Friday, November 30, 2007

Still Waters

Okay, I put the outline and sample chapters for Still Waters, the proposed sequel to Central Heat, up on my Web site. Two PDF files, linked from the page describing CH.

Just in case anyone reading this is interested enough to also read those, I'd be interested in reactions. The sequel is very much a sequel, I realize. It probably doesn't make much sense to someone who hasn't read the original novel. But I think it's kinda fun, anyway. (But I would think that, wouldn't I?)

Actual Eye Blisters

When I started this blog, I chose the name because I was so struck by the line from Anthony Trollope's autobiography, quoted at the top of the blog. Since then, I've been struck, and a bit disturbed, by the large number of hits the blog gets via Google searches on eye blisters, blister on my eye, and similar phrases. I certainly wasn't trying to draw traffic by some kind of misdirection. Before reading that in Trollope, I hadn't even heard of a blister on the eye, and after reading it, I guess I assumed it was some odd affliction that appeared occasionally in the 19th century but probably not much nowadays.

Anyway, it's a disturbing image, to be sure, and I apologize to anyone who came here looking for help or medical advice and was surprised, and maybe annoyed, to find this blog instead.

And it occurs to me that this post is probably just compounding the problem!

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Central Heat

Well, this was fun. Ish. In a way.

I finally put up the new cover and the original, old, paperback cover for my recently reissued novel, Central Heat. I also put the first three chapters up as a PDF file.

Hunting around in the old files, I found a timeline I'd made for myself, covering the events of the novel and some of the proposed sequel, Still Waters (which never sold because Central Heat, shall we say, didn't set the world on fire). (It should have!)

I also have an outline and a few chapters for the sequel. I might get around to formatting them for readability, convert them to PDF, and put them on the Web site as well. Maybe.

Everything can be seen here.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Is your computer watching you?

After a great deal of cogitation and extensive research using Google, I've come to a startling, indeed terrifying, conclusion.

The significance of the name "Windows" for Microsoft's operating system hadn't struck me before. But now I realize that it's not just a metaphor for a technology that "lets you see the world", as you could say. Just like the windows in your house, it also lets the world see you! Cleary, the NSA, the CIA, and the rest of the spookocracy are watching you through your computer -- through your Windows. It's so obvious when you think about it.

So, just as you wouldn't do certain things in front of the windows of your house, be very, very careful what you do in front of your computer. Or at least pull the blinds first, which in this case means wait for the screensaver to activate.

And don't think that you're safe just because you're one of those sneering, condescending Mac users. OSX, huh? Don't you know that the original name of the CIA was the OSS? You think that's a coincidence?

I'm still working on "Linux".


I should have explained that this was sparked by this bizarro post on Democratic Underground, which I dismissed as very silly (I'm the user named DavidD). So I posted the above stuff on DU here as a spoof of the other post. Some people seemed to take it seriously, though. Sigh.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

David's Definitions for December '07 and January '08


(Appeared in the December 2007 issue of Community News)

Something is inflammable if it tends to ignite at commonly encountered temperatures. Other English words that come from the same Latin root are inflammation, inflame, and inflammatory. At one time, trucks hauling materials that could catch fire easily had signs on them saying INFLAMMABLE. However, too many people apparently thought that flammable means "easily set on fire" and that those the loads on those truck were not easily set on fire. So now such trucks have signs saying FLAMMABLE. That's not really a word in English, but presumably, because of those signs, it soon will be, and inflammable will disappear.


(Will be in the January 2008 issue of Community News)

An action is feckless if it is ineffective or worthless. An incompetent person could also be called feckless. It’s an old word in some Scottish and English dialects, and it comes from the word feck, which is a variant of the English word effect. So something is feckless if it has no effect. Those dialects also had the word feckful, which is the opposite of feckless, but feckful never caught on in mainstream English.

I'm collecting all of these at:

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Silly High Heels

While I was walking to work from the bus stop this morning, it struck me that the heels of women's shoes have become even higher during the last year. It's as though, having put aside their common sense a few years ago, women are now going to a wild extreme. Perhaps by next year, they'll be tottering around downtown on stilts.

Why, when I was a lad . . . women wore high heels. Always. Everywhere. Spike heels. At least the modern incarnation have tips that spread out, so the damage done to sidewalks and floors is somewhat less than it was back then. The damage done to feet, ankles, knees, hips, lower backs, Achilles tendons, and calf muscles is the same, of course.

It's bizarre and inexplicable to me. Some years ago, women cast off the shackles of this absurd fashion, which our society presumably inherited from some French king who felt the need to appear taller than his subjects. You saw women walking around downtown wearing running shoes. You also saw newspaper columns lamenting this and begging them to return to heels so that they would look "professional" - a word that, like "respect", means just about whatever the speaker wants it to mean. Reading such columns, I was convinced that women wouldn't fall for it. Having escaped from the absurdity of high heels, they'd never willingly return to them.

Wrong! Repetition seems to have done the trick, and now all the foolish lemmings are back to heels. Not only do they look absurd trying to walk in those things, and especially so when there's ice on the ground, they also sound absurd. People walking in running shoes sound the way civilized people should sound: silent.

Recently, I made the mistake of watching an episode of the "reimagined" Bionic Woman. (I wanted to see if it had improved from the pilot episode. It hadn't.) The title character goes out on a mission, which she knows will involve much bionic running around and fighting. She prepares by choosing an appropriate outfit, which includes a ridiculously short jacket, designed to show her midriff but not to keep her warm, slacks, and boots with high heels. In which she runs around clumsily, making clippity-cloppity noises, like an out-of-shape pony.

Good grief. Can this fashion trend get any dumber?

But it will. Stilts, I tell ya.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

The Phoenix and the Eagle

This is another old book that I did as a partial eons ago and then put on the shelf but never forgot. I took a look at it after finishing Time and the Soldier and got hooked again. It's a sword and sorcery epic saga with giant men and giant swords and giant politics and giant magic. Much fun. Unless I change my mind, this is what I'll be working on now.

Like pretty much all such books, it's set in a madeup world with its own geography, demography, and history. This one is peopled by, well, people. No orcs or dwarves or elves or fairies or whatever.

It started out as a long short story, which I was never able to sell and eventually decided to expand into a book. To keep things straight, I scribbled a messy little map for myself, so that I wouldn't have a character head east and end up in a city which I had earlier mentioned was to his west. Daniel was very young at the time and redid the map for me with colors and added geographical stuff of his own invention. While searching for old notes, etc. (and finding some that were actually written by hand - ack! - and are therefore unreadable), I found his map. I'm about to have lunch with him and will ask if it would embarrass him too much if the entire world, or at least the very tiny part of it that reads this blog, sees his map. If not, I'll scan it and if the result looks okay, I'll post it here.

Evening Update:

Daniel said he had no objections, as long as I point out that he was very young at the time. I can't remember when this all was, but I assure you he was young. Very young. A kid! He also came up with the title, The Phoenix and the Eagle. I'd forgotten that. Oh, and I do remember that he came up with the title Time and the Soldier; my original title for that was River of Time, which is very descriptive, but also very trite, cliched, dull, boring, and a real yawner to boot.

And now, without more ado, Daniel's map of the world in which P&E is set. See if you can figure out where he came up with the name he assigned to this land:

Friday, November 16, 2007

Some Guy Just Died

And I'm depressed. Well, more like somewhat sad. Well, let's say sobered. Momentarily.

He was either someone I went to high school with or someone I worked with at NASA. I check a blog maintained by my high school graduating class, and the only posts on it concern the latest classmate to die. I'm also on a mailing list from my old workgroup at NASA, and those e-mails also are entirely, or mostly, about someone going into a hospice or into a cemetery.

That's depressing enough. What's worse is that I never remember the person. Or maybe it would be worse if I did. No, maybe what's worse is that so many of them are around my age. Keerist.

The high school classmates I do remember, I remember as teenagers. The occasional photos on that blog seem to be of someone's grandparents. Which, of course, they probably are.

My coworkers at NASA were mostly older than me, but since I was in my twenties, that still meant they were mostly young - thirties for the most part, with some really old people in their (gasp!) forties. It was a glorious, young-person's undertaking, just as high school is (albeit that rarely includes the glorious part) (well, most of the time, neither did NASA).

Well, at least I'm younger than the Apollo astronauts. Those who haven't yet died of old age. And by the way, the few of themI encountered in those days were obnoxious jerks. That's not relevant, but I thought I'd mention it. Now that they're old, or dead, they should be remembered for what they were in the flower of their just-post-youth.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

Fifth-Order Polynomials for Edwards!

The link to the right, Rasmussen Daily Dem Tracking Poll, now takes you to a modified version of the daily Rasmussen numbers. I dropped the All Others numbers and added trend lines for the three top dogs.

I tried various types of trend lines available in Excel and, like any self-respecting, serious researcher, chose the one that gave me the results I wanted. That turned out to be a fifth-order polynomial fit. Check it out; it looks great.

Of course, the problem with fitting a curve to such data is that there's no underlying physical process which we're trying to get at. Or if there is, no one but Hari Seldon knows how to model it. But, what the Hell, so long as the curve looks good, I'll leave it there.

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Just fling the guy around

About a week ago, I was watching a Sci Fi Channel movie about vampires, titled Bloodsuckers. It was bad, which I know is redundant, but it did at least have a babe or two in it, and it was the kind of mindless eye-candy that I prefer when I'm exercising. Also, it did make a stab at dealing with the idea that there are different types of vampires, with different habits and histories, who have to be killed in different ways.

But that's all irrelevant.

In one scene, the hero is fighting a supernaturally power vampire (his former captain, with pretty revolting rotting-flesh makeup, but that's also irrelevant), and the supernaturally powerful vampire keeps pinning the human hero and then, instead of simply killing him (as the vampires standing around watching the fight keep urging him to do), picks him up and flings him across the room.

Which of course means that the hero hits a wall back first (just like a stuntman!), slides to the floor, looks dazed, shakes his head, and then recovers, without any sign of broken bones or torn or pulled muscles or tendons or ligaments or even serious bruising. And then eventually kills the vampire.

We see this all the time in movies and TV shows. The villain may be supernaturally superpowerful - e.g., a vampire - or just a humongous and heavily muscled but apparently normal human being, but he always does the same thing. He has the hero at his mercy and instead of simply killing him with his humongous strength, he picks him up and throws him across the room - knowing perfectly well, because he's seen these movies before too, that the hero will slide to the floor, look dazed, shake his head, recover, and eventually kill the supernaturally superpowerful bad guy.

It undermines my willing suspension of disbelief. Which was already on shaky grounds when I watching Bloodsuckers, even before that scene.