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

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Thursday, March 15th, 2018
6:43 pm
Day, Paris, Hurricane, Wrinkle, Annihilation, Sick, Writing
I'm behind. Five movies, ten days in bed, a birthday, and writing progress.

"Every Day" is a movie based around the sort of "What if?" premise that is only discussed by adolescents and drunken college students. It makes no effort at all to explain "How?" or "Why?", and digs right into the matters of romance and ultimately ethics. Oddly enough, it all works pretty well, aided by an excellent cast. We enjoyed it.

"15:17 to Paris" has a great core story that would have made a good 20 minute segment in a documentary anthology show. The effort to pad it out to a 90 minute drama was doomed from the start, even though the original participants turned out to be tolerable actors. So... GREAT story, questionable movie.

"The Hurricane Heist" is a fairly typocal action movie, full of visually interesting but impossible special effects. It is distinguished from the herd of such (which are usually pretty entertaining, anyway) by having Maggie Grace's very pretty face in the middle of it. She does a good job of it, coming across as competent and dependable. If you like this kind of thing, you should like this one. I did.

"A Wrinkle in Time" is an effort to film a story that has been widely regarded as impossible to film. It comes close enough to succeeding that its success is a matter of debate. Sadly, the scene where the matter of "wrinkling time" is discussed got cut between the trailers and the final production, and the definition of "tesseract", which matters a bit, is also never given.

"Annihilation" comes close to being exactly what the trailers promise: Pretentious, pseudo-intellectual horror with psychadelic effects and a side order of environmentalism. The trailers don't warn you about the soporific pacing, though. There was one interesting really line: "Don't confuse being suicidal with being self-destructive. Very few of us ever commit suicide; all of us are self-destructive."

In other news, something went wrong in my stomach on February 23. My temperature wandered all over the place (but kept swinging back to normal), and it felt like something was torn. I spent four days in bed, and then things started to improve slowly, and by March 6 I was symptom free (really). Weird.

I had a birthday on March 8, number 62. There were a few presents, a lot of well-wishers on Facebook, and pie.

I have been writing again, 9000 words on a single project since the March 1. Watch this space.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, March 1st, 2018
8:27 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
February 19:
Momentarily homeward bound. Escaping before 8:00 AM local, which has to be some kind of personal best. BashCon was good, and remains my favorite con, even though this was pretty much a trainwreck year for the BashCon organization. Back to the more or less real world.

February 20:
I had lots of opportunities to be social this weekend. I got comfortable, and let my filters slip a bit; this is never a good thing.

I am NOT, repeat, NOT depressed. Really. However, my head is full of depressing crap, and sometimes I let it slip out. This does no one any good, and I know better, but, well, I get sloppy.

I offer my apologies to anyone who wants them.

February 20:
Foolishness: When I arrived at the University of Toledo on Sunday morning, the lot hadn't been plowed, and I had to guess at where the parking lot markings should be. When I left five hours later, someone had parked me in. I couldn't get in through the driver's door, and I can't crawl across the center of this vehicle. I could get into the car from the passenger side, though, so all I needed to do was get the car into Neutral and push it forward until I could get at the driver's door. The shift lever does not move with the ignition locked, or with the ignition unlocked, or with the ignition unlocked and the brake depressed (using the snow brush as an extension to depress the brake). The solution was to start the car, depress the brake, and then shift into Neutral. Taking the car out of Park with the engine running is NOT for the faint of heart...

February 22:
Two years ago on this very day, February 22, 2016, Syfy aired an episode of "The Magicians" in which two of the characters participated in the first meatside gathering of an heretofore online magical study group. The name of the group was mentioned in passing.

A year later, more or less, a group with the same name was formed on FaceBook for "free trade metaphysical services for psychics, healers, and intuitive readers." The group name and purpose are obvious references to the Syfy show.

The thing that I find wonderful about this is that the name the groups share is itself a shoutout to another sort of geekery that, as far as I have been able to determine, is completely unaware of the phenomenon.

The name is, "Free Trader Beowulf", as referenced on the (wonderfully dramatic) cover of the "Traveller" RPG back in 1977. (For the uninitiated, "Traveller" was one of the first SF RPGs, and the very first attempt at a "hard" SF RPG. It never escaped into the larger world the way D&D did, but it is very well known in the RPG community.)

There is a resonance here that makes me grin from ear to ear whenever I think about it...

February 23:
I am running two degrees (F) of fever at the moment, so let's have a bit of a rant, shall we?

First, a triva question: Which of the following is the best statement of human body temperature:

A) 37 C
B) 37.0 C
C) 98.6 F

The answer is "A", which is to say, "37 C plus or minus one degree C depending on the individual". "B" implies a range of 1/10 degree C, and "C" implies a range of 1/10 degree F. The "common knowledge" factor of 98.6 F is really a conversion error. Individual persons have a much narrower range than that; I take my temperature every morning as part of a ritual to bring my reluctant consciousness on line, and know that I am 97.8 F, plus or minus 1/10 degree F. But that's ME. I have never seen a statistical breakdown of human body temperature; I suspect that the curve is skewed low, and that I am in the vicinity or minus 2 sigma. But the basic fact remains...

February 24:
My relationship to musical theater is is inconsistent; I love some things, am indifferent to others, and some leave me completely cold. On the other hand, musical theater shout outs in other forums make me giggle uncontrollably. Case in point: We are grinding through "The Magicians", and in the episode called, "Lesser Evils", they do a large part of a major production number from, "Les Mis", "Les Mis" is well down the "leaves me cold" part of the scale, but the sequence still had me grinning like an idiot.

February 25:
Forty-two years ago today, I walked up to the edge of the abyss, looked into the face of Oblivion, and then turned around and went home. Of course, once you have been down that path, you always know where it is, and part of you just STAYS there.

I believed whole-heartedly in the possibility of righteous suicide then, and I still do. I didn't have grounds for righteous suicide then, and I still don't. (Which is to say that those of you who were so inclined have no more reason to worry about my sanity than you ever do.)

I didn't make a note of the date at the time, but in hindsight the choice to continue was the first adult decision I ever made. I recovered the date a few years ago, because I knew it was a Wednesday in February of 1976, and that the weather was GORGEOUS; in the internet age, that is enough.

I still haven't solved the fundamental problem that brought me to the edge 42 years ago, and time is getting short. Despair is easy; I will solve this, or I won't. It is better to face the dragon than to run away.

The fundamental question, then and now, is, "How do I arrange my life so that it is actually worth the effort of living?" I have never found a stable long term answer to that one (though there have certainly been some very good times along the way), and at the moment I am in dire need of that answer.

February 27:
I'm currently consuming an audio book called, "Harrison Squared," which is pretty much Lovecraft's "Shadow Over Insmouth" retold as a YA adventure story. Our Hero has irritated the English teacher, who declares a vocabulary pop quiz. There are a few lines of description, and then, "Number four, squamous. Repeating, squamous. Number five, rugose. Repeating, rugose."

I laughed out loud.

There are those who would argue that every single scene needs to advance the plot, but there is something to be said for working in a joke that makes the reader just plain glad to be there. (For the uninitiated, those two words, in something Lovecraft related, are kind of like an Adam West cameo in a Batman movie.)
Thursday, February 22nd, 2018
5:41 pm
Winchester, Maze, Panther, Bash
Movies and a convention:

"Winchester" is a straight up horror movie that is "based on real events". That is, the rifles are real, the company is real, Sarah Wincester is real, the house is real, and the 1906 San Francisco earthquake is real. The actual plot of the movie is pure fiction. Still, it works pretty well, and Helen Mirren is always worth watching.

"Maze Runner: The Death Cure" is the last entry in this goofy series. The character work remains pretty good, the world remains relentlessly stupid, and the story craft is more than a little lame.

"Black Panther" is, to quote Columbia from RHPS, "OK." The cast and character work are excellent, the effects are overblown and kind of pointless, the main villain comes painfully close to being three-dimensional before he lapses into mustache twirling, the title character suffers from perfection-is-boring syndrome at near-Superman levels (made significantly more tolerable by the amazing Chadwick Boseman), the director has no clue how to sell misdirection, and the movie is a good 30 minutes longer than it really needs to be. So middle of MCU pack, maybe a B- overall, but the material for an A movie was there.

In other news, I went to a convention last weekend, and managed to play a couple of RPGs without freaking out. Go, me. Details here: https://uncle-gnoll.livejournal.com/

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, February 15th, 2018
8:29 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
February 1:
Picking up threads from Robert M. Pirsig and reweaving them only slightly:

Prior to Plato, Virtue (arête, excellence, what-have-you) was the Queen Regnant of the Universe. Plato gave the throne to Truth and reduced Virtue to Queen Consort. Aristotle then pulled her off of THAT throne and gave her a quiet little duchy out in the boonies.

Being me, this leads me to mull over the quesiton of how to couch this in purely mythological terms. Obviously we see the triumph of Apollo, here, but who did he beat? The idea of Zeus as a champion of virtue is laughable. There was a minor goddess Arête, but she was only a personification, never a theistic entity. I am stumped. But while I am stumped, I can not help but notice that Apollo's triumph was acheived through LOTS of help from Hermes, because the idea that objective truth exists, being fraudulent, has Trickster all over it.


And while all of that is cooking my brain, I find that the nearest Roman parallel to Arête, Virtus, is properly "bravery and military excellence", which is really another kettle of fish altogether.

Hmmm, again.

February 3:
Poker follies:

I was in the big blind, holding pocket jacks, with a somewhat above average stack. I decided I was going to see the flop no matter what happened. A couple of folds, someone goes all in with about two and a half times the big blind. I can cover it, no problem. Other players fold in turn; the small blind folds, and the raiser, apparently not aware I still have cards, exposes pocket aces. I growl my unhappiness, and then fold. I can see that the dealer has already laid out the subsequent cards, and ask him to expose them. He tells me I don't want to see them. I tell him I have already folded, it's done, I just want to know what might have been.

There was a third jack waiting for me on the turn; and I would have doubled up if I had played the hand, instead of losing a third of my stack. I shrugged.

When the universe decides to kick me in the stomach, I prefer to know just how hard the kick was...

February 3:
Poker (music) follies:

There was an Amazon Echo unit set up within shouting range of the poker table, and the gang had realized that they could shout, "Alexa, play..." and change the music at whim. Most of the choices were OK, some very good, some kind of awful. After one piece of suicide-inducing recent emo junk, I growled and called, "Alexa, play "Christie Lee". It turned out that the gallery was unfamiliar with the song, and, for the most part, they didn't like it much. I died a little bit...

February 3:
Small world file:
We went out to Elign this evening to a pub quiz sponsored by the Friends of the Viking Ship at the Blue Box Cafe (Dementia and I won). One of the questions, which we missed, was, "Name the Klingon Equivalent of Vahalla." This led me to ask the presenters if they were aware of the play, "A Klingon Christmas Carol", and one of them (Crystal) said that she was aware of it, and that a friend of hers had been in it a couple of times. For some reason that I have forgotten, she mentioned that the friend in question was really tall, and I said, "Mark Lancaster". She gaped a moment and said that yes, she was speaking of Mark. I nodded and said, "He's married to my niece."

It is indeed a small world.

February 4:
Rant of the day:

I realize that this is pretty much a lost cause in a world where quotations, particularly song lyrics, are frequently thown around with no attributions whatsoever, but...

It is not really appropriate to attribute the words of a fictional character to the writer as if he or she actually meant whatever it was in their own person; such usage can be significantly misleading. Proper attribution for a character quote is something like the following:

"Always store beer in a dark place." --Robert A. Heinlein in the character of Lazarus Long, "Time Enough for Love"

Writers are not their characters. Characters are not their writers. They should neither be severed from each other, nor merged.

February 5:
Odd patterns of thought:
This morning, I realized, for the first time, that my original wedding ring had been stolen six years ago. The realization hurt.

I never wore the ring when I bicycled, so I wasn't wearing it in 1991 when I crashed and dislocated that finger; I was never able to wear it again. But I kept it with me; eventually it migrated to duty as a fob on my dice bag, on the assumption that I would always know where my dice were.

And I did, right up until my game bag was stolen out of our car in Omaha in 2012. I knew the dice bag was gone, but the knowledge was stored in my memory as, "dice bag", and until this morning, I had not remembered the wedding ring fob.

There was nothing to be done about it then, and there is nothing to be done about it now. It is just one more very small sadness in a world that is filled to overflowing with larger ones.

February 6:
News of the weird:

What do you do if you find yourself in possession of six thousand cranial MRIs with matching personality profiles? Why, you use them to do the first (and likely only) properly scientific investigation of the validity of phrenology! Scientists at Oxford took the dataset and ran the MRI data through an alternative algorithm that saw only the bone instead of ignoring it, then cross referenced everything they could think of, looking for corelations. They found a complete lack of validity for phrenology, of course, but they also stumbled across a statisically significant and unexpected corelation between vocabulary size and number of sexual partners.


February 7:
There is a riddle that I have been throwing around for years, that no one ever gets, and only about every other person even understands after I tell them the answer. On Saturday, I presented it to the moderators of the Viking Pub Quiz, and each of them in turn took one look and started to laugh, which of course is the reaction I have been looking for all of these years. But then, it was a VIKING pub quiz...

The riddle? "The year is 1975. Fill in the blanks: L_K_ SKYWALKER."

The answers are "O" and "I", respectively, because "Skywalker" always was a legitimate title of the God of Mischief...

Thank you, Samira and Crystal, for finally getting the joke.

February 7:
If you had a choice between living with a constant, nagging fear, but otherwise being happy and well-rested, or feeling secure, but otherwise being miserable and exhausted, which would you choose?

February 8:
What follows is an exercise in absurdity, but since I have only just realized that the ring is missing, and have therefore never made any effort to call it home, it certainly can't HURT. Who knows what currents may flow on the web?

LOST: Wedding ring, 10 kt gold, size 13. Inscribed, "C.Y.H. - Jewel." Last seen Omaha, NE, in July of 2012.

February 9:
It has come to my attention that we have missed a significant anniversary, and I feel bad about it. "Frankenstein" was originally published on January 1, 1818.

On the other hand, since bicentennials tend to be year long affairs, being six weeks late is not THAT big a deal. So here's to the Monster, and to his creator, the great-grandmother of both Horror AND Science Fiction.

February 9:
So today, after just short of three years, my Ingress hacking streak ended. I am not sure why, exactly, but my Sojourner counter reset from 1068 to ONE. Given that this came on top of a need to upgrade Pokemon (which I can't do directly, but have to use a PC) was just a LITTLE frustrating. So tomorrow, for the first time in almost three years, I am not going to bother with either game. Maybe forever. We shall see.

February 9:
My friend Steve Lortz told a story once about an experience back in the very early days of RPGs that has stayed with me because it has some interesting things to say about the world at large.

Steve was in the Navy when D&D was published, and he quickly became the local game master. At one point, he designed a dungeon with a number of teleport rooms; the rooms were identical except for location, and if you spent a few seconds in one of the rooms, you found yourself in one of the others. To lure players into the rooms, he added a curtain across each room; to push the curtain aside, you had to enter the room and trigger the magic. But the magic was in the ROOM, not the curtain. Except... The very first player to enter one of these rooms decided to surprise whatever was on the other side of the curtain, and simply dashed into it, got tangled, and fell to the floor. He found nothing else in the room, and when he left, he was in a different part of the dungeon.

That player told others, and the word spread about the magic teleportational CURTAINS. If the players wanted to trigger the magic, they would enter one of the rooms, deliberately tangle themselves in the curtains, and then find themselves elsewhere. They never did figure it out. Steve had to supress a giggle every time it happened.

Just because you can make it work, doesn't mean you understand it...

February 11:
I have shovelled snow three days in a row, now, in spite of having paid an itinerant shoveller on two of them. It gets recorded in my exercise log as, "fought white dragon."

February 12:
This is a sort of character study that came out of conversation this morning. I thought it was worth sharing.

Spoken with a strong Southern accent:

"My great-great-grand-daddy died at a place called Culloden fighting against a government that would NOT leave him and his alone, and after he was dead, that same government bundled up his wife and kids and shipped them to America.

"My great-grand-daddy died twenty-three years later, fighting that same government, because it would NOT leave him and his alone.

"My family has never owned a slave, or even enough land to build a house on, but when it came down to war against a government that would not leave us alone, my brothers and I fought, and they died.

"So you ask me why I still wear the gray coat fifteen years after the war ended? I wear it because I am the angriest son-of-a-bitch that you will ever meet, and I hope like hell that this piece of gray cloth will make you pick a fight with me, because I haven't killed anyone yet today, and I am getting a bit twitchy.

"The name's Hex. It's your move."

February 13:
Did something tonight I have not done for YEARS. I was turning left off of Grand into the alley along the west edge of the strip mall jungle on the northwest corner of Grand and Green Bay; there was a car (actually, a large SUV) with its flashers on partially blocking the way. It was a BAD spot to be stuck in; I pulled past him, grabbed the first available spot, and then hiked back and told the driver to put the thing in neutral, and I would push him to a parking spot. He seemed baffled by the idea, but complied, after a fashion; a heavy foot on the brake is NOT a good thing when moving under human power. I pushed him about a hundred yards to a safe spot, and went on my way. He still seemed baffled.

It was a BIG car, and I am not what I once was. Still, it felt good.

February 14:
It's Emotional Blackmail Day!

The following bit from the archives seems appropriate to the day, on a whole bunch of levels:

Bane of My Existence

For Julia

Oh, thou bane of my existence,
Torment of my waking hours,
Source of all of life's frustrations,
Who my sanity devours.
Drive me crazy (you will, anyway);
Drive me right over the edge;
And I will not cease to love you;
This is my undying pledge.

Paul Haynie

(Scansion courtesy of, "Come Thou Fount of Every Blessing", written in 1813 by John Wyeth.)

February 14:
I am aware that I occasionally talk through my hat. Sometimes I get away with it, which is sad. Sometimes I get called on it, and have to actually learn what I am talking about, and that is always good, if sometimes both intellectually and emotionally difficult. And a lot of the time, I really do know what I am talking about in the first place. I also know that I am somewhat unusual in that I would really rather learn something than win.

This comes up because I am completely at a loss when someone enters an argument with a recital of credentials, and then is utterly wrong. I can't see any way to counter that without my response being considered a personal attack. I usually have to decide if the matter is worth the bloodshed, or if I should just walk away. Usually I walk away, but it always hurts.

February 15:
"Do me a favor, will you? Tell the cook that I have had two perfect servings of hash browns in my life, and THAT was the second one. And this omelette is simply the best one I have ever had."

The thing is, I am kind of afraid to ever go back; they will never be able to live up to the expectations.
Thursday, February 8th, 2018
9:01 pm
Hostiles, Coco

"Hostiles" is peculiar. First, it's a western, which is a rarity these days. Second, it is two very different movies shuffled together. From the standpoint of the male lead, it has a "brothers in adversity" plot; from the standpoint of the female lead, it is a straight up romance (albeit an incredibly violent and testosterone drenched one). There is a lot to this movie, and it is well done, and I am glad that I saw it, but it is VERY dark and not for everyone.

"Coco" is an animated musical, and the trailers left me pretty cold. And then filk artist Tom Smith said that it was "pure joy", and someone on a Glorantha board (where such things matter) said that it was a heroquest story. That was enough to make me see it. It lived up to the comments. There was a point, early in the movie, when I mumbled, "Whosoever pulleth forth this guitar from this stone and this anvil, is rightwise born king of all mariachis." And then I giggled a lot. Highly recommended.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, February 1st, 2018
8:01 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
January 16:
It's a cold, snowy day, which is appropriate for the birthday of Robert Service (1874). Go read "The Cremation of Sam McGee", and be warmed thereby.

(The local gorilla population reminds me that this is also the birthday of gorilla researcher Dian Fossey (1932). In the land of the Velveteen Rabbit, a platoon of disgruntled plush toys who know where you sleep is a thing to be feared.)

January 17:
"Come out, little pig," said the big, bad wolf. "Come out or I will huff and puff and blow your house down."

The pig, who out-weighed the wolf by four to one and had tusks as thick as a wolf's leg, lumbered out and looked the wolf in the eye.

"This is not the way this story is supposed to go," said the wolf, and he ran away as fast as his legs could carry him.

In honor of Saint Anthony the Abbott, whose day this is, and who is, among other things, the patron of pigs.

January 17:
Saw "The Post" today. GOOD movie. And of course through much of the movie, the following poem was bubbling through my head. (And I have just finally gotten around to looking up the reference to Harrild and Hoe, which are types of printing presses.)

The Press - Rudyard Kipling

The Soldier may forget his Sword,
The Sailorman the Sea,
The Mason may forget the Word
And the Priest his Litany:
The Maid may forget both jewel and gem,
And the Bride her wedding-dress--
But the Jew shall forget Jerusalem
Ere we forget the Press!

Who once hath stood through the loaded hour
Ere, roaring like the gale,
The Harrild and the Hoe devour
Their league-long paper-bale,
And has lit his pipe in the morning calm
That follows the midnight stress--
He hath sold his heart to the old Black Art
We call the daily Press.

Who once hath dealt in the widest game
That all of a man can play,
No later love, no larger fame
Will lure him long away.
As the war-horse snuffeth the battle afar,
The entered Soul, no less,
He saith: "Ha! Ha!" where the trumpets are
And the thunders of the Press!

Canst thou number the days that we fulfill,
Or the Times that we bring forth?
Canst thou send the lightnings to do thy will,
And cause them reign on earth?
Hast thou given a peacock goodly wings,
To please his foolishness?
Sit down at the heart of men and things,
Companion of the Press!

The Pope may launch his Interdict,
The Union its decree,
But the bubble is blown and the bubble is pricked
By Us and such as We.
Remember the battle and stand aside
While Thrones and Powers confess
That King over all the children of pride
Is the Press--the Press--the Press!

January 18:
“The third-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the majority. The second-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking with the minority. The first-rate mind is only happy when it is thinking.” --A.A. Milne, who was born on this day in 1882.

So, yes, there was more to the man than Winnie the Pooh and his friends, but still...

As I have said on this day every year for the last several: Go tell a plush toy that you love it. Be sincere.

January 20:
I was going to go up to the Burlington game day today, but was running significantly late. By the time I got to the crossing of W50 and the Fox River, it was 3:00 PM and my head just wasn't in it. I didn't take the turn north to Burlington at the next light and kept heading toward Lake Geneva. There were people I could see, and hadn't seen for a while, but I realized people were not what I needed. I turned left at the east edge of Lake Geneva, and drove to the Linn Pier access point.

The parking lot was nearly full; the weather was warm and the ice was thick and the ice fishers were out in force. I walked about half way across the lake before I was blocked by black ice; I didn't have the shoes for that, and didn't want to risk a fall. Then I stopped and had a short conversation with the Lady Geneva. Then I walked back to the car and went home.

One takes ones religious experiences where one finds them...

January 21:
There is a direct sequence from the Netflix "Punisher" to me owning a "Memento Mori" coin, and I actually learned something new along the way...

January 22:
Thinky Thoughts:
I have invested (wasted?) a great deal of my life in role playing games, though I have spent the vast majority of that time playing WITH the games rather than actually playing them. I have recently had occasion to re-examine the old D&D concept of alignment, and have come to some conclusions that I find interesting.

First, a bit of introduction: The original 1974 release of Dungeons & Dragons included "Alignment" as a character attribute; a character could be Lawful, or Neutral, or Chaotic (categories that were drawn from the writings of Michael Moorcock). This was apparently added to the game to encourage players to think of their characters as something other just a collection of game statistics, and was at least slightly successful. A few years later, when Advanced Dungeons & Dragons came out, this idea had been expanded to a two-axis system, with Law and Chaos on one axis, and Good and Evil on the other.

The idea that has been fascinating me lately is that this system implies that the two axes are truly independent of each other, and I find myself wondering just what the concept of "Good" means if it is utterly divorced from "Law", and vice versa. It seems to me that goodness, when utterly divorced from law, becomes kindness, and that law, when utterly divorced from the concept of goodness, becomes loyalty. I am intrigued by this. It is only a small epiphany, but, like a new pair of glasses, it is a lens that lets me see things in a slightly different way than I saw them before.

January 23:
If you have access to the 5th Ed. version of the D&D Monster Manual (and this is worth going out of your way to do), open it to the front credits page and read the disclaimer that is in absurdly tiny type in the lower right hand corner of the page. You will be glad you did.

January 23:
I am not sufficiently responsible to do the things I should be doing, but also too responsible to do the things I WANT to do when the things I should do are undone.

January 24:
I had a quaint little tutorial today on the physiology of waterboarding, courtesty of my dentist (who is a really great guy who does a good job, and who I am not going to identify for reasons that will be obvious).

I was in the chair to have two deteriorating silver amalgam fillings replaced. Local anesthetic was indicated (because, while I have a high pain tolerance and good control, if I DO flinch, people get launched across the room). Dentist was using a new, micro-injection technique that involves near zero pain (I would have been happier with a shot, as it turns out, but didn't know that up front). Except... the application is SLOW. And everything needs to be held REALLY still for the gadget to work. And my sinuses were clogged, so I couldn't breathe through my nose. Saliva runs down throat, swallow reflex revs up...

Lizard brain: Swallow or we'll drown!

Me: Shut up. No we won't. Dont swallow. Inhale.

Lizard brain: We're gonna drown!

Me: Shut up. No we won't. Dont swallow. Exhale.

Lizard brain: We're gonna drown!

Me: Shut up. No we won't. Dont swallow. Inhale.

Lizard brain: We're gonna drown!

Lather. Rise. Repeat. It was a LONG couple of minutes.

The epiphany of the day, therefore, is that this is exactly the mechanism that makes water boarding work: The lizard brain is shoved into full on panic mode, and the conscious mind CAN NOT control it. I got maybe a couple of percentage points of the experience, and am not interested in getting any better acquainted with the procedure than I already am. But it WAS educational...

January 25:
Opinion question of the day: What percentage of people have convinced themselves that their lives have meaning, despite all evidence to the contrary, because it is the only way to keep themselves going?

(The responses to this were very other than what I expected, probably because I didn't ask the question nearly clearly enough.)

January 25:
"The best students ARE always failing." --Robert M. Pirsig, "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"

January 26:
And here, just for my own future reference, is a cute little calculator that maps IQ against frequency of occurrence: http://nmh.sdf.org/aboutyouriq.cgi

January 26:
I may have to look this book up...

From "Sword & Laser" participant "Tassie Dave":
Finished "The Last Man" by Mary Shelley... Wow, what a depressing book. If Mary was alive today, she'd have one word to say (Re: Killing off main characters) to George R.R.Martin & Robert Kirkman: "Amateurs".

January 26:
I first encountered Robert M. Pirsig's "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance" in 1980. I devoured, loved it. I am now revisiting it for the first time since then (though it has been used as a reference repeatedly in the interim) as an audio book. It's like putting on an old overcoat; many passages come back to me verbatim. Many others don't, and are a welcome surprise. And of course the book is just full of thinky thoughts...

I just came across a passage where the narrator comes upon a print of a painting that his former self had purchased and displayed, and he comments that his friend, an art instructor, had disapproved of this because prints are ABOUT art, and not art itself. This engendered in me a dialogue about the nature of art.

The attitude of the artist in the story seems to be that ALL art is performance art, that the true art resides in the artifact. The narrator's former self was not interested in the artifact, only in the image, and its subjective value. I see both arguments, but I also realize that this is ultimately a discussion of magic. Which leads me to further realize discussion of art has three paths: discussion of craft, discussion of history, and discussion of magic.

Thaumatology is EVERYWHERE. Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.

January 27:
It occurs to me that we might do better in the fight for economic justice if we stopped trying to convince the cat to wear a bell, and instead concentrated on making the cat understand that fatter mice taste better.

January 28:
February is going to be very, very bad this year. It's still a few days away, and the edges started to fray more than a week ago.

January 29:
Still traversing "Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance"...

The two most significant truths I picked up in high school, and likely the two most significant truths of my entire education, both came in sophomore year. Neither of them was in the curriculum, but rather corollaries of corollaries of things that were.

The first, by way of geometry teacher Mr. Wilson (whose first name I have lost, and need to find), was that logic was not a source of truth, but rather a system for manipulating ideas, and that it needed to be seeded with arbitrary (usually consensus) ideas to function.

The second, was by way of chemistry teacher Ralph Gurnea, who convinced me that most, if not all, natural laws were really probability functions rather than absolutes.

Having mentioned those, I should also bring up the third most significant truth of my education, which came some five years later, in the very first episode of what has become known as, "The Conversation" with my friend Bob Buehler: Never, ever use the word "reality" without a qualifier (usually "empirical"), an assetion that he backed up with the simple expedient of smiling and saying, "I have seen others."

January 30:
From the "Strange Currents" file:

Back in about 1980 I said something that has stayed with me. It wasn't a new idea by any means, but the phrasing (which was unique to me) struck me as rather elegant, and I remembered it, and repeated it just that way from time to time, when the conversation called for it.

That EXACT phrase now has a name, and a Wikipedia page. It's only twelve words, so it might just be parallel evolution. But since Wikipedia can't trace the exact wording back further than about 1990 (though, again, the concept goes back centuries) and has no clear source, and since my original statement predates that by about a decade...

I'd say that there is a good 50$ chance that it's mine.

Those of you who know me in the real world: Have you ever heard me say it? If so, when was the FIRST time?

The phrase, which Wikipedia refers to as "Hanlon's Razor". is this:

"Never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by stupidity."


January 30:
And that makes 100 km on the rowing machine for January, which makes three months in a row. Go, me.

And now, a word about gloves..

I decided early in my rowing career that gloves would make the experience MUCH more pleasant, and bought a cheap pair of no-name paddling gloves at the first opportunity. They lasted almost exactly 50 miles, at which point they had no palms left. I then paid more than I really wanted to for a pair of Helly Hansen paddling gloves which happened to be the only gloves on the rack that fit me perfectly.

That was in 2012. Since then, those gloves and I have logged just short of 200 water miles, and just short of 1000 km on the rowing machine, just over 200 hours of hard labor, all told. They are beginning to show a little bit of wear.

Of coure, Helly Hansen doesn't seem to make them any more...
Monday, January 29th, 2018
8:55 am
Post, Strong
Two more movies. Including these two, five of the last seven movies we have seen have been based on real events or people. This is an odd trend. Good movies, though.

"The Post" is a newspaper drama. There are a LOT of good newspaper dramas out there, if you look for them, and some of them are whole cloth, and some of them are nearly documentaries. This one is much closer to the latter, though I am sure some liberties were taken, and of course the dialog is mostly fiction. But it is GOOD fiction delivered by a great cast. Highly recommended.

"12 Strong" is the story of the very first combat troops to hit Afghanistan after the September 11 attack. It's a bizarre and highly improbable story of heroism and determination in the fact of long odds that seems to be nearly exactly true. Again, highly recommended.

And in other news... There is a "Bull Durham" poster on the wall in the upstairs hallway, and I realized that we hadn't watched it in a while, and now we have fixed that. It's not exactly a romance, and it's not exactly a sports movies, but it IS just plain good.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, January 18th, 2018
7:54 pm
New Fiction
A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a game inspired piece of thin fiction. Dementia commented that I had been writing in that style a great deal lately, and she didn't much care for it; it was almost all plot, and almost no character, and she is a character reader first and foremost. Of course, so am I, but I answered that when I was struggling to produce ANYTHING, it was always easier to write plot dominated material, because once I started writing dialog, it was far too easy to get lost in the weeds. But I looked over the story, and pulled out one key scene to tell in a more character driven fashion. I am pretty happy with the way it turned out.


Uncle Hyena
Monday, January 15th, 2018
2:32 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
January 1:
"You know the relationship is over when you realize that you have been deliberately putting the brown lettuce on HIS sandwiches." --Mystery writer Sue Grafton, from an appearance at Scotland Yard Books in Winnetka, IL

Sue Grafton published "Y is for Yesterday", the 25th of her Kinsey Milhone "Alphabet" novels, earlier this year. If "Z" is ever published, it will be posthumous.

The wheel turns; the world is diminished.

January 3:
It's Perihelion Day! Yes indeed, folks, today is the day that the earth passes closest to the sun, and the day that the earth will receive more solar radiation than any other day this year. I think that this is a really good example of cosmic irony...

January 3:
The "Literary Trivia" calendar offered a multiple choice question, asking who wrote a particular rhyming couplet. Dementia glanced at it and said, "This counts as brain damaged, in this household." And then she read the couplet aloud. Hyena didn't bother to state the author's name; he just recited the other half of the poem.

All that is gold does not glitter;
Not all those who wander are lost.
The old that is strong does not wither;
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.
From the ashes a fire shall be woken;
A light from the darkness shall spring;
Renewed shall be the blade that was broken,
And the crownless again shall be king.

John Ronald Reuel Tolkien was born on this day in 1892.

January 4:
From the Dredge. Shared because there is not NEARLY enough Yeats in the world. The original circumstance was that a friend, who I knew loved this poem, had lost a beloved pet. And though I had never thought of this poem as elegiac before, the knowledge struck me like lightning.

For the world's more full of weeking than we can understand.

From 2013:
Posted for Avens, who will likely understand.

The Stolen Child, by W. B. Yeats

WHERE dips the rocky highland
Of Sleuth Wood in the lake,
There lies a leafy island
Where flapping herons wake
The drowsy water rats;
There we've hid our faery vats,
Full of berrys
And of reddest stolen cherries.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wave of moonlight glosses
The dim gray sands with light,
Far off by furthest Rosses
We foot it all the night,
Weaving olden dances
Mingling hands and mingling glances
Till the moon has taken flight;
To and fro we leap
And chase the frothy bubbles,
While the world is full of troubles
And anxious in its sleep.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Where the wandering water gushes
From the hills above Glen-Car,
In pools among the rushes
That scarce could bathe a star,
We seek for slumbering trout
And whispering in their ears
Give them unquiet dreams;
Leaning softly out
From ferns that drop their tears
Over the young streams.
Come away, O human child!
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than you can understand.

Away with us he's going,
The solemn-eyed:
He'll hear no more the lowing
Of the calves on the warm hillside
Or the kettle on the hob
Sing peace into his breast,
Or see the brown mice bob
Round and round the oatmeal chest.
For he comes, the human child,
To the waters and the wild
With a faery, hand in hand,
For the world's more full of weeping than he can understand.

January 5:
Got your tinfoil hats ready?

Spook Number One: We have convinced Intel to give us a hardware based back door into every CPU they build from now on.

Spook Number Two: That's good, but it will take years to get full deployment by attrition.

Spook Number One: Maybe that's why we have ALSO convinced them to announce that there is a previously undiscovered hardware based security bug in all of their previous CPUs.

Spook Number Two: So you're using a fictitious hardware security flaw to propagate a deliberate hardware security flaw. That's brilliant.

Spook Number One: <>

Spook Number Two: There's a reason I haven't turned my back on you in sixteen years.

Spook Number One: <>

January 6:
Hybrid geekery:

As a general rule, I have not been impressed with the math skills of game designers, though every now and then one manages to surprise me and get something tricky RIGHT for a change. Of course, in a world where most people lack the math to be anything but utterly bewildered by pretty much everything, this isn't surprising.

Today, I read an entry in the D&D 5e DMG about facing multiple relatively weak opponents which consisted of a couple of paragraphs and a table, all of which amounted to, "The combined lethality of N similar opponents is equal to the lethality of one opponent multiplied by N rasied to the power of 3/2." Which, as it happens, is a well-established rule of thumb that has been kicking around in military simulations for a LONG time.

It's always kind of fun to look through the skin to see the bones, and find the bones in the right places...

January 8:
Life in my household:

Dementia: My daily rune casting was Haal, Thorn, and Neid.

Hyena (scowling): Disaster, Challenge, and Hardship.

Dementia (grinning): I read it as Challenge, Will, and Self-reliance, but still...

We see the world through different lenses...

January 12:
And this morning we had Hyena's Irreverent Seminar on Gnostic Cosmology. 'Cause stuff that's complex, non-linear, non-utilitarian, and boring is REALLY hard to remember...

Dementia: I KNOW why suffering exists!

Hyena: Oh?

Dementia (grinning): It's COMPLICATED.

January 13:
Discussion at the poker table had gotten mired into a heated discussion on investment strategy between a highly ethical financial planner and a rather less ethical accountant. Eventually Hyena raised his hand and said, "I vote that we ban investment discussions for the rest of the night." Everyone except the accountant raised a hand. During the next lull, the financial planner asked, "What should we talk about now? Dungeons and Dragons?" Hyena gaped at him for a moment; he had attended about fifty of these tournaments, and this was the first time role playing games had ever been mentioned. He went to his bag, pulled out three books, and said, "This is the first time since I have been playing here that I have had these with me," and then handed the D&D 5e core books to the financial planner. The books were passed around and pawed at; three of the players admitted to having played D&D in the long ago. Eventually they went back to playing poker. As it happened, Hyena won the night.

January 14:
On Wednesday, January 10, my watch band broke. This was the third band I had had on that watch (over the course of about ten years), but also the third watch I have worn with that band (over the course of more than 25 years). When I put the two together, six or seven years ago, I noted that it was the third time around for each, and joked about it being a competition.

And now it is over. I can repair the band, but I can't make it reliable, so I will repair it, consign it to a collection of oddball keepsakes, and replace it. It is a trivial sadness, but a sadness none the less.

I HATE entropy...


January 15:
And I have just demonstrated that I can no longer do the greatsword trick with my right hand; too many things wrong with the shoulder and elbow. I can still do it on the left, though...

The greatsword in question is 53 inches long, 38 inches of it blade. It weighs 6.6 pounds. The trick consists of standing with your hand in the middle of the grip, with the sword point grounded. Upper arm vertical, forearm horizontal. Snap the blade up to a horizontal position with as little motion as possible, with everything except your grip and the sword where it started. I am told it is a scary move to watch.
Thursday, January 11th, 2018
7:41 pm
Molly, Hour, Jedi
Three more movies, and some thoughts on the Star Wars franchise:

"Molly's Game" is GREAT. Well done at every level, AND fascinating. Also occasionally heartbreaking. We enjoyed it a great deal.

"Darkest Hour" is also great. Gary Oldman's Churchill is fabulous, and everything else keeps pace with his performance. Liberties are taken with history for the sake of drama, but the emotional truth comes through strongly. Again, we enjoyed this one a great deal.

"Star Wars: The Last Jedi" is yet another Star Wars movie. The current offering is of a piece with the other entries of this decade: Not nearly as good as "Hope" or "Empire", but much, much better than "Return" or the prequel trilogy. Or something like that. At its best, this is the third best movie of the franchise. At its worst, it would have made Ed Wood blush. But the good parts are so good that they pay the freight on the rest. Barely, but they pay it.

And now, some thoughts on the "Star Wars" phenomenon.

Let me begin by saying that I used to LOVE Star Wars. I saw "Hope" six times in 1977 (before it was called "Part IV", and when the phrase "A New Hope" was just a line at the top of the main title crawl); I saw "Empire" four times in 1980. And then "Return" broke my heart, and I have been deeply skeptical of the franchise ever since. But I have never given up hope that they will someday figure out what went wrong, and re-kindle the magic. I probably never will give up hope completely, but I know that the odds against me are very, very long.

It so easy to get snarky about this series. The rule of the series has always been to engage the eyes and the ears and the emotions so thoroughly that the logical part of the brain shuts down, which is necessary because, once you get past the character moments and the pretty pictures, the bones of the thing are manipulative and painfully stupid.

And yet... and yet when it works, which it still does occasionally, it is still magical. In spite of the cynical merchandising, in spite of cavalier disregard of any kind of real-world physics, in spite of the willingness to re-write the universe between movies, when it works...

There is a point in "The Last Jedi" when Rey says, "They really hate this ship." And that throwaway line, delivered casually from off screen, simply ripped my heart out. I will keep coming back. I will continue to hope. But the odds remain very, very long.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, January 4th, 2018
12:04 pm
Jumanji, Showman, Water (again)
Saw three movies this week, one of them for the second time:

New movies first:

"Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" is much, much better than it has any right to be. We went into it expecting amusing fluff, and got REALLY, REALLY good amusing fluff. The plot is hopelessly silly but often hilarious, and the performances are excellent; Jack Black (about whom I am generally no more than lukewarm) is fabulous.

"The Greatest Showman" is amazing. It is an exuberantly joyful musical that has been wrenched out of an industry that just doesn't DO that kind of thing any more, and it is a hymn to Tricksterism like nothing else I can think of. It isn't perfect; it tries too hard for social relevance, and the third act is decidedly weak, mostly because of that. But given that the movie started to tear my heart out during the opening credits, and pretty much finished the job over the finale, I just might not have lived through it if the third act had been actually GOOD. I have NEVER cried more during a movie than this one; I have never cried this much during any other three movies combined. It made me that happy. Highly recommended, but also not for everyone.

I saw "The Shape of Water" for the second time, and picked up a lot of things I missed the first time. I continue to wish that Del Toro were a more narrative oriented writer, but am still very glad this movie exists.

Uncle Hyena
Monday, January 1st, 2018
7:47 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
December 16:
Life in my household:
Went south to a family gathering today, crossed the Big Onion twice, spent three hours in the car. Stuff got said.

Dementia: I think that George Lucas cares even less about continuity that Arthur Conan Doyle did.

Hyena: WOW, that's COLD. True, though.

Later, while discussing the Biblical patriachs:

Hyena: Rebecca... Rebecca was penpals with Clytemnestra.

Dementia: THAT's evocative.

Hyena: It makes the point.

December 20:
"Let's go get the shit kicked out of us by love."

OK, so officially "Die Hard" is this household's favorite Christmas movie, but "Love Actually" is a pretty close second. Yes, it's often saccharine and sometimes stupid, and some of the plot lines are pretty awful, but it has this consistent undercurrent of courage in the face of emotional adversity that just rips my heart out.

December 20:
They used a fragment of "I am the Doctor" on tonight's "The Librarians." Geekgasm!

December 21:
First world foolishness: The stairs to the basement are one step short of registering as a "flight" on the FitBit. Dementia corrects for this by doing a kangaroo hop at the top of the stairs, which works but is ridiculous. I have now discovered that if I touch my toes at the bottom of the stairs before starting up, I get the credit. I am reminded of the absurdity of looking out for my personal dignity every time I pass a mirror, but still, one does what one can.

December 21:
I do not think I have ever entered a movie theater with as much discrepancy between hope and expectation as I did this afternoon for "The Shape of Water". I have been looking forward to this movie since I first heard about it several months ago, and the trailers and the press have been promising, but I fundamentally DO NOT trust Guillermo Del Toro; he is far too willing to sell out story logic for an interesting visual effect.

I came away pretty happy about the whole thing. The movie is far from flawless, but is engaging and fairly solidly constructed. I may even see it again.

December 23:
Personal dictionary entry:

Black helicopter: Noun. An otherwise pointless cinematic detail which seems to exist solely as a focus onto which critics and film students can hallucinate meaning.

December 25:
Got up this morning, shovelled the driveway, shovelled the walk, shovelled the neighbor's walks on either side. Tracked down some homeless friends, took them out for Christmas lunch, came home to find the sewer blocked. No shower, no toilet.

Moral: Random acts of kindness make the universe aware of you. The universe is fundamentally hostile. Its awareness is not a good thing.

Cleaned up mess. Tried to clear sewer. Had no luck. Made appointment to have sewer rodded. Bit heads off of kittens. Continued to mess with sewer. Finally found something that seemed to work. Used toilet. Took shower. Felt bad about headless kittens.

Moral: The universe may not be fundamenally hostile, but it definitely has a nasty sense of humor.

Still feel bad about the kittens.

December 26:
Life in my household:

Dementia was ruminating aloud about the significance of Christopher Eccleston's Ninth Doctor in the success of the second generation of "Doctor Who". As she did so, a part of Hyena's brain raked through his cranial sewer, looking for the quintessential Ninth Doctor quote. He considered, "I'm a master at jiggery-pokery," and the joyfully inflected, "And nobody dies!" before reaching a conclusion a few seconds before Dementia, having apparently gone through a similar process and arrived at an identicle conclusion, said, in a creditable Yorkshire accent, "Lots of planets have a North."

Hyena's laughter rattled the windowpanes.

Decebmer 28:
Life in my household:

Dementia was doing yoga while listenting to a recording of "The Tao of Pooh." Hyena walked in and said, "There's a new Disney movie coming out. It's about an animated bear working as a sailor on the Red Sea in the fourteenth century. It's called..." He held up a sign that read, "The Dhow of Pooh," and then fled. Dementia just rolled her eyes.

December 29:
Small news department:
Sometime in June I did something to my left wrist, and it started to generate intermittent pain, usually motion related. In July, this caused me to stop wearing my wrist watch. As is my pattern when I have wrist/hand/finger injuries, I massaged and stretched it when I was not otherwise using my hands (watching TV, for instance). The problem kept getting worse for a while, and then stabilized, and then started to get better. One doesn't really notice when an intermittent pain stops, but on Christmas Day I started wearing my wrist watch again. I have reached a time of life when I wonder, with each new injury (and there are always new injuries), if this will be the one that never heals properly. This one wasn't the one. Life goes on.

December 30:
Yes, I know that I start a lot more stories than I finish, but it really is NOT my fault. I also know that it IS my fault that I occasionally share fragments, but I almost always really believe that they will be completed someday. I also realize that this is an act of irrational optimism on my part.

I ALMOST always really believe that they will be completed someday. I have no clue about the following. But it's lyrical and re-reading it makes me grin, and I share it just because it is a cool bit of language that I would likely have shared if someone else had written it, so why hold back just because it was MY head that it fell out of?

She was born to fisherfolk in a small coastal village. Her parents had named her, "Emerald", for her eyes, but she had never really taken to the name. It had always struck her as a name that evoked silk and porcelain, and she had known, from the time she was very young, that she was a creature of leather and steel.

December 31:
And THAT gets me 100 km on the rowing machine for December. Two months in a row. Last year I managed to get December, January, and February before life interfered. We shall see.
Thursday, December 28th, 2017
11:24 am
Invented, Water, Bright
Movies, and a few thoughts:

"The Man Who Invented Christmas" is a slightly biographical piece about the composition and publication of Dickens' "A Christmas Carol in Prose". It is amusing and heart warming, if you don't have an allergic reaction to the sentimentality. Some of the performances (Christopher Plummer in particular) are brilliant. We enjoyed this a great deal.

"The Shape of Water" is a sort of sideways high end remake of "The Creature From the Black Lagoon." It is beautiful (though occasionally also violent and ugly) and structurally sound, though also deeply flawed. I have an affinity for the Gillman, and approached this movie with high hopes and low expectations; if my hopes were not met, my expectations were certainly significantly exceeded. If the idea of a dark, science-fantasy period romance appeals to you, this is worth seeing. I suspect that that is a very small niche, but *I* certainly enjoyed the film a great deal.

"Bright" is an original Netflix movie; as far as I know, it is the most ambitious non-theatrical movie in history, with a reported budget of $90 million. It is a fantasy-cyberpunk adventure, pretty much "Alien Nation" with orcs and elves instead of aliens. It's quite good. I hope (along, no doubt, with Netflix) that it spawns a sequel or a follow-on series; there is a great deal of implied environmental depth that would be worth exploring. Of course, the choice of title is strongly against them; it makes sense in context, once you have seen the film, but it has ZERO marketing value, and is probably one of the worst titles I can think of.

Rumination: "The Shape of Water" has at least as many flaws as some of the recent big name science fiction series (Hunger Games, Maze Runner, Divergent), and yet it didn't bother me nearly as much (and please note, I did see ALL of the sequels for all of those); I didn't have the feeling that my brain cells were committing suicide in disgust while I was watching. The difference is that none of the flaws in "Water" were structual, merely failures of execution, while the other properties suffered from conceptual flaws in the initial design that no amount of subsequent patching and decoration could hide (and none of them were exactly flawless at the level of execution, either). I came away from "Water" with the feeling that there had been a truly brilliant movie waiting in the studio that just didn't quite get made, while the others were just pretty train wrecks.

Uncle Hyena
Sunday, December 24th, 2017
12:19 pm
Why a Hyena?
I have been using variations on "Uncle Hyena" as an online handle since 1998 (back when people still used online handles), and someone recently asked me where the name came from. I know I have told the story several times over the years, but I don't think I have ever written it all down, so here we are.

Regarding Hyena

There is an ice breaker exercise that I have been subjected to on a number of occasions, that goes, "If you were an animal, what kind of animal would you be?" The intention is to choose something that is descriptive rather than aspirational, but most people cheat, as is the nature of such things. Since I was still under a vow of absolute honesty the first time I was subjected to this, I gave an honest answer: "I have no idea." But the question resonated, and went on the long list of things my sub-conscious used to torture me at odd moments. The question came up occasionally, and I gave various answers, and none of them really fit.

There came a day in 1998 when I was working desktop support with a group that communicated via overhead page; if you wanted another member of the group, you found an unoccupied desk, called reception, and asked the person you wanted to be paged to your number. It worked well enough, al least until the day when the temp at reception could not seem to pronounce "Haynie", and a co-worker, in desperation, asked her to page "Paul Hyena". The name landed on me like a bolt of lightning, but I managed to return the call anyway.

To begin, "Hyena" is a near-anagram of my surname, but, in all of the verbal-torment-rich years of childhood, no one had ever tried to apply it to me. And then there is the fact that hyenas are far and away the largest and fiercest creatures to have a legitimate Trickster aspect, and in fact are the only creatures I know of that also have a strong Warrior aspect in addition. And the voice in the sky had just called me a hyena. It was a pretty awesome moment.

Regarding Uncle

At about the same time that I picked up "Hyena", I also first had access to an internet connection that was fast enough to make on-line activity something other than an exercise in frustration. Handles were standard in those days, but simply using "Hyena" seemed too BIG for me; I had no wish to be THE hyena, just AN hyena. So I needed some kind of modifier, and chose, "Uncle". The title has a certain amount of slipperyness that appealed to me then, and still does. In addition to the strict definition, the brother or brother-in-law of a parent, the title can also be applied, indirectly, to someone to whom respect is owed but not really given (a good natured but incompetent supervisor, for example) or, directly, someone to whom respect is given but not necessarily owed (a friend of one's parents, or occasionally even a stranger of an appropriate age). Given that I was a bit older than most of my online contacts, the name seemed to fit me fairly well.

So there it is. Nineteen years later, I remain the first "Uncle Hyena" that Google finds, and I am still quite happy with the name and all its implications, so it seems to have been a good choice.

Uncle Hyena
Friday, December 15th, 2017
7:38 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
December 1:
Life in my household:

Hyena: You didn't like the book because all the protagonist cared about was social status and money. You have more in common with Seanan McGuire's Inuit therianthope who can't stop talking about "carnage".

Dementia: Well... Yeah!

December 3:
Just got home from five hours of conversation (and a bit of food) with my niece Jessi Lee. REALLY good times. She is up from Texas for MidWest FurFest, sort of. I haven't seen her in more than a decade, far too long.

December 7:
Some writers are good enough at present tense narrative that they can be forgiven for the choice, but it will always and forever be a thing for which one must be forgiven. (Second person narrative, on the other hand, is always and forever unforgivable.)

December 8:
I have NEVER unfriended a human being (I have dumped a few bots, once I realized what they were), but I am thinking it might be time to start. There are a few people out there who show up only rarely, and are invariably a negative presence when they do comment.

December 9:
The other day, Dementia made a comment about tigers melting into butter, and it took a bit of dredging through my cranial sewer before I located the reference, and I said, "Now, THAT is a children's story that is gone forever." And that made me a little sad, because while the story is incredibly jingoistic and racist in its trappings, the story at its heart is sweet and charming.

Except... The story isn't gone forever; far from it. You can buy a copy from Amazon or from Walmart. There is even an updated version with the names and illustrations modified to reflect the story's original Indian setting.

Truly, the world is a strange place.

December 9:
Gig Harbor, Washington, is a town on Pudget Sound, near Tacoma. It is about 2000 miles from Waukegan, and is the home of Gig Harbor Boat Works, the people who made the strange three piece oars on my canoe, so I have a fondness for the place.

Today I got a message from an acquaintance, someone I only hear from occasionally. When I met him he lived locally; subsequently he moved to central Wisconsin, and now he has come to roost in... Gig Harbor, Washington. Gig Harbor has a population of about 7000, which is to say that about one out of every 50,000 people in the US lives there. And now I know one of them.

I should not really be charmed by such a pointless improbability, but I am.

December 10:
Home repair done in tight spaces while wearing surgical gloves and associated hazmat gear IS NOT FUN.

December 12:
Apparently NetFlix is near release on a movie called "Bright", which is pretty much a Shadowrun story. Will Smith is the heavyweight name, but Noomi Rapace is apparently playing a moderately psychotic elf. Sounds like a good time. (But that still doesn't mean I will forgive the stupid shoes.)

December 13:
One of the more irritating foibles of English is the lack of differentiation between the concepts of "pride" and "vanity". They are often viewed as near-synonyms when they really should be seen as opposite ends of a single spectrum. Most positive human behavior contains an element of pride, and most negative human behavior contains an element of vanity.

December 14:
Every now and then, I think about having a tee shirt made that says, "Norwegian Sled Dog." I don't, because almost no one would get the reference, and a lot of those who DID would be offended, and a lot of them would also worry about my level of depression, so I never have. But there are some days when I just wish I could wear the shirt anyway, mostly for the, "Huh?" factor.

(The reference is to polar explorer Roald Amundsen, who realized that on long journeys sled dogs stopped being assets and became liabilities as soon as their packs were empty, but that if you ATE the dogs at that point, they turned back into assets. Amundsen was ambitious, aggressive, and utterly lacking in sentimentality.)

December 14:
Life in my household:

Dementia: If you went around to the right, as I do, you wouldn't track water onto the floor.

Hyena: Yes, but you are morally superior to me.

Dementia: I'm really not.

Hyena: No, you aren't. Most days, I am all that stands between you and sociopathy.


Hyena: I have never understood people who find re-heated Chinese food edible.

Dementia: I have been know to reheat fortune cookies.

Hyena (after a pause): Fortune cookies are served at room temperature.

Dementia (after another pause): Egg rolls. I mean egg rolls.

Hyena: <>

Dementia: They're the same color!

December 15:
Went to the theater yesterday (and saw "The Man Who Invented Christmas", which was very good, and the better you know the source material, the better it is), and asked the concessionaire if she was going to be able to escape before the "Star Wars" storm started at 7:00 PM. She said that she was, and then asked if Dementia and I intended to be part of the storm. I shook my head. "We'll probably see it about the first of February," I said. "I'm completely indifferent to the idea of being 'spoiled', and my passion for 'Star Wars' died when 'Jedi' came out in 1983."

December 15:
Every time I set up something experimental in my networking studies, just before I hit the "Go" button, I hear the voice of Kurt Lortz saying, "There's one way to find out!"

(The late, great Kurt Lortz was a brilliant game master, once upon a long ago.)
Monday, December 11th, 2017
10:20 pm
Justice, Bird, Jessi, Critters
Movies and miscellany:

"Justice League" is the best movie so far in which Henry Cavill plays Superman. Of course, the bar for that was REALLY low... The villain is lame, and the movie fails to build suspense at the various cliffhanger points. On the other hand, the cast is good, and there are moments of character interaction that are positively brilliant, and pretty much worth the price of admission.

"Lady Bird" is a slice of life centered on a moderately eccentric teenage girl who is utterly self obsessed and also utterly lacking in self awareness. She shows a small amount of growth of the course of the story, but being trapped in the company of a fundamentally unpleasant person is just as uncomforatable when that person is on the screen as when they are in the same room.

In other news... I missed the December poker game due to a cold, but then barely got myself together the next day to have a long conversational meal with adopted niece Jessi, whom I had not seen in over a decade.

On the home front, the critters have been trying to get back into the attic. They punched a hole about the size of a mail slot through the roof, but do not seem to have actually gotten inside. I have installed a temporary patch that may do the job; we shall see.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, November 30th, 2017
8:49 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
November 16:
Said in my household:
"Ultimately, the core argument against atheism is the same as the one against strict heterosexuality: Why limit yourself?" --Julia Haynie

November 16:
This afternoon, for reasons that don't matter much, I had occasion to ask five different theater employees if they had ever heard of Charles Lindbergh. None of them had.

I don't know how to react to that...

November 18:
I can deal with cold. I am not fond of it, but I can deal with it. But I HATE snow.

November 22:
Life in my household:

Hyena: A router can only see the networks it is directly connected to, so you set up a routing protocol so that it tells its neighbors what it can see, and asks them what THEY can see...

Dementia: So it's all about gossip.

Hyena (laughing): Pretty much, yeah.

November 23:
Life in my household:
Dementia was wearing a tee shirt emblazoned with a list of names, white on black, in a vertical column. "Hurt" was listed between "McGann" and "Eccleston", and at the bottom, "Whittaker" followed "Capaldi." Hyena said, "That's a NEW shirt." Dementia just grinned. So did Hyena.

November 23:
After 25 years of home ownership, I have come a little bit closer to the US tradition of grilling in the back yard by cooking steak, in small pieces, on a hotdog fork, over an open fire in the living room fireplace. It was an extremely successful experiment, and will likely be tried again, particularly since we ate only half of the steak.

I still maintain that cooking is pointless unless you enjoy it, but I enjoy sitting in front of an open fire, and holding the hotdog fork doesn't diminish that. And the result was tasty...

November 24:
It occurs to me that Chris Hemsworth is growing up to be his generation's version of John Wayne. Except... he can ACT.

November 25:
Life in my household:

Reactions to TV viewing, without references in the name of avoiding spoilers.

Hyena: C'mon, guys, how many psychokinetics do you know? (There is a pause; a character comes through a door, and Hyena started to chant.) On Venus I learned the art of war; in this age will Lurga descend; I am the Pendragon.

One episode later:

Hyena: And Gordon sings the Stalker Song, and everybody gets to be happy.

For serious gold plated geek cred, identigy the "Pendragon" quote (which has nothing whatsoever to do with the show, other than invoking a similar scene).

(These are both references to "Stranger Things"; the literary reference is to "That Hideous Strength" by C.S. Lewis.)

November 27:
Today's earworm, courtesy of "Stranger Things", is, "You Don't Mess Around With Jim", by Jim Croce. I have made no effort at all to get rid of it...

November 29:
And with that, I have 101 km logged on the rowing machine for November (first time since February). Go, me.

November 29:
"It's a fighting machine that happens to be a work of art. It will become outmoded as the former, but never the latter. One day, it will be only a work of art. If we are lucky, one that can be appreciated by civilized men in a world without fighting machines." --Garth Ennis in the character of a British fighter pilot, "War Stories" #25, of the Supermarine Spitfire Mark VIII.

Ennis is one of my favorite writers in any medium; he certainly gets into my soul farther and more often than anyone else in his chosen medium (comic books).

As to the Spitfire... I wanted a photo of one in flight, couldn't find one, and had to settle for a painting. More than 20,000 were made (all variations, over ten years); fewer than 60 are still airworthy. But they ARE beautiful.

November 30:
Foolishness. In theory, every time you hack a portal in Ingress, it resets a 24 hour countdown timer, and as long as that timer never expires, the "Sojourner" counter keeps counting up. In practice, I am pretty sure I let it get to 26 or 27 hours a time or two. Still... a thousand consecutive days of Ingress. It means some infinitessimal amount more than absolutely nothing. (It actually ticked over yesterday, on Dementia's birthday.)

November 30:
You know that feeling you get when you are looking through the docs of a device that you don't actually have and you find a sketchy implication of something cool that might just work on a device that you DO have, and you extrapolate the missing bits and try it and it works PERFECTLY? Yeah, that feeling.

Or, as Victor Frankenstein once said, "It is... ALIVE!"

(In reference to tricking a router into behaving as a level 3 switch.)
Sunday, November 19th, 2017
10:59 pm
Marshall, Service, Thor, Orient
Movie updates:

"Marshall" is a sort of biopic. That is, it is based on a single incident in the life of Thurgood Marshall, from his days as an NAACP lawyer. It is very well done, and we enjoyed it a great deal.

"Thank You For Your Service" is a movie about PTSD. It follows four men who have recently returned from sharp edge duty in Iraq. All are damaged in one way or another. It is a well done film, and I am glad that I saw it, but it is not intended in any way to be enjoyable.

"Thor: Ragnarok" is one of the sillier offerings from the Marvel movie machine, in spite of having an extremely strong villain in Cate Blanchett's Hela. Marvel's cinematic Thor seems to be migrating somewhat toward the character of the sagas, as least as far as his intelligence goes. It is a pleasant enough movie, but a bit strange at points. Most tellingly, if you have established a background of Norse saga, and have a major character lose an eye, is should MEAN something.

"Murder on the Orient Express" approaches its subject matter as if it were repertory theater. That is, the audience is expected to KNOW the story, and is in the theater for the sake of nuances of design and performance rather than for the plot. The result is a film that is beautiful, and that draws excellent performances from a stellar cast, but that feels disjointed and a bit shapeless. We liked it well enough, but I came away feeling that there had been an even better film in the material that just barely failed to materialize.

Uncle Hyena
Thursday, November 16th, 2017
9:48 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
November 2:
So this afternoon I realized that my deep and abiding hatred of winter has bled over into an intense dislike of autumn, though I can get past it occasionally.

In the meantime, and possibly related, strange filky things have been happening in my head today. The tunes should be pretty obvious.

This one started out this "Cthulhu" instead of "Dagon", but "Dagon" just sounds better:

Dagon loves the little children,
All the children of the world:
Broiled or battered and deep fried,
With live puppies on the side,
Dagon loves the little children of the world.

And then there is this one, parts of which have been kicking around for a long time:

All the trees are dead,
And the sky is black;
The sun has gone away,
And it's not coming back.
Any hope of meaning
Is a thing we lack;
Life's a rocket railway
Running on a dead end track.

Wasn't that fun? (I'm not any crazier than usual today, really I'm not. But gray skies bring out the poetry...)

November 3:
Went into Cryptic Legends comics yesterday, was told there was nothing new on my pull list for the week. And then the proprietor handed me a back issue with a 20 cent cover price, meaning it was from the early 70s. "This came in, and I thought it was your kind of thing," he said.

"Swords of Sorcery" #1 from DC, featuring Fafhrd and the Gray Mouser. I smiled and bought it. Turns out the book only ran five issues, Denny O'Neil adapting Fritz Leiber. As it turns out, SoS #1 was also the first full length story pencilled by a guy named Howard Chaykin. Yeah, definitely my kind of thing.

November 5:
So there's a new housing development going up in the Felstead Way neighborhood in the town of Luton, Bedfordshire, in the UK. Steve Dillon lived in the area at the time of his death. There will be 36 new houses along two new streets. The streets are called, "Preacher Close" and "Cassidy Close".

Kind of rips my heart out, that does...

November 5:
Strange and obscure geekery:
Once upon a long ago, John Tenniel drew Lewis Carroll's Mad Hatter for the first time with a price card in his hat band that read "In this Style 10/6". That price card, and that specific price, have been part of the Hatter's image ever since. This evening, an unrelated item in a completely different context had a price card that read "10/6", and a voice in the back of my head said, "That's a half guinea," and the world shifted ever so slightly on its axis.

Quick show of hands: Did you know that a guinea was 21 shillings? Now that you do, do you care at all? Yeah. That.

And yet, I am grinning like a fool over it. My mind is a peculiar place.

November 9:
Saw "Thor: Ragnarok" yesterday, liked it, mostly. More detailed comments to follow. But...

It's common knowlege that Jack Kirby inspired the cityscape of Asgard; did anyone else see Moebius inspiration in the Junk World, and in the big space ship at the end? I sure did.

November 9:
The problem with exercising in the morning is that it gives you a sense of accomplishment... that is more than sufficient to kill any ambition or sense of urgency about anything else for the rest of the day.

November 10:
Had an experience last evening that reminded me why I am not a working writer. It involved carpentry, and it came out well enough in the end, but that isn't the point. I got it in my head to get a job done, hit a setback, decided to power through anyway, and hit a wall fairly hard. The details don't matter. The point is that there is a time to trudge ahead blindly, and there is a time to step back and walk away, at least for a while. Knowing when to do which is critical, and you will usually have to make the decision when you are tired, angry, sick, or otherwise impaired.

One of the consistent bits of writing advice that I hear over and over is to write EVERY day. I have experimented with this, and have learned that when I attempt to write by discipline the product makes me want to quit writing forever, or kill myself, or at the very least destroy all trace of the result so that no else reads it and decides that I have to die for the good of humanity. I have learned, in fact, that I really shouldn't try to write fiction until the pressure against the inside of my fingertips gets pretty intense. So I am not, and never will be, a commercial writer.

I do OK with Trudge Mode, usually, as long as I have some kind of goal in sight, and there is no creativity involved. I have lived in that mode for years at a time, actually. But creativity on demand? Nope. Not going to happen.

November 11:
My personal Veteran's Day ritual has been, for the last several years, to find an audience somewhere public and read Kipling's "Tommy" out loud, to the best of my acting ability. I don't always manage it; I don't have a venue in mind for today, yet.

In the meantime, my thanks and appreciation to all those who have served, or are serving.

November 11:
Dragged out to McHenry for a Bounding Main house concert tonight. REALLY good times.

November 13:
Game geekery: I was looking through the weapons list for D&D 5e today, and stumbled across the fact that scimitars and short swords have exactly the same stats. That is, the are "finesse" weapons, suitable for characters with more dexterity than strength, and they are "light" weapons, suitable for off-hand or dual weapon use. This makes sense for the short sword; the twin gladius style is well documented. The scimitar, though, is primarily a cavalry weapon, intended for chopping and slashing from horseback. They are blade-heavy and poorly balanced for thrusting, which makes them mediocre or worse fencing weapons.

The obvious source of this significant contrast between history and game rules would seem to be writer R.A, Salvatore, and his "white sheep" dark elf, Drizzt Do'Urden, who is hugely popular among readers of D&D fiction, and fights with a pair of magic scimitars. And since it is assumed that many players will want their characters to resemble Drizzt (and they do; "white sheep" dark elves have become something of a joke), history loses out.

There is an epistemological lesson to be learned in there, somewhere...
Wednesday, November 1st, 2017
9:48 pm
Random Bits from Facebook
October 16:
I am significantly amused that we live in a culture where it is possible to buy an extended warranty on an extruded aluminum heat sink.

October 17:
So there's a new hashtag meme out there, "I will" as a sympathetic male response to the (generally) female "Me, too." Now, I don't DO hashtag memes, I just DON'T. But if I did, I would do this one...

October 19:
Life in my household:

Hyena suggested something improbable. Dementia said, "That will never work."

Hyena shrugged and said, "Optimism frees a Major."

Dementia stared at Hyena; he stared back. Dementia blinked; Hyena lost control of his grin...

Dementia blinked again. Somewhere in the depths of her brain, a connection was made to an episode of "Boston Legal" in which Denny argued, with utter sincerity, that he thought the phrase "hope springs eternal" was a misapprehension of a story about a woman named Hope who liberated an army officer in a 1940s espionage movie. Dementia started to laugh.

So did Hyena.

October 20:
We were waiting for take-out food, and an elderly gentleman in a veteran's unit cap sat down next to me while his son went for their car. I asked him if he had been in WWII, or Korea. He said WWII, and I said he must be just a bit older than my father, who had been in boot on VE Day, and in an advanced school on VJ Day, and had then served with the Japan Occupation force.

He said that he had been in the Pacific, training for the invasion of the Japanese mainland, in August of 1945, and that the atomic bombs and subsequent Japanese surrender were the best news he had ever gotten. I told him he wasn't the first person I had heard that from, that everyone I had ever met who had been there agreed with him. He nodded.

I said, "That's not what they are teaching these days, you know. The newer history books are saying that Japan was already beaten, and that we dropped the bombs to scare the Soviets." He shook his head.

"You will never hear that from anyone who was there," he said. I said I didn't imagine that I would.

His son returned, he stood, I stood, I shook his hand, and wished him well.

October 21:
We went out to Geneva, IL, this afternoon to visit a dragon. Her name is "Viking", and she is a replica of the Gokstad ship, built in Norway in 1893, and sailed across the Atlantic (proving conclusively that it was possible) to participate in Chicago's Columbian Exhibition, and then spent nearly a hundred years being neglected by the City of Chicago.

These days, she is finally in the custody of people who care about her, and appreciate the treasure that she is. For the time being, the project is much, much bigger than the resources that are available, but progress is being made, anyway.

Here there be dragons.

October 28:
Went up to Racine last night for a game of "This House is Haunted" under the auspices of Joe Fromm and Robie Moore, who incidentally got engaged to each other over the course of the game. VERY good times. (Thanks much, Joe and Robie, for sharing with us.)

October 30:
Life in my household:

Dementia: I guess I shouldn't try to play barre chords while wearing fingerless gloves...
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