Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

July 16:
Posted Elsewhere:
Back in the long ago, we used to do a thing at parties where everyone would do a simultaneous shot of Everclear. It was all the alcohol anyone got for the evening, and it was pretty much the beginning of the party, so no one left drunk. There was trick to it. You took a deep breath first, tossed the shot, and then stood there with your mouth open and your head back for as long as you could, while the fumes cleared your esophagous. Because if you inhaled too soon, and got Everclear fumes into your lungs, it BURNED, and made you want to die. We never told the newbies that until they had experienced it the first time. The experience made such an impression on one particular girl that, five years later, she would still cringe and say, "Ohgodohgodohgod" whenever anyone said, "Everclear."

July 16:
Esoterica Mathematica: Tesseracts (or, Down Another Rabbit Hole)
In Abbott's "Flatland", there is a point where Square finally GETS it, and not only believes in the third dimension, but actually more or less understands it. In fact, he understands it well enough to begin postulating the possibility of a FOURTH dimension, which upsets his mentor Sphere enough that he tells Square to shut up. One of my cranial denizens picked up the theme, and has been bothering me about it ever since I finished reading Abbott's book.
The accompanying image is a pretty standard 2-D presentation of a highly distorted 3D visualization of a 4-D concept. It isn't bad, but you begin to understand the extent of the distortion when you realize that all eight of the cubes presented (inner, outer, and six distorted medials) are identical in all respects. If you can handle THAT, the other anomalies like each edge being surrounded by three 90 degree angles that add up to 360 degress should come easily...
I have always pretty much written the tesseract off as interesting but pointless, and that hasn't changed. Yesterday, though, I gave in to that persistent cranial denizen, and put some time into seeing the tesseract as clearly as I could. Here is what I came up with.
First, consider that each of the eight cubical cells shares one face with each of six of its sister cells, but does NOT share a face with the seventh, thus creating four pairs of relatively isolated cells within the structure. This corresponds to the vertices of a cube, in that each vertex shares a face with six of the others, but not the seventh. Hmmm.
All right, then, let's graph stuff. A unit tesseract can be described as all values between zero and one (inclusive) along four axis plots, w, x, y, and z. These can be represented with either two simultaneous 2-D plots (x,y and w,z) or four simultaneous 3-D plots (w,x,y; x,y,z; w,y,z; w,x,z). To begin, each of the 2-D plots shows a square, and each of the 3-D plots shows a cube.
Let's set w to zero, and see what happens. x,y still shows a square, but w,z shows a line segment. x,y,z (henceforth not-w) still shows a cube, but the other three 3-D plots show 2-D squares. Set w to one, and x,y and not-w don't change, but the line and the squares move. So... Eight combinations of this, which happens to correspond to the eight cells of the tesseract.
If we set w and z to zero, x,y still shows a square, and w,z shows a point. The cubes are gone from the 3-D plots, some of which show squares, and some of which show only line segments. Same deal, with different locations, if one or both of the limited variables is forced to one. There are 24 such combinations, which correspond to the 24 square faces within the tesseract.
If we set THREE of the variables to zero (or one, independently), we get points and line segments only. There are 32 of these combinations, which correspond to the edges of the tesseract.
Last permutation: Set all four variables (independently) to either one or zero, and you get nothing but points on all six plots. There are 16 of these combinations, which define the vertices of the tesseract.
So... Eight cells, 24 faces, 32 edges, and 16 vertices, all of which now have names (boring, cryptic names, but names nonetheless). I still can't see the thing clearly, but I can see it better. And while this is FAR from the bottom of this particular rabbit hole, it's more than deep enough for today.

July 17:
So... On Wednesday, I fought my way through a BAD case of threshold anxiety, and finally bought a season pass for the Ren Faire. And then today, I went up there with a sign on my hat that said, "May I tell you a story?" I got there just before 2:00, and left just before 7:00.
When I came up with the idea and made the sign, more than a year ago, there were certain things I hoped to have happen, certain ways I wanted the Faire to react to me. Today, I got every single one of them.
There were the usual bits of interaction, though there seemed to be more of them. I did "Puff and Leroy" twice, "It's the Math..." twice, and "Old, fat, ugly, and poor" three times. And then...
People looked at my hat and said, "Yes, you may," and I asked them how much time they had; two minutes for a poem, more like ten for a short story. The very first time, they backed out after the time question, but after that...
I ended up reciting "Fortune's Toy" at least seven times (I lost track), and I read "The Turtle's Question" three times, always to GREAT effect.
I was even offered money, once, refused it, and then refused it a second time, saying, "I'm not part of the Faire, and I could be thrown off the midway," and that settled it. (For the record, that exact transaction was ON my Bingo card.)
So I spent the afternoon at the Faire, playing the visitors, and probably had my best day at the Faire ever. And the Faire will be there again tomorrow...

July 18:
Another day at the Faire... Got there a little later, left at about the same time. Did "Fortune's Toy" several times, "When the Tall Man Speaks" once, read "The Turtle's Question" once and also "Laggy's Last Game". "Turtle" got me a serving of mead as a tip (HOW do you turn THAT down?), something that wasn't on my Bingo card because I had never imagined it happening.
I may have a sort-of regular gig to do my thing for the crew at the archery booth at the south edge of midway late in the day when the traffic dies.
Standard Hyena-schtick along the way: "Are you from Chicago?" (once yesterday, and once today), and "Pink Lemonade". I also SANG "Stormbringer" for the archery crew.
EVERYTHING worked. It's kind of amazing, and a TON of fun.
(A note on Hyena-schtick: *I* know what I'm talking about, and will happily rerun anything you're curious about. Which is something of a karmic closed loop...)

July 19:
My Faire shirts this year are two-decade-old "Adventure Shirts" from the now defunct Diva Lifewear, archaically designed button down shirts with flounced sleeves. The one I wore this weekend was sold as "Boysenberry"; it's a somewhat ruddy purple, with two decades of fade. Given the essential tackiness of wearing purple or blue to a Ren Faire, I had occasion on Saturday to describe it as, "red, with delusions of empire." It immediately occurred to me, as someone who once made his living dealing with hundreds of nearly identical colors with profoundly silly names, that, "Delusions of Empire" was a name that would sell itself to the vast majority of my friends, assuming they were looking for purple paint in the first place. It would certainly work for me...

July 20:
On the "Unofficial Bristol" board:
I have been going to Bristol at least once a year for nearly 30 years, and I had season passes in 2016 and 2019. I know the Faire and its denizens pretty well, and I have many off-the-midway friends who have been street cast, shop help, and shop owners. Over the course of the 2019 season, I started polling them as to whether I should try to get on street cast for 2020. The basic answer was, "It's a LOT of fun," but the people in that group who knew me best were more wary. "Obligation and Joy do not share your head peacefully," they said. "It would be a big risk for you."

I came up with an alternative plan. Going into the 2020 season, I decided I would NOT do anything formal, just wander the Faire with a sign on my hat that said, "May I Tell You a Story?" and see what developed. And then the plague hit.

So now, 2021. I missed the first weekend, but spent about ten hours on the midway during the second, wearing "The Hat", wandering, talking to people, being me. Several people saw that hat and said, "Yes, you may," and I was off.

"How much time do you have?" I would ask. "Two minutes for a poem, ten minutes for a story." Only one questioner walked away; more than a dozen asked for a poem, five asked for a story. One person offered me tip money, and I turned it down, saying I was not part of the Faire; one person offered me mead, and I hesitated, then accepted, thinking it was money being spent that might not otherwise be.

When you perform, there is a moment when something happens in the audience's eyes, and you know that you have gotten through, that the magic is HAPPENING. This weekend, it happened EVERY SINGLE TIME. There is so much joy in that...

So... Best Faire weekend EVER. Seven more to go. May I tell you a story?

July 20:
Rules Were Made to be Broken:
I am not particularly fond of the practice of breaking the fourth wall. The technique can be effective in comedy, but it is usually destructive in drama. That doesn't mean it can't work, though... We finished watching "The Queen's Gambit" tonight (and it is, as everyone says, VERY good), and there was a moment, 2 seconds out of a six and a half hour presentation, when the main character hung up a telephone, and, without moving her face, looked straight through the fourth wall into the audience. It was FABULOUS; in a theater, the audience would have cheered. At home, I just laughed joyfully, and wound it back to watch the moment again. Pure magic.

July 21:
Back when I was writing "Fiddler's Rose", I wasted some time trying to come up with a gender-neutral alternative for "journeyman" that doesn't sound contrived. I used "Quester" in the "Perf" stories, but was never happy with it. Of course, the answer was in front of me all along: Errant and or errantrist. As in, "Sorcerer Errant". or, "Errantrist Sorcerer. Which will no doubt be relevant somewhere along the line. (I discovered along the way that French alternative to "journeyman" is "companion" which is at least interesting.)

July 22:
Refrigerator-jutsu: When the only advantage you have is size, sometimes the only functional tactic is to fall on top of your opponent, and hope for the best.
(This is a two-decade-plus old bit of Hyena-schtick that I dropped on some of my nephews yesterday, and found they had never heard me say it before. So I thought it deserved a bit of daylight.)

July 24:
On Tuesday, I posted a photo and a description of my Storyteller efforts at Bristol last weekend on the "Unofficial Bristol" board, and it got a LOT more traffic than I expected. I suspect that this will have an impact on today's activities... (100 reactions)

July 27:
From the Dredge. Sharing mostly to make sure it gets archived, but, well, it's very much still true.
From 2016:
I have been thinking more and more lately that the biggest single lie I have ever encountered is the aphorism, "Money can't buy happiness." It's true that not all sources of unhappiness can be bought off, and it is also true that there is no amount of money that will GUARANTEE happiness. But still, the vast majority of unhappiness in the world BEGINS with a lack of money. The actual fact of the matter is that money CAN buy happiness most of them time, and even when it can't, it can almost always mitigate the unhappiness.

July 27:
E. Gary Gygax would have been 83 today. Get together with some friends and play a table game in his honor. (Bonus points for using non-cubical dice.)

July 28:
Just finished watching "Gunpowder Milkshake". It's hyperviolent and huge amounts of fun, pretty much exactly what it says on the label. If you like this kind of thing, you will like this. We certainly did.

July 29:
Hyena-speak:
Sometimes I use words or expressions that sail right over my listener's head, and I never realize the meaning was missed. During a conversation at Bristol, someone commented that all of my stories end with a small twist, and I replied that I like to end with a rim-shot of some kind. One of the listeners asked for a definition of the term, and I was taken aback. Didn't everyone know? Subsequent investigation has determined that no, they do NOT. So, we go to YouTube for a seven second demonstration. (Thump, thump, ching.)
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

July 2:
Useless information: A $100 bill is worth nearly twice its weight in gold.

July 3:
I found this in my journal from about 15 years ago, and thought it was worth sharing:
/////
The thing that came out of today's discussion was a visual concept: The juxtaposition of two contemporaneous images. On the one hand, you have the Via Flammia heading away from Rome, the road lined with crosses on which hang slaves in all states from screaming and writhing to rotting and disintegrating, and on the other hand you have a preacher who is so charismatic that PLANTS listen to him standing on a hilltop in Palestine saying, "Take up your cross and follow me." If you can't see the Via Flammia when Jesus talks about "taking up your cross", you are missing the point.
/////

July 4:
Life and Gaming:
Back on July 10, 2019, I decided to check out a Facebook game called "Hero Wars." They were running a lot of ads at the time which promised logic puzzles that intrigued me. The promised puzzles weren't immediately available, but there were several parts of the game for which access had to be earned, and the available gameplay was interesting enough that I was willing to wait.
I played, and opened the locked doors, and never found the promised puzzles. I did stumble into the multi-player portion of the game, but I wasn't interested in that at all. The part of me that loves games really doesn't like people very much. So I created a guild of my own, just enough to let me look around the multi-player landscape.
I didn't, at that point, know how to discourage other players from joining my guild. The next day the guild was full of the maximum 30 people, and I was a guild master. I was RESPONSIBLE. (If you don't know by now, I do my best to avoid responsibility, because I don't know how to respond to it half-way. If I don't ignore it, it bites me HARD.)
The game kept eating more and more of my life, and a few weeks ago, I had finally had enough. I made may apologies, and announced my departure date. And then I hung around at half strength for another week. But now it's GONE, and I'm free, and... NEVER AGAIN. Obligation kills joy. Maybe this time, I'll remember it.

July 5:
Celestial Happenings:
It's Aphelion Day. Which is to say, this is the day when the Earth is the furthest from the sun that it will be all year. It is also the day on which the Earth will receive the LEAST solar radiation it will receive all year.
Makes you colder, just thinking about it, doesn't it?
No, I guess not.

July 6:
For the first time since October of 2019, the van once again has a hat. I have had doubts about my ability to get the canoe onto the roof of the van due to shoulder injuries, but it went up with no trouble. Still haven't had it in the water, this year, but it's READY. This is a THING.

July 6 and subsequent, posted elsewhere:
Natacha HoopZie:
Politicaly incorrect candid question (I have not found any formal research on the subject so I am curious to pick your mega brains, if you please):
Do you think that women are, on average, intrinsically/physiologicaly/emotionally/culturally(...) more able to understand men's reality than men are able to understand women's? Or maybe the opposite would be true?
Why do you think so?
(I believe the way I formulated my question lets you guess my take on the subject... impression that I hope to be wrong! The idea came to me after having a discussion about what should be the implications of an undesired pregnancy with some of my male friends...)

Paul Haynie:
It's a complex issue. It should be possible to have a binding legal agreement, pre-sex, to the extent that, regardless of the woman's subsequent choices, the man's liability is equal to one-half the price of an abortion and related expenses. No court would recognize such an agreement, and that is a problem. Under current law, if a man clearly states that he would rather have no sex than risk parenthood, and the woman lies to him, or changes her mind, he has no recourse, and that is WRONG. On the other hand, if you just enjoy playing paternity roulette and lose, you should absolutely be held responsible.

Natacha HoopZie:
It might be a complex matter if we account for exceptional situations: man raped by a woman, woman intentionaly lying or stoping to take birth control on purpose..... But except for the rape case, responsible men I know that are serious about not procreating use their birth control method: condoms. And they don't negociate. But apparently "sex management" is not well taught or at least, not enough taught to counter balance what screens teach us...

And, hah, while we are at it: another sex issue where the lack of consideration never cease to amaze me...
(Image of text that says 'Could you take a hormonal pill with possible health risks EVERYDAY? Or you could wear a condom? Nah, that's inconvenient...)

Paul Haynie:
To sum up: One, the law is conceptually flawed, BUT... Two, the law is the way it is because I significant percentage of men are lazy, honorless cads.

Natacha HoopZie:
Maybe. But even in the case where the pregnancy is a surprise for both parties, I had friends arguing that if the woman choose to keep the baby while the man would not want to be a parent, he should be able to step out of child support... I just don't get how someone cannot consider that an abortion is not like a tooth extraction... the choice can be stressful and heartbreaking: whatever the choice that the woman makes, it comes with long term physical and emotional risks.

Paul Haynie:
But it is HER choice, and under current law, the man is forced to follow her lead. The balancing option, where the man would be in a position to force an abortion, is of course abhorrent. But under current law, the woman makes a decision unilaterally which can be life changing for both of them. Abortion is never a good thing (and definitely NOT a tooth extraction), but it IS generally safer than carrying a child to term.

Natacha HoopZie:
I think it is just reasonnable that a man should be forced to follow her lead. I know that an abortion has less physical risks that a pregnancy... but what about the psychological risks... Also, if a man could opt out of financial responsibility, it could be like a form of coercion toward abortion for some women with less financial means.

Paul Haynie:
HoopZie On the other hand, the emotional and financial stresses of fatherhood could be suicide-inducing.

Natacha HoopZie:
Then we could make sure they get a good insurance so the child stays financialy safe 😈....
I have see so many women bearing the financial weight of children on their own (ever all the rest), I believe the solution to men suicide might not be to eliminate their responsibility: why women make it a point of honor to stay strong for the kids and men want to vanish? (I know, it is a complicated issue as well, multiple variables, but I believe just letting all the financial weight on mothers because they choose not to go through an abortion is revolting. As you say: people should learn early what are the consequences of intercourse and get serious about it )

Paul Haynie:
I think we have arrived at Condition Three, at this point. I offered the idea of male suicide as a counter to the emotional costs of abortion, which does not seem to be the way you took it. The core of our disagreement is our respective concepts of what abortion is, I think. And I also think that that is not something which is likely to change significantly via discussion.

Now that I've already invoked "Condition Three", I feel I ought to make sure that you really do know where I am coming from. I'm about two steps short of being an anti-natalist (I don't believe life is fundamentally a bad thing, I just think that it fundamentally ambivalent), and I think that bringing an unwanted child into the world is profoundly immoral, and that bringing an abvialently wanted child into the world is REALLY morally quesitonable. So in the case of accidental pregnancy, outside of relationship, I have serious problems with forcing life-changing consequences on someone who had no voice in the critical go/no-go decision.

Natacha HoopZie:
I am uncertain if we have reached condition three because I feel we might have similar views on abortion (I am oftentimes an antinatalist too, among other things). However, I don't know, but maybe we have reached the point I was trying to raise in the OP. Maybe where we differ is that I acknowledge that a pregnant woman might have a different view than mine on abortion. And that even if she had intellectualy, before the event, the same view as mine, something might change in her deeper self when "feeling a connection to the life inside her". I am able to respect that for some women, asking them to abort is like asking them to kill someone or cut their own leg. (I think this should be considered a reasonable feeling -- and not delusion-- considering the extent to which it is shared by different cultures, religions, spiritual systems and considering the biology of the pregnancy phenomenon). I don't see how financial underachievement can be put against that. Also, I don't see how it can be considered an equitable solution to absolve the geniter for his responsibility and put it all on the mother and child.

Paul Haynie:
The "feeling a connection to the life inside her" is hormonally induced madness, and it fades when the pregnancy ends, and the body stops producing happy drugs. And if the woman involved knows she was drugged, and expects the withdrawal, the emotional repercussions are significantly reduced. I have problems with the idea of making decisions based on transient biological effects that predate humanity. And there is still the argument that the final go/no-go decision is, and must be, made by the woman alone, and, by inevitable extension, she must also be the person who takes primary responsibility.

Natacha HoopZie:
I am sorry, I am about to reach condition four. To consider that the feeling of connection of the mother to the potential child as madness (and transient) and the potential suicidal ideations of the father as reason and determinent for decision making is either a "lack of interest in the truth", a relative lack of shared knowledge of biological processes (I don't pretend to be a specialist, so perhaps we don't "own" the same knowledge in regards of the biological frame of human interactions and it would be too fastidious, on my end, to go through it all), an irreconciliable epistemological standpoint or irreconciliable ethical views. I also question your affirmations that imply that abortion is without long term life-changing effects on the woman.
"Life changing consequences" are incured when the gametes are released in the reproductive space and this is where the window of go/no-go decision can be owned by the man.

Paul Haynie:
I think I have found the disconnect. IF ones sees abortion as the logical default in the event of unplanned pregnancy (which I do), then the choice to bear the child becomes an extraordinary voluntary action for which the woman is wholly responsible. If one perceives childbirth as the logical default (which you seem to), then laying significant responsibility on the father makes sense.

Natacha HoopZie:
Hum. Well yes. And now we could discuss why one should be the default mode over the other... and disagree 😆. I like you anyways, Paul.

Paul Haynie:
I'm glad. I was beginning to fear I had lost that, and that made me sad. (For the record, I have had a LOT of first hand experience with being depressive/suicidal, and also a lot of first- and second-hand experience with the impact of body chemistry on rational thought and decision making, so I don't bring these things up lightly. I have the mileage, and the scars.)

Natacha HoopZie:
I can vigourously disagree with someone and still like him/her as far as exchange of ideas is concerned (I like to read the variety of views different of mine). I also notice that you are courteous in your interventions, and I truly appreciate that someone takes the time to reply and develop on the subject, and even try to find the "core" of the diverging paths. (Obviously, if we were directly concerned by the decision, it might go otherwise! 😆)
I find that it can be a challenge in my own language to concisely align my thoughts to make them understandable to others, it is a little (!) more challenging in a second language. (In a perfect world, I would connect to Natalia Malysheva 's brain so she could synthesize what is in mine 😁)

July 7:
I stumbled across this the other day, realized it would take me hours, if not days, to solve, and walked away, but I archived it. I have played with it a bit since then, and am convinced that *I* will never solve it; it's too alien to the way my mind works. But I would like to know the solution. Any takers?
/////
Complete the five words below in such a way that the two letters that end the first word also start the second word, and the letters that end the second word also start the third word, etc. The two letters that end the fifth word also start the first word, completing the cycle.
**IV**
**OT**
**IC**
**NG**
**RA**
/////
Update: Two solutions (which match) so far.
SHIVER-EROTIC-ICICLE-LENGTH-THRASH

July 9:
Life in my household:
Hyena: Doesn't that (actor playing a ) newsreader look like...
Dementia: Alan Cumning? No, I don't see it.
Hyena was momentarily stunned while he caught up with what had just happened, and then they both laughed.

July 9:
From the Dredge. Faire starts tomorrow, and I STILL haven't bought my season pass; I have a worse than usual case of threshold anxiety, for no reason I can name. But memories like this one are precious...
From 2016:
Respect the drive-by: Best Bristol moment of the day: She was sitting by herself in the Friends of Faire garden. I walked by, and said, "It has been my experience that pretty girls who are sitting by themselves prefer to remain that way," and smiled. Her face lit up, and I walked away.

July 10:
Posted elsewhere:
In an unfettered free market, the price of unskilled labor will trend toward the cost of subsistence for one person, with no allowances for mishap. Trying to improve on this with minimum wage legislation is very much like trying to legislate the weather. A stable, long term solution REQUIRES some form of direct welfare, like UBI.

July 11:
I just growled, loudly and excessively, at someone I care about. It was the result of a multi-element communication cascade failure, and the awful thing is that I CAN NOT apologize for what I said, only for the way I said it.
The nature of our world is such that sometimes you are called upon to love people who hold ideas which you find stupid or even abhorrent, and the only way to maintain balance is to avoid those topics altogether, and I tripped into one of those areas when my guard was down, and I spoke truth... and hurt someone I care about. I don't know if the rift can be repaired, and I feel sick about it.
Update: Repairs have been made, the toxic subject has been successfully reburied, and all is well. So far.

July 11:
I may have sold a copy of "Fiddler's Rose" to the CVS cashier today, because I was wearing a tee shirt based on Disney's "Hercules". Arachne's web is very broad, indeed.

July 12:
From the Dredge. I'm not sure I have this properly archived, and this makes sure I will. And it's worth re-reading, anyway.
From 2015:
There is a very small number of writers who, regardless of medium, routinely rip my heart out. Joss Whedon is one of them. At ComicCon this weekend, someone asked him the meaning of life. His answer follows.
//////
The world is a random and meaningless terrifying place and then we all—spoiler alert—die. Most critters are designed not to know that. We are designed, uniquely, to transcend that, and to understand that—I can quote myself—a thing isn’t beautiful because it lasts.
The main function of the human brain, the primary instinct, is storytelling. Memory is storytelling. If we all remembered everything, we would be Rain Man, and would not be socially active at all. We learn to forget and to distort, but we [also] learn to tell a story about ourselves.
I keep hoping to be the hero of my story; I’m the annoying sidekick. I’m kind of like Rosie O’Donnell in that Tarzan movie. He keeps hoping to be Tarzan, but finding that he’s that weird monkey that nobody can tell if it’s a girl or a boy.
My idea is that stories that we then hear and see and internalize—and wear hats from and come to conventions about... We all come here to celebrate only exactly that: storytelling, and the shared experience of what that gives us. The shared experience of storytelling gives us strength and peace. You understand your story and everyone else’s story, and that it can be controlled by us. This is something we can survive, because unlike me, you all are the hero of your story.

July 12:
From the Dredge. Again, not sure I have it properly archived.
From 2015:
While I am dumping out thoughts by writers I admire, we have the following from Warren Ellis (who hasn't ripped my heart out, that I can remember, but is generally worth reading) regarding a frequently repeated, and often wrong, piece of writing advice. He is talking specifically about comics, but the lesson generally applies. The heart of it? "Anyone who cannot imagine genuine storytelling reasons for telling something instead of showing something is an idiot." Yup.
/////
Some people will quote a rule at you, often with a snotty air: “show, don't
tell.” They will tell you that it is bad storytelling if, for instance, the art
doesn't tell the story independently of the text, or, classically, if you are
telling the reader something instead of showing it to them.
This is crap.
Bruce Wagner's WILD PALMS graphic novel, wonderfully illustrated by the late
Julian Allen, frequently “tells” you in dialogue what you are seeing in the
art. So went the criticism. Except, of course, that it wasn't. What it was
frequently doing was striking subtle friction off the proximity of writing to
art – there was additional information in the art, and the blankness of the
text had its own subtextual payload.
Anyone who cannot imagine genuine storytelling reasons for telling something
instead of showing something is an idiot. Anyone who can't imagine the art and
the text telling you *two different stories* is an idiot.
Try not to describe the illustration in the dialogue or caption unless there's
a very specific reason for it. That's it. Anything else is fair game.

July 14:
Posted to a Traveller board:
Heh. I write pseudo-medieval fantasy, and let me tell you, it is MUCH easier to include hard science in fantasy than it is to write actual hard SF. The problem is that as science expands, it is constantly slamming doors where there weren't even walls 150 years ago. It is becoming increasingly clear that interplanetary commerce will NEVER be viable. So you fall back on the "initial conditions" rule: IF we assume the following pretty much impossible things to be true, we will then follow our rules religiously. And by THOSE rules, "Traveller" is pretty hard.

July 15:
From the Dredge. I was just thinking about this photo yesterday, and here it is. The reason... Yesterday, I was 40 pounds lighter than my all time high, in 2012, or, somewhat more relevantly, 25 pounds lighter than I was on January 1, 2020. (We didn't ALL gain weight during the quarantine...) On the other hand, I am still 25 pounds heavier than I was in 2009 (the low point of this millennium, so far), and 105 pounds heavier than the fellow in the picture. And I am farther away from him than that, actually, because he had muscle mass that I just DON'T. Youth is so very much wasted on the young... ("Highbinder" photo)
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

June 16:
From the Dredge. Sharing mostly because I didn't start archiving Facebook posts until 2017, and this one deserves to be archived.
2015:
Life in my household:
Hyena: So a woman goes to her female friends... a woman who is not you, who HAS female friends...
Dementia: Hey, I talk to Sue two or three times a year... at a party... that she is hosting... with a house full of other people...

June 17:
So yesterday I proved experimentally that the 2020 Six Flags season pass that I never used because of the Plague is still good through the 2021 season. I would have ridden the carousel if it hadn't been in a temporary time out when I was standing there considering it. So now I have somewhere to go when my feet get itchy. Except that that usually happens at about 1:00 AM. Ah, well.

June 18:
Gobbledygook, Part Two:
So the idea of doing a Icosa-Dodeca-Triacontal Tensegrity Sculpture is kind of stuck in my head. This time around, I am thinking of something about half the size of the previous one, so it would fit in a room with a normal ceiling. Design thoughts continue.
The image shows the Skeletal Steel Sphere, itself a study for the previous, larger sculpture, with the struts for the Icosahedral Tensegrity indicated with rubber bands. It's not obvious, but it's really wonderfully symmetrical: Three pairs of parallels. I still haven't determined if it could be built with only six pieces of edge rope; that's probably the next puzzle.

June 19:
From the Dredge. A good story, but also not heretofore in my archive.
2015:
Yesterday was the 200th anniversary of the battle of Waterloo, so this story is a day late. Sort of.
Many years ago, I was visiting Clueless Tom in Indianapolis, and we went to a gaming night at Ball State in Muncie. The game of the night was an SPI mega-game called "Wellington's Victory" which recreated Waterloo at some absurd scale; the game covered a ping pong table and had thousands of counters. My late friend Kurt Lortz was the French leader; his opposite number was a fellow named Bob whose normal gaming tactic was to play the historical winner and try to duplicate the historical tactics.
Kurt picked me out as the most saavy of the non-participants and handed me the rules. "Read the victory conditions," he said. "Tell me what you see." I read, blinked, re-read, and said, "There is nothing here that rewards French aggression. It assumes that the French will attack, and the English will defend, but doesn't reward that." Kurt smiled broadly. "Exactly."
When Kurt didn't charge into the English position, Bob was flustered, and then charged the French. It that particular alternate reality, they are speaking French in London these days...
Here's to you, Kurt. Mucko Hee!

June 20:
This was in the Facebook Dredge this morning, but I didn't want to just share it, since it contained a spelling error. But I DID want to get it properly archived.
Garbage etymology of the day:
Ap- prefix meaning "farthest", as in apogee or aphelion.
-logos, root meaning "word", as in all sorts of things.
Therefore, an "apology" is actually the furthest thing from what you really WANT to say...

June 22:
Once more, with feeling:
Once upon a long ago, there was a Christian rock group called "Love Song" that was hugely popular on the appropriate circuit. They cut two albums, and then the front man went solo. During my incarceration at Wheaton College, "Love Song Minus Chuck" did a concert. They called themselves, "A Wing and a Prayer".
The guy who opened for them played the piano and sang, and one of the songs he did, with appropriate introduction, was the ORIGINAL "Wing and a Prayer" from 1943. He gave it the lonely, forlorn performance the song deserves. The chorus STAYED with me; at any time since then, I have ALWAYS been able to reproduce it, and my voice almost always breaks. The image is just that haunting: A twin-engined bomber, homeward bound and hurt badly, crossing the English channel and reporting that they were going to be just a LITTLE bit late.
I don't know if that performer rewrote the lyrics, or if my brain just refused to hold onto the rest of the song, because it was kind of offensively dumb. The lyric I remember, and that bit of melody, are definitely part of the original song. But the song as a whole is happy and bouncy and overproduced and, well, dumb. But it was also very typical of the sort of morale booster that was popular at that point in time.
It turns out that the first documented use of the phrase is in a John Wayne movie, "Flying Tigers." But it is used idiomatically, and was certainly in use before that. (And then there is the context in which I have heard the phrase most often, as part of the theme song to "Greatest American Hero.")
None of that matters. *I* still hear that B-25 radio operator letting his base know that they are hurt bad, but they're still flying, and they are still doing everything they can to make it home.
"Coming in on a wing and a prayer; coming in on a wing and a prayer. We've got one engine gone, but we'll still carry on; coming in on a wing and a prayer."

June 24:
Esoterica of the Oars:
Something that has rattled around in my head for years now, and never seems to get out, and should be SOMEWHERE.
I have spent several dozen hours rowing a fixed seat canoe, and at least as many on a rowing machine, experimenting between fixed seat and sliding seat modes, and I have done a fair amount of research. Here is stuff that I have learned.
The BIG difference between fixed and sliding seat is NOT that sliding seat is more efficient; it's not. It does have a much wider effective power band, though. The human engine has a nominal sustained output of about 75 watts, and a maximum burst output of over a thousand watts. The length of the burst varies a great deal with condition; I have sustained 1100 watts for 15 seconds within the last decade; a cyclist named Eddie Meryx once sustained 750 watts for a full hour. Fixed seat and sliding seat have pretty much the same efficiencies through at least 100 watts, and then fixed seat starts to fall behind.
What this means is that in the standard 2000 meter race, sliding seat wins hands down. If you are doing an expedition, though, where your energy reserves have to be maintained for hours at a time, there is no real difference. The same goes for race oriented practices like feathering your oars and crossing your hands; they give you small energy efficiencies in the short term, and in the long term they amount to next to nothing.
I am really happy with my fixed seat, non-feathering, forward-facing rig. It lets me relax my hands on every single recovery stroke (which my moderately defective hands NEED), and use odd seating positions (my favorite is with one foot in the center of the footboard, and the other tucked underneath me, which has no drawbacks for expedition rowing).
(Written because a young woman, Ellen Falterman, completed this year's Texas 200 in a 17 foot rowing canoe, and I REALLY want to get out on the water and roll Suchia's odometer past the 300 mile mark (it's stuck at 295), and I am not sure I will be able to get the canoe on and off the van this year.)

June 26:
Television gold:
We are not big fans of TV comedy. We hear about "must watch" new shows starring people we like, and we watch two or three episodes, and then quit. There are a few exceptions, but mostly we don't even bother. Tonight, though, we hunted down a new BBC show called "We are Lady Parts" about five London-based Muslim women who make up a punk band. It is every bit as deranged as that sounds. The two central characters are also as real as anyone who has ever been on TV, and the show is FUNNY. There are only six episodes, so we watched the whole thing tonight, and I have not laughed this much at the box in... years, probably. Highly recommended.

June 27:
Literature:
This morning I filled a hole in my education by finishing Abbott's "Flatland", something I should have read long ago but never got around to. It was published in 1884, and it is written in painfully excessive late Victorian prose. It also flogs the skin right off its local dead horse. Having said that, though, there is amazing cleverness at the core of the book, and it deserves its place in the pantheon.
Some books are simply better in summary than in experience, and this is definitely one of them. But the summary is absolutely worth reading.

June 28:
Found money:
I have been dragging my feet about buying a season pass to the Ren Faire this year. It's a fairly large piece of change, and money is tight. I look around my intra-cranial landscape, and I read my journal entries from 2016 and 2019, and I tell myself that I NEED this-- and then another voice starts reminding me about trivial things like food, clothing, and shelter.
I am definitely something of a hoarder. It's kind of inevitable when the pleasure of acquiring a kind-of-wonderful thing exceeds the pain of getting rid of it. But last week, I learned that a small stack of books that I manifestly do not want had a bit of collectability, and yesterday I sold them. And now I have most of the price of the Ren Faire ticket in my pocket. This is a VERY good thing...

June 28:
It just hurts...
Watching "The Irregulars", an oddball Sherlock Holmes adjacent paranormal show. Mycroft Holmes just said, "magus" with a soft "G". Several times. It is possible that this is a Britishism of which I was unaware. By the end of the scene I was writhing on the floor...
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

June 1:
On the screen:
In addition to the (fairly small) list of current shows we keep up with, for the last six months, our back-up television has been a run through the complete "Supernatural" library, all 327 episodes of it. We finished it last week, after six months of steady going. So now we are catching up on movies.
Last night, we watched "Enola Holmes", which was just fun. Millie Bobby Brown continues to be amazing in everything she does, and the entire production has more than enough charm to balance the more than occasionally silliness.
Trivia: The name "Enola" appears to have been constructed from whole cloth as the name of the protagonist of a novel in the late 19th century. A fan of the novel gave the name to a daughter, who had a son, who became a pilot, who had his mother's name painted on the nose of the B-29 he commanded. Make of that what you will.

June 2:
Short stories:
There was an external trigger; what it was doesn't matter. But I started thinking about short stories. You may know I am REALLY bad at "favorite", but there are a few stories that just blow me away...
Roughly in the order in which I encountered them:
"The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry
"The Open Window" by Saki
"A Rose for Ecclesiastes" by Roger Zelazny
"The Way We Die" by David Drake
"The Sheik and the Dustbin" by George MacDonald Fraser
Four of them are pretty much perfect; one is deeply flawed, but turns on an impossibly brilliant idea. None of them are very far from my consciousness when I write (and if you know all of those stories, that might explain a few things).

June 3:
Two years ago, due to bizarre circumstances, I rented a storage locker downstate from a man named Jimmy. The person who owned the stuff in the storage locker died six months later, and the locker and its contents became a perennial source of irritation, because there was no good way to just get rid of it.
A while ago we found someone willing to clean out the locker in exchange for the contents. Yesterday, I got a call from Jimmy's wife, who said that a nice young man had my locker open, and was going through the contents. I said it was fine, we talked a bit, and I learned that Jimmy died last fall of Covid-19.
If February of 2019, I spoke to Jimmy and shook his hand. I have known people directly who have had the disease; I have known people directly who have lost people who they have known directly; Jimmy is the first person I have known directly who has died.
The wheel turns. The world is ever so slightly darker than it was.

June 5:
Went for a walk today, first "fitness walk" since winter. 2.06 miles in 54:30, Fitbit gave me credit for 17% more distance than I actually covered; I am walking shorter strides than the last time I re-calibrated.

June 6:
Reminiscences:
We just finished watching a retrospective of a TV show that premiered 50 years ago. It brought the following story to mind:
In the spring of 1976, sitting US President Gerald R. Ford addressed the student body at Wheaton college as part of his re-election campaign. After the speech was over, the Wheaton College Band played him off the stage.
I am sure that everything was vetted, but sometimes you take things for granted that you probably shouldn't. I mean, why on earth wouldn't you OK a Sousa march as a Presidential recessional?
So Ford left the stage to the tune of "The Liberty Bell", and the entire student body did their best to not laugh at the fact that it was also the theme music to "Monty Python's Flying Circus."

June 7:
Life in my household:
Character on TV: Don't worry about the money. When my book sells, I'll just take care of it.
Hyena: (Snort).
Dementia: I heard that.
Hyena: She has no hope. She's a slow writer, she's an idiot.. and she has a soul. You can overcome one of those, probably not two. And no way in hell all three.
Dementia just laughed.

June 10:
Historical Insanity:
Hyena was yammering about the fact that representative government is predicated on the idea that the average citizen can't keep up with everything that is going on, and tries to refer government to experts. It is unquestionably a better system than straight democracy, but is still deeply flawed.
This led to a minor quest to verify an apocryphal story about a legislative body that voted to set pi equal to three. It turns out to be more than half true: It happened in Indiana in 1897.
Details on Wikipedia.

June 11:
Stuff that falls out of my head:
"I don't know root five off the top of my head, but I do know that it's equal to two phi minus one, and I have phi memorized, so I can produce it on demand anyway."


June 12:
The wheel turns...
My in-laws live in Idaho. My father-in-law should have been in custodial care two or three years ago, but my mother-in-law insists that everything is fine, and the situation has continued, decaying by degrees.
On Sunday, my mother-in-law fell and spent 17 hours on the floor. She was unable to get her husband to understand that she needed to make a telephone call, or even what a telephone was. On Tuesday night, while she was sleeping, he went for a walk and ended up being held at gunpoint in a neighbor's bedroom. My mother-in-law continues to insist that everything is fine, they just need to make a few adjustments.
My brother-in-law and his wife, who are local to the situation, and going through the process of moving FIL into custodial care, and MIL into assisted living. MIL is fighting them tooth and nail. All we can do is offer moral support (and, honestly, be grateful for the distance).
The wheel continues to turn...

June 13:
Gobbledygook:
The figure in the photo was made by combining a dodecahedron
(12-sided die) and an icosahedron (20 sided die). The vertices of the combined figure map exactly to a rhombic triacontahedron (30 sided die). Both the dodecahedron and the icosahedron can be built as tensegrities, with edges under tension supported by interior diagonals. I have this urge to build a Mark II version based on the tensegrities: Ten dodecahedral diagonals, six icosadredral diagonals, and pre-measured rope segments for all 60 of the edges. Plus another sixty for the edges of the triacontahedron, just for grins. It would end up having 120 triangular faces, in planar sets of four.
I already know all of the numbers, I just need to do the fabrication. I'm not QUITE that manic, yet.
Not quite...
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

May 17:
So... Last night, "60 Minutes" did a story on UAP. It's worth finding, and takes less than 15 minutes to watch. And then, if you wonder what point I am making, go out to YouTube and search on "Sigma 957."
We are ants, living on a nature preserve. This is VERY Not Good. On the other hand, at least the Others seem to be Observers, rather than Harvesters. (There is no third alternative, if the Others exist at all.)

May 19:
This comes to me from Carl the Were-hamster. I may not take it quite the way it was meant, but I'm good with that. Joyce's reputation is an insult to everyone who has ever attempted to tell a coherent story.
(Meme: James Joyce slapped words onto a page the way Jackson Pollock slapped paint on a canvas." --Mike Rugnetta

May 20:
From the dredge. Significant mainly because I did the same job two days earlier this year (and my back has not forgiven me, yet).
5 Years Ago
Today I fought the first skirmish in this year's campaign of the never ending war against the ever-encroaching hideous herbaceous hordes. While battle has still not been joined on the Western Front, the battle on the Eastern Front was successful, and the creeping green horror was pushed back to its historical mid-winter boundaries. (I mowed the front lawn.)

May 23:
The world's business community continues to be completely disinterested in developing steady-state models, or in dealing with the ultimate exhaustion of particular resources.
(Meme: The world would be a much better place if getting a degree in Economics required a working knowledge of Ecology.)

May 24:
Six weeks ago, I did not know what a Reuleaux Tetrahedron was. Today, I have one in my hands. We live in magical times, when the magic works.

May 25:
This, from Jennie Cruisie, a writer who can't quite fit into the "Romance" genre, and the world is better for that. (It honors two of my favorite authors; how could I NOT disseminate it?)
///
May 25th, as all Douglas Adams readers know, is Towel Day, the day to flaunt your towel in memory of an amazing author, who gave the best general advice of all time: Don’t Panic.
May 25th is also, as any fan of Terry Pratchett should know, Wear the Lilac Day, in honor of the events of the Discworld People’s Revolution (see Night Watch) whose rallying cry was,”Truth, Justice, Freedom, Reasonably Priced Love, and a Hard-Boiled Egg!” And after Pratchett’s diagnosis of Alzheimer’s, Wear the Lilac Day has been used to raise awareness and funding for Alzheimer’s research.
Because of this, today is the day that Argh Nation Wears the Lilac Towel in honor of these two great authors. We shall never forget (although we may be a little absent-minded at times and are easily distracted). Thank you, gentlemen, for multiple weirdly great characters in many twisting, startling plots not to mention brilliant observations on life in general and some of the funniest, smartest writing in specific. You are missed.
///

May 25:
Apropos of inappropriate use of the word "apropos":
Those who misuse "apropos"--
To try to sound clever, you know--
Will find that the word
Doesn't mean what they'd heard
And should really just let the thing go.

May 27:
So... After two years, I have yet to get 100 copies of "Fiddler's Rose" into circulation, but at least four people have read it TWICE. (For the record: Carl, Doug, Georgia, Stan.)

May 28:
Just spent a few hours in the company of adopted nephew Kevin. We haven't seen each other in 12 years. Wow, have I missed good conversation...
.
May 30:
Esoterica:
Usagi Yojimbo's kimono is Tardis blue.
(I know. It's a common color, and this doesn't actually mean ANYTHING, but I get misty thinking about it anyway, because... Yeah.)
>>Carl Johnson
Scotland Yard blue, Pantone 2955C!
>>>>Paul Haynie
It occurred to me, after I posted this, that Usagi pretty much defines my bridge into the furry community. That is, I am furry-sympathetic, but my interest is in the non-sexual, somewhat blood-stained corner of furriness, and that is a pretty small corner indeed.

May 31:
Movies:
There are two people who need to be at every cinematic story conference. One of them is a superannuated adolescent who keeps saying, "Wouldn't it be cool if...?" and the other is a jaded oldster who responds to everything "Cool" says with, "Calm down, kid..."
We finally saw "Shadow in the Clouds" last night, and my expectations were WAY too high. Essentially, their story table had at least two "Cools" and NO "Calms", and the result was a chaotic mess. There was a LOT of good material in this film, and Chloe Grace Moretz was very good, but... WOW, the dumb, it was painful.
We also watched "The Limehouse Golem", which is the closest thing to a bad movie Bill Nighy has ever made. Surprise endings that make sense, but leave you wishing you hadn't watched to movie at all, are never a good idea.
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

May 1:
So... Got invited up to Lake Geneva for BBQ and games today. Life interfered, and I showed up six hours late. The last two guests were on their way out the door, but stayed a bit to talk to me, since I haven't seen any of them in a year and a half. And I came home with treasure.
Tom Wham was one of those "last two guests" who were leaving, and I FINALLY managed to get him together with a print of his 1977 "Gnoll" illustration. He was a bit surprised, since he usually doesn't sign PRINTS. So he gave me a bit more than I asked for: My very own spur-of-the-moment snit. Treasure indeed.

May 5:
Mathematical Foolishness:
The sculpture in the image is an intersection between a regular dodecahedron (D12) and a regular icosahedron (D20). When I designed it, 20-plus years ago, I started with the knowledge that the figure existed, a calculator, a pen, and scratch paper. The first challenge was to figure out the ratio between the edge lengths of the two component figures needed to make it work. Sketches were made, trigonometry was applied, an answer was derived. It happened to look a LOT like the a Golden Ratio, but there were a LOT of decimal approximations along the path, so it was only an approximation.
The other day, I was looking at the steel wire early study of this sculpture that has been hanging from the living room ceiling since it was made, and thought that I really needed to attempt to prove that the answer was EXACTLY a Golden Section. I promised myself that I would work on it the next time my brain got hungry for that kind of problem.
Said event happened on Monday night. I drew a couple of sketches, laid out the equations, and... Damn. There it was. It was supposed to be a CHALLENGE. I was looking forward to it, and it just jumped off the page into my lap. Ah, well.

May 5:
Intra-Cranial Musings
"I don't have any ideas on tap. What can we steal?"
"Twain's 'The Prince and the Pauper'?"
"Ok, so we shuffle the point of view on that, and we get..."
"'The Prisoner of Zenda', by Anthony Hope, which has been done to death."
"But we can shuffle the point of view, and..."
"'Double Star', by R.A. Heinlein, and 'Royal Flash' by G.M. Fraser."
"Fine. Let's make the double who is in power EVIL, and..."
"'A Witch Shall Be Born', R.E. Howard.'"
"Yeah, but we could make the hero who helps the hapless original a Trickster..."
"That might just work."

May 6:
Life with Hyena:
This came up in conversation this morning; it's from November, 2006, and we had just seen, "Happy Feet."
/////
My favorite moment of the afternoon came after the movie, while waiting for Dementia outside the bathroom. I was bored and had just seen a tap dancing movie, so I started to do a time step while I waited. I looked up and saw several children staring at me in fascination; I stopped. One of them stepped forward and tried to mimic me.
"Like this," I said. "Up on your toes, and then heel down, toe down, switch feet, heel down, toe down... And then you speed up." And then they were all doing it.
I love behavioral viruses...
/////

May 6:
My brother Tim, the Rocket Welder, with some of his handiwork. (Actually, he and his company designed and built the machine that built this particular bit of aerospace hardware, but you get the idea.)

May 8:
This was part of a larger piece in the Facebook Dredge this morning. It seems to be worth sharing independently.
"I have been in love with Natasha Romanov since about a decade before Scarlett Johansson was born, and I continue to be impressed with how well Marvel and Johansson are bringing her to the screen. (Taciturn, solitary, loyal, ruthless, violent, damaged, and (peculiarly) ethical is NOT an easy path to walk.)"

May 8:
I was listening to a fairly popular SF audio book yesterday, and the author committed the ever-lamentable "Fictitious Force Fallacy." I groaned.
For those who came in late:
At some point during the study of physics, the student inevitably encounters the idea that centrifugal force is a "fictitious" force. Some students come away from this lesson with the impression that they must never again speak of centrifugal force, but instead refer only to centripetal force. This is always awkward and usually wrong.
The problem begins with the fact that, when a physicist refers to centrifugal force as a "fictitious" force, he is using the word "fictitious" in a technical and non-intuitive fashion. The label derives from the fact that, at some point in the wild days before Isaac Newton, centrifugal force was regarded as a thing unto itself, and not just a known property of matter reacting to special circumstances. In that sense, and that sense only, centrifugal force is a fiction. This will not prevent it from rolling your car if you take a turn too fast.
Consider the following:
One: John was smashed against the wall by centripetal force. This is a nice, straightforward sentence (It's passive voice, but live with it. Really.) It is also BAD physics, but exactly the sort of thing that people who suffer from the Fictitious Force Fallacy tend to write.
Two: John was smashed against the wall by centrifugal force. This is grammatically identical to the first sentence, and better physics. It isn't as precise as it could be; see below.
Three: John was smashed against the wall by the centrifugal effect of the station's motion. This is bad writing, but a bit more accurate than #2, above.
Four: John was smashed against the wall by his inertia reacting against the centripetal force supplied by the station's wall. This is good physics and awful writing.
Takeaway: Centrifugal force is the inverse of centripetal force, and is far easier for the human brain to understand than the pedantic details.

May 10:
New story:
The story that collapsed on me in March, that I had been working on since January, jumped out at me this afternoon, and let me finish it.
This is the third story featuring Perf the Goblin; links to the first two parts are at the end of the story. ("Exigencies")

May 12:
So... This is a new thing. The "Storyteller" page is going to get the "writing process" posts, and "Spiral Path" is going to be more about products. I think. Maybe. I am making this up as I go along.
( https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100067577394163 )

May 14:
What I want to know, with all of this insane gasoline hoarding going on, is: Where are the fires? Where are the explosions? Why is this story so BORING?
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

April 17:
Fifty years ago today, April 17, 1971, Dave Arneson had his local gaming group over for what he called a medieval Braunstein. A time-traveling hyper-intelligent fly on the wall would have recognized the session as a fantasy role playing game, the first such that had ever taken place in the history of the world.
The pebble becomes the avalanche, and the world changes.

April 18:
Dredged from 2016:
The following is posted on behalf of the friend who wrote it, because it's sad and smart, appropriate WAY beyond its primary content, and generally worth reading.

/////
When I came out poly to my family, the message that I got was- sanitized, paraphrased, and to the salient point:
"We love you, but we do not like how you live and we don't want your sex life shoved into our faces."
For anyone who has said that, or something that could be condensed to that, I have a story to tell you.
I am the most boring man at my workplace.
"I went camping with my husband this weekend. [Long story with a lot of anecdotes.] What did you do, Jason?"
I spent time with a woman from out of town who is for all intents and purposes a second wife. We took the kids to the zoo. I got to take lots of pictures, and that was amazing. That afternoon, we met up with my wife and her boyfriend, an old friend, and my new girlfriend who is fitting hand in glove into my world. After dinner, we met up with other friends and watched a movie about two men learning to share the woman who loves them both. I was snuggled on the couch between my wife and my new girlfriend, and my out of town girlfriend leaning against my legs. Everyone was happy, everyone laughed and had a good time, and I haven't felt that kind of carefree joy in a very long time. After the movie, my out of town girlfriend and I got to spend an evening alone together and reconnect, because our last two visits were short due to random accidents of life. All in all, it was a great weekend and I came out of it feeling amazing and refreshed.
"Not much. I had dinner and watched Bandits with some friends."
I have to keep it short and simple, so as not to invite questions because I don't like to lie and I'm not good at it. I can't share in the communal Monday experience because I don't want to "shove my sex life into people's faces." This closet, as comfortable and well appointed as it is, grinds away at me when I'm at work, just like it has for the last 20+ years. I can almost tell this story to my parents these days, but I make lighter of it than it is because I don't feel like watching my mother stiffen up, change the subject, or heaven help us all cry again.
To most of the people on my friends list, this is echo chamber material. I'm posting it friends only because the closet is still a real and necessary thing at work, even if I refuse to go into it otherwise (excepting certain extenuating circumstances.) That said, feel free to tell this story if you think it would be useful. Copy and paste it without attribution if needed. If you feel as I do, at least know that you're not alone. And if you've ever given that message to someone you say you love, think long and hard about the pain you're causing that you might never see. Maybe dig around inside you to figure out why you feel like you can talk about your life and loves, but it's not appropriate for someone else to have the same bonding experience.
/////

April 19:
Life in my household:
We are still plowing through "Supernatural". We have gotten to season 13, in which Dean is dealing with epic grief by being chronically caustic and surly. After one particularly deft insult, Dementia commented, "Wow. When Dean is grumpy, he's almost as caustic as you are."
I'm inclined to take that as a compliment...

April 21:
I have always found the idea of "dream job" troublesome. I never bought into the idea that "work" was a source of meaning, it was always something unpleasant that you had to do to avoid even more unpleasant things, like being cold and hungry. And I've always had many more things to do than I could accomplish in several lifetimes, WITHOUT worrying about food and shelter. Every now and then I run into people who actually love their jobs, and I react with both envy and bafflement.

April 22:
Mostly useless trivia:
It's not certain, but the odds are that a celebrity "Dame" outranks a "Knight". The reason for this is that most celebrity knights have the rank of "Knight Bachelor", the lowest rank of knighthood in the British system, and that rank is NEVER issued to women. The lowest such rank that is open to women is "Dame Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire", which, like its male counterpart ("Knight Commander of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire") is slightly higher on the ladder. (Also a slightly different ladder, but higher in any case.)
One finds oneself going down some very odd rabbit holes while watching "Graham Norton"...

April 23:
These (Spiral Path Business Cards) came in today's mail. They are part of my deranged and haphazard plan to play Storyteller at Bristol this year. I shouldn't (and WILL NOT) accept tips, but I can certainly push these on people who are interested.
I think it's a functional concept: Dress to mostly fade into the background, but with a, "May I Tell You a Story?" sign on my hat, and then see what develops, all while being careful not to interfere with the official performers, or offending the Powers That Be.

April 25:
So the question of the day (and I am looking directly at you, Carl Johnson) is: To what extent would you consider "Fiddler's Rose" furry fiction? I am looking for a hard yes/no binary, but subsequent comments will be VERY welcome. Thanks!
(For bonus points, same deal for "Storybook Orc". And for that matter, the various gnoll-focused fragments.)

April 27:
Mental Meanderings:
I spent two years as an inmate of Wheaton College, a place where the writings of C.S. Lewis are held in VERY high regard, and during that period I consumed almost all of his catalog. I carried MANY things away from that, but the two that have stayed with me most strongly are things that were NEVER discussed at Wheaton and would significantly upset my fellows students, and the administration, and the faculty. Both are from "Perelandra", one of old Clive's most highly regarded works, and he makes the case for each decisively, if somewhat clandestinely: First, that arguments are won based on skill, not on truth, and second, that sometimes violence is the best solution.
I'm a truth-seeker; I am always willing to lose an argument. Over the years I have refuted a fair number of the things Lewis taught. But I have never been able to dent either of those.

April 27:
After 18 months without, my van once again has a nose ring. (Which is to say, I crawled under the car, and hooked up the connection for the nose rope, and the car is now ready to carry the canoe again.)

April 29:
Language meanderings: I recently came across a piece that claimed that the distinction between "High Fantasy" and "Low Fantasy" was etirely one of setting, that what I call "otherworld fantasy" is "High", and what I refer to as "this world" and "crossover" fantasy (two separate categories, to my mind) are "Low." I have always though of the distinction (in addition to being too vague) as having more to do with scope than setting.
Of course, I don't really think of "High" and "Low" in scope, either; I think more in terms of "save-the-world" and "save-the-ranch" plots. Dementia pointed out that "save-the-ranch" is not a particularly transparent term, and this led to a vocabulary discussion. "Epic" captures "save-the-world" moderately well, but the other? I thought for a while, and dredged up "picaresque", which caused Dementia, who has a degree in literature, to look at me cross-eyed.
So the question-- the main question, because there seems to be a LOT of room for discussion here-- is, what is a good way to differentiate between the two scales of story that will be meaningful to the average reader?

April 30:
The "Supernatural" crawl is into Season 14...
How does Dean Winchester say, "I love you"?
"Hey, you wanna drive?"
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

April 2:
From the Dredge. Glorious insanity.
From 2015:
I fully understand that introduing a species to an alien evironment is, if successful, bioterrorism. I don't approve of it. It's a very bad thing. But every now and then I come across a concept that is just so COOL that I wish I were a bit less ethical...
One example would be introducing bull sharks to Lake Michigan. They could handle the fresh water, but unfortunately the cold would probably kill them. ::sigh::
Another possibility that has just come to my attention would be to introduce Japanese snow monkeys to Wisconsin. There is already a colony of several hundred on a reserve in Texas, so they have the adaptabiliity to diet and we know they can handle the temperature. Yes, I know that this would be ecologically insane and highly illegal, but... Monkeys. In the North American forests. How cool is that?

April 2:
Marketing isn't just "soul-sucking"; that's not a strong enough term. It doesn't just drain your soul away, it strips your soul away in tiny sequential pieces and then pours pain-enhanced torture salt into the wounds.

April 3:
A memory, apropos of nothing:
The clerk in the convenience store was wearing two similar pendants; one was on a slightly longer chain, so that it hung just below the other. One was a unicursal five pointed star in a circle, the other was a six pointed star made of two equilateral triangles: A pentagram, and a star of David.
I pointed and said, "That's an interesting juxtaposition."
She shrugged and said, "I'm Jewish by birth, and I practice the Craft."
I smiled and said, "Well, then, you're entitled." and she smiled back. I picked up my goods, touched the brim of my hat, and went on my way.

April 4:
The Sharp-tongued Critic:
Once upon a long ago, I attended an original play in which Clueless Tom had a part. It was at a local amateur theater, and was a first effort by the playwright-director. It was a train wreck. One of the sets was a massive drawing room thing that went either on or off during every scene change (except, of course, for the intermission, when there was actually time available). The action of the play took 54 minutes, but the scene changes took 57. The writing and direction were on a par with the set design.
Afterwards, I found myself face to hopelessly earnest and fragile face with the writer-director. I was unwilling to lie outright, but was also unwilling to kick the puppy. I shook his hand, looked him in the eye, and told him that the play was amazing, and that I had never seen anything quite like it. He misinterpreted my words, as he was intended to, and then gushed at me a bit about the writing process. I clenched my teeth and nodded a few times (as did Dementia, who kept a straight face and made vaguely supportive noises throughout), then escaped into the night. Once we were outside, we broke down a bit.
I don't LIKE to lie. I'm good at it, but as a matter of professional integrity, I won't, as a critic, lie with words. But if you force me into a position where the truth is not a socially acceptable option, you would be well advised to pay careful attention to the context.

April 5:
Department of Counter-steering:
Back in the early days of the DucKon Science Fiction Convention, it tried to be REALLY inclusive in its programming. There was a Klingon track, and a Furry track (which eventually spun off to become Midwest Fur Fest), and a Psychic track. The Psychic track was sufficiently playful to allow my friend Mary to run a Chocomancy panel, which used vending machine M&M packets as a divination tool. (Hey, divination needs a randomizer and a set of rules, and that's ALL...) And there was also the annual "Psychics vs Skeptics" panel.
I went to one of those, and it was kind of amazing. The Psychics were BEGGING for research into documented but unexplained phenomena, and the Skeptics were staring fixedly off into space chanting, "No, it's not real, go away." Which is to say that the Psychics were pleading for science, and the Skeptics were demonstrating religious behavior. It was both hilarious and terrifying.
A sufficiently open mind holds nothing, and a sufficiently closed mind admits nothing, and neither case is ideal. The universe continues to be stranger than we can possibly imagine, and I am good with that. Sometimes the only valid answer is, "Keep looking, and remember that the journey is the worthier part."

April 6:
Behind the Eyes:
My usual depression mode is despair, but the Black Dog and I have a LONG history, and I know how to deal with it. Today I am dealing with apathy and a side order of melancholy, and I have a feeling I ought to be worried about that, except, you know, apathy. I'm still trudging forward, it's not paralytic, it just... IS. So far.

April 7:
Writer's Life
When "Fiddler's Rose" went to print, there were three reader comments that I REALLY wanted to receive. Over the two years since then, I have gotten one of them (and thank you so much, Dycon, for those four words ("Good story, well told"); they made my WEEK), and I am herewith abandoning the quest for the other two: To be compared to my prose models, Douglas Adams and Sir Terry Pratchett. Dementia says I should reference those two gentlemen in my blurbs, but I resist. I think I have done well with my goal of emulating their peculiar mastery of the language, but I do NOT tell the same kind of stories they do, and I feel that to invoke them would be fraudulent. Adams and Pratchett are humor writers, and I very much am not such. But we all share a joy in the language that I have tried very hard to convey in my writings, and I think I do it adequately. I hope that at least some of my readers agree with that. Unfortunately, "He writes a lot like Adams and Pratchett, but with more blood and less humor," is not very good ad copy...

Randy Smith: Based on your dialog style, you remind me more of Neil Simon.

The Incomparable Nikki: In terms of deftness with banter, as well as playful elegance with the prose itself, absolutely. Haynie ain’t zany, and insists things make sense, so on the first “OMG WHAT HAPPENS NEXT” read, I found myself thinking more of Heinlein or Brust. - Later: I also got some Elmore Leonard vibes.

April 8:
The Sharp-tongued Critic
I keep saying that I am a sharp-tongued critic. I am aware that there hasn't been a lot of evidence of that, lately; once I got into print, I decided that I should respect the fellowship of living authors, and bite my tongue, regardless of what may go on inside my head, or in live conversation. On the other hand, DEAD authors are fair game, and the other day I stumbled across my review of a book (and subsequent movie) that most of us have read and been forced to compose insincere flattery about: "The Great Gatsby."
Journal, May 15, 2013:
Drawing inspiration from the ads for the upcoming movie, I decided that I would re-read "The Great Gatsby" after some 40 years. I didn't remember it well, and did my best to approach it with as little baggage as possible.
It is a thoroughly mediocre book. If I were truly reading it in a vacuum, I would have suspected that it was an early book by a now well-established middle-aged writer who had dredged it from a bottom drawer in the hope of quick cash.
The prose drove me to think of the dancing hippopotamus in Disney's "Fantasia". While it is often deft and occasionally lyrical, it is so self conscious that the whole is cumbersome and ponderous. I got the impression that Fitzgerald was constantly looking over his shoulder to make sure that the audience was properly cognizant of his cleverness.
The plot is standard stupid-people-being-unhappy stuff. There were apparently some grounds, at the time of publication, for reaction to the idea that people could be so monumentally vapid that their daily lives could kill others as collateral damage and then roll on with no shadow of consequence. What might have been outrageous in 1925, however, is boring in 2013-- and I suspect that even in 1925 the outrage would only have been feigned in the name of propriety.
With two exceptions, the characters are so thin that it is flattery to call them cardboard. The first exception is Gatsby himself, and he is a pulp hero, a creature every bit as improbable as Tarzan, Conan, or Doc Savage.
The second exception is the narrator, who is the closest thing to a real character in the novel. Unfortunately, he is badly marred by Fitzgerald's self indulgence. First person narrators have three faces: The character as he sees himself, the character as the author sees him, and the character as the prose itself reveals him to be. Ideally, the latter two are nearly identical, but not here. While Nick has great depth and passion relative to the other impossibly shallow characters, he is by his own admission, and his actions, fundamentally lacking in those things. And yet the prose, Fitzgerald's often deft, occasionally lyrical, and relentlessly self conscious prose, speaks of depth and passion that do not otherwise exist in the book.
I suppose I am required to mention the optometrist's billboard; it seems to be inescapable. I strongly suspect, given Fitzgerald's quirky and vaguely sadistic sense of humor, that it is what is known locally as a "black helicopter", that is, a prominent and absurd detail which exists solely to give critics a focus onto which they can hallucinate significance. I certainly hope this is the case, and if it is, think better of Fitzgerald for it.
I am told that literary academia regards this piece of mediocre fluff as one the best books ever written. Since I am predisposed to believe that literary academia is intellectually (and by extension, morally) bankrupt, this fact serves to confirm my opinion.
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Journal, May 25, 2013
"The Great Gatsby" is a very, very PRETTY movie that manages to be fairly faithful to the book without ever really getting it. As much as I dislike humorless stories, director Luhrmann's efforts to find humor in this story fail miserably and damage the narrative. The characters of Nick and Gatsby are both stripped of the dignity that Fitzgerald gave them (and he gave them few positive qualities) and are made pathetic. All told, this is a vacuous movie that is unworthy of its cast or its source material (and I don't even LIKE the source material).

April 8:
Does anybody else still play Minesweeper? I'm coming up on 800 games on this install, running an 11% success rate. (Got up to 12% for a while...) About half the failures are mistakes and the other half are simply unwinnable. (I have had endgames where winning required winning five consecutive 50/50 chances.) It's an odd sort of meditation; it isn't exactly restful, but it DOES make the rest of the world go away.

April 9:
It is, once again, National Unicorn Day, and the Dredge offered me this. How could I refuse? ("Unicorns are Monsters.")

April 9:
So... Second stick accomplished, two weeks to relative freedom from the primary threat. (It seems that word about, "The guy who bent the needle," got around. I mentioned it to the RN who was about to stick me, as a caution, and his face lit up. "That was YOU? I HEARD about you...")

April 10:
Long, grumpy writing thing. You have been warned. (If you're a writer, scroll down and read the post script.)
Dementia has a degree in literature, and consumes fiction compulsively (she usually has an audio book, an e-book, and a TV show on standby at all times, active depending on what she is doing), and I am, well, ME. We have FREQUENT discussions about story theory.
Something that comes up a lot, and doesn't seem to be addressed much in the world at large, is the matter of transparency. That is, technique should serve the story, and never call attention to itself. The pitfalls of bad technique are obvious; those of good technique are less so. The idea isn't unique to us; it is actually the original thought behind the often repeated and generally misunderstood maxim, "Kill your darlings."
Oddly, the first example of this idea I encountered had nothing to do with writing; it was a discussion of economics and public relations. It was pointed out to me that a restaurant with three mediocre cooks and one brilliant one would do better to fire the brilliant cook, because inconsistency is toxic to business.
In regard to our household and story, the word "transparency" was first applied to the art of the late Steve Dillon on Garth Ennis' "Preacher". We had been reading the book for a year or more before one of us commented on how consistently perfect the art was, always supporting the story, never calling attention to itself. As time went on, we occasionally remembered to pay attention to Dillon's art, and were always amazed. And then the next issue would arrive, and Dillon's art would slide below the surface, subjugating itself flawlessly to the story as always.
An example of failed transparency is Fitzgerald's grossly over-rated "The Great Gatsby". Fitzgerald's prose is soarling and lyrical, and yet it is presented as the voice of a first person narrator who is hopelessly boring and mundane, and could no more produce those amazing phrases than he could fly. Once you notice the discrepancy, the book disintegrates; the incongruity is as obvious as an off-key tuba in a string quartet.
I am inclined to think that the path to transparency, the real goal of any dedicated storyteller, is through lyricism. That is, I suspect that you must be capable of lyricism in order to master transparency. This comes up because, in my quest to find a path to market my own writings, I come across things that drive me to despair.
The case at hand: A fellow who has been cranking out 50,000 word "novels" at the rate of one a month for the last four years or so, and each of them is pulling in more than $1000 in sales every month. I envy his productivity, and his success. But when I read his stuff...
He might actually be good at laying out stories; I will never know. I can't get past the prose. It is... anti-lyrical. It reads as if he went out of his way to express his thoughts as inelegantly as possible. It is actually painful for me to read. The writer wouldn't know "transparency" if it ran him over in the driveway seventeen times.
Ah, well. I am not a commercial writer. I am an accomplished story-teller who still hopes to pull a meal ticket out of my craft, but no more.
A postscript: I have occasionally told other writers, "You are a talented/competent/accomplished" prose artist." This sounds weak, but it is NOT; in light of the above, and remembering that, when wearing my critic hat, I am a sharp-tongued bastard, it means that I think you have the linguistic part of the craft DOWN. I may not be interested in the story you are telling, but I respect and admire your language craft. And that is no small thing.

April 11:
You'd think that this would be obvious...
(Meme: It amuses me that "Tax and spend Democrat" is considered a damning pejorative phrase by right wing pundits. News flash: That's what governments are SUPPOSED to do. That is, provide necessary services that the private sector can't manage, and pay for those services with taxes. Tax and spend. It's what government that WORKS does.)

April 11:
Dementia came up with this today. Heady company. (And I will say that all four of these women are very much worth getting to know.)("Roses" meme.)

April 12:
I tried to do a couple of social things this weekend, a casual Zoom gathering, and an on-line convention. They both made me feel lonely. Such is life.

April 12:
Two years ago, when I joined RWA (Romance Writers of America), I shelled out for a small piece of RWA bling. I came to the conclusion that RWA wasn't really where I belong; I wrote a romance novel, yeah, but that was mostly an accident.
Now that I have squeaked my way into SFWA (Science Fiction and Fantasy Writers of America), I went looking for a small bit of SFWA bling, and found this: It's a "secret" SFWA decoder ring, made of stainless steel. Oddly enough, it is almost exactly the same size as my wedding band (middling-gargantuan).
It's silly. It's fun. It's more than a little stupid. I kind of love it.

April 13:
Graphical foolishness:
So... I took my completed vaccination card and scanned it, then stripped the scan back to a blank CDC card, then added all of the information back in clean Times Roman (the card is all sans-serif). And then I shrank it down to 3.5 x 2.5, added blank space to make it 3.5 x 5.0, and threw an inverted Pfizer logo into the empty space. Print it, trim it, fold it, shove it into a card protector, and I have a snazzy, high durability pocket-size card. Mostly pointless overkill, but it seemed like reasonable behavior at the time.

April 14:
About 11 months ago, I posted this:
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Trivia:
It takes more delta vee to get from the surface of the earth to (crash into) the surface of the sun than it takes to escape the solar system completely.
An interesting corollary to this is that, if you can handle the navigation, it takes less energy, from earth, to crash into any other star in the Milky Way than it does to crash into the sun.
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It has been niggling at the back of my brain ever since, and here's why: Yes, the orbital velocity of the earth around the sun is more than half the total needed for solar escape. So yes, it DOES take more delta vee to hit the sun than it does to escape, but it absolutely takes less FUEL to hit the sun, because the sun will help you on the inbound trip, and will fight you on the outbound trip. The image shows the proper path: You accelerate outward until your course is 180 degrees away from the sun, and then you shut down your engines and let the sun reel you in. As long as you haven't already hit solar escape velocity when you shut down (and you won't have), you just slide in. Boom!

April 14:
Response to a meme on "Whiskey and Fire" that read: "Space is littered with the remains of time travellers who were smart enough to time travel but too dumb to realize the earth isn't in the same spot all the time."

This is one of those things that touches off echoes in my brain... As stated, it assumes that there is some kind of "universal coordinate system", which there very much is NOT. The map of the universe is a crazy quilt of gravity wells, all of which are in motion relative to each other, and "location" is just a momentary statement of where your mass is relative to the nearest few significant masses. So the idea that your time travel drive keys on the most significant local mass for location is not only possible (within the absurd bounds of "possible" relative to time travel in the first place), it's EXTREMELY probable. (The meme is still funny, but stuff like this wakes me up in the middle of the night...)

April 14:
Check the dates. Masks for everyone, but the Faire LIVES! (Bristol WILL open in 2021.)

April 15:
Dementia is listening to the audio of the first novel in a popular science fiction series. I hear bits of it, and gnash my teeth, and occasionally ask questions. The science is AWFUL, made worse because the writer seems to be actually striving for authenticity. And I have taken to referring to it as "Mary Sue versus the Straw Men," because, well, it is. (Please do not infer the gender of either the author or the protagonist from that title, by the way.) That's about all I can say without identifying the thing (which I won't do), but... Gaahh!
Edited to add: Dementia wishes me to point out that while this book is not quite bad enough to quit, she will NOT be consuming the next book in the series.

April 15:
I made two posts yesterday about orbital mechanics, and then there was this floating around in my head: I am inclined to dislike time travel fiction; it puts too much stress on my ability to suspend my disbelief. It is FAR easier to believe in magic and dragons. That said, though, I have certainly enjoyed SOME time travel stories.
Larry Niven has proposed that any universe in which it is possible for time travelers to edit the past will inevitably metamorphose itself into a universe in which it is NOT possible for time travelers to edit the past. This closes off a lot of possibilities.
Here's something that closes off most (or all) of the rest: When considering space time, it is reasonable to think of the forward direction for time as "the direction in which entropy increases". Once you see that, you realize that time travel requires access to negative entropy. And if you have access to a functional negative entropy generator, using it to travel through time is kind of like using a space shuttle to go down to the corner store for coffee.
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

March 16:
Guess who's an Associate Member of the SFWA as of about 4:00 o'clock this afternoon? (And a big "Thank You" to Mr. Steve Jackson, who made it possible.)

March 17:
It has now been fifteen years since Clueless Tom was five minutes late to his own death. That which is remembered, lives. (Card: "Final Voyage" poem.)

March 18:
Path of the Madness:
I didn't expect the SFWA membership to make me crazy (-ier). I should have, but I didn't. It was something I wanted, hoped for, and had stopped expecting. And now that I have it, I can't shake the feeling that I sneaked in through the back door. I also can't shake the feeling that, in a well-ordered universe, I should have been invited in the front door. This means that I am simultaneously suffering from Imposter Syndrome AND feeling unappreciated, and much of my mind wishes I would decide on just ONE thing to be crazy over.
A few details: There are three distinct tiers of SFWA membership: Affiliate (cash, plus a referral from an existing member), Associate (sell a short story to a Real Publisher), and Active (sell a book to a Real Publisher (or, alternatively, sell a PILE of self published books)).
So... "Fiddler's Rose", which is both my personal masterpiece and Magnum Opus (probably), gets me nothing, while "Laggy's Last Game", which was a toss-off (I like it, it's a good story, but it was only two days from conception to completion), gets me an Associate membership.
As far as the SFWA is concerned, I'm not a novelist who has been studying the craft for more than 40 years, I'm just a guy who has sold ONE story. And that hurts. On the other hand, I am IN the ballroom, and the buffet table looks pretty good...

March 19:
So, first vaccination today. 12:45 appointment, showed up at 12:30, waited in line until 1:45, got stuck at 2:00, was cleared to leave at 2:30. Only got out of my car to take off my sweater and (during the 30 minute cooldown) hike across country to use the bathroom. They had a case load of 1500 today, and were processing (I think) 36 at a time in the Lake County Fairground pavilion. It's an interesting operation. It would have been nice to know the details above before I left home, though.
Also, was responsible for the waste of a dose when the first needle bent against my skin. Oops.

March 20:
Vernal Equinox, and also Ostara; time for the fourth of my "Celtic Holiday" poems. ("Equinox" card.)

March 21:
I usually read my longer pieces to Dementia before I post them, both because I want her opintion and because it's a good way to find textual flaws (I read "Fiddler's Rose" to her on a chapter by chapter basis while I was writing it). The other day, after hearing my post about my ambivalence regarding SFWA membership, now that I had it, she commented on how alien the whole process of posting such things was to her. This opens the topic of, "Why?"
I'm trying to break myself of the desire to change other people's minds about anything; the effort never accomplishes anything except making me grind my teeth. But I still post a lot of other things...
First, probably, I am keeping my tools sharp. I may not have much ability to make up stories, but I can describe the one I am actually living to the best of my ability, in the name of being ready when an actual new idea comes along.
Second, I am documenting my life for my own sake. I don't HAVE to do that in public, but, the world being what it is, Why NOT? I have pretty good reason to believe that at least a few people find my meanderings entertaining.
Third, I am convinced that pain shared is pain reduced. Talking about the stuff that goes wrong, and occasionally bleeding into the keyboard, helps me keep taking the next step. And, once again, I have good reason to believe that at least a few people find watching me struggle through that next step makes it just a little bit easier for them to make their next step, too.

March 24:
I get all sorts of flak when I say this kind of thing, so here is what the fair-minded but decidedly liberal gentlemen at electoral-vote.com had to say about gun control this very day:
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We've often observed that most Republican politicians don't really want abortion outlawed, because abortion is a powerful wedge issue for the Republican Party. Well, we also suspect that most Democratic politicians, even those from anti-gun states, don't really want gun-control legislation, because gun control is a powerful wedge issue...for the Republican Party. That is to say, many Democratic voters say they want gun control, but they don't make that a priority when voting. On the other hand, there are vast numbers of Republicans (including many infrequent Republican voters) for whom guns are issues #1, #2, and #3. If the Democrats were to somehow pass a gun-control bill, Republican politicians and pundits across the land would wield that like a cudgel. "See? We told you the bleeding-heart, socialist, communist, hippie, anti-American Democrats were coming for your guns!" they will say. The next election would be brutal for the blue team.
In short, the risk/reward calculus simply does not add up for the Democratic Party. Further, even if the Party's elected officials were willing to take a bold risk—not unlike Lyndon Johnson signing the Civil Rights Act of 1964 into law—there is another major impediment: The Supreme Court, which is currently very gun-friendly. The moment that any gun-control legislation was passed, two dozen Republican state attorneys general would sue, the case would quickly reach SCOTUS, and SCOTUS would likely strike the new law down. Politicians are not known for their willingness to sacrifice their careers for the greater good, but even if a bunch of Democrats were up for that, it's hard to justify for a law that's not likely to make it even to the next presidential administration.
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March 24:
A friend of mine, someone with whom I shared a love of small boats, and a minor obsession with the "Hero Wars" game (and, by the way, whose politics I HATED), was named Moose of Year by his local lodge on March 4. On March 5, he was killed in a motorcycle accident. He was 50 years old. He died doing something he REALLY loved, but... WAY too soon.
Open roads, Aaron. Fair winds, calm seas, and friendly fires, but most of all, open roads.

Commented:
Our Hero Wars guild is doing this as a tribute to "Sting", which was Aaron's name in the game. His teams will be our entire entry in a competition on Saturday. (Image of "sole defender" set up.)

March 29:
Clueless Tom would have been 66 today. Here's what I said about the adventure in the photos when it happened:
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So after I made that post about it being Tom's birthday, I got to thinking that GaryCon was still going on, and how much he would have loved it... I cobbled together a badge that would help explain Clueless Tom the Memorial Bear, found him a hat (because he MUST have a hat), and hit the road. Comments on the individual photos will follow in due course. I will have to get a photo of Tommy with Ernie G. in his lair to round out the set, sometime.
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GaryCon has been virtual for the last two years, and has moved into a larger (and for me, less friendly) hotel. But still a good time, in any case.

March 29:
Foolishness. Accurate foolishness, but foolishness nonetheless. ("Gregarious Introvert" meme.)

March 30:
This was on electoral-vote.com this morning. Coca-Cola is hardly a paragon of corporate rectitude, but there are times when I am stupidly proud of the purveyors of my personal addiction...
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When white Atlantans refused to buy tickets for a banquet honoring newly minted Nobel laureate Martin Luther King Jr. in 1964, then-president of Coca-Cola J. Paul Austin called a meeting with Atlanta's business leaders in which he declared: "It is embarrassing for Coca-Cola to be located in a city that refuses to honor its Nobel Prize winner. We are an international business. The Coca-Cola Co. does not need Atlanta. You all need to decide whether Atlanta needs the Coca-Cola Co." The banquet sold out within two hours.
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(The bottle in the photo was made in 1962, and was in general circulation until at least 1987.)

March 30:
A story has happened. Tell me what you think. It contains a character that many of you will recognize... (Link to Grex and the Turtle story.)

March 31:
Life in my household:
The day's news was being discussed. Hyena shook his head and said, "I think I need to quote Ellen Ripley." Dementia just laughed.
Panoply

Random Bits from Facebook

March 1:
Welcome to the madness:
I woke up this morning with the song, "Never On Sunday" stuck in my ear. I have never heard the song end to end, have never seen the movie, don't even know more than a line or two of the song, and haven't heard it at all in decades. Yet there it was. My cranial denizens chewed on it for a while.
At one point, a female voice said, "The difference between a prostitute and a courtesan is like the difference between a bar and a restaurant. You go to a bar for the alcohol. You go to a restaurant for the food, but you GET alcohol."
This has been a public micro-exorcism. Thank you for participating.

March 5:
From the Dredge. Apparently I am in the habit of sharing it every year, and I'm good with that. Maybe I should just start thinking of March 5 as "Elder Traffic Sign" day. (For the record, the sign is still on duty, at 360 Osborne Street, Winnipeg, Manitoba.)(Image of the "Elder Traffic Sign".)

March 5:
My contributor's copy arrived today. It's time to storm the battlements of the SFWA! (Image of cover and contents page of Hexagram #6.)

March 6:
Grishnakh is 39 years old today, and still on duty in my car, as he has been in every other car I have ever owned. (Thanks, Pete!)(Grishnahk portrait.)

March 7:
From an RPG design board (regarding "Stealth"):
About 40 years ago, I actually did some second story work; I was slightly out of my mind, and broke into public buildings, particularly indoor swimming pools, just for the hell of it. Never got caught, but came close a few times. I learned some things. Some of it is dance related, a matter of "grace"; being able to freeze instantly in any position and HOLD that way until a threat has passed. Some of it is learning what color and fabric combinations go black in low light, and which go white (you'd be surprised). Some of it is learning how to stow all of your gear so that it is handy and secure and quiet. And some of it is just refined athletics. You may have the skill and strength to climb over an eight foot fence-- but it takes a great deal more skill and strength to climb over that fence without making any noise.

March 8:
It's my birthday, so we have a poem. It is intended to be neither autobiographical nor prophetic, and yet, it might be either or both.
(In reference to that other post: 50, base 13, is equal to 65, base 10. Which is more obviously relevant today.)
(Card of "Fortune's Toy")

March 9:
A bit of business before I talk about the poem: As is my wont, I have gone through the list of birthday wishes (over a hundred this year, among a few sites), "liked" each", and given a few moment's thought to the identity, and my relationship with, each of the well-wishers. It is always a magical and humbling experience, and I love you all. Thank you.
Now... I happen to share a birthday with Kenneth Grahame (1859 to 1932), author of "The Wind in the Willows." I chose to ignore that fact yesterday (selfish of me), but today he gets his due. I encountered fragments of his work when I was very young, by way of Walt Disney and the Goodman Theater, and read the book when I was in high school. It's very good, though somewhat lost in the cacophony of the modern fantasy market. But then there's the Rat...
Ratty, and his famous line, "There is nothing-— absolutely nothing-— half so much worth doing as simply messing about in boats," has been adopted by a global community of people who agree with that statement, and who call their gatherings "messabouts" therefore. It occurred to me yesterday that the attached poem hasn't seen daylight in years, and that bringing it out was a great way to honor Ratty and his creator.
(And no, I have never built a boat, and probably never will. I am a sailor and an oarsman, not a carpenter. It matters not.)(Card of "Galatea")

March 9:
So... the big birthday present yesterday was a website for Spiral Path Publications. It was still being tweaked up until a few minutes ago, but it seems to be good now! (Link to spiralpathpublications.com)

March 10:
Ad copy I can't use:
Dementia was setting up the new "Spiral Path" web site, and was reading through the "Fiddler's Rose" sample, and... she got lost. As in, the story sucked her out of "proof-reader" mode, and into "reader" mode. And she has had the book read to her (as I completed each chapter, during composition), and then read it herself,, cover to cover, once it was finished. I feel pretty good about that...

March 12:
37 years ago today, I showed up for my usual evening shift, and had an opportunity to impose my personality on a newly hired receptionist, who was at the end of a long day and was fed up with meeting new people. She just wanted me to go away and leave her alone.
Dementia still hasn't gotten that wish. I am pretty sure that she has rescinded it, at some point...

March 13:
Life in my head:
I woke up this morning with the sick feeling that I had forgotten the name of one of my best friends. I fought back the incipient freak out and worked the problem. We had spoken at length earlier this week about... What? I can't remember. I can't remember his face! I can't... Wait a minute. I haven't been out of the house since Sunday, which means I couldn't have had that conversation, which means... Which means that my subconscious created an imaginary friend just so that I could panic at the prospect of forgetting him.
Thanks a lot, brain.

March 15:
This does not make me happy. It's still true. (Politics is the art of the possible. Let's keep the impossible stuff off of the table.)(Meme: Wealth Tax Unconstitutional meme.)

March 15:
Writer's Life:
The story I have been working on for the last couple of weeks has collapsed. There just isn't enough story to support the necessary setup. I tried diffferent points of view, different starting points, adding an audience character, pretty much every trick in the box, but it just wouldn't happen.
So now I am in that horrible place "between stories" where I have actually lived most of my life. Being marginally creative is NOT fun; it's very much like being addicted to a drug that no one knows how to synthesize.
I am aware that there are writers out there who have more ideas than they have any hope of ever using, and, nothing personal, but I hate you all.