Category Archives: It Is A Mystery

So I Was Talking To Some Luddites

 

 

 

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Luddites are both annoying and fascinating.

They have the corner of a legitimate argument: technology has the potential to f**k us up royally. Yes, yes it does. I’m a Cold War kid. I remember watching The Day After.

mediacritica_the_day_after_650-650x250

I read (and sometimes write) dystopias. I’m a friggin’ science fiction fan and writer, fer crissake! OF COURSE I KNOW that technology has the potential to f**k us up!

So does a hammer. Or a spear. Or an obsidian flake.

Yes, technology usually needs to be managed. For example, in the wake of the invention of the automobiles we passed scads of laws governing their use. Where they can be used, how fast, what safety equipment can be used. Of course, we still manage to kill and injure about a million of ourselves yearly with the things, as I’ve written elsewhere.

As far as I can tell, the Luddite argument against self-driving cars is that they somehow won’t be regulated like every other invention and that they will somehow do a worse job at coordinating traffic safely than millions and millions of unconnected human brains all in various states of caffeine and fatigue and substance intoxication, plus under the influence of things like anger and grief and arguments and shouting children and dropping burritos in their laps.

Me, I think autonomous cars will do better. Sure, they can be compromised. So can your brakes and steering now — there are plenty of problems that will come up. There always are. Once upon a time fire displaced good old eating meat raw, and then someone burnt up their cave and died. I mean, a Luddite ought to be for going back to horseback… wait, you can fall off… I mean going on foot. Safety first! Hide in your cave!

Anyhow. The exchange with Luddites was amusing and silly. Here are a few tweets about it (this would be on my Patreon (sorry, patrons!), but they don’t seem to support links to tweets, so I have to put tweet-based posts here).

So, that happened. Whatever. I wonder why they just don’t go live without technology? I mean, the Amish manage it nicely without talking about it on Twitter, which you think Luddites would despise and not use.

It’s almost like their ideas don’t make sense except in at the shallowest possible glance — which they seem unable to see past.

At least writing this was fun, and I got to look up some cool images, and I got a blog post out of it. I hope y’all enjoyed it.

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Just Tell Us What We Owe, Fer Crissake: A Tax Time Rant

 

Taxes 1913

Dear state and federal government, tax time is fast approaching and of course there is no time to do it this year. Which is kind of the refrain every year IF anyone brings it up. Few people do. They’re busier talking about “abolish the IRS” because that would totally stop people from cheating on their taxes (or mainly corporations and the people with the largest potential tax liability), or “let’s have a flat tax,” because that wouldn’t hurt the poor far more than it hurts the rich (10% of vitally needed food and rent money vs. 15% or 20% of income that is mostly disposable – I know which side of THAT stick I’m rather be holding and which side would be, ah, fecally augmented) or “STUPID TAXES WHY SHOULD I HAVE TO PAY FOR THINGS I’M NOT USING AT THE MOMENT” like they don’t benefit from stuff like the roads they drive on (and which makes transport for goods easy, which keeps prices lower at the stores) and the fire departments that keep their neighborhoods from burning down, the police that discourage people from breaking into their house and pillaging them, and the schools that educate kids so we’re not drowning in way more unskilled labor than we can use and having a majority of the people being desperate and ready to riot. I could go on, but I’m WAY off track as it is.

Doing taxes. It sucks. If you’re lucky enough to have nobody but yourself in your life (if you call that luck; I have been there and I call it lonely) it’s not too hard to do your own EZ form, though I have seen folks at tax prep businesses shelling out cash to have someone else fill it in, for some weird reason. But for most people (and gawd forbid you own a small business that’s not large enough to have a professional accountant or two on staff) it’s a choice between spending hours poring through instruction books and arcane forms, or paying someone else a few hundred bucks to navigate the occult incantations that result in a refund, or at least the payment that you actually owe instead of more because you missed some credit or deduction.

And if you’re badly wrong to their detriment, the government will send you a letter that basically says, “you really screwed this up – either do over or just send us X dollars to make up the difference.”

Which brings me straight to the point of my little rant: GOVERNMENT, YOU ALREADY KNOW HOW MUCH WE MAKE, WHO IS IN OUR FAMILIES, AND HOW MUCH WE’RE SUPPOSED TO OWE OR HAVE REFUNDED.

Y’all know! And still we have to go through this bureaucratic paper-pushing like it’s 1913 and this income tax crap is new to everyone.

Look, I don’t mind paying taxes. I like good roads and law enforcement when it’s not misapplied by beating the hell out of or killing people who deserve due process like, unfortunately, WAY too many POC. I like fire departments and agencies that tell factories that no, they are not allowed to dump spare chemicals in the water table that feed the reservoirs I drink from. I like agencies that tell employers that it’s better to take some frickin’ precautions than kill off or cripple employees because, hey, a lot of people need jobs, we’ll just get another one when we break this one.

I like stuff like space programs, and even the military if only ours would calm down a bit and stop bombing 47 countries at once (actual count may vary – I really hope not upwards).

I like parkland. I like clean air. I like rivers that don’t catch on fire. I like cities that aren’t obscured by smog.

cayuhoga-river-fireLos Angeles xmas eve 1948_0

I don’t mind paying taxes, just like I don’t mind buying a fishing license that goes to support people to make sure we’re not overfishing and to maintain, keep clean, and occasionally restock nice fishing holes.

I do mind the damned paperwork!

There are plenty of countries that just figure your taxes for you and send you a postcard that basically says “please verify this amount and send your payment or receive your refund, or tell us if we’ve got something wrong or you believe you are entitled to pay less or get more back.”

We could do that. Maybe someone could ask those counties how they do it?

But, spoiler: Y’ALL GOVERNMENT FOLKS ALREADY KNOW HOW MUCH WE OWE SO LET’S JUST DO THE ABOVE INSTEAD OF ALL THE STUPID FORMS IN THE HOPES WE SCREW UP AND YOU GET TO SCREW US FOR EXTRA TAX AND PENALTIES.

Thanks for your time, government. I’m sure you’ll get it right. Probably shortly after I go for a nice dirtnap in (hopefully) fifty years or so.

END

(This post appeared on my Patreon page a week before it appeared here. Why not be a patron and see this stuff early, and sometimes even get a free ebook?)

Crisis Actor Elvis, Waiting For Assignment

 

Perhaps you’re aware of the various “false flag” theories that mass shootings as in Sandy Hook and Parkland never happened. Of course you are, you’re on the internet enough to have found this little authorpage and blog.

These conspiracy theorists compare pictures from different mass shootings and disasters, looking for similarities in people. When they find someone who sorta looks like someone else, they consult the magic chemtrail crystal ball and, lo and behold, it PROVES IT’S THE SAME PERSON IN A THINLY VEILED DISGUISE.

Their false flag crisis actor theory depends upon the fact that, like snowflakes, no two humans look at all like each other. Ever.

Which brings us to Elvis performer and lookalike Donny Edwards, pictured above in full regalia.

BUT WE KNOW TWO PEOPLE CANNOT LOOK ALIKE.

So he must be Real Elvis, preserved in unaging immortality perhaps by turning the mind control drug exuded by venomous vampires called fluoride against itself. Ha! TAKE THAT, SECRET GLOBALIST ARMY TUNNELING UNDER THE OCEAN FROM CHINA AND EUROPE TO TAKE OVER THE UNITED STATES IN THE NAME OF THE REPTILE ALIEN CONTROLLED UNITED NATIONS!

For what sinister purpose is Real Elvis — because, remember, no two humans look alike — hanging around?

I’ll leave you to think about it. Maybe you should secure your house in a thick wrapping of tinfoil and duct tape while you consider.

Writing Longhand

I can get a bit… scribbly!

The more I write, the more I find that I prefer to write longhand instead of using the computer. (It’s worth noting that the computer RULES for editing, rewriting, rearranging, and otherwise molding a story into the right shape.)

I always start a story by hand. I scribble notes and write a page or two. Then, up until the last two it three months, I have always switched over to the word processor to type the following 90% of the story.

It’s fast as long as I know where the story is heading. And maybe you see where this is going if you happen to know that I hardly ever write a story outline, and even when I do it’s less than skeletal. More like a stick figure missing a stick or two.

The words are more likely to dry up after I switch to typing the story. I find myself stalling not just on what to type for the next sentence or paragraph, but on what the next scene is and where the plot is going.

Maybe it’s because when typing my fingers can travel as fast as I’m thinking. But writing by hand forces me to fix what’s coming next in my mind as I hurry to write down the words that bridge the gap.

Or maybe that’s not it at all and there’s a different reason baked into my brain.

Either way, lately I’ve been writing by hand more than I’ve been typing as I compose a story. The biggest challenge is deciphering my own handwriting and making sense of all the notes and additions I cram into the left hand column of the evidence pads I love to use. (Think steno pad, but full 8 1/2″ x 11″ size and with the  vertical rule one-third of the way from the left instead of down the middle)

 

(Edit, an hour or so later: composed this with the voice-writing function on my mobile — it didn’t do too bad, but left me a couple of things to clean up. Technology: the solution to and cause of all of our problems, right? Anything that’s still wrong, I blame on my lovable but very loud and distracting little ones. Oh, and I also clarified a couple of things in the third and last paragraphs.)

The Most Stylish Tinfoil Hat EVAR

Tinfoil hat crowdfunding

So there’s a kickstarter for tinfoil hats crafted to not cause laughter when worn in public. No, I’m not going to provide the URL. If you want one, or want to satisfy your curiosity, you’re going to have to use your own Google-Fu. I don’t want to contribute to this silliness.

So, yeah. Crowdfunding for a hat to guard your head from electromagnetic rays. The copy on the kickstarter caters to the casual worrier about various electromagnetic effects entering the skull, but you can bet the hardcore conspiracy theorist will be happy to have access to a mind control ray blocking hat that looks like a normal hat.

They have a version for babies, too. How very precious. And hey, who doesn’t worry a bit about being exposed to the bath of radio waves and magnetic fields that have been a fact of life in most of the world for the last 75 years or so? With the explosion of cellular networks and computer-telephones that fit in the palm of your hand, we’re probably as electromagnetically-doused as ever. It’s a worrisome thought for many.

Pulsed Electromagnetic Fields How They Heal The Dr. Oz Show

Unless you’re one of the people who think they can heal you. Oh, it’s so confusing. That’s how you end up with people buying hats to shield their brains from EM fields, and another group looking to EM fields for healing, yet another group worried about the magnetic fields things like house wiring creates, and still another group buying magnetic wraps for sore knees and elbows in the belief that magnetic fields naturally heal human bodies. And still other groups certain that the government is using mind control rays on them, or controlling the weather with cellular towers, and so on and so forth. It’s a confusing and complex world, and nobody knows everything. No matter how much you learn, you will be ignorant about many things, and mistaken about many others. It’s frustrating. And a bit scary. And some people deal with that by becoming certain that they can avoid problems if only they buy the right hat.

Funny thing about the hats, though. Let’s say for the sake of argument that they really do prevent harm to your brain by shielding it from electromagnetic somethingorother.

What about your unshielded nervous system? If the EM waves harm your brain, don’t they harm your nerves also? Shouldn’t this hat be a tracksuit? Especially once you consider that, if the EM waves come from a direction that the hat doesn’t guard, like from straight on or underneath, the hat forms a parabolic receiver that concentrates the EM waves right in the middle of your head? You know, where your brain is?

And, as noted earlier, there’s a version for babies. Who spend a lot of time lying down and crawling. An even better position for a receiver to catch those waves and focus them into a point right in the middle of the brain.

At the end of the day, I don’t think devices like this hat do a hell of a lot more than make the user feel a little bit more confident about navigating this confusing world. And, not incidentally at all, making some cash for the purveyors. There are many more devices of this type than just the hat, that purport to shield or heal from something nebulous and unproven to cause harm. Personally, I think a small proportion of them are made by people who really believe in the threat or healing, but many more are made by people who believe in the power of scaring others as a means of swelling personal bank accounts.

 

Because One Wasn’t Enough: A Second, Pathos-Filled, Robin Williams Post

Alright, the first post wasn’t enough.

The suicide of Robin Williams has deeply affected me. I’m sad. I’m really sad. I feel, genuinely, like a member of my family has died. Perhaps a beloved uncle or aunt, someone I thought of often, talked to often, cared about deeply. Tears come and go at irregular intervals.

I said in the last post, Robin Williams was of my father’s generation. One year younger. My father died in December 2002. He had a massive heart attack during a routine surgery; it was unexpected. He had just weathered a severe health crisis, and his surgery was just the cleanup. No problems were anticipated. But he had a heart attack on the table, they spent 45 minutes getting him back, and when they did he was hopelessly brain damaged, and we pulled the plug.

i pulled the plug. His wife of less than a year asked me what to do, to be sure she was doing the right thing. And I said “pull the plug. Let him go.” Goddamn, that decision haunts me. Because how could it not? You can never be sure. We pulled the plug and I held his hand while he died. I held his hand. He died. I watched him stop breathing and he died with his hand in mine and I swear there was a tear in his eye when I told him that we had to let him go and I don’t know if he understood, if he heard, or not. But I feel like he did and he didn’t want to go — because who does? I don’t want to die. I don’t want to die if I’m a hundred years old, goddammit, I don’t want to go. But I feel Robin’s decision too much. I know what it is to feel that it’s all too much. I almost drank myself to death at 25 and I knew what I was doing. I didn’t want to die and I tried to die. I held a knife to my wrist at 16 questioning and I decided to stay. I tasted the business end of a .357 pistol, drunk, in my 30s and again I decided to stay. I still own that pistol and I look at it: what the hell is wrong with you? I don’t know if I mean the gun or myself. I don’t understand why he killed himself. I understand why he killed himself.

Is it ever otherwise? I don’t know.

Robin Williams made a choice to die. He threw a belt over a door and hung himself. And he died. Too goddamn young, Why do we die at such a young age? I’m convinced that we humans are just beginning to figure things out somewhere between the ages of 50 and 100.  We die when we’re starting to get it. If we had another hundred years we’d really be cooking. There’s more than we know. We never know. We die too young.

I find myself crying at Robin Williams’ passing because he feels like someone I knew, though I never met him. He gave a damn, I think. Too few people do. He had a way of saying things directly, in a way that highlighted why they mattered. You know, without the bullshit.

People Roleplaying in MY Book Reviews? It’s More Likely Than You Think.

WeirdosRoleplayingInPixelPeopleReviewsBarnesAndNoble

So… this is just weird. I’d love to know if any other authors have had this happen to them.

People are roleplaying — sort of — in the reviews sections of some of my ebooks at Barnes & Noble online. The image above is from the reviews section for Pixel People.

Obviously, they can’t exactly fit a lot in. I’ve played a lot of role-playing games in my time, and frankly, if a game I was in didn’t make it any farther than people giving uninspired descriptions of their characters, I wouldn’t have come back for the next session.

Maybe the action is somewhere else. I haven’t checked the reviews on The Grapes of Wrath lately. maybe ‘Raven’ and (snicker) ‘Eclair’ are fighting some orcs over there.

And, seriously, roleplaying in reviews? Seems like this would be a lot more efficient even in something as awkward as a thread in email with lots of CCs.

Or, I don’t know, get a freakin’ blog and roleplay there? They’re free.

For people engaging in an imaginative pursuit like roleplaying, this crowd seems pretty dim.

 

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Addendum, 7/31/14: A Twitter friend, @nihiofkdi, tracked down the answer. Apparently “Nook RP” is a thing. To each their own, but rather than putting junk in the reviews of innocent hardworking indie authors like myself, which may discourage folks from downloading (“What’s this crap, this isn’t a review. Is this author screwing with me? Well, forget that. I’ll just re-read some Harry Potter, thanks.”), why not just gather at a friend’s house and play some good old fashioned D&D? It’s more fun that way, not to mention someone usually brings tasty junk food.

A Departure From the Norm: the Michael Dunn Loud Music Shooting Verdict in Florida

I don’t often do news and/or politics here, but for some things I make an exception.

I’ve been sort-of-following the latest trial du jour, the whole nasty mess down in Florida with this Michael Dunn guy who fired a pistol into a carload of teenagers who were playing their music very loud.  As far as I can tell, he approached the car to bitch about their music, then decided he felt threatened–probably after being told to bug off–and opened fire on the four teens, killing one.

The jury returned a verdict that damn near made me do a spit-take with my coffee, it was so weird.

They found him guilty of firing a gun into an occupied vehicle.  Okay, check.  Makes sense.

They found him guilty of three counts of attempted murder for the three teens in the car who were not hit by his gunfire.  Check again.  Sensible.

They couldn’t arrive at a decision in the case of the kid who was shot and died.

What the hell?  

That can’t be right.  Let me re-read what I read.

The jury decided Michael Dunn attempted to murder the three kids he shot at and didn’t hit, but can’t figure out if he murdered the one he shot at and killed.

That ranks very, very high on the list of stupid things I’ve heard.  Florida jury, did you lose your mind?  I wish I could help you find it, you ridiculous people.

 

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CNN’s article on the Michael Dunn verdict

Sony Reader Store is Weirding Me Out, Man

I’ve had my ebooks out there, waiting to be purchased (sometimes for free) for a couple of years now.  From time to time, I look in at the various outlets that carry them, seeing if I can find any information on how well they’re doing.  Some outlets give me more information than others.  Apple just ranks them in the order that the header of their page proclaims to be ‘Top Books’.  I guess they’re in order of sales… maybe recent sales…or…I don’t know.  But they’re in order of something or other.  B&N gives a sitewide sales rank.

Sony Reader Store presents you with lists of titles with really tiny thumbnails that defy almost any cover art to be discerned, which you can sort by ‘relevancy’ or ‘bestselling’ or by price or date published.  Fairly user friendly as these things go.

Here’s the weird bit: sometimes I go to the Sony Reader Store and find a title somewhere vaguely near the top of a list, and it’s not one of my free ones.  Oh, boy, I must have made a sale of PAID COPY!  Woo-hoo!

SonyStore23JAN2014There’s one I saw a few minutes ago.  #178, probably just sold one fairly recently.  It’ll go back down soon, sigh.  Sony lists seem to have a lot of ‘churn’, titles moving up and down in rank quickly.  That’s a good thing and a bad thing.  It makes it a little easier to get noticed, but harder to stay up once you’re up.  Mixed bag.  That’s fine, it has to work some way or other.

Well, you say, maybe you didn’t sell one and it’s just way down on the bottom of the list arbitrarily ranked with other things that haven’t sold.

But it wasn’t there yesterday.

And it’s not way down on the bottom.

SonyStore23JAN2014b

There are over 5500 titles on that list.  You don’t make it to number 178 out of 5500 by selling nothing, right?

But in two years, I’ve never gotten a cent from Sony for paid copy.  Sony reports that every title of mine they’ve sold has been a free ebook.

It’s been that way for two years now.  It’s weirding me out, man.  I don’t want to say that Sony’s not reporting paid sales of Smashwords ebooks, but…

…how do my non-free stories keep making it up near the top of their listings if nobody’s buying them?

Anyone have any insight into this?

Chickenscratch

Why do I do my writing in longhand first? Sometimes *I* can’t even read this chickenscratch.