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Below are the 20 most recent journal entries recorded in Uncle Hyena's LiveJournal:

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Saturday, January 14th, 2017
5:47 pm
State of my Self
It's mid-January. Where I have been for the last year?

I saw 81 movies, which is WAY down from recent years.

I walked about 1200 miles (down from 2015). I gave up on a goal of walking an average of 10,000 steps every day in May, because I got tired of having my feet hurt ALL THE TIME.

I rowed 100 real miles, plus another 100 on the rowing machine. I managed to accomplish most of my rowing goals (Geneva Lake perimeter, Burlington to Grass Lake on the Fox River, and the Chain O'Lakes "island) along the way.

I lost most of ten pounds and kept it off.

My worst injury of the year was in January (tore most of the skin off of my left hand knuckles), which didn't interfere with my life too much.

I had three conversational meals (Jorie H., Kathy G., and Magic Nikki). I need to have more, always.

In March, I turned 60, and later celebrated the 10th anniversary of Clueless Tom's death by taking Tommy the Memorial Bear on a photo tour of Gurnee Mills.

The job I have had for seventeen years ended in April. (Cue ominous music.)

Also in April, I learned that my van was on its last legs, and needed to be replaced. I bought a replacement in July, and then went through WAY too much hassle getting the new vehicle squared away.

In May, I went on a four day (107 hour) fast.

I managed to complete four pieces of short fiction.

Looking forward... I have no clue. I am currently taking a certification class, and then will hit the job market hard. I have no idea beyond that. We shall, of course, see.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, January 5th, 2017
11:04 am
What Would You Steal?
What Would You Steal? - Thoughts on the Ethical Issues in the Movie "Passengers"

First, be warned: Here there be spoilers.

Second, I need to acknowledge at least in passing that the science in this movie is BROKEN. There are indications that someone who knew the score was involved early in the production, but that person was utterly ignored as the production progressed. This matters somewhat because the tech drives the plot which gives birth to the ethical questions, but in the end, it is only the ethical issues which really matter.

Now, the story in brief: The "Avalon" is a robotic sleeper ship carrying more than 5000 persons in cryonic sleep on a 120 year voyage to a colony world. 30 years into the voyage, one of the passengers, Jim, wakes up. (Point of geekery: 30 years is EXACTLY the point of no return for a continuous acceleration vessel, which the "Avalon" is.) He investigates his situation, tries to adapt, and does not so much fail as realize he is failing; he knows that suicide is inevitable if he does not find some company, and he learns how to wake his fellow passengers, individually, from cold sleep. He becomes obsessed with a particular sleeper, Aurora, and agonizes over waking her up. He acknowledges that this would be an evil act, but he is desperate. (An aside: Jim was breaking after 15 months; historically, Alexander Selkirk managed to go 52 months without human contact 300 years ago.)

Eventually, Jim does the evil thing, and wakes Aurora up. He allows her to believe that her sleep pod, like his, malfunctioned. Being healthy, more or less compatible people with no one else for company, they fall in love, and everything goes well until Aurora finds out that Jim woke her deliberately, and stops speaking to him.

Meanwhile, the problem that originally caused Jim to wake up has been gradually cascading through the ship, and reaches a point where the ship will be destroyed if not repaired very quickly. With survival at stake, Aurora is willing to work side by side with Jim. The final repair will require an almost certainly non-survivable action, and Jim takes it on, stating that the lives of the 5000 sleepers are more valuable than his own life. The repair complete, Aurora then risks her own life to rescue and resuscitate Jim.

With the ship restored, Jim discovers a way to put one of them back into cyro sleep, and offers it to Aurora, but she declines. The two re-establish their relationship, and (presumably) die of old age before "Avalon" reaches her destination.

Now... I was intrigued by the trailers for this film, had been looking forward to it, and then encountered a shrill and strident condemnation of it that regarded Jim's behavior as unforgivable, and Aurora's eventual forgiveness of him as absurd. I ALMOST decided against ever seeing the movie, but instead did some more research, and decided I wanted to make my own judgment; I am glad that I did.

Jim did two things that he knew to be fundamentally evil: He woke Aurora up, and then, in support of that, he hid the truth of her awakening from her. The question is not if these acts were fundamentally evil; they were. The question is, were they forgivable? The film clearly states that they were, and I am strongly inclined to agree.

Some perspective is required. What order of crime did Jim actually commit when he awakened Aurora? Kidnapping has been suggested, but that would require ongoing restraint, and that is absent. Jim's crime was theft; a huge, life changing theft, certainly, but ONLY a theft. And it was motivated by Jim's desire to survive, which is hard to fault.

The ongoing deception is of a piece with the first crime. Yes, Jim could have met Aurora as she awakened by saying, "I'm really sorry, but I have done this awful thing to you, but I had to wake up someone or kill myself." This MIGHT have been ethically preferable. On the other hand, the risk of rejection and failure, making the whole process pointless, was a near certainty.

By the time Aurora forgives Jim, she has a clear idea of who he really is: A courageous and fundamentally good man who did a horrible thing under extreme circumstances, a man who ultimately deserves forgiveness.

I am inclined to say that this movie is awful science fiction, pretty good romance, and a damned fine ethics seminar. Except... It has been said (by Alastair Stephens of StoryWonk) that the fundamental nature of science fiction is to manipulate reality for the express purpose of engaging the consumer's intellect. By that standard, in spite of the film's REALLY HORRIBLE science, this movie is some of the best science fiction I have seen in a long time.

Uncle Hyena
Wednesday, January 4th, 2017
6:32 pm
Passengers, Beauty
Two unusual movie experiences (with more commentary to come, I think). For both of these movies, we liked the trailers and were looking forward to them. And then we heard some spoilers that made us think that maybe we didn't want to see them after all, and then we did some more research and decided we wanted to see them anyway. It turned out to be right choice.

"Passengers" is a paradox. The science is downright awful; it isn't just a matter of the kind of pseudo-tech babble that SF has been using since its inception; it is full of stuff that is just plain WRONG. I get the impression that the story started out as quite hard, reality based SF, and then it went through serveral iterations of, "Wouldn't it be cool if..." from people who did not care about reality checks AT ALL. On the other hand, the emotional side of the story is VERY well done, and addresses some REALLY interesting ethical issues with style. At the heart of the story is a question: "How much would you be willing to steal from another person to save your own life?" In the end, we enjoyed the movie a great deal.

"Collateral Beauty" is a fantasy fable about grief and fear set in contemporary Manhattan. The cast is great, the performances are excellent, the story is all kinds of strange, but mostly worked, and we are very glad we (eventually) decided to see it.

More on the ethical issues of "Passengers" (flooded with spoilers) to follow, I think.

Uncle Hyena
Monday, January 2nd, 2017
9:28 pm
Creed, Sing, Holiday Stuff, Gaming
Movies, family gatherings, and a gaming session.

"Assassin's Creed" is a video game movie. The setup is horrible science fiction, but once you swallow the HUGE initial improbability load, the story stays true to its own rules, and works pretty well. We enjoyed this one. But the initial setup is REALLY silly.

"Sing" is an old fashioned "Let's put on a show" musical done with animated anthropomorphic animals. It has some wonderful moments, but most of the characters are poorly conceived, and many of the sequences attempt simple innocence and fall into childishness. Not reccommended.

We did the household gift exchange on Yule, mostly to clear out the clutter around the fireplace.

We got together with brother Pete and family on Christmas Eve, had steak fondue, had odd conversation, and played Scattergories. This gathering is a long standing tradition; this year was the first time that there was no one from the previous generation in attendance. Time goes on.

On the 28th I drove south again to join Pete and his family, again, at my father's residence, for dinner. Afterwards in my father's room, we called my father's older sister Corneilia on a speaker phone. Aunt Neil told stories of her childhood, which I MAY have heard before, but am vague on. Apparently my grandparents sent the kid's off to go carolling with another relative on Christmas Eve every year, and while the kids were gone, the two of them set up and decorated the tree, hung the stockings, and hid all the presents around the house for a Christmas morning scavenger hunt. Sounds cool, but WOW a lot of work.

On the 31st we stayed home, watched Farscape, packed it in at about five minutes after midnight.

On the 1st I drove up to Lake Geneva Games and played Feast for Odin, again. Game owner Tom Wham was a bit too successful at recruiting, and since he already had four players, chose to stand by as game master, observer, and occasional coach. I ended up winning by a significant margin. I was ahead anyway, but Tom gave me some last round advice that probably doubled my victory margin. The game still seems REALLY random in the early stages, though.

On the way home from Lake Geneva I detoured through Zion to visit with Ed, Doug, and Don R. at their new (since July) house. It has a witch's hat tower over the entryway. I haven't talked to any of them face to face in far too long.

And finally: Final tally on the rowing machine for December was 167 KM, against an initial goal of 155. Not sure where I am going in January...

Uncle Hyena
Friday, December 23rd, 2016
5:01 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
December 16:
From 2015:
Random Dementia-ness, from a conversation yesterday: "If you want to be a Jedi, study Buddhism. If you think the Matrix is cool, study Taoism. And if you're into Final Fantasy, study Shinto."

December 17:
Dredged from 2010:
"If Aslan ever let me into Narnia, he’d have to eat me to make me leave again." ~~ Ken St. Andre, commenting on "Voyage of the Dawn Treader".

December 18:
Dredged from 2015:
Surreality of the day: I came across this on a POLITICAL web site this morning, from which we may reasonably conclude that the writer went to college after 1985, that he took a film course, and that he drank the local Kool-Aid by the gallon: "The Rebel Alliance was meant as a (sympathetic) metaphor for the Viet Cong in particular..."

December 19:
Dredged from 2012:
For good or ill, the idea that the right to own firearms is the difference between a citizen and a slave is as deeply ingrained in US culture as slavery once was, and it will take something every bit as cataclysmic as the US Civil war to change that.

December 19:
Said in my household: The ability to get out of bed and be immediately energetic and cheerful is a mutation, because people who are born that way are always killed by their relatives before they live long enough to reproduce.

December 21:
Life in my household:

Dementia: I am not sure why, but I am REALLY fed up with holiday stupidity this year.

Hyena: There's a harpoon in the corner. Dress up as Krampus and go out and stab a few children. You'll feel better.

Dementia (frowning): I think I can come up with the costume, but the law tends to frown on that sort of thing.

Hyena (shocked): Not on Christmas!

December 22:
Cultural horror: The cashier was named, "Christian"; subsequent conversation revealed him to be 22 years old. He had never heard of Cyrano de Bergerac.

December 23:
Dredged from 2012:
Overheard: That's what the Statue of Liberty is, you know. She's a cleaning woman with OCD, wandering around in the middle of the night looking for trash that she missed by daylight.

December 23:
If you are writing a first person story about a badass biker chick, you REALLY need to do enough research to learn the difference between "electronic ignition" and "electric start". Just sayin'. (Regarding Faith Hunter's "Skinwalker".)
Monday, December 19th, 2016
3:14 pm
12-sided Geekery
I came across the problem stated below a while ago, and because I have an affinity for dodecahedrons, I spent some time with it. It confused me, because I was not sure what it was asking for. The key phrase is "expected value", which is a technical term, and I was not sure what it meant in this case. In gambling, "expected value" is a statement of the return you will get if you bet the entire board, the complement of the house edge. In most casinos, this is a value of about 5/6; in state run lotteries, it is about 1/2. But I couldn't find an intuitive meaning of the phrase for this kind of problem. I worked through the posted solutions, did a number of relevant probability calculations, and still didn't understand what the question wanted. Eventually I fell back to brute force, and set up a spreadsheet that ran 1000 ants through 200 moves, and found the answer. For this type of problem, "expected value" is equal to the number on which the average number of turns to complete converges over infinite iterations. I am not at all sure that this is a useful value, but I learned some new tricks along the way.

By the way, the answer is 35...

Uncle Hyena


The Problem:

An ant starts on one vertex of a dodecahedron. Every second he randomly walks along one edge to another vertex. What is the expected value of the number of seconds it will take for him to reach the vertex opposite to the original vertex he was on?

Clarification: Every second he chooses randomly between the three edges available to him, including the one he might have just walked along.
Sunday, December 18th, 2016
10:07 pm
Sloane, Death
More than two weeks since the last entry. One movie, two wakes, life.

"Miss Sloane" is an extremely well done political thriller with a great cast. It is also an egreiously obnoxious piece of anti-gun propaganda. I remain mystified by the tendency of zealots (of any stripe) who truly believe that they hold the moral high ground to dispense with the truth. Folks, if the truth is on your side, it doesn't need your help, and if it isn't, you do NOT hold the moral high ground.

Two of my friends have died since the first of December, and I have twice recently found myself standing over the body of someone who is (or has been) significant to me, feeling a need to say something appropriately final. Without going into great detail about my significantly peculiar metaphysical perspective, I find myself quoting Seanan McGuire, whose sidhe characters have strict rules about benedictions: "Open roads, fair winds, calm seas, kind fires." Yeah, that will do it. Still can't recite it without my voice breaking, though.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, December 15th, 2016
7:25 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
December 1
So... I was GOING to get five KM on the rowing machine every day in December. Got the machine set up, logged about 1.5 km, and the main seam on the water tank broke and the machine started spraying water all over the living room. Manufacturer contacted, repair kit on the way, tank drained, all good for now. But I am going to be a LONG way in the hole once things start working again...

December 3:
An elaboration on an old joke:

Let me introduce the Barr brothers:

Eldest brother Remus (goes by Ree) is a fixer; he talks fast, and thinks faster. He's always on the lookout for an angle that other people have missed, and often finds one.

Middle brother Priam (goes by Pry) is a lawyer. He isn't as fast on his feet as Ree, but he's probably smarter, and a lot better at dealing with fine details. His morals are at least as hazy as Ree's, but he's a lot more careful.

Youngest brother Festus (Festus Ulysses, goes by Foo) is much smarter than people give him credit for, but he is also big and tough and has a natural affinity for chaotic solutions. He enjoys getting into situations that make his brothers nervous, but he is also utterly loyal to them.

December 3:
I loved Douglas Adams' "Dirk Gently" books. They were at base Trickster tales, and I am a sucker for such. And I love Adams anyway. Lately I have come across two adaptations of the character - one in comics (bad), the other on BBC television(pretty good) - that seem to based on very different books than the ones I read. I remember Dirk as a con man who yammered about the interconnectedness of everything not because he believed it, but because it was a good scam. He was also highly intelligent and open minded at a questionably sane level, which made him able to deal with REALLY bizarre situations. Both of the recent adaptation portray Dirk as a true believer who is largely out of touch with everything around him. It's baffling, and a little disturbing.

December 4:
Hit the "First Sunday Game Day" up at Lake Geneva Games today, played a two handed version of a recently released mega-game, Scythe. It's a very pretty game, full of interesting bits. I enjoyed playing, but I wonder more and more, with these enormous, well balanced games, if I wouldn't have more fun swapping lies with the other players rather than actually playing the game.

Deceber 5:
Dredged from 2011:
Bad things happen to songs that get stuck in my head when I am in a bad mood (and I realize that I am usually in a bad mood, lately). Still, I am rather proud of the effort it took to make the scansion work on the following bit of idiocy:

God bless the master of this house,
The mistress bless also,
And all the contraceptive errors
That round the table go.

December 5:
Just found out that Ken O., who was my roommate for two years at Wheaton, had a stroke and died on Friday. We had moved apart after I left Wheaton; I attended his wedding in (I think) 1978, and had only seen him a few times since then. He was a few months younger than I am, and we had known each other since infancy.

Silliness: When we were somewhere in the 10 to 12 range, I bet Ken five dollars that he would have a girlfriend before his 16th birthday. I lost by about six weeks, but never got around to paying up until his wedding reception. I had to leave early, so I gave a five dollar bill to the best man and told him to give it to Ken (who, as it happened, married the SECOND girl he ever dated) and say it was in payment of an old gambling dept. I am told Ken got a good laugh out of that.

I can't say I will miss him; he has not been a part of my life for a long time. But he was a good man, and his passing leaves a hole in the world.

December 6:
Firearm geekery: Watching "Timeless", a mediocre time travel drama that we haven't quite given up on. The current episode deals with Bonnie and Clyde, and when the shooting starts, there are plenty of Thompsons in evidence, but Clyde is shooting a BAR. Which WAS Clyde's weapon of choice, but you don't see it that way on film too often.
And a little bit of additional firearm geekery, that I just discovered: The initial production of the Thompson SMG was 15,000 units in 1921, and while they were modified over the years, very few new guns were produced until WWII production began in the late 30s. In contrast, there were over 100,000 BARs loose in the world by the end of 1919...

December 6:
I was bored while waiting in the checkout line. Behind me was a mother-daughter pair; Daughter was 20-ish, Mother likely mid-40s. Daughter was wearing a Fright Fest shirt; I could work with that.

"You worked Fright Fest?" I asked; Daughter said yes. "Ever meet Nox, the Demon Lord?" She replied that, Yes, she had run into him a couple of times, thought he was really cool. "I know him," I said. "He's married to one of my adopted neices." I proceeded to say a few nice things about Mark L,. the man behind Nox, including that he had just posted his acting resume, made up as a D&D character sheet. Daughter thought that was cool, too.

I went on to tell of my experience as a house monster, back in the long ago, and Daughter told me about going through a fast food drive through in full zombie make-up. This led, somehow, to a Harley Quin reference by her, which led to me telling the story of how a sort of accidental radio interview with Mark Hamill turned into forty-five minutes with Harley and Mister J.

Beats hell out of being bored...

December 7:
Yesterday, I spent half an hour listening to a presentation on the value and techniques of professional networking. I did not scream. I did not protest. I did not even express skepticism. It HURT.

I have been running into this a great deal, lately. It ALWAYS hurts. It isn't just that I find professional networking distasteful; I do all sorts of things I find distasteful every day. The problem is that I find the concept fundamentally immoral.

As I see it, cultivating a relationship with another person for the sole purpose of furthering your career is morally identical to cultivating a relationship with another person for the sole purpose of getting that person into bed.

I understand that my attitude is far from universal, and that this behavior is considered acceptable in our society. It is even close to being necessary. But that doesn't change my moral structure, or make me any less unhappy.

December 8:
Can anybody tell me how or where the current (moronic, he said, telegraphing his attitude on the subject) war against adverbs got started? There is no question that excessive use of adverbs will cripple a piece, but excessive use of anything (even parentheticals!) will cripple a piece. ADVERBS HAVE THEIR PLACE.

Consider the following:

1) "You shall not pass!" Gandalf said adamantly.

2) "You shall not pass!" Gandalf said, adamant.

3) "You shall not pass!" Gandalf said adamant.

Now, it can certainly be argued that the sentence would be better if it simply ended with "said", but this will not ALWAYS be true. Given that some modifier is wanted, though, there is no question that the first choice is better written than the second, UNLESS the writer is subject to an irrational compulstion to avoid adverbs at all costs. The third, of course, is just WRONG, but writers who are sufficiently confused to produce the second sometimes slide right on into the third.

I have been seeing option two in fiction far too often, lately, and it has become clear that someone of influence has declared war on adverbs, and is teaching this idiocy. Does anyone in the gallery know who or why?

December 8:
So... The WaterRower started leaking on December 1, frustrating my plan to get in 5 km (about 25 minutes) of rowing every day this month. Drained the tank and called the manufacturer immediately, got the repair kit on Tuesday, repaired the tank yesterday, filled it this morning, and just finished doing 8 km in a little over 40 minutes, so the original goal of 155 km for the month is still in reach. Go me.

For the record, 4 km in 20 minutes on the machine is somewhat more strenuous than 1 mile in 20 minutes in the real world. I think. I am a bit out of shape since the summer.

December 9:
And today's historical trivia: England created its first baronets during the reign of Edward III, per Wikipedia. It is a hereditary non-noble title between knight and baron. Wikipedia does not infer that it is a derivative/ evolution/ corruption of "bannerette", which was the highest order of knighthood, just short of being a baron, which existed at about the same time. Hmmm.

December 12:
I am always kinda-sorta on the lookout for new canoe expeditions, and I think I have just found one. It turns out that about two miles downstream of the I275 bridge across the Ohio River, just west of Cincinnati, there is a rusting hulk in Taylor Creek on the Kentucky side of the river. The local kyakers call her "The Ghost Ship."

She was beautiful once. She came into the world as "Celt", a 186 foot clipper bowed fantail steam yacht. She changed hands and was renamed "Sachem", was pulled into the US Navy and hunted submaries during WWI, then went back into private hands after the war; she was refitted for diesel and did a stint as a gamefishing boat. Back into the Navy as "USS Phenakite" in WWII, first as a sub chaser, then as a sonar lab. Back into private hands and a stint as a New York Harbor tour boat, first as the "Sightseer", and later as "Circle Line V". She left active service in 1983.

In 1986 she was partially refitted and sailed through the Great Lakes to the Mississippi (which must have included Chicago along the way), then up the Ohio to her current resting place and dereliction.

There are a fair number of small to medium logisical challenges involved in actually meeting this particular lady in person, but as of now I really WANT to meet her...

December 13:
My friend Jack S. had a stroke on November 26. He made it through a high risk surgery, was doing well, was expected to make a full recovery. And now he is dead, from pneumonia that developed as a complication of the stroke and its treatment.

He was a great guy; quirky, quick to laugh, generous to a fault. Recently married, happy. The world is diminished by his passing.

(Yeah, this is the second friend in ten days.)

December 15:
Once upon a time, about 45 years ago, I went over to my friend Tony E's house and found him working on a puzzle called "Plato's Plight". It seemed that his younger brother had seen the puzzle and had torn it apart, and then couldn't get it back together again. A search of the trash turned up a part of the package which held a photograph of part of the completed puzzle. Tony was trying to figure out what it was, and how it went pack together. I spent some time with it, determined that it must be a dodecahedron (and this was before D&D made dodecahedrons common geek currency, remember), and was able to reassemble the thing. Along the way I also solved the Lesser Puzzle, which involved getting the caged ball out without disconnecting any of the elements. It was a good night.

I later bought a copy of my own, which was destroyed by someone trying to use brute force to solve the Lesser Puzzle. And a while after that, I bought ANOTHER copy, which I still have. Got it down the other night and dismantled it, gave it the cleaning it needed, and reassembled it.

This is the kind of stuff that goes on in my brain...
Wednesday, December 7th, 2016
12:51 pm
Yesterday, I spent half an hour listening to a presentation on the value and techniques of professional networking. I did not scream. I did not protest. I did not even express skepticism. It HURT.

I have been running into this a great deal, lately. It ALWAYS hurts. It isn't just that I find professional networking distasteful; I do all sorts of things I find distasteful every day. The problem is that I find the concept fundamentally immoral.

As I see it, cultivating a relationship with another person for the sole purpose of furthering your career is morally identical to cultivating a relationship with another person for the sole purpose of getting that person into bed.

I understand that my attitude is far from universal, and that this behavior is considered acceptable in our society. It is even close to being necessary. But that doesn't change my moral structure, or make me any less unhappy.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, December 1st, 2016
8:13 pm
Beasts, Edge, Moana, Holiday, LGG, Birthday, Rower
Three movies, and the usual foolishness.

"Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them" is the new movie set in the world of Harry Potter. I loved Harry Potter in general, five of the books, five of the movies, and several of the characters in specific. But the world was not fundamentally robust, and was pushed beyond its design limits by the time the series ended. This movie exacerbates that. The characters are decent, and the performances are good, but the plot is weak and the pacing is pretty much awful. And then there is the fact that more large special effects shots were shoe-horned into the film than the plot would support. This is not an awful movie; we enjoyed it. But the Harry Potter franchise became what it was by virtue of froth and charm, both of which declined as the story grew darker. This movie slams into that conflict; it shuffles between a very dark main plot and animal based slapstick, and is kind of a mess.

"The Edge of Seventeen" is being marketed as a top tier teenage coming of age comedy. It isn't. The cast and performances are good, but the script is deeply flawed. Hailee Steinfeld is too pretty for her part as written, and her character is too damaged and hateful to function as the center of a movie of this type. We didn't actually dislike this movie, but we didn't like it all that much, either.

"Moana" is a lot of fun. It could be more. There are echoes of real mythological magic, but they never really materialize. The sailing footage almost breaks through the screen to become authentically exciting, but never quite gets there. All around, there is a heartbreaking lack of attention to detail that makes it clear that, while this movie is very pleasant, it could have been brilliant, but it isn't.

I visited my dad for the first time since his party on the 22nd; little has changed. He is still always himself, but he seems to be just half a tick slower every time I see him.

Thanksgiving dinner, after a double feature, consisted of roasting hot dogs over an open fire. Nothing against turkey, but I liked this meal at least as well, and it was a LOT less work.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving I dropped in on the 6th anniversary party at Lake Geneva Games, played a game of Marvel Comics Munchkin. Good times.

Tuesday was Dementia's birthday; we saw a movie, and then had Chinese food. (We lead such exciting lives.)

Yesterday I finished a VERY short story that I have been hacking at for a while; it is built around a bit of world building, and I finally managed to hang a plot onto it: http://unclehyena.livejournal.com/395228.html

Today, I was psyched to spend some time on the rowing machine, in the hope of logging five km every day in December. The rowing machine didn't cooperate; resistance on this machine is provided by a water tank, which developed a leak while I was rowing. A repair kit is on the way, but that five km goal is going to get difficult...

Uncle Hyena
7:06 pm
Random bits from Facebook
November 19:
Whenever a writer or speaker makes me feel like I am at a pep rally, I make sure that my wallet and keys are secure, and that I have a clear path to the nearest exit.

November 19:
Language corner: We were watching Graham Norton, and the guests were blindly discussing the word, "overwhelm". For the record: "Whelm" means to swamp as with a wave; "overwhelm" started as a redundant perfect synonym and expanded, and "underwhelm" is a neologism that is intended to be the opposite of "overwhelm".

November 20:
Good time at the Elkhorn Pizza Ranch game day this afternoon; played "A Feast for Odin" with Tom Wham and Laura Murin. It took about four hours. VERY complex game, but fun, and very good company.

November 21:
On this point Asatru and Shinto are in full agreement: A good death is never a tragedy.

November 21:
Watching the season premier of "The Librarians": time sliced. There is a key scene late in the show where the background music sounds a LOT like a rearranged version of Murray Gold's "Day of the Doctor" from Doctor Who. And then they cut in two bars of the bridge EXACTLY. Major geek out.

November 22:
Chasing multimedia connections is too much fun. From "The Librarians" to "Day of the Doctor" to "Love Don't Roam" to "The Snake" to "Secret Agent Man" just that quickly.

November 22:
Normal procedure for replacing a light switch: Power off the circuit, change the switch, power on the circuit. Procedure in my house: Build a circuit shorting gadget, short the circuit (because a fly-by-night electrician rewired the breaker box without labelling the breakers), replace the switch. Power on the circuit. Whole circuit still dead. Check all the other breakers, still dead. Power off circuit, re-install old switch, power on circuit, all is well. Power off circuit, remove old switch, compare switches using a continuity checker, re-install switch upside down AND switch two terminals, power on circuit, all is well. (Plus a couple of false starts due to transient brain death). The wiring in this house is WEIRD. Is it any wonder I HATE doing home repair?

November 23:
Dredged from 2015: Today marks the 52nd anniversary of the first airing of "Doctor Who". Just sayin'.

November 24:
Forty years ago - forty years ago on Thanksgiving - after the family meal was over, I went into Chicago, met up with my then-new friend Clueless Tom and his Weird Uncle Ed, and went to a retrospective of "Darby O'Gill and the Little People" starring Sean Connery, at, I think, the Coral Theater. Good times.

November 25:
Watching "The Princess Bride", and looking for Elwes' compensatory moves during the "Life is pain," sequence, knowing that he had broken the big toe of his right foot just before they started filming that day.

November 26:
Dredged from 2015:
Thanksgiving day, 2004: Ernest Gary Gygax Jr., Edward A. Reno, Hiren Thakkar, and I had a REALLY slow day at work, and tried to play a complete game of Titan. When it collapsed down to Ernie and me (with Ernie out-powering me by something like three to one), I charged his biggest stack with a significantly inferior Titan stack, effectively committing suicide. Ernie was disappointed; he had really wanted to strangle me slowly (Well, honestly, he had just wanted the game to keep going, regardless, but that MEANT strangling me slowly.). Still, good times and never to come again circumstances.

November 26:
Not sure why I am thinking about this today, but it remains one of the cleverest shout-outs ever filmed.

(Text lifted from IMDB; it may not be dead accurate.)

Capt. William "Buck" Rogers: Have we met before, Gordon?
Brigadier Gordon: I don't think so, Captain. We're from different times.
Capt. William "Buck" Rogers: Gordon, where did you learn to shoot like that?
Brigadier Gordon: I've been doing this since long before you were born, Captain.
Capt. William "Buck" Rogers: You think so?
Brigadier Gordon: Young man, I *know* so.

Within the show, Rogers had spent 500 years in suspended animation, and was much, much older than the 70 years that Gordon showed. Outside the show, Buster Crabbe had in fact been playing Flash Gordon before Gil Gerard, who played Rogers, had been born.

It was a lame show; I had a crush on Erin Gray, and the show regularly featured attractive women wrapped in Spandex, but what really kept me coming back was the occasional tidbit like the one above. (Another example: The following message once came up on the overhead in a starport scene: "Paging Christopher Pike. Will Captain Christopher Pike please report to Veterans Administration?")

November 27:
Just found out that Jack S., with whom I have been playing poker since 2009, had a stroke yesterday. He had surgery last night, and is still in critical condition, but this is as good as the news can actually be at this point in the process. He's an authentically good guy.

Just... ouch.

November 27:
Just saw the new Apple "Frankenstein's Monster's Christmas" ad. It's sweet. (Apple is still evil, though.) My comment: "He has his navigation lights installed backwards."

Dementia giggled.

November 28:
Dredged from 2015:
Stuff that oozes out of my cranial sewer:

Bob wandered into Adam's office with a broad grin on his face. "Have you perceived," he said with a grin, "The proboscis on the pretentious provisional provincial provost?"

Adam grimaced. "The interim US attorney for the state has a big nose and a bad attitude..."

Bob continued, "Plus pulchritudinous progeny with prominent prosthetics."

Adam glared at him. "And, apparently, an attractive daughter with fake tits. Get out of my office before I beat you to death with a chair."

Bob turned in the doorway and said, "Prudence without penitence paves my path," and then closed the door behind himself.

Adam closed his eyes, took a deep breath, and then muttered, "Pest."

November 28:
I am apparently incapable of writing a self-description that is not either flippant, self-deprecating, or both.

Example: Highly intelligent autodidact, currently working as an IT professional, and disturbingly unclear about what happened to the first half of his life.

And while I am at it, I just cut this from my Facebook intro, preserved here for archival purposes: I am certain that I will have an iron-clad alibi for the interval in question, if you will only give me a few minutes to fabricate one.

November 28:
Just found this in my archives, where it has been lurking for about three years:

The idea of making morality FUN is absurd. Moral behavior begins when we decide that something or someone is more important to us than our own self interest, or, to put it another way, when we choose to define our happiness in a contra-survival way.

Morality that is based on fear of punishment is just cowardice, and not really morality at all.

Morality that is based on hope of reward is just greed, and not really morality at all.

True morality begins with a decision to walk the path of righteousness IN SPITE of the personal cost.

Because the path of righteousness is seldom if ever clearly marked, living a moral existence requires constant self awareness just to SEE the path.

November 29:

Celebrating the anniversary of one of the most important events in my life, even though I was ignorant of it for nearly three decades. (It's Dementia's birthday.)

November 30:
New fiction, that few seem inclined to read: http://unclehyena.livejournal.com/395228.html

December 1:
Sensitive Language Interlude:

Consider the following two sentiments:

One: "I believe that the group of which I am a member is fundamentally superior to that other group of which I am not a member."

Two: "I actively dislike that entire group of which I am not a member."

Neither of these two things is admirable, but they are different things. Most significantly, the first will almost never lead the violence, while the second is VERY likely to lead to violence. In spite of this, the two ideas often go by the same name. If the division between the groups is racial, the term for both of them is "racism", and no effort is made to distinguish between them. If the division between the two groups is gender, and the speaker is male, the first is "chauvanism" and the second is "misogyny".

It has come to my attention that the WORD "chauvanism" is dying out, and "misogyny" is expanding to fill the gap. This is unfortunate, because the distinction is important (for matters of safety if nothing else), and whenever linguistic mutation leads to loss of information, we all lose.

December 1:
Life in my household:

Hyena: OK, so a 3D printer is basically kinda-sorta a cake froster on the business end of a high precision 3D positioning robot, and a CNC milling machine is kinda-sorta a Dremel tool on the business end of a high precision 3d positioning robot, so this gadget is a high precision 3D positioning robot with interchangeable cake frosting and Dremel tool heads.
Saturday, November 19th, 2016
4:17 pm
Arrival and Oddments
Life being life, and one movie:

"Arrival" is, apparently, a deliberately boring movie with a great cast. I am certain that I can be entertained by Amy Adams and Jeremy Renner reading the phone book at each other for two hours, and that just might have been more entertaining than this movie, which is pretentious, soporific, and kind of dumb. The film is based on a 1999 novella which uses the (mostly discredited) Sapir–Whorf hypothesis to address the concept of determinism, and deals with the fundamental conundrum of the topic by painting it pink and pretending it doesn't exist. (That is, it states that one can exercise one's free will in a deterministic universe by whole-heartedly accepting one's fate.)(Please note, my knowledge of the novella "Story of Your Life" is hearsay; I have not read it. But it is multiply confirmed hearsay.) The film builds on this dubious pedigree by adding a "human paranoia is evil" plot (which is a true statement, but boring) and a lot of dumb special effects. (We won't warn the major characters about the weird gravitic effects because they won't be as visually impressive for the audience if we describe them before they can see them.) In the end, this is EXACTLY the movie I feared it would be from seeing the trailers, and my hope of a pleasant surprise was thwarted. I don't regret seeing the film, because I think that some moderately intelligent discussion may come out of it. And there were two REALLY good scenes. (One of them involved the word "kangaroo", and the other involved a white board...)

In other news... Paperwork, home maintenance, and some BAD back trouble of mostly unknown origin that has mostly cleared up. Life goes on.

Uncle Hyena
3:53 pm
Random bits from Facebook
October 25:
From the Dredge. Yes, it really did take me 19 years to figure out how to make the fireplace work right.
From 2011: We have a fire in the fireplace that is neither pouring smoke back into the room, nor confined in a tiny cast iron chimney. Kind of cool. It has been a long time coming.

October 26:
From the dredge. Six years later... It took about a year after I posted this to improve my game to the point where I no longer enjoyed playing, it was just work, and not very lucrative work at that. I stopped playing on line, and play a sort of deliberately mediocre game in face to face poker for the sake of camaradarie, and I still enjoy that.
From 2010: After five months and more than 2200 hands of Texas Hold'em, I have parlayed 1000 chips into 1.1 million. I begin to suspect that I might be halfway good, and man need to try investing a little bit of real money into the experiment.

November 2:
Dredged from 2013: A word of thanks: Sometime this summer, my friend Robin Lea posted on FaceBook, apropos of nothing, "Why do we seem to live in the only reality without airships?" As a direct result of that post, last night I got up in front of a roomful of about 50 strangers here at TeslaCon and gave a lecture on The Physics of Airships. It went over much better than I had expected, and was in fact a great deal of fun.

Thanks, Robin, for starting that particular avalanche. I owe you.

November 5:
Dredged from 2012: Geekery: A while ago Dementia found a pattern for a Mobius scarf, and after she had made it, I looked it over and said, It's nice, but not really a Mobius strip; it twists twice, and has two edges, and two faces. There followed a discussion of Mobius strips and Klein bottles, and how one might possibly knit a continuous strip with a single edge (conclusion: WAY too much work). She did some research, and investigated possibilities, and this evening she tossed a freshly completed circular scarf. I stretched it out on the floor: One edge, one surface. Mission completed.

November 6:
Dredged from 2015: The first Hawker Hurricane flew for the first time eighty years ago today.

According to Sir Thomas Sopwith's obituary, he built the first 500 Hurricanes on spec, because the government was dragging its heels, and Sopwith knew the war was inevitable. When the air war came to England, the RAF had 700 modern fighters: 200 Spitfires, and Sopwith's 500 Hurricanes.

There are a lot of reasons to be romantic about the Hurricane, but that is the main one: They stand as proof that one man, in the right place at the right time, can change the history of the world.

November 8:
I spent a fair amount of time walking around downtown Waukegan yesterday. Saw a LOT of political signs. Did not see the names "Trump" or "Clinton" ONCE. Read into that what you will; I have no clue.

November 9:
We have chosen the greater evil.

We have validated the world's opinion of us as arrogant, loud, stupid, and rude.

May Fate and History be kind to us.

November 10:
From the Dredge. Ah, those were the days...
From 2012: I kind of hate volunteering for straight time overtime when I have other plans. Someday I am going to catch my conscience napping and beat it to death with a tire iron...

November 10:
Every time someone buys premium vodka, in any quantity, P.T. Barnum's ghost giggles.

November 13:
We went out at about 7:15, drove to the lake, walked out to the light tower at the end of the Government Pier. Saw about a dozen people along the way. This moon over the endless water was pretty cool.

November 14:
Signed on to Twitter for the first time in months. (I was bribed.) Why does this site exist? It's as if someone took all of the worst features of the Facebook interface, and then expended significant effort to make them even worse.

November 14:
Dementia has been listening to a series of podcasts from a site called StoryWork. Today, the episode she listened to (which is a few years old) contained a discussion of the old dichotomy on the distinction between Fantasy and Science Fiction, and came up with the following statement, which, to my mind, after playing with the question for a VERY long time, pretty much ends the question.

"This is the key difference: Fantasy changes the rules of reality in order to engage you emotionally, and Science Fiction changes the rules of reality in order to engage you intellectually."
--Alastair Stephens, StoryWonk

November 14:
Life in my household:

Hyena: There is a place for lyrical prose. I am increasingly suspicious that it is on a bonfire.

Dementia: ::laughter::

November 15:
Did a small home repair this afternoon using a Yankee egg-beater style hand drill that is older than I am. Kind of cool.

Unrelated, except chronologically: My lower back went south this afternoon. I was recently thinking I hadn't had any back trouble in a few years. I should know better than to do that...

Novebmer 15:
Life in my household: Haphazardly trying to remember the civilian identities of Marvel characters, the following line came up: "Natasha Romanov is a redhead who dresses in black, and Wanda Maximov is a brunette who dresses in red."

It was funny at the time. We're tired.

November 16:
From the Dredge. Shared mostly so that I can archive it, because it intrigues me, and I SHOULD have it archived, somewhere.
From 2015: Sanity optional interlude: I believe in reincarnation; it strikes me as the least philosophically unpleasant of the available options. It also gives me an explanation for some of the odd things that go on in my head. The case in point: Three stripe vertical flags have always bothered me for some reason, tricolors in particular. And apparently, I have this reaction strongest of all to the French Tricolor. I see that flag, and SOMETHING, in the depths of my cranial sewer, says, "Enemy." I do not have this reaction to ANY other flag.

I absolutely do not harbor any ill will toward France, or the French people, and I am every bit as horrified by recent events as I am capable of being horrified by any human behavior (but I am still me, and that implies certain things, remember). My heart truly goes out to the people of Paris, and of France, at this time.

But there is still a mad little voice inside of me that REALLY hates those Tricolors...

November 16:
From Hyena's Dictionary:

Poetry: 1) A literary form in which structure is used to convey meaning or assist memory. 2) A word game in which the practitioner is challenged to convey meaning while adhering to a strict and often non-sensical structure.

November 18:
Dredged from 2013: In the end, there is only one hard and fast rule of story telling: Know what you want to accomplish, and do that. If you fail meet your design parameters, it doesn't matter what rules you followed or how closely you followed them; if you do meet your goals, it does not matter one whit which rules you broke.

November 18:
Just watched "Mockingbird Lane", the pilot for a 2012 re-launch of "The Munsters" that didn't get picked up. It's a shame; it was a lot of fun, though MUCH darker than the original series.
Thursday, November 10th, 2016
8:12 pm
Ridge, Strange, Inferno, Fire, Ninety, Bureaucracy
Movies, a party, and paperwork.

"Hacksaw Ridge" is a presentation of the story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist and conscientious objector who won the Medal of Honor as a medic during the Battle of Okinawa in 1945. It's bloody and manipulative and kind of awesome anyway.

"Doctor Strange" is surprisingly good, considering how fundamentally lame the central charcter is. Benedict Cumberbatch is responsible for a great deal of this, of course, but the whole cast is excellent.

"Inferno" is yet another Tom Hanks thriller based on a Dan Brown novel, and it has all of the usual elements: Tons of melodrama, lots of silly details, gorgeous European settings. This one is odd, though, because I wanted the bad guys to win. The "Evil Genius" actually had the moral high ground, and my experience of the film was colored by the knowledge that the real good guys were going to lose, because the writers didn't understand their own material.

I did a fire vigil for Samhain; I started a fire in the fireplace before the sun set on October 31, and kept it burning until the sun came back up on November 1. It turned into a 26 hour day, which is something I haven't done in a while. It was kind of fun. Not sure the meaning I was looking for came along.

My father turned 90 on November 1; we had a party for him on Sunday the 6th. Lots of distant relatives and old friends showed up; the last such gathering was my mother's funeral in 2010. My father seemed to have a good time, which was the point of the exercise.

I have started digging into the horrors of filing for unemployment, updating my resume, and looking for work. I am NOT enjoying it. Not even a little bit.

Uncle Hyena
Tuesday, November 8th, 2016
9:51 am
I'm walking down the street; an attractive woman is walking toward me. Her face is slack, because that is what a face does when the brain is doing things like keeping the legs moving and thinking about what happens next. I would like to see her smile, because smiles light up the world. They just do.

Unlike an apparently significant percentage of my gender, however, I know that overtly asking for that smile is intrusive and will not be appreciated. I am smarter than that. I know that when the large, ugly man smiles, nods, and says, "Good afternoon," like, you know, a reasonably polite human being, there is a good chance I will get that smile, and some kind of mumbled response.

But I also know that if the large, ugly man smiles, nods, and then reaches down into the gravel at the bottom of his throat, and slides into, "Goood afternoon," in the manner of The Big Bopper or Tony the Tiger, he will get a grin, and maybe a giggle.

And the world will be an ever so slightly better place.

Uncle Hyena
Saturday, November 5th, 2016
10:44 pm
Bit Player
Dementia has been listening to a series of podcasts lately from a site called StoryWonk. They are about writing and being a writer, which is a bit odd, since when it comes to fiction, Dementia is purely a consumer. I hear large fragments from time to time.

One of the ideas that comes up regularly is the idea that every character is the hero of his or her own story. It's a pretty obvious statement, and seems like a good thing for a writer to keep in mind. Except... A recent spate of navel gazing has made it pretty clear that it isn't universally true, and I wonder how common those exceptions are. I am fairly confident that most people are the heroes of their own story, except...

I'm not. I haven't been for a long time. I was once, but somewhere along the line I became a little bit too self aware, and it just stopped, for the most part. I didn't notice at the time; I'm not THAT self aware. But looking back on the last several years of my life, I realize that the most meaningful things I have done is fight for a little bit more screen time in other people's stories.

The awareness is kind of liberating. (Also a little bit depressing, but that is a single snowflake in a blizzard.) There is a line in C.S. Lewis's "Perelandra" that has stayed with me since I first read it, more than 40 years ago. I think I get it now. "Love me, my brothers, for I am utterly superfluous." Exactly.

I'm not the hero; I'm an extra trolling for a speaking part. And it turns out that I am OK with that.

Uncle Hyena

A coda of sorts: A dozen or so hours after I posted this, FaceBook dredged up a post from last year, reminding me that November 6 was the anniversary of the first flight of the first Hawker Hurricane, an event that (cryptic reference number one) changed the history of the world. This led me to what I will call a (cryptic reference number two) "Rose for Ecclesiastes" moment, and left me in tears. NOTHING is EVER simple... (Cryptic references will be decyphered on request.)
Sunday, October 30th, 2016
12:56 pm
This Church is Haunted
So... Last night I spent three or four hours in Burlington playing a game called, "This House is Haunted" at the local UU church. It's an interesting game, and we had a lot of fun. Many thanks to Nancy, who provided and moderated the game, and Alyssa, who demonstrated considerable grace under pressure and was pretty much single handedly responsible for defeating the Hordes of Hell.

There follows some serious game geekery that resulted from getting a good night's sleep while my sub-conscious did a game postmortem, and a bit of on-line research. If you are not interested in the game, you have been warned.

1) I have seen some discussion on order of play when multiple people are assigned to the same room. We played that all entered together, and then departed singly (if possible). Others have played that each player enters and leaves singly (again, if possible). I would like to see the actual rule. The publisher does not seem to have an FAQ.

2) When played among hard core gamers, the "scare the next person who enters to break the haunt" cards are nearly unresolvable. Players should probably be advised to live in a state of perpetual terror, so that if someone tries to scare them, they are scared.

3) I thought I heard someone say that each player can only draw one card per turn from the Charm Circle, but I have seen comments elsewhere that imply there is no such limit. Again, I would like to see the actual rule as it makes a significant difference (see below).

4) There is NO penalty for having Demon Marks in the Charm Circle until the end of the game; there is no advantage to having Seal Cards in the Charm Circle until the end of the game. Since breaking curses generally involves discarding random cards from the Charm Circle, the best policy is to have nothing but Demon Marks in the Charm Circle until late in the game. It's trickier with a one card draw limit, but otherwise, on the last turn, everyone can throw Seals into the circle and pick up Demon Marks; if everyone has a personal score of -4, and there are enough seals in the Circle, it's a win. (Of course, if the last leader is secretly possessed, and prevents people from drawing the relevant cards, things will go REALLY badly.)

Uncle Hyena
Friday, October 28th, 2016
7:31 pm
Thursday, October 27th, 2016
7:43 pm
Accountant, Ouija, Reacher
Three movies, and a few other odds and ends.

"The Accountant" is a first rate thriller. It even reality checks fairly well. We liked it a great deal.

"Ouija: Origin of Evil" is a decent if slightly inferior prequel to 2014's "Ouija." Once again, the Hasbro endorsement is more than a little amusing.

"Jack Reacher: Never Go Back" is a first rate Tom Cruise action movie. Please note that "Tom Cruise Action Movie" is its own sub-genre, and is subject to its own set of rules. We enjoyed it. We also enjoyed making snide comments about the efforts to make Cruise look taller.

Along the way... Several days spent doing home repair to make sure the garage roof doesn't collapse this winter, still another trip south to visit my father, and the box in the breakfast nook is still a conundrum.

Uncle Hyena

(Edited because I forgot to include the "Reacher" comments the first time around.)
6:55 pm
Random bits from Facebook
October 18:
I just stumbled across the phrase, "learning curb", used without the least trace of irony, when "learning curve" was intended. I weep for my language...

October 18:
Once upon a time, one of my mother's friends (who, like my mother, was a second generation Swedish-American) gave my mother a wicker goat (which is a Christmas tradition of sorts in Scandinavia). The friend was a bit confused about things, and told my mother it was a "Swedish Horse."

My brothers and I saw it, and asked, "What's with the goat?"

"It's not a goat; it's a Swedish Horse."

"Mom, it has HORNS and a BEARD. It's a GOAT."

"My friend said it was a horse, so it's a horse."

So for something like 30 years, the wicker goat sat on the sun porch, and was ever and always referred to as "The Swedish Horse". Loyalty and friendship absolutely trump reason, every time. That was my mother.

October 23:
Forty or so (non-consecutive) man hours later, the emergency portion of the emergency home repair has been completed, and the garage roof will not collapse this winter. In honor of this, we have the following, which seems to want to be called, "The Quitter's Cadence." (Those with military experience will know why.)

I am stiff and I am sore; please don't make me do no more.
I'm in pain from toe to head; I just want to go to bed.

October 23:
Steve Dillon died yesterday, at the age of 57. He was one of my favorite comics artists, an absolute master of using art to serve the story transparently. The world is diminished.

October 24:
(Courtesy of the Facebook Dredge, from 2012):
Most married people who are not actively complaining about their spouses will probably tell you that they have a pretty good marriage, regardless of what is actually true. So how do you make the point emphatically?

We've been married for 28 years.
We go out to the movies about 100 times a year.
We hold hands in the theater.
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