Wednesday, December 30, 2009
When I'm not writing, I work in the online financial services industry. I currently have my money in a large, "Too Big To Fail" national bank. I've been happy with them - their home and remote banking systems are top-notch and I feel safe and secure using their tools. As a security specialist, I think they're contentious and care about keeping me and my money safe.
And yet, I'm thinking about moving ALL my money out of them and into a local Community Bank or Credit Union. Why?
Because I fundamentally disagree with all the greed and deregulation that big banks have imposed on us, their customers. 2008 and 2009's most recent round of huge bailouts and the banks' resulting REDUCTION of lending capital (all while posting record profits, don't forget), has me soured on the Big Banks, even though as a consumer I like many of the positive and forward-looking security and rewards products they've put in place.
Recently on HuffPo, I saw an article on the "Move Your Money" movement and decided that it makes sense. Why keep empowering these large institutions to screw me sans lube? Why not put my money into my local community, where it will make the most impact? Why not?
The link above contains a pretty shmaltzy movie promoting this idea, but I don't hold that against the authors of the plan. There's also a link there for the site MoveYourMoney.info, which has a handy community bank locator - just type in your zip code and it will direct you to local banks in your area.
As of this posting Credit Unions are NOT on the list, but the site admins promise to have them added in early 2010. As soon as I do, you can guarantee I'll be shopping for a new bank. Sucks that it's come to this, but getting Rewards Points on my Visa or a spiffy iPhone app that lets me log into my accounts remotely (as cool as they are) aren't worth getting screwed in the bigger ways that matters.
Anyway, check it out and Happy New Year!!
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
Wow... check THIS out. Any bets on how long it will take Barnes and Noble to lock this shit down?
"Before you tut, toss your head and mutter ’so what?’ like some petulant teenager, think about the uses. The Nook is now a computer running a full Android operating system, with a built-in, free cellular connection to the internet. It also has a battery that lasts days, not hours. Now are you getting excited? This could turn into the Roomba of e-readers, only it won’t suck."
Thursday, December 10, 2009
Monday, December 7, 2009
If you have an iPhone (like I do), you're likely very, very used to slow data flow and dropped calls thanks to AT&T's truly craptacular network service. Using the iPhone on AT&T's network is like driving a Ferarri, but instead of rolling along on race compound steel-belted radials, some idiot thought it would be a good idea to bolt on wooden wagon wheels... then said you can never swap wheels! Actually, make that three wooden wagon wheels...
Well, now, there's something you can do about it. According to theiphoneblog.com:
AT&T has released a new iPhone app called AT&T Mark the Spot [Free - iTunes link] intended to allow customers to send in real-time, location-specific feedback about dropped calls, coverage gaps, or other network problems, have occurred.
So... if you have an iPhone and are sick to death of the crappy coverage... do something about it! Hope it helps someone - I know I'll be downloading this ASAP.
UPDATE: Downloaded it and it seems to work. It takes the GPS location of wherever you are, and allows you to enter symptoms such as "Dropped Call", "Poor Voice Quality", "Slow Data Connection" and others. Plus you can comment on the frequency and leave notes. After you submit, you get a text confirmation back from AT&T (which I hope they don't charge you for).
Friday, December 4, 2009
Andrew Sullivan just put this up as his latest "Poseur Alert"... Not to disagree with Mr. Sullivan, but I see the following as a reasonable (if difficult to find) goal for an adult relationship, one worth striving for.
And not to brag, but I think I've finally found the woman described below. Take it away, Brother West:
"The basic problem with my love relationships with women is that my standards are so high -- and they apply equally to both of us. I seek full-blast mutual intensity, fully fledged mutual acceptance, full-blown mutual flourishing, and fully felt peace and joy with each other. This requires a level of physical attraction, personal adoration, and moral admiration that is hard to find. And it shares a depth of trust and openness for a genuine soul-sharing with a mutual respect for a calling to each other and to others. Does such a woman exist for me? Only God knows and I eagerly await this divine unfolding. Like Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship in Emily Bronte’s remarkable novel Wuthering Heights or Franz Schubert’s tempestuous piano Sonata No. 21 in B flat (D.960) I will not let life or death stand in the way of this sublime and funky love that I crave!" - Cornell West, in his new memoir...
Wednesday, December 2, 2009
Having spent the weekend reloading my parents' spam-infested PC, I thought that it might be a good time to link to a useful article on how to spot potential email scams. As an internet security professional (of sorts), I see the fallout from these sorts of phishing scams every day, and I hate it when I see some poor bastard getting his checking account cleared out by a hacker.
I'm not saying that my folks actually fell prey to any of these but... (ahem!)
Read it. Learn it. Live it. If you follow these 10 simple rules, you'll be fine.
Hope this helps someone!
It's all over the web by now that the new Bioware game Dragon Age contains a love scene between two men. Well, OK, one man and one elf, anyway. If you don't believe me, here's a vid:
I'm sure that the fundie-pundits will gnash their teeth and bemoan this turn of events. All I can see is a very cliched love scene (complete with suitably stirring choral music) and "artsy" dissolve shots. Really, this sort of montage was already old and hoary when Sarah Conner doinked Kyle Reese in the Terminator.
But I digress... At least this is progress, and I would have loved to have sat in on the development meetings where they debated whether or not to include this option. Good for you, Bioware!
But I gotta ask... what's with the elf's very bad Antonio Bandaras impression??
Friday, November 20, 2009
Friday, November 13, 2009
Exciting news! NASA just reported that, due to their recent bombing of the Moon, they think they've discovered an area of "hydrogen-rich deposits covered by dessicated regolith" at the south pole!
That means "water" to you and me. At least... probably. Hopefully.
That also means that one of the biggest hurdles to establishing a permanent manned moon base (i.e. access to water) may be solved. I don't know about you, but I'd like to retire in a condo facing the east slope of the Apeninne Mountain range, just off the Sea of Serenity. Low gravity, awesome night skies and a daily "Earthrise"... Count me in!
My friend Scott is a huge Star Wars fan and a master-class costumer. I ran across this the other day and thought he'd like it.
I gotta admit: I found something strangely appealing about a rapping Obi-Wan wearing Flavor Flav's big honking clock medallion. And hey... Lea in the gold bikini... 'nuff said.
In the end, however, this ended up feeling like a Luke Ski filk piece (i.e. it shoulda ended about 2 minutes before it actually did). Still funny though. Enjoy!
ALL NEW! Star Wars Gangsta Rap: Chronicles
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
I've been reading quite a bit lately about the Brushes iPhone app. Apparantly, George Columbo, one of the New Yorker cover artists often uses the app to make paintings of NYC on his iPhone, paintings of sufficiently high quality to grace the covers of that august publication. Check it out:
More amazing images can be found in the Brushes artists' gallery HERE, but some others I really liked are copied below. Guess I'll have to check it out - the idea of having such a highly-powered art app always in my pocket is, in a word, intoxicating.
Friday, November 6, 2009
Just read an interesting article on the creation of the 'iMac" name and the "Think Different" ad campaign over on the CultofMac website. The interview is with Ken Segall, an advertising exec working with Steve Jobs in the 90's when the whole "iMac revolution" was brewing.
While I admit to having... personal problems... with the way Apple does things (limitation of customization, chafing under an operating system that often feels like it sacrifices completeness and flexibility for some ill-defined notion of "simpleness" that makes everyone work the same), I have to admit that phrases like this are very interesting to me:
Segall was still consulting for Apple until a couple of years ago when he started working for Dell.
“Dell and Apple: It’s night and day,” Segall says. “It’s a transactional world Dell lives in. It’s all about numbers. Everything they say about Apple making products for themselves is true. Apple — it’s about changing the world. For everyone else, it’s about the money.”
In case you don't know it, during my days I work as a Product Manager, and it really is intriguing to me that a company as large as Apple still retains this sort of reverence for individual vision over the simple worship of the bottom line.
The real question, as it always is with Apple, is: what will happen when Jobs, for whatever reason, is forced to step down?
You can read te entire interview over at CultofMac HERE.
Thursday, November 5, 2009
The Blood Magic series was just mentioned by guest blogger Jason Sanford over on Jeff Vandermeer's blog, Ecstatic Days. Full disclosure: Jason Sanford is a member of Writeshop, the Columbus-based writer's group which critiques all my work.
Click HERE to see the full write-up.
I’m optimistic Matt will find a new publisher for the third book. The reprint rights are also available. So if any publishers are looking for a hot new writer to bring under their wing, two words: Matt Cook!
I should also admit a purely selfish reason for blogging about this: I WANT TO READ THIS FINAL NOVEL! I refuse to fall in love with these characters and their story and not discover how everything turns out.
I'm hopeful as well, and continue to work hard on the series. Now that the publication rights have reverted back to me from Juno, my goal is to try and tempt another published to pick up the entire collection. It's a dream of mine to see all 3 books in a set, perhaps as a trade paperback set (with matching covers) or even, dare I say, a hardcover set. With a slipcase! ((Swoon!))
Of course, I gotta finish that pesky third book, first... Never fear though - it's coming along. Perhaps not as quickly as the other books (particularly Book 2, which was written in about 8 months total), but it will be done!
Thursday, October 15, 2009
Most of my readers probably don't know it, but I actually knew Carl Sagan. I won't say we were buddies - I was just a kid all the times I met him at various talks and symposiums and I'm sure he wouldn't have remembered me if I met him on the street - but I always was deeply, deeply enthralled by his vision of what mankind might just be able to accomplish in the future. His enthusiasm, passion and, yes, joy for learning and expanding the sphere of human knowledge was just as wonderfully infectious when I was a kid first watching the Cosmos PBS series as today.
A small piece of that passion can be found in this video. I know it's "gone viral" by now and doesn't need the hits, but I link it here primarily in the memory of a wonderful man and his amazing vision of "what can be". I admit it: I cried a little bit when I first saw this. If you don't understand this, or know where the original video footage comes from, you must, at the soonest possible moment, go to your local library, check-out the DVD collection of Cosmos and watch it. You'll be happy you did, trust me.
Carl wasn't just a physicist... he was a philosopher and a dreamer and an amazing writer possessing the rarest of abilities: he could merge the language of science with those of art and inspiration. Hearing him speak again in the video below reminded me of just how eloquent he really was, and I think he would have liked this funky auto-tuned remix of Cosmos.
I think this line from the chorus says it best:
"The sky calls to us. If we do not destroy ourselves, we will one day venture to the stars."
Take it away, Carl - you are deeply, deeply missed...
UPDATE: I just saw that the audio track and a higher-rez version of the video are available as a free download at Colorpulse Music - click HERE for the download page. Instructions on downloading and saving different versions are there.
Tuesday, October 13, 2009
I was reading today that Spike Jonze, the director of the new film adaptation of Where The Wild Things Are, is being criticized for making his movie... you know... actually scary, like the book.
From the linked article:
Spike Jonze recalls how Maurice Sendak urged him to make the movie version of "Where the Wild Things Are" as dangerous as the book was when the children's classic came out in 1963.The article goes on to say:
The question now is whether Jonze made it too dangerous.
At a test screening of an early cut, some children found the wild things creepy and scary.
Rather than snatching the $80 million project away from Jonze, Warner decided to give him more time. Jonze reshot some scenes, and he spent the past year applying computer animation to create the facial expressions on his wild things, which were shot live on set using actors inside giant monster suits.
The result certainly is more challenging, and potentially more rewarding, than many family films.
Creepy? Scary? Well... DUH! Good for you, Warner Brothers, for accurately interpreting a classic book and not bowing to lowest-common-denominator fears about what is or is not too intense for a kid (particularly when the story is as complex as Sendek's classic tale).
I remember WTWTA very, very well. I had a love/hate relationship with the book literally since the first time my Dad read it to me, one that I still retain. Any time I open the book, even as an adult, I get a chill. There's just something so creepy and otherworldly in the sequence when Max's room transforms into a forest. It freaked me out as a boy and it's still, in my opinion, simply captivating.
And then, when Max decides to sail away home, and the Wild Things stand on the shore and scream "we love you so much we'll eat you up!" (presumably so they can rend him limb-from-limb in the intensity of their devotion)... Shudder.
The evoking of fear here was crucial, and is why I no doubt remember the book when hordes of others have been forgotten. As a writer myself, one that deals with fear issues in his work all the time, I'm still hopeful that I might create something a fraction as enduring as Sendek's story.
I was excited to see the film before, but now I'm practically jumping out of my seat. As the father of a young son, I wonder if he'll find the film as terrifying and spellbinding as I did when my Dad read it aloud to me.
One can hope...
Thursday, October 8, 2009
Tuesday, September 29, 2009
Have to be quick here - I'm on a break at my new job (yay!)
Just learned that Joss Whedon (the creator of Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, Angel and, most recently, Dollhouse) gave a great interview on his writing/work process with This American Life's Ira Glass recently over on 826NYC. This organization is dedicated to:
826NYC is a nonprofit organization dedicated to supporting students ages 6-18
with their creative and expository writing skills, and to helping teachers
inspire their students to write. Our services are structured around our belief
that great leaps in learning can happen with one-on-one attention and that
strong writing skills are fundamental to future success. With this in mind we
provide drop-in tutoring, field trips, after-school workshops, in-schools
tutoring, help for English language learners, and assistance with student
publications. All of our free programs are challenging and enjoyable, and
ultimately strengthen each student's power to express ideas effectively,
creatively, confidently, and in his or her individual voice.
You can listen to the entire interview via streaming audio HERE - it's really entertaining!
Please note that you can also donate to 826NYC's mission from that same page - if you support the goal of teaching creative writing to children, please donate $5, $10 or whatever you can spare to this great cause.
Thanks Ira and Joss and thanks to everyone out there who chooses to donate!
Sunday, September 20, 2009
Thursday, September 10, 2009
UPDATE for fans of the Blood Magic books!
Now that I'm employed once again and the awful monkey of unemployment is off my back, I've decided to begin Blood Magic Book 3! That's right - we'll all finally learn what happens to Kirin, Lia, the Mor and everything/everyone else!
I never set out to write a fantasy trilogy (that most hackneyed of literary conventions), and yet here I am, contemplating just that. In case you don't know it, the first Kirin Book (Blood Magic) was originally written to be completely stand-alone, and I thought I'd ended it in such a way that no sequel was required or even possible.
Then Paula Guran, my then-editor at Juno, asked me specifically if I had a sequel in me, and seeing as how she was offering to purchase it on nothing more than an outline and her confidence that I could finish it, I decided to give it a go. Book 2 (Nights of Sin) came out better than I could have dreamed, and I'll be forever grateful to Paula and Juno for the opportunity to write it. Now that Juno has been acquired by Pocket Books, there's little chance that Book 3 will be released under the Juno imprint - too bad, but that's just how these things go.
So... what's in store for Book 3? Well, for one thing, I know I'm going to return to the back-and-forth chapter style that I used in Book 1, but rather than alternate past/present events as in that book I'm going to use a shifting POV (point-of-view) between Lia and Kirin. I thought that this would be interesting since (IMHO) Lia's viewpoint and opinions have been sort of given short shrift in the previous books. So far, researching her unique voice and her interpretations of events chronicled in Books 1 and 2 has been very entertaining for me.
Also, you can definitely expect a final explanation of the Mor's reasons and motivations. Why did they invade? Why do they fear humanity? Why do they particularly hate Kirin? Where exactly did humans come from and where might they be going? Who or what is Ico,the Imperial Wizard? All this, and more, will be explained by the last page.
Hopefully this news will come as a welcome thing. I think it will, given the mail and messages you, the readers, have sent me over the past two years. I'd encourage you, as I always do, to mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any lingering questions.
Wish me luck!
Wednesday, September 9, 2009
I've been wanting to go to the Burning Man celebration for over a decade, mainly because of descriptions like this.
The truth, though, is that Burning Man is an ideal place for self-reflection and self-transformation, whether substance-aided or not, and as someone who's just gotten back from his 8th Burn, Lambert's revelation didn't surprise me a bit. Friends of mine have changed their names, their professions, and their entire lives at Burning Man. And not because they were stoned or tripping, but because Black Rock City -- the temporary city (built and erased within a month) where the event goes on every year, the week before Labor Day -- has a tendency to expand horizons, reveal possibilities, and question the assumptions most of us make about how we're supposed to live our lives.
Maybe next year. Hope so...
Monday, September 7, 2009
Ran across this blog site and thought I'd post a link up. It's Stuff Christian Culture Likes, a list of oddments and analysis about, well, "stuff Christian culture likes". The author seems well-suited for this task:
I sort of consider myself an expert on Christian culture as I am a preacher's kid and I'm also married to a preacher's kid. Christian culture is funny because it doesn't have much (if anything) to do with Christ himself.
Overall very funny and occasionally bittersweet and cutting. My favorite so far? "Leaving Perturbed Comments And Signing Them 'Anonymous'" (because that happens here all the time, too).
Amy fave might just be "Coffeehouses" (ask her about it one day!).
BONUS: Of course... (sigh)...
Saturday, September 5, 2009
This is for Amy...
My girlfriend and I bought a house back in June and have been renovating it. It's a 20's-era house and we're decorating it in 50's era retro, a style she and I both love.
While looking around for stuff, I hit across a wonderful gallery of portraits taken by Jennifer Greenburg documenting the "Rockabilly" sub-culture. Not only are the photos amazing, but the rooms in which the subjects pose become equally important and fascinating characters in the min-stories the portraits tell. Great stuff!
Thursday, September 3, 2009
Good news!! I've received a very handsome offer from Yodlee, a Silicon Valley software company, to work for them as a Product Manager. I've been talking to them for weeks now, and it seems as if they feel I'd be a good fit. I'm spending the morning filling out paperwork and working through the details of the offer letter, but it looks like, barring any 11th-hour madness, I'll be employed in the 14th of September!
Thanks to EVERYONE who has sent me emails, calls and support messages over the last 6 months - they really helped. Also thanks to Greg McCrery, who I used to work with at CheckFree, for getting the ball rolling via your recommendation at LinkedIn - this never would have happened without you!
Back to work!!
Wednesday, September 2, 2009
Apparently, Glenn Beck tried to explain the "missing C" in "oligarChy" the following day on his show. Keith Olbermann at MSNBC promptly pulled out a big can of "allow me to respectfully disagree", to wit:
Oh well, at least someone is amused by this.
Friday, August 28, 2009
Um... WTF is an "Oligarhy"? Can Fox not even afford free interns and copies of Micosoft Word, if for nothing else but the spell-checker?
My opinion: most people watching Glenn Beck can't spell anyway, so they probably figured "why not?" I'd also bet $100 cold, hard cash that if you random-polled 1000 Fox News viewers, 99% would not be able to define what an "oligarchy" is (hint: it's "a form of government in which power effectively rests with a small elite segment of society distinguished by royal, wealth, intellectual, family, military or religious hegemony")...
...but I bet they'd say they were "a'skeered' of it.
Also... in regards to his little rant at the end about "I'm tired of being a sheep... I'm tired of being pushed around!"
Um. Last I checked, this ass-hat owns a palatial $4.25M manor estate, (hat tip: HuffPo for the link) and enjoys the protections of the 1st Amendment, which allows complete and total tools like this to bilk gullable right-wing nimrods. Oh well... enjoy that house while you can, Glenn, because we all know where this is headed. Personally, I can't wait until Beck joins the likes of Morton Downey Jr. (meaning: he drops of the face of the earth, not dies from lung cancer...)
Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Saw this over on HuffPo earlier today and thought I'd cross-link to it here.
I have an 18 year-old daughter who texts literally all the time, often times, I fear, while behind the wheel. She also often has her infant in the car. I really hope she sees this...
There are some interesting links in the original post, some to sites asking the question "does this go too far?"
In a word: no.
In America, most teens learn to drive in an automatic car, which takes little effort and thought to operate. New drivers literally have no idea how much momentum a car picks up at even slower speeds, and, hence, just how dangerous a hurtling chunk of steel, rubber and glass can be (particularly when faced with a head-on collision with another vehicle). Compound those factors with all the distractions faced by new drivers (all cars have stereos now, teens travel in groups and often travel with distracting passengers, all made even worse by the fact that most teens have always-on cell phones at the ready), and you have a recipe for disaster, as this 4:00 minute piece shows.
Warning: this is graphic, but I think it should be safe for work, given the message it hopes to send. Personally, I commend whoever green-lighted this piece's production and airing, and I hope we see a US version soon.
NOTE: CLICK HERE if you can't see the embedded video for some reason.
Monday, August 24, 2009
So, I went out to California to interview for a job last week with a company that really impressed me. Not to jinx myself, but I hope to hear something one way or the other TOMORROW (as in, Tuesday). It's feeling like it's going pretty well, but I've been around this particular block a few times and I know that wishful thinking can and does distort one's vision. Hopefully this time, I'm seeing 20/20.
Look for an update one way or the other tomorrow.
And now, today's writing tip of the week...
Around 2:00 this afternoon I simply could not stand being in the house for another microsecond, so I decided to avail myself of my new neighborhood's wonderful jogging trail down the Walhalla Ravine. I'll talk about the place more later - for now it's not important. What IS is the fact that, even though I've been chewing over a bit of characterization for my new book for weeks it seems like, the answer occurred to me within 20 minutes of getting out of my house and under the trees, my heart pumping and my conscious mind distracted by thoughts of "Oh, God, oh, God, my legs, my legs hurt they hurt they hurt..." This left my sub-conscious, always my better half when it comes to producing idea breakthroughs clear to 'do it's thang'.
Well worth a bit o' agony, IMHO.
Now, anyone that's been following this blog (and if you haven't, feel free to check out the "Articles on Writing" link on the right link bar) knows that I think quite a lot about WHERE ideas come from and WHAT to do with them once they arrive. In this case, I found it interesting that I was completely stuck for days until I got out of my rut, got out of my house and went out someplace where I could try and see the world (and this is important) through my characters' eyes.
There's more I want to say about this idea, and I'll talk more about this soon in a separate article, but I wanted to share what happened today, just in case someone else is out there, stuck and frustrated and wondering how to get past their most recent bout of block.
Anyway... If you're into all that, send me positive energy/happy thoughts/joy-joy feelings... whatever you cotton to, because I'm hoping for good news tomorrow. Until then, keep dreaming and keep writing every day! It's what writers do.
Sunday, August 9, 2009
I'm at the beach this week. Here's a shot from the patio of the beach house Mom rented.
Grayson's having a great time playing in the blood-warm water. Now all I have to do is keep him from getting burned to a crisp.
Had some job interviews before I left - hopefully one or more will ripen into a full-fledged offer. That would be so nice. I'm getting some long-delayed editing done down here as well.
Monday, August 3, 2009
I was on Juno Books' site last night and saw an announcement that both Blood Magic and Nights of Sin were nominated for the 2009 Gaylactic Spectrum Award. If you haven't heard about this award (I hadn't - sorry), it is:
I know it sounds very corny to say that I'm honored to be nominated, but I really, really am. I'm up against some really wonderful writers, so hoping to win is likely nothing but pure hubris, but in this case I truly am honored that someone out there not only read the novels but also thought that the depictions of Kirin and Lia were compelling and positive enough to merit the nomination. Whoever you are - thank you.
The Gaylactic Spectrum Awards honor outstanding works of science fiction, fantasy and horror which include significant positive explorations of gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered characters, themes, or issues.
The Gaylactic Network, the premiere organization for gay and lesbian fandom, created the Awards in 1998 because there was no existing avenue for the recognition of outstanding gay-positive work within the genre. In 2002, the Awards struck out on their own, under the auspices of the newly created Gaylactic Spectrum Awards Foundation. The Gaylactic Network remains a primary partner for the Awards. The Gaylactic Spectrum Awards Foundation is working on its own incorporation and is seeking to obtain charitable organization status to enhance its ability to inform and educate.
Oftentimes, books and other works can be overlooked - and publishers, authors and artists need to know that their inclusion of gay issues, characters and themes is appreciated. Before the Gaylactic Spectrum Awards, no award had been developed that honored works for both genre content AND gay content. Because speculative fiction offers an opportunity to explore complex and sometimes unpopular issues through the distance of other worlds, times and cultures, we hope the award will encourage professionals working in science fiction, fantasy and horror to use the genre to explore characters and issues of importance to the gay community.
The award will be given at this year's Gaylaxicon in Minneapolis on October 9-11. I'm writing the con organizers now to see if I can work out a way to attend - I'm still looking for a full-time job, and money is tight, so a trip to Minneapolis might not be in the cards for me, but we'll see. Either way, wish me luck!
Wednesday, July 29, 2009
HuffPo has an interesting piece up about the soon-to-be-released "restored edition" of Hemmingway's classic book, A Movable Feast. It's been a few years since I read the book, so I think a trip to the library is in order. Passionate stuff...
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Ah, The Onion... how I doth love thee. The tone of this is just about perfect, and the comments about "deeply developed characters" hits just a wee bit too close to home. The little graphic-novel style interludes (a la Max Payne), are a wonderful little inside joke. Brilliant!!
Hot New Video Game Consists Solely Of Shooting People Point-Blank In The Face
Wednesday, June 17, 2009
I don't usually enjoy Weird Al's stuff, but this was too clever by half. Plus, he actually got The Doors' Ray Manzarek (warning: Papyrus font used on the linked site!!) to play the distinctive keyboards, which was always my favorite part of any Doors tune. And, hey... the foam peanuts line is just too true.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Holy shit... I just found my new dining room table. If you have no idea what this is well... I guess that just means that you're not a gaming geek.
Don't worry - I still respect you.
From the web site:
Hell yeah, there is, man! ALl for only $1500 - quite a steal. I'm very taken by the "dropped" playing surface. The idea of leaving all my gaming stuff or even half-painted miniatures lying undisturbed in the recessed area, just waiting for my next session is powerfully appealing.
The Emissary is our hybrid Gaming & Dining table.
Incorporating the same Dropped Play Surface and Layer Cake game surface as the Sultan Gaming Table, the Emissary has the features to take your games to the next level.
All packed into an gorgeous dining room table constructed of solid hardwoods with quality joinery, this table will perform for generations.
There is a place waiting for one in your Home.
Or... if you have upwards of $9 Large burning a hole in your pocket, you can always go totally nuts and purchase The Sultan which is sot of like the Emissary on rhino steroids. If you're a gamer I double-dog dare you to browse the photos of the Sultan behind that link and not drool. The workmanship looks amazing, and, hey, what more can I say beyond:
The Sultan comes with central dice bay. This is a deep dice rolling area separated from the play area with enough containment to really roll.
Some configurations also have internal dice towers. Throw your dice in the top and let the table give you truly random results below.
Next steps: find a job so I can actually, you know, pay for all that delicious hardwood gaming goodness. No luck yet, I'm afraid, despite a recent interview. Send happy-happy thoughts my way, okee dokee?
Sunday, May 24, 2009
This is so cool... a solar-powered "hybrid aircraft, that would need batteries to take off and climb, but then could maintain level fight on solar power, and could also be flown as a glider, with the prop stowed away."
Recently, this plane, called the Sunseeker II, flew across Europe and even crossed the Swiss Alps, all under it's own (battery and solar) steam. What's even cooler (to me), is that:
More details about the Sunseeker II and its current European tour can be found HERE. While I'm at it, here's an amazing video of the Alps crossing flight, including some absolutely amazing footage of the pilot opening the cockpit canopy to stick the video camera out the side. Can you imagine having one of these for your daily commute? I know I can...
The Sunseeker II fies slowly enough that it is comfortable with the canopy open.
Also, birds are not afraid and come very close, matching my speed, almost landing on my plane sometimes.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Saturday, May 9, 2009
Friday, May 8, 2009
Like all writers, I'm often asked that most dreaded of conversational questions: "So... where do you get your ideas?"
It's difficult sometimes to explain to people that coming up with the ideas isn't the hard part - in fact, I'm finding that the more I write, the more ideas I seem to have. Nature, it's been said, abhors a vacuum, and that definitely seems to be the case when it comes to ideas - it's like fresh ones flow in to fill up the spaces left-over as soon as I finish a new piece. It's cool...
Just yesterday, I had an idea for a short story, which I've already finished. I'll run it past my amazing and wonderful review readers to see if it's any good - I really can't tell half the time any more. (My working title is "Baba Yaga vs. The Nazi Horde!". Don't worry - I'll change it before I send it out.)
The cool thing is that, due to the rapidity of the concept and writing process (concept to finished first draft in less than 48 hours is really fast for me), I was able for the first time in a while to actually watch all the pieces fall into place, like building blocks. Or Legos. So, I've decided to document how it happened, just in case it helps someone out there struggling with their own creativity issues.
Anyone who's been reading my posts for the last few months knows that I'm out of work right now. This leaves me time for my favorite past-time: catching movies I'd otherwise miss at my local second run dollar theater.
Also, dollar movies are about all I can afford to do right now. That and go to the library. And fret over my unanswered job applications. Sigh.
The other day, I went to see the WWII movie Defiance, starring Daniel Craig. the movie's about Jewish partisans in WWII Belarus, and was quite entertaining.
I also, quite coincidentally, have always been fascinated with the folklore character Baba Yaga, the archetypal witch/crone fairy tale character and prototype for just about every "mean old witch in a gingerbread house." According to legend, Baba Yaga, flies through the air on an enormous mortar and pestle, and lives in a wooden hut that stands on chicken legs. Oh, and she's also a cannibal.
Now, I've been trying to work this myth into one of my stories for years, you have to understand, but I mean, come on. How many stories are actually better with a mortar-and-pestal-riding witch and her dancing, chicken-legged house? Who is also a cannibal? It's a tough sell.
Cut to the other day. I'm sitting in the theater. Daniel Craig's running around shooting Nazis with a MP40 machine gun. People are tossing hand grenades. There are tanks.
"Hmmmm..." I say in my head. "I wonder what would happen if ol' Daniel there got lost in the woods, Hansel and Gretel style, and accidentally ran across someone like, oh, say, Baba Yaga?"
And bam... just like that, I had a story seed. A little watering (via my patented conscious/subconscious 'fret over it' process), and it opened its dark petals, becoming... well... "Baba Yaga vs. the Nazi Horde!"
Of course, not all of my stories are so easy. I'm *still* working on the novella set in Kirin's world, and I've had my fair share of manuscripts that seemed intriguing when I began, only to end up abandoned in despair, half-done, two weeks later. Most will never be picked up again, but at least I wrote enough of them down to know beyond a shadow of a doubt that they didn't work and could be safely left beside the road.
So, in closing... If you're a writer, frustrated by a lingering inability to finish projects (I've been there, believe me), I'll say again what I've been saying all along:
- Start your day writing, and write as long as possible right up to the time you have to leave for work. Seriously... every day. Or at least Mon.-Fri. Saturday is a bonus, and give yourself a day off on Sunday. You'll need time, after all for:
- Pay attention to all the things around you - as my Baba Yaga story shows, everything that happens to you can, when combined with the million odd happens of everyday life, become a story seed.
- And... above all else... No matter how bad the story seems, finish it whenever possible and get the damn thing out of your head. Don't worry if it's "a masterpiece" or even "good" - any mechanical or technical issues can easily be fixed in the editing process or through a writer's group, and I promise you... absolutely promise you... that as you clear out the dusty, cobwebbed ideas that have been growing mold up in your mental attic for the last decade or two, other, better ones will flow in!
Thursday, May 7, 2009
So... Amy and I have this little game we called "The Daily Papyrus" (Papyrus being an incredibly over-used font, appearing on everything from hippy-dippy organic tea brands to Mexican restaurant signage to... well, you basically see the Goddamned thing everywhere). As we drive around, we fight to see who can notice its usage someplace.
We find examples every single day. Every. Single. Day.
Anyway... This is for you, Amy:
Wednesday, May 6, 2009
Um... yeah. This is actually pretty true (much to my chagrin).
Thanks go to Katrina from my writer's group for this. (( Bows )).
9. There should be a captain. If there is not a captain, there should be a special agent. If there is not a special agent, there should be a cadet with a future. If there is no cadet with a future, there should be a mercenary with a dark past.
If there is no mercenary with a dark past, there should be a wisecracking stowaway. If there is no wisecracking stowaway, there should be a witch. If there is no witch, there should be a scientist. If there is no scientist, just remake Spaceballs.
More rules for would-be Space Opera writers HERE.
...because you're going to get a lot more like it.
Seriously... do we really need:
Fox is also in the formative stages of a "Wolverine" sequel that will encompass the samurai storyline that was hinted at as Wolverine sat in a bar in Japan as the film concluded (Daily Variety, May 4).
Separately, Fox is developing "Magneto," a film about the X-Men villain with a script by Shelton Turner, and "X-Men: First Class," which Josh Schwartz is penning.
Golly gee... more mutant teenagers and a strange, offshoot ninja/samurai storyline for Wolverine that really was played out by the end of the 1980's. Oh, and Deadpool, "one of the most popular [characters] in Marvel Comics' X-Men universe." Um... really? Deadpool? Because, according to Mr. "Pool's" Wikipedia article:
Wizard Magazine ranked Deadpool the 182nd best comic book character of all time, of their list of the Top 200 Comic Book Characters of All Time.
Wow. 182nd. Out of *200*. That's well below such stellar and film-worthy characters as The Enlongated Man (#160), The Watcher (#150), and Alfred Pennyworth (Batman's butler - #142) - definitely solid characters, but not exactly names that fly, trippingly, off the tongue when one considers making a dedicated feature-lengh film. Methinks someone at Marvel's been huffing ink fumes again...
I went and saw the Wolverine movie this weekend and all I can say is... meh. It wasn't bad, certainly not, but it wasn't really anything special, either. It certainly would have helped if Hugh "Does My Goofy-ass Beard Look Stupid?" Jackman hadn't sleepwalked through most of the film. Seriously... it felt like even he was bored by the whole thing - you could almost see the words "this is what I'll be typecast as for the next 15 years?" scrolling across his forehead.
I know... I know... as someone who wants to one day make a living in partnership with the comic industry, I suppose I shouldn't talk bad about a huge franchise like the X-men, but given the wealth of other (and, let's face it, better) story arcs out there, written by amazingly talented writers like Bendis, Millar and others, do we honestly need endless re-hashings of a few cherry-picked characters' back-story? Something about it just feels like Marvel is deciding to "dumb down" the superhero genre to be more palatable for the general market, a choice that never seems to work. Do they really want to get a reputation for churning out schlock, to the point where your average moviegoer responds with apathy? Because I know I'm yawning re-reading that Variety article...
Let's hope that the new Avengers flick (which seems to be based... loosely perhaps... on the gritty and very adult "Ultimates" storyline, will be good (although I'm certainly not holding my breath)...
Tuesday, May 5, 2009
First of all... no good news on the job front yet. I still have a few resumes out there that I'm following up on but, well... (shrug). Sorry - I know you all must be dying for good news. Soon, I hope...
On the bright side, I just finished up yet another short story, titled "Insha'Allah", that I'm pretty happy with. Thanks to Amy (for the neverending inspiration), Jen (for your priceless edits and suggestions), Jen's friend Simon (who gave me pointers on Islamic food, culture and langauage) and everyone else that's agreed to take a look but who have not yet provided feedback but I'm sure you will any day now.
A few weeks back I was listening to some tunes on my beloved Hype Machine, when I ran across a blog posting with a very intriguing embedded music track. The artist (it was claimed), was a 14- or 15-year old Pakistani girl named Arwa Abad - the track was a cover of Terra Naiomi's song "Say It's Possible".
Quite frankly, it blew me away. If anything, I like Arwa's version better than the original. not TOO hard, seeing as how the source track is a bit, um, bubblegummy for me, but her cover is really interesting.
Thanks to a comment on the origonal blog posting, I was directed to Arwa Abad's account page on Soundclick - I think it's worth checking out of you're in the mood for a spot of new music. Downloads are free, thanks to Ms. Abad: just click on the "Music" link on the left-side nav menu and either stream the musical goodness, or download whatever tracks tickle your fancy as an .MP3. All are worth giving a listen to, but I really recommend checking out "Say It's Possible", as well as her cover of Iron and Wine's "Each Coming Night".
And to Arwa... if you're reading this, keep it up!!
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Disappointing (if not unentirely unexpected) news today...
Orson Scott Card, one of my all-time favorite science fiction writers and author of the incomparable Ender's Game joined the board of directors of the National Organization for Marriage (NOM) yesterday, according to the Box Turtle Bulletin.
NOM, you may know, released the more-than-a-little nutty "Gathering Storm" movie last month, warning all good Christians that their heterosexual "traditional" marriages , even their livelihoods and personal liberties, are in jeopardy in the face of growing support for gay marriage. If you haven't seen it, you can find it on YouTube HERE. Sorry, but I won't sully the page by embedding such trash here - I do have some standards. I will however, embed this fun parody ad... you tell 'em George "Mr. Sulu" Takei!
OK, all fun aside... while I have nothing but respect for Mr. Card as a writer, I have to say that it's more than a little disturbing to see a man of his imagination and intelligence supporting this close-minded, ignorant point of view. I get that he's a Mormon, and I also get that the LDS Church is a big, big opponant of equal rights for marriage of gays and lesbians. Issues of faith have always been a big part of Mr. Card's work, and informs it in a way that often makes his books unique and thought provoking.
One of the key themes in Speaker For The Dead, the sequel to Ender's Game, was tolerance and understand of other cultures, especially ones alien and difficult to understand at first blush. The main tragedy of Ender's Game was the death of an entire alien species, as well as the irreparable damage to a young boy's childhood, due to misunderstanding and xenophobia. To see these very same themes so blithely ignored in the name of uncompromising religion is... well disappointing doesn't even come close to covering it.
Unless there's some seething and very well disguised thread of intolerance in Ender's Game and Speaker For The Dead, a thread that I've missed all these years, then it's a real shame to see Mr. Card's characters acting in a way that's more open-hearted and tolerant than the man himself seems to be. I've drifted away from Mr. Card's later work, finding it less and less relevant in my life (I guess now I can see why), but I still love and read his earlier works.
I suppose that, as a writer, I should make allowances. After all, I routinely write about evil characters, ones that do Very Bad Things to people, often with righteous smiles on their faces. This doesn't mean (I hope) that I am evil, or that I like inflicting the kinds of pain on others that my characters sometimes (often) do. It's just... weird... to think that while I'm getting my catharsis writing about blood-sucking necromancers and walking dead, Mr. Card may be exorcising his demons by writing about tolerant people on quests of self-discovery. If that's true, it would be one weird reversal...
In any case, I certainly hope that Mr. Card does not get his wish, and never sees the government overthrown in the name of an intolerant hegemony, nor do I wish to see a world where religious nutcases like the leaders of the Mormon Church get to dictate who a person can love and marry.
Sorry, Orson, but as brilliant a writer as you are, I have to draw the line somewhere.
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
Good news on the job front (hopefully)...
I got a call today from a company referred to me by a mutual acquaintance (see, kids... networking does work!) In a nutshell, they may be interested in interviewing me, despite the "non-traditional way" in which I've managed my professional career development. That's the polite way to say: "You have a fine arts degree and yet you worked for an internet financial services corporation for 12 years? Um... really??"
Yes, I know... it is strange, but life's just like that sometimes.
I don't want to say much about this yet, partly for superstitious reasons (knocks on wood, touches iron, sacrifices a stuffed Ms. Piggy doll on the alter of Jim Henson), but also because it's way too early to start counting unhatched poultry. I will say though that the company in question actually makes a product that helps society, which is something I'd be happy to be associated with - anyone who knows me knows that I'm very much a fan of the "not just for profit" business model, and working for a company that does more than just shovel consumer products at people would be awesome.
Wish me luck!
Monday, April 20, 2009
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
OK, so this "Iron Man robot suit" seems really cool...
"Interested in having your own HAL? The Post Chronicle reports that the HAL is going into production and will be available soon in Japan for around $4,200 while the Scientific American claims that the HAL exoskeleton is already available but only for rent in Japan for around $1,300 a month. The Cyberdyne cite states that HAL is in fact currently available for Japanese residents, for varying costs depending on region, and that HAL will soon be available to consumers in the European Union."
And I'm all for technology that:
"...is expected to be applied in various fields such as rehabilitation support and physical training support in medical field, ADL support for disabled people, heavy labour support at factories, and rescue support at disaster sites, as well as in the entertainment field."
All very cool. BUT...
What complete IDIOT over there decided to name their robotics company "Cyberdyne"??? That's sort of like naming a food company "Yummy Intestinal Parasites, LTD" or a car company "Crash-o-Matic Rolling Death Traps, Inc." or something.
Then again, maybe it's just pure laziness... this IS a group that named their company after the robotic entity that wiped out humanity in the Terminator films, their latest product after the homicidal supercomputer from 2001: A Space Oddesy, and their overall product concept on a comic book superhero.
Thanks for proving without a shadow of a doubt that the Japanese are best at ripping off original concepts and are weak as hell with, you know, actually coming up with anything NEW. Sheesh!!
Friday, April 10, 2009
Dave Arneson, co-creator of Dungeons and Dragons, died today at the age of 61. D&D's other creator, Gary Gygax, died back in March of 2008.
Thanks, Dave (and Gary, of course), for giving me so many fun-filled hours. I learned basically ALL of the fundamentals I would later use in my writing from role-playing games. Character development, plot fundamentals, pacing, story twists, foreshadowing... the works.
You'd think they would have at least, oh, I dunno, Googled the term "tea bagging" before they decided to come up with a major protest day. Doing so would have prevented much unintentional hilarity, to wit:
(Warning: video NSFW)
Remember: For the love of Christ, do not imagine that!
According to The Box Turtle Bulletin, The National Organization for Marriage (the same group responsible for those fake Coming Storm "I'm an American being discriminated against because I believe in traditional marriage" ads) just came up with a new meme/slogan:
Um... really?? Seriously, guys... you need to USE GOOGLE NEXT TIME to find out what "M4M" means in the community at large before doing this stuff, OK? That or stop hiring people who get their degrees in Public or Media Relations from non-accredited bible colleges.
Man, I love XKCD, but Lordy, is it nerdy.
(Click image for larger version...)
(( snicker ))....
PS - If you don't get that joke, whatever you do, don't Google "2Girls1Cup". Seriously. You have been warned. As for why *I* know that.... (( whistle ))...
On a related note:
They even do obscure literature references....
More fun HERE.