown Man, he dispatches that with such alacrity you don't quite realize he just shot it through the heart.  It's this simple: there was a hoax, some people fell for it, scientists figured it out and exposed the hoax, done.  I love that.  And the whole book is like that: one long demonstration that while science is sometimes messy, it gets the job done in the end.  Scientists aren't perfect, but they don't need to be in order to advance our knowledge.  And again and again, Brian takes down the evolution-as-linear-progress myth.  If you're not left with the idea that evolution's a big brushy, branchy tree rather than one great chain of being leading to inevitable us, then you weren't reading this book.  Either that, or you're ineducable.

There's also quite a few shout-outs to geologists in here, which is much appreciated!

A lot of people need this book: people interested in science; the history of science; paleontology; evolution; people thinking about becoming scientists; anyone who's ever loved dinosaurs, birds, fish, mammoths, mammals, whales, horses or humans; people ignorant of science; those creationist relatives who love to yammer about "gaps in the fossil record"; people who don't know what a fossil record is....  Look, basically, everyone needs this book.

And if you're not convinced by me, the link I pilfered the book cover from has links to plenty of other reviews that just might do it.  There's Chris Rowan and Anne Jefferson's review plus interviewWritten in Stone is inexpensive and the perfect size for most standard Christmas stockings, not to mention an easily-wrapped shape.  And, finally, it's Brian Switek - what more do you need to convince you?

Once you're done enjoying this one, join me in pestering Brian for another installment.  I want his second book in time for Tomes 2012!

20 November, 2010

Sending You Elsewhere

You know how I thought I'd have Written in Stone read in two nights?  Make that three.  Books with actual, real-life science content take longer to read than novels.  Whodathunkit?

So I'm sending you away.  Lockwood, for instance, has a magnificent post up on coffee, trees and rocks, which includes a glorious photo of a gingko clothed in fall color.  And he shows you how to get your nerd on in plywood.  And then you really must make it by Silver Fox's place, where gorgeous photos illustrate the difficulties of mapping in the wintertime (and yes, dear non-desert readers, our high deserts get quite a lot of snow, believe it or - well, you'll have no choice but believe it after you've seen Silver's shots).

Need something to vent at?  Something to really get your dander up?  Cujo's got two: an outrageously funny spanking of AFA's Bryan "If You Didn't Kill A Bunch of People, It's Not Worth a Medal of Honor" Fischer, and a post dissecting the idiocy of the Air Force vis a vis the Military Religious Freedom Foundation.  Still not done?  In case you missed it at PZ's place, read Johann Hari's takedown of kosher and halal slaughter.  This, dear Mr. Jeff "Atheists Are Scaring Religious People Away From Skepticism!" Wagg, is exactly why religious claims cannot be shielded from skeptical scrutiny.  To take religious claims on faith just cuz their religious ain't just bad skepticism, it's aiding and abetting torture.  Oh, and the next time somebody tries to tell me how meek and mild religion is, I'm going to duct tape them to a chair and force them to read Jerry Coyne's post on visiting the Palace of the Inquisition (warning: do not read before/during/after any meal).

There.  That should keep you busy whilst I read.  Worthy posts, all, and just what one needs on a cold winter's night.

Well, those, and the video Lockwood put up on Twitter:

Oh, that takes me back to my Flagstaff days!  My roomie and I used to sit out on our porch on snowy evenings and watch the cars slide down the hill, occasionally placing small bets on just how spectacularly a particular - ah, how shall I say this kindly, um - risk-assessment deficient driver would bite it. 

How I miss those days!  Aside from the snow and ice, o' course.

19 November, 2010

Explaining Monkeys and Uncles to Christine O'Donnell

Yes, I know the election is old news.  Yes, I know Christine O'Donnell lost.  But she speaks for a hefty ignorant chunk of the population when she spouts that snide "Then why are there still monkeys?!" line at the slightest whiff of evolution.

Brian Switek explains a few things about monkeys, uncles, and why your cousins don't vanish merely because you survived:
In any family tree you care to draw – whether from a broad evolutionary perspective or a narrowed genealogy of close relatives – each point among the branches is going to fall into one of two categories: linear relatives and collateral relatives. Your parents, grandparents, great grandparents, etc. are all linear relatives, while cousins, uncles, and aunts are collateral relatives who are more closely related to you than most other people but are not direct ancestors or descendants. That’s simple enough, and the same sort of logic can be applied to evolutionary relationships.

Read the whole thing, and you'll be well-prepared the next time some ignoramus thinks he or she has stymied you with the monkey schtick.

18 November, 2010

Why I Won't Own a Kindle

No matter what my stepmother says about how awesome it is, a Kindle will not darken my door until certain issues are resolved.  Namely (h/t):
Having learned all this, I went along and had a closer look at the current Kindle License Agreement. There is some simply petrifying stuff on there. For starters, you don’t “own” Kindle books, you’re basically renting them.
Unless otherwise specified, Digital Content is licensed, not sold, to you by the Content Provider.
They can change the software on you whenever they like:
Automatic Updates. In order to keep your Software up-to-date, Amazon may automatically provide your Kindle or Other Device with updates/upgrades to the Software.
That is how a totalitarian state would go about confiscating books, if they wanted to. There is nothing in this agreement to stop Amazon from modifying the Kindle software to make it impossible for you to read any of your own files on the device. Such a step is not actually forbidden to them by this agreement; they are under no obligation to protect any data you might be storing on there. That’s not to say that there aren’t laws at least in some states that might allow you to sue for damages; I’m just saying, there isn’t any promise made by Amazon to protect your data or preserve its readability.
They can also change the terms of the deal or simply shut down Kindle service entirely, anytime they like:
Changes to Service. We may modify, suspend, or discontinue the Service, in whole or in part, at any time.
Or they might decide to shut your account down:
Termination. Your rights under this Agreement will automatically terminate if you fail to comply with any term of this Agreement. In case of such termination, you must cease all use of the Software, and Amazon may immediately revoke your access to the Service or to Digital Content without refund of any fees. Amazon’s failure to insist upon or enforce your strict compliance with this Agreement will not constitute a waiver of any of its rights.
Keep in mind these are your books that you bought or collected. Can you imagine a bookseller or publisher asserting rights over the contents of your bookshelves in your house? That’s basically what we’re talking about, here. 

There's much more at the link.  Sticking with paper, thank you so very much, at least until giving money to an enterprise for a book means I get to keep the damned thing no matter what.

Sometimes, To Read is To Write

When it's research, it counts, damn it.  And I'm counting Written in Stone as research.  It's got bits on equine evolution I've needed for years

It's mine.  My own.  My precious Written in Stone.  And I'm going to spend the next two nights reading it, damn it.

Good thing for you lot that I had a few posts ready to go, then, isn't it?  ;-)

17 November, 2010

Further Evidence Britain Needs to Reform It's Fucked-Up Libel Laws

Read.  Weep (with laughter and outrage).  Then sign the petition, unless you already have, in which case: go, you!  Tell your friends to get their arses on it.

What a fucking world.

Shoes on Other Feet and So Forth

Oh, the humanity!  Poor Andy Harris.  He's discovering two important things: that guvmint-run health care is a desirable thing, and that gaps in coverage suck (h/t):
A conservative Maryland physician elected to Congress on an anti-Obamacare platform surprised fellow freshmen at a Monday orientation session by demanding to know why his government-subsidized health care plan from the government takes a month to kick in.

Republican Andy Harris, an anesthesiologist who defeated freshman Democrat Frank Kratovil on Maryland’s Eastern Shore, reacted incredulously when informed that federal law mandated that his government-subsidized health care policy would take effect on Feb. 1 – 28 days after his Jan. 3rd swearing-in.

“He stood up and asked the two ladies who were answering questions why it had to take so long, what he would do without 28 days of health care,” said a congressional staffer who saw the exchange.
Awww, poor baby.  Somebody call the waambulance - only he can't afford it, cuz he ain't got coverage.  Oh, the outrage!
Harris, a Maryland state senator who works at Johns Hopkins in Baltimore and several hospitals on the Eastern Shore, also told the audience, “This is the only employer I’ve ever worked for where you don’t get coverage the first day you are employed,” his spokeswoman Anna Nix told POLITICO.

Well, ain't he special?  I've never yet had the joy of working at a job where I don't have a waiting period for coverage.  Even my union-negotiated insurance didn't kick in until I'd been employed for 60 or 90 days - I don't remember quite which, because I was just so damned happy the company had a physician's assistant on the premises I could make use of immediately.  Came in useful when I had that ear infection that nearly turned serious.  Without them, I'd have let it go until it became critical, because as I mentioned before, I wouldn't have insurance for months.

All in the audience who've either had to endure a waiting period or no coverage at all, please raise your hands.  Yup.  It's what I thought - there are a fuck of a lot of us.

Maybe someone who knows how to do such things should start an online petition for Andy.  Maybe he'd feel better about having a waiting period for his government-run insurance to kick in if he knew all us peons working for private companies have to wait even longer for crap insurance that costs a fortune and, before the evil Obamacare law passed, could drop us like a hot rock at the first sign of our coming down with something expensive. 

And don't forget to remind Andy at every conceivable opportunity just how ironic it is that the man who hates guvmint-run health care so can't bloody wait to get himself some.

16 November, 2010

Dana's Dojo: Killing Your Darlings I

Today in the Dojo:  The importance of killing off the right people at the right time in order to preserve your readers' tension and interest.

Life's a game I cannot win
Both good and bad must surely end....
Everyone I love is dead

        -Type O Negative, Everyone I Love Is Dead

Picture yourself as the reader: you've picked up a book, immersed yourself in it, gotten friendly with the main character and are looking forward with interest to his/her future career.  This is a person you could spend the rest of your life with, you think.  You're quite willing to follow him/her/possibly it to the ends of the world and beyond.  And then the author wields the dread scissors and cuts that brilliant life short on page 32.

You're going to throw the book across the room, aren't you?  You've done it.  We've all done it.  And plotted the author's grisly death in the bargain.  Other authors have killed their major characters without awakening homicidal mania in you, but this one's an exception.  They promised you a story about Bob and then summarily executed Bob, blithely expecting you to jump into the viewpoint of the Next Best Character (or This Was Really Who it was About All Along; or This Guy's Much Less Boring, You'll Like Him Better) without a quibble.  Well, we quibble.  Very much so.

There's a fine art to Killing Your Darlings.  In this article, and in the series to come (because Death is such a fruitful topic, and it's the dying season, after all), I hope to make you certified sensei masters of the authorly art of character killing.  Let's get started with a brief overview of the killing fields, and then we'll get into the blood and bone of it.  Lots of blood.  Lots of bone. 


15 November, 2010

Tomes 2010: Mix Edition

It's a mixed bag, baby, yeah!  I haven't had any themes to my reading just lately, so the only thing that holds this group o' books together is that I read them in 2010.  Isn't that enough?

I'm saving the best for last, so stick with me.

Greek Architecture

This book has been my constant bathroom companion for months now.  I learned some new words - metope, prostyle, tholos.  I discovered that a lot of architectural details, from the way buildings were built to design and structural elements, arose from the transition from wood and mud brick to stone.  And I learned that a lot of things that wouldn't make sense if you didn't know how gravity works make perfect sense when you take into account the fact that very heavy things naturally want to fall down.

It was extremely detailed, more of a catalogue than a narrative, but wonderfully informative, with plenty of diagrams and illustrations to help things along.  The best part, though, was the epilogue, which became positively poetic.

All in all, not a bad bathroom read - and my architectural ignorance is slightly less than it was before.  Win!

Trees: Their Natural History

I've loved this book since the first sentence: "Everyone knows what a tree is: a large woody thing that provides shade."  The rest of the book didn't disappoint.  It's a clear, concise, and comprehensive introduction to trees, from how they evolved to how they work in this modern world of climate change and pollution.

Peter Thomas wrote this book because he became frustrated with the fact that there wasn't a single source for all our knowledge about trees.  A lot of myths get dispelled, and most importantly, I learned things I never knew before - like how roots seek easy paths in order to grow, and how far they actually go.  The strategies various trees have - deciduous vs. evergreen, conical vs. sprawling, tall vs. short - begin making sense once you know why natural selection molded them in certain ways.  And there were things I'd never considered before, like how something so tall manages to stay upright for decades, hundreds or even thousands of years against the simplest antagonist of all: the wind.

Once I got done with this book, I felt I'd gotten into the mind of a tree.  And it's hard to see them in the same way ever again.  They may not be conscious in the way we understand, but they are living creatures that respond to their world.  They're magnificent.  And I'm very glad I got to know them better.

Towers of Midnight

This is the book I abandoned all y'all to read.  Took me three nights, it did, and it was worth it. 

It's never easy for an author to take on another author's characters and world and try to do them justice.  And you know how complicated the Wheel of Time is.  Cast of practically thousands, very detailed world, more subplots than a Borgia family reunion, and Robert Jordan's peculiar obsession with clothing.  At times, I could clearly see Brandon struggling, especially when it came to describing clothes (I feel for him.  No man outside a tailor's shop should have to pay that much attention to fabrics, colors and cuts).  There was also that bit where, for several chapters, I thought he'd fucked up continuity big time, only to realize the continuity was fine, but his ability to skip back and forth between different time streams in said continuity had slipped a bit.  I can't say as I blame him.  The thing's almost 900 pages, hideously complex, and he wrote it in a year.

Any number of minor annoyances can be forgiven here.  My hat is fully off to Brandon for tackling this at all, much less doing such a great job, not to mention ensuring Jordan's fans get to see how the story ends.  Which it will, alas, next year.  Brandon, can't you maybe be just a wee past deadline just this once?

I want to see how the story ends.  Then again, I don't.  I love these characters, I love how Brandon's managed to grow them further, and I don't want to see it come to an end.  Then again, I do.  Argh!

Sign of a good book, that.  And this was a very good book.  Kept me up past bedtime three nights running, and the only thing that saved me was the switch from Daylight Savings Time. 

Life on a Young Planet

Lockwood recommended this one, and I'm glad he did.  I love reading books that give me physical pain when I realize I'm getting close to the end.  I hated finishing this book: it's so beautifully written, so fascinating, and so informative that I could have happily spent the rest of my life reading it.

From mere chemical traces to exquisitely preserved microfossils, from the first ambiguous hints of life to stromatolites, from extremophiles to extraterrestrials, from ancient atmospheres to oxygen revolutions, this book is a journey through life itself.  Andrew Knoll's sense of wonder is only matched by his scientific chops.  There are few people who can write using the big technical words and yet never for an instant seem dry.  He's one of those rare talents.  He also explains things well  without stopping the narrative cold; tough concepts hold no terrors for the layperson in this slender book.  At least, not if said layperson has read a few books on evolution and biology first - I'm not sure how a total neophyte would fare, but I suspect the sheer power of the prose would smooth over any difficulties.

I can tell you this: a lot of the things that confused me about how really ancient life is identified got cleared up in the course of reading this book, and I understand quite a bit more about how a little rock from Mars caused so much excitement with ambiguous evidence for life.

Andrew Koll, if you're reading this: I want a revised edition expanded by a factor of at least ten.

And that's it for now.  Not much 2010 left, but I'm sure we'll have at least one or two more of these before the end.

14 November, 2010

Poisons, Doses, and Ammunition Against Anti-Vaxers

This has been sitting in my open tabs for far too long.  Kept meaning to blog it, but what with House and the Wheel of Time and the onset of the winter writing season, I never got round to it.  It's a wonderful post on Neurodynamics entitled Toxicology: the poison and the dose

Those of you enamored of mystery novels and/or crime shows may have heard the little phrase, "The poison is the dose."  All too true - and now you'll have an actual scientist's perspective on it.  And you'll also have a very useful question to ask:
What’s it do?

That’s the first thing I think when I hear someone say something is a toxin. There is no single “toxic” reaction out there. Every toxicologically active chemical entity out there has its own mechanism, its own target. Some are more recoverable than others, some have pretty dire consequences; some we have antidotes for, some not. Some exert an effect quickly, while others can take their time. They can target any physiological system, or multiples.  Cause death, permanent injury, reversible injury, minimal harm, or anywhere in the middle. Locally, regionally, systemically. There are many, many examples of different actions that a given compound could do. The severity of the effects is important to evaluate.

Lob that one at the next idiot who starts going on about toxins.  There are other questions answered there that are equally grenade-like and shall prove quite useful when people babble about all of those awful toxins making all of us sick although they're only found in vanishingly small quantities, if at all, in our vaccines.

And then remind them of that old crime show/mystery novel truism: the poison is the dose.  Not just any old dose will do.

13 November, 2010

Wherein You All Get to be Wise Readers

From time to time, I shall throw out a question, a comment, or a tidbit that hasn't anything specific to do with the book I'm writing, and hope most of you participate.  This is one of those times.

Here's the question: what annoys you the most about most heroes?

I'll begin, by way of oiling the wheels.  I really, really despise reluctant heroes.  The ones who bitch and moan and cry "Why me?!" lose my sympathy fast.  Some moments of doubt and self-pity are to be expected.  Wallowing in it for several hundred pages, however, just makes me want to smack them.

Mind you, this isn't an across-the-board condemnation.  I adore Terry Pratchett's Rincewind, for instance, who is the very epitome of reluctant hero.  But he's an admitted coward who's never had a single ambition other than to become the most bored person in the world, and he's funny, so I forgive him.  And I don't mind the "Oh, fuck, here we go again" type of hero, the one who bitches and moans and complains while rolling up their sleeves to get the job done.  No, it's the heroes in the serious stuff, who have some serious saving to do, but who spend the first two hundred or so pages running as far and fast as they can whilst whining non-stop who get right up my nose.  They're the ones I wish the writer had strangled at conception.  I felt that way about Jordan's Rand al'Thor, for instance, up until he finally extracted his head from his posterior.

Likewise the heroes with honor stuffed so far up their arses they can't bend over.  Duncan McWanker of the Clan McWanker, anyone?  He rubbed me raw after a time.  Give me a Methos any day.

Your mileage may vary, which is why I throw this out there.  Have at.

And for those who've been considering the job, there's still openings for Wise Readers.  Just shoot me a request at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com and you can join the exclusive band of readers who get to say they were in on it from the beginning.

12 November, 2010

What He Said and Other Political Nonsense

Lately, our own George has been on a political roll.  It's about enough to make me put on a cheerleading outfit and jump up and down, because I haven't anything to add except "Yeah, baby!"

First, read a succinct and cutting history of modern American politics in "What You Can't Say, political edition," which should be required reading for students.  Then watch him deconstruct a scary Con flier in "Scared yet?"  I'm now wanting to send him every stupid conservative political flier I get just so I can watch him unleash his Smack-o-Matic upon it.

In other political nonsense, I want everyone to go read this Think Progress post: "While GOP Sought Exemption For Their Industry, PA Debt Collector Tricked Consumers With Phony Courtroom."  Then give it to everyone you know who believes Cons are looking out for the little guy.  Remind them that this sort of corporate behavior is considered just business as usual to Cons.  That's the free market, kiddies!

After that, if you need some entertainment at Cons' expense, you can go read Steve Benen's "Targeting Programs That Don't Exist (But Should)," wherein we learn that the Cons' Big Idea for cutting spending is to eliminate programs that no longer exist, while claiming they cost ten times more than they actually did. 

Great job, America.  You elected the most conspicuously unintelligent group of politicians to Congress in our country's history.  It's too bad we have to watch this country die from terminal stupidity whilst living in it.  Maybe it's time for a move to a nice tropical island somewhere.  One with an army of cabana boys, bringing me drinks on an assembly-line scale, because I'll need vats of the stuff while I watch the Cons in Congress proceed to destroy what little they left standing the last time.

11 November, 2010

England's Libel Law is Liable to Bite Yer Arse

So do what Simon Singh says and sign the petition to reform it:
This week is the first anniversary of the report Free Speech is Not for Sale, which highlighted the oppressive nature of English libel law. In short, the law is extremely hostile to writers, while being unreasonably friendly towards powerful corporations and individuals who want to silence critics.
The English libel law is particular dangerous for bloggers, who are generally not backed by publishers, and who can end up being sued in London regardless of where the blog was posted. The internet allows bloggers to reach a global audience, but it also allows the High Court in London to have a global reach.
You can read more about the peculiar and grossly unfair nature of English libel law at the website of the Libel Reform Campaign. You will see that the campaign is not calling for the removal of libel law, but for a libel law that is fair and which would allow writers a reasonable opportunity to express their opinion and then defend it.
The good news is that the British Government has made a commitment to draft a bill that will reform libel, but it is essential that bloggers and their readers send a strong signal to politicians so that they follow through on this promise. You can do this by joining me and over 50,000 others who have signed the libel reform petition at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Remember, you can sign the petition whatever your nationality and wherever you live. Indeed, signatories from overseas remind British politicians that the English libel law is out of step with the rest of the free world.
If you have already signed the petition, then please encourage friends, family and colleagues to sign up. Moreover, if you have your own blog, you can join hundreds of other bloggers by posting this blog on your own site. There is a real chance that bloggers could help change the most censorious libel law in the democratic world.
We must speak out to defend free speech. Please sign the petition for libel reform at http://www.libelreform.org/sign

Please sign and pass it along.

Laelaps on Writing

Brian Switek, whose writing I've been desperately in love with for several years now, has one of the wisest posts up on writing I've ever read.  I don't know why you lot listen to me when you could be listening to him instead.

A taste:
Given my start on an alternate track, I don’t think about book writing in terms of rules. Instead I think of the authoring process as using a variety of techniques to weave particular elements together and overcome specific obstacles. A given technique may work well in one context but not in another, and each writer has to stock their own toolbox and figure out how to appropriately use each of those tools. There are essential elements which are key to writing a good book – compelling characters, a clear understanding of the intended audience, and a strong storyline – but it is not as if a writer can follow a foolproof, step-by-step program to bring each of these aspects of a book into play. 

There is no simple formula which, when followed exactly, will produce a good book. From finding the time to work to deciding which parts of a story need to be cut, composing a book hinges upon the characteristics of the author writing it.  [my empasis]
That last bit needs to either be tacked to my wall or tattooed on my hand.  It's something you rarely see these books on how to write state so starkly, but it's absolutely true.  We need to remember it, especially when the evil Inner Editor gets to work on us and shouts we're doing it all wrong.

Hmm.  Maybe I'll just tattoo that bolded bit on my Inner Editor's forehead so I can read it whenever the barstard starts shrieking...

(Side note: the next time Brian Switek publishes a book, I'm going to beg to be part of the blog tour.  That way, I get a galley copy, and do not risk enduring once again what I'm enduring now: watching people gush over how fantastic he is, desperately wanting to read his book, and seeing that due to some unexpected glitch in the publishing process I'm going to have to wait an extra month.  Grr, argh!)

10 November, 2010

Local Theatre Rules

You know what I did on Halloween - went to the theatre and found Jesus.

Okay, so the actor playing a god also played a drug dealer, which made it even funnier.  But the most memorable moment of his performance was when he passed through the audience handing out communion wafers and saying "Body of me," very graciously.  That moment very nearly topped FDR rolling out onstage, and a gentleman dressed as some sort of ram-horned demigod thingy.

One should expect that kind of weirdness when seeing a musical called Reefer Madness.

I didn't even want to go.  But my best friend abandoned me for a Samhain ritual, and I'd promised my intrepid companion I'd let him test my camera's handheld twilight mode in such settings (performed beautifully, but to avoid any royalty difficulties with the guild, I shall refrain from posting the results).  I ended up having far more fun than expected, as I always do when seeing plays Burien Little Theatre puts on.  I should know enough to trust Eric and Maggie's judgment by now.  They always pick shows that delight in surprising ways, and there's always something quirky about them.

Upshot: I had a wonderful time, and I should have gone earlier so I could give my local readers the opportunity to enjoy.  I won't be so remiss again.  In fact, I had Maggie email over some details about the next show, and if you're in the Seattle area, you'll definitely want to make plans to attend.  Come on.  It's Martha, Josie and the Chinese Elvis.  If someone tries to drag you to some sappy Christmas special put on by the local godbotherers, tell them you're busy and go to this one instead.

It's got a retiring dominatrix.  What more could you ask?  But wait, there's more!  Here's what Maggie has to say:
*  The play is quirky, the characters outlandish, and yet it's a redemptive show.  By the end of the show, through convoluted and unconventional means, a dysfunctional family comes back together, and the characters all find themselves and love.  It's far from saccharin, but it really does have a holiday ending.  

* Also the "Chinese" Elvis, who's really Vietnamese, does an amazing and hilarious Elvis impersonation.  

* And we have nationally known director John Vreeke directing the show.  Among the places he has directed:  Woolly Mammoth in Washington, DC, the Kennedy Center and Seattle venues such as Book-It Repertory Theatre. 

* Plus we are doing the West Coast premiere of the show.  So far, the show has only been done on the East Coast.
And a personal message:
This really is a holiday show.  For those who are looking for entertainment beyond yet another rendition of "A Christmas Carol," this is both unconventional and ultimately heartwarming.  It's also funny and fantastical.  When watching rehearsals, I find myself laughing and crying, sometimes both at the same time.
If you can resist this, you've got no sense of adventure.  Or you've got kids under the age of 13, can't find a sitter, and have decided they're a little too young for retiring dominatrixes.

You can find dates and times here.  If any of you locals want to get a group together, let me know - we could easily make an evening of it.

So what if you're not from round here?  Feeling left out?  You shouldn't - nearly every city has its own local theatre, and at least a few of them are bound to have their own Maggies and Erics - dedicated people who do their utmost to find fascinating shows just for you, if only you'd get your culture-deprived arse down there.

So go.  You'll have a wonderful time.

09 November, 2010

Dana's Dojo: Building That Bridge When We Come to It

(Blogger's note: It's the return of the Dojo! For those of you out there who are trying to write fiction, or want to know how writers write fiction, Tuesdays from here until spring will probably be fun. For those of you with no interest, at least you'll know to spend your Tuesdays elsewhere. Enjoy!)

Today in the Dojo: How to craft transitions that allow your readers to get from here to there without worrying about falling in.

We build too many walls and not enough bridges.
-Isaac Newton

This is one of the few columns I’ve actually put time and effort into researching.  The results were interesting.  And somewhat daunting.  It seems that transitions are the kind of thing nobody wants to talk about.
I went through every issue of every writer’s magazine I own, at least fifty or sixty mags.  Out of all those hundreds of articles, covering a span of several years, I found exactly two on transitions.  One dealt with transitions in non-fiction articles, which is of some use to fiction writers but far too limited for our purposes.  The other purported to deal with “Transitions and Flashbacks.”  Transitions were dealt with: briefly, vaguely, and with a strong sense that the author would rather be doing anything other than talking about transitions.

When I turned to my how-to books on writing, the results were even worse.  Some mentioned transitions not at all.  Others included a mention, perhaps two if the writer was in a particularly generous mood.  All told, out of ten books that supposedly taught writing start to finish, I think I ended up with enough material to fill a page.  Double-spaced, mind you.  Large font.

I’m not even going to set up the staw-man questions.  I’m just going to say it: Transitions are extremely important.  They’re one of the easiest things to get wrong, hardest to get right, and yet are absolutely essential to making a story or novel work.  You can have all of the other elements of fiction writing nailed, but inept transitions will destroy all of that hard work.  Put it like this: imagine a house built with all of the finest materials, granite countertops, oak cabinets, hardwood floors, brass faucets… all of the really gorgeous, expensive stuff.  Now, paint the walls with whitewash and furnish it with cast-offs even Goodwill didn’t want, and try to tell me it still looks as nice.

No?  Didn’t think so.

I have no idea why such a vital component of writing has been so terribly neglected.  Maybe it’s raw, naked fear.  Maybe it’s one of those QED things and it’s just assumed we’re experts at birth.  Maybe it’s a trade secret. 

Well, my darlings, I am not afraid.  I make no assumptions.  And I’m about to reveal the secret.

08 November, 2010

Wise Readers Wanted

Those of you who were with me last year know that I keep a writing blog, A Slight Risk of Insanity.  And it's shortly going to be open for business again.  'Tis the winter writing season, after all.

Right now, you may be thinking, "What, no link?"  No, indeed.  It's an invitation-only enterprise.  Members of my exclusive Wise-Reader Club get access to excerpts available nowhere else.  They also get a chance to participate in the process.  If you've ever wanted to become an important part of a fiction writer's work, this is a not-to-be-missed opportunity for you.  Writing might seem like a solitary endeavor, and it often is, but it's not something we can always do alone.  We need sounding boards, consultants, people who know more than we do and people who can provide a fresh pair of eyes, not to mention a reader's perspective.  And did I mention, exclusive access to excerpts?

If this sounds like something you want access to, all you have to do is send me an email at dhunterauthor at yahoo dot com, and justlikethat, you shall become one of my Wise Readers.

I'd be honored to have you.

07 November, 2010

Images and Words

Dearest Paul, flattery will get you a link.  *blush*

Dana, Chauncey, and Dale strike me as three bloggers who each in his or her own way is stretching the medium, and pioneering what can be done with it.

I seriously doubt they see themselves as in any way special, but I think if you were to read much more of their blogs than I can republish here, you yourself might see them as exceptional writers by any standards.
I completely agree - I don't see myself as special, much less "stretching the medium."  I've seen myself as a camp follower. Other bloggers blazed the trail.  So what if I occasionally manage to turn a phrase like a Biellmann spin?  That's a rare occasion.  Most of the time, I'm just stuttering around on the ice like any other wanna-be Elvis Stojko at the local rink.

This isn't the medium I intend to master anyway.  But I love it, because I can come here and write without (much) pressure.  I don't have to sweat blood, rewrite, edit, delete all and start over.  Just babble and hit "publish."  Sometimes, I give it a quick once-over in an attempt to catch any typos in the act.  This is why it amazes me anybody actually reads this stuff, much less enjoys it.  I give it some thought, some effort, but it doesn't demand my all.  Sometimes, I wonder if it would be better if I showed it the same devotion I show the novel.

Then again, if I did that, you lot wouldn't see another post from me until roughly 2057, so perhaps we should continue as we started.

But this is what Paul said that really got me thinking:
I’m not sure, but I think really good writers like Dana usually feel words much more deeply than the rest of us.  And it probably has something to do with why they are such good writers.
The problem with this statement is that Paul is also a really good writer, so I'm not sure I feel words any more deeply than he does.  In fact, at times, I suspect it's rather the opposite - he's always seemed to experience more than I do.  But then he says he's never been moved by the written word the way I have, and says he needs perky nekkid boobies as an assist.  Fair enough.  If it makes him feel any better, I hated Lord of the Rings until the movies came out.  I needed the images to make me appreciate the words.  Then Tolkien made me fall deeper in love with language.  And here we are.

I think we all need images and words.  Some of us are better than others at getting images out of words.  Sometimes, some of us are too good at it - I not only saw all of Old Yeller in my mind's eye, but ended up damned near paralyzed at the end.  My legs literally went numb, not because I was sitting on them, but because I'd identified so much with the characters.  And don't talk to me about all the weeping I did over that fucking dog.  Only thing that was worse was Summer of the Monkeys.

But would The Doors have affected me so much in book form?  No.  I doubt the intensity of it, the bizarreness of it, could have worked without the sight and sound.

What I'm saying is, no one should feel any less of a writer or a reader if they need some bare nekkid boobie pictures to help them along.  Images and words belong together.

And now, if you'll excuse me, I'm off to try executing a death spiral all by my lonesome.  The time has come.

It's time to write.

My Triumphant Return

Yes, I abandoned you all for three nights with the Wheel of Time.  Can you ever forgive me?

For a while, there, it looked like all was for naught, too.  I didn't think I'd finish last night.  But the time changed, giving that magical extra hour, and so we made it from page just-shy-of-500 to page 843 at just about 6 in the ay-em.

Here endeth the "I'm-still-alive-only-very-badly-eyestrained" announcement.  Regular blogging shall resume later today.

Thank you, my darlings, for understanding.

04 November, 2010

Wherein I Admit I Am a Lily-Livered Coward

There are moments, when I'm watching or reading something, where the story leaves me hyperventilating.  Shivering, shaking, aching, breaking, flying apart in fragments.  Crying, yes, because strong emotion of any kind has this tendency to sting the eyes, stun the brain, leave a person feeling like they've shaken hands with the third rail while breaking the fourth wall.

First time I saw Fellowship of the Ring was like that.  Reading Sandman was like that, only worse.  Seeing the final episode of House season six did it again.  Oops.

And it's in those moments that I realize I am a coward.  I am terrified.  Terrorized, possibly traumatized, by my own fucking writing.  You see, I don't like to admit that I have it in me to do such things to other people.  Make them laugh until their bellies rupture, cry until their sinuses close, punch out a wall, scream with joy or agony.  Make them love, hate, suffer, live and die on a page.  I sometimes like to believe I can't do it.  It's easier that way.  Less responsibility, more time for relationships.  Be a better friend, maybe get a degree and a decent job, enjoy the world while I'm still healthy enough to do it. Life would be a lot easier if I could just keep running scared.  I could be the person I've never wanted to be, that person other people don't consider mentally ill or gifted or both.

But then come the moments when everything starts shaking, Force Twelve, 9 on the Richter Scale (which has been replaced by the moment magnitude scale, but who outside of seismologists gives a shit, right?).  These moments, wherein I realize, I'm gonna have to face it, I have got it in me to do this to people.  I've got the characters.  I've got the stories.  I've got the world.  I've quite possibly got the talent, and even if I don't, that can be convincingly faked given enough ambition.  And I want to do this.  Terrified of doing it.  Anything would be easier.  I'm a coward for wanting to run away from it.  But because I'm a godsdamned motherfucking lily-livered coward, I'm too scared to walk away, much less run.

So.  Much as I've questioned the fact lately, much as I've tried to excuse myself from it and tried to find other ways to occupy my time, put it off for some safely future date, the fact remains that I am a writer, and I am going to write a book that will rip my heart out through my nose, take my guts along with it, and quite possibly drive a few of my more delicate readers to suicide if I do the job too well, and I am going to do that fucking job because there is nothing else I can do.  I will dedicate further years of my life, potentially sacrifice friendships, and definitely sacrifice any possibility of a romantic relationship and a normal life in order to make myself a stressed-out, driven, obsessive, neurotic, miserable yet ecstatic human being, because the only thing that terrifies me worse than doing this is not doing it.

Writers in the audience will understand what this post is about.  Non-writers won't.  And that's okay.  I don't expect you to. 

I can't wait to get started on terrorizing myself.*

*Just as soon as I've finished the next-to-last book of the Wheel of Time, that is.  Writers in the audience will understand that's actually work.  Non-writers won't.  That's okay.  I don't expect them to.

I Agree With Glenn Greenwald

In this column, pointed out by my dear Paul.  So spend the time you would've spent reading a post by me and go read Glenn's instead.  Then bask in the warm glow of knowing the Blue Dog dumbfucks and their buddy Blanche Lincoln got the absolute stuffing knocked out of them.

Timid Dems may choose to believe they got their asses handed to them on a stake because they weren't Con enough, but if they do, they're just as dumbfuck as the dogs. 

And that's all I have to say about such matters at the moment, because I haven't finished House season six yet, the next Wheel of Time novel's sitting on my entry table howling for me to take it from the box, and Written in Stone isn't far behind.  My characters are screaming for my attention, old friends are crawling out of the woodwork, new friends are popping up like mushrooms in our lawn at work after the rain, the cat still thinks she's freezing to death, and my house would seriously appreciate some scrubbing bubbles.  In other words, I'm like killing snakes.  That's a Welsh phrase meaning busy.

Too busy to do more than tell cowering Dems to suck it up, grow a pair, own the progressive agenda, and learn a lesson from Cons about being motherfucking ruthless when it comes to pursuing an agenda.  If they can't learn that simple lesson after all that's happened, I'm not the one who can teach them.  As for Con stupidity, pounding it's not fun anymore - I like harder targets.  This is like shooting fish in a barrel - using tactical nukes. 

Don't worry, we'll get round to spanking them this winter when they have another go at raping this country up the arse.  I might even give up snark for sarcasm.  I'd try satire, but unfortunately, judging from the way they fell for Stephen Colbert's character, they don't quite understand what satire is.  Too bad - it's always more fun when the victim understands what's about to destroy them.  And believe me when I say that satire has destroyed more than one kingdom.  When you have to rely on a base as imbecilic as the Teabaggers, well, let's just say that despite a few battles won, the war's not looking too good.

Shutting up now.  House beckons.  I'll get all y'all some geology a bit later, and stay tuned for some culture as well, my darlings.

03 November, 2010

Cujo Spanks David Broder

Not to be missed.  Especially if, like me, you love watching David Broder get the crap kicked out of him.  Wot an asshat.

For those who are wondering, yes, I'm still up and blogging at 5:15am.  Post-PMS insomnia is teh awesome.

A Bloodbath, Not a Massacre

Because if it was a massacre, Sharron Angle and Christine O'Donnell would've ended up added to our list of national embarrassments.  As it is, we just have to worry about John "Agent Orange" Boehner parading around as Speaker of the House for the next two years.  Anyone know where I can get airsick bags in bulk?

Great job, America.  I do hope you enjoy the endless round of idiocy leading to the next Great Recession the lackwit majority of you voted for.  Those of you who don't pay attention to politics might not realize what voting for Cons does, but you'd think all those episodes of CSI would've taught you that arsonists aren't so much interested in setting backfires, but pouring gasoline on the conflagration.

At least I know the majority of my readers are smart enough not to give them matches.  You, my darlings, are my only consolation.  Well, you and endless episodes of House.  Which I am now going back to, as I haven't enough alcohol handy to ease the annoyance.  It's too bad.  I should've had a glass of something good handy with which to toast Blanche Lincoln's loss - my other consolation, as she's the one Senate Dem up for reelection this year whose unceremonious asskicking I can wholeheartedly applaud.  Her loss is our definite gain.

I shall leave you all with the wise words of Phoebes-in-Santa-Fe:
Okay, so we mourn our losses tonight and we get back to work tomorrow. 

Indeed we do.