Category Archives: Randomness

Confession of a reading writer: it takes me forever to read a collection of short stories…

Short Circuit Johnny-5 speedreading.gif

From Short Circuit which you might remember if you’re KINDA OLLLLLD

…because the nature of short stories, for me, demands slow consumption (I wonder if that’s why I almost always write them slow, too. Putting them down halfway through for days or even longer before finishing them. Hmmmm).

I don’t mean short stories are automagically HALLELUJAH THE CLOUDS PART AND A RAY OF EPIPHANY TRANSFIXES MY SQUIRMING LITTLE BRAIN when I read them.

I mean, if they are decently written and the story is my cup of tea (I have diverse tastes in tea; I’m not very picky) and the story has something to say about something rather than just being a sequence of stuff happening just to have stuff happening — then it takes me forever to read a collection or anthology or ‘zine or whatever grouping they’re in.

It takes all that time because when I finish a short story, I have to put the book down and let the thoughts and feelings it inspires rattle around in my subconscious for a while. Sometimes I can read two in a row before I have to stop.

Otherwise the feelings and thoughts get all muddy, and I start feeling all bloated and sickly, kind of like if you sit down for dessert and cram a quarter of a double chocolate cream cake AND a big plate of tiramisu AND a gigantic plate of flan down your gullet all in the space of fifteen minutes.

I don’t know about you, but if I do that I end up all pukey and unhappy and regretful. I wish I’d just had one dessert and saved the others for later.

That’s how I read short stories, to avoid that pukey regret and savor the deliciousness. And to drag the metaphor out a little farther, if the dessert is a bunch of plain ol’ slabs of cheapo junkfood factory cake (uninspired little ‘look a thing is happening who cares’ stories), I could pig out and eat ten or something. Because who cares, it’s just meh. It’s not like you’re going to miss anything if you cram them down your throat with the heel of your hand one after another after another after another after another without really tasting them.

But why would I want to? Where the good (and great) stories have me stopping after one or two so I can digest and savor the memory, the meh ones have me stopping after one or two because WHO CARES OH MY GOD I’M BORED.

I hear there are people who can read through a whole collection, even a long one filled with STELLAR stories, in one sitting. Just chow down a dozen profound and excellent short stories with tons to say one after another.

Y’all are weird. But, hey. It takes all kinds.

You weirdos. Seriously, you weird me out. Have I mentioned I find it weird?

Joker Ledger freak like me.gif

If you don’t recognize this I DON’T KNOW WHO YOU ARE ANYMORE WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON A WRITER GEEK’S BLOG

Got Chai?

 

If you don’t “got chai”, I have been playing with recipes and variations for a few months and have settled on a recipe that I really enjoy. Maybe you’ll enjoy it too — you might want to start with half quantities if you’re not used to highly spiced food and drink. This version makes my tongue tingle.

A couple of notes: “copious milk” means about half milk for my wife, and about 1/4 milk to 3/4 chai for me. Your mileage may vary.

I’m told my version is a “masala chai” – a lot of people like to add ginger, so you might want to grate or crush a bit of ginger, maybe a half inch or inch of root, or add dried ginger from powder or cut some off the dried root if you have it. Don’t roast fresh ginger, just put it in the tea ball with everything else. I’d add powdered ginger straight into the boiling water, or chunks of hard dried (not candied!) ginger in with the 2nd group of spices for roasting. If you haven’t roasted spices before, you just toss them in a dry pan over medium-high heat and give them a shake every fifteen or thirty seconds until they’re giving off a yummy aroma.

I usually love ginger, but it just wasn’t agreeing with me in chai.

If you haven’t made something like this before, it is normal for it to be a bit cloudy, if you refrigerate any it will get cloudier and clarify again when you heat it, and it is normal to have a sediment of spices and tea dust in the bottom of your cup so if you’re bothered by that let it sit for a minute after pouring and stirring, and sip rather than gulp.

Enjoy!

Humans Now, Basically

2016 NOV Norfolk - old gum tree and electrical station - Victor and Cuinn.jpg

Children (my 2 youngest, 3 and 5) in the shadow of a gnarled ancient of a gum tree, with an electrical substation lurking behind.

Kind of a metaphor for our world, isn’t it?

As a bonus, the yellow vest is a Batman vest and the brown jacket is a print of Chewbacca’s torso. Geek life FTW.

I’m Growing Moss.

Norfolk International  VA  23501  Forecast   Weather Underground.png

So, it has been relentlessly, ridiculously humid here (Norfolk, Virginia) for the last three weeks or so. Door frames are swollen, everything feels damp including me, I am super over it, UGH.

Now, I’m not going to complain TOO much because in the wake of Hurricane Matthew there has been much human suffering not so far to the south of me in Florida, and just HORRIFIC damage in Haiti. Here in Norfolk we’re just forecast to catch the edge of the weather as jerky ol’ Matt does a donut and heads back to rain on the Bahamas some more, hopefully much deflated.

But we’re supposed to get seven freakin’ inches of rain in the next two days.

Norfolk is a major flooding area. We’re the second largest US population center considered to be at high risk for damage due to sea level rise. A lot of that projected damage happens when weather conditions cause flooding. It’s gonna flood! Thankfully my family lives in one of the higher, away from major watercourses area of the city — but that’s only personal relative safety. My town will suffer.

We’re far better off than Haiti, but I’m not expecting tomorrow to be fun.

Elon Musk’s “Heart of Gold”

What a shame the real thing won’t be half as entertaining.

 

Musk shows some fitting sentiment with his idea to name his first Mars-bound settlement ship the Heart of Gold.

The literal meaning is nice. Our best intentions and loftiest goals, finally off to put some of humanity’s eggs in a basket other than Earth. Good show. The best intentions riff generally turns sour eventually, of course, but that’s simply the nature of time and change — someone gets the bright idea to try being meaner for a while, and everyone suffers until they get tired of suffering enough to demand some changes that may or may not help. It’s a fine sentiment, and probably best to start out with that rather than a bunch of cynicism.

The tribute to Douglas Adams and the Hitchhiker’s Guide books is wonderful, as is the general tribute to the role of science fiction in keeping our eyes on the stars and our thoughts on getting somewhere rather than simply digging in deeper like ticks until another dinosaur killer comes around to wipe us out (assuming we don’t take the nuclear and/or germ warfare route). Damn shame Mr. Adams isn’t around to appreciate it. I wonder if he’d be tickled or annoyed or both.

Is it the best name for a spacecraft for a Mars expedition? Maaaaaaaayybe not. Unless we intend to drop a whale and a bowl of petunias on Olympus Mons.

Come to think of it, Olympus Mons would be a fine place to keep a small catalog of planets for sale, or perhaps make a decent summer home for a couple of mice.

Maybe Heart of Gold really is the right name.

The Luna Moth Has Landed

Me & my two little ones (3&5) came out to grill. This was waiting for us:

Just hanging out on the handrail of our front step. Very cool.

So Luna is minding her business and we’re minding ours. UNTIL…

Uh… you shouldn’t be there…

No, don’t go MORE toward my back, what are you thinking…

SERIOUSLY WTF NOT THE BEARD 

…but she relented and returned to my back. Awkwardly and with great care I managed to take off my shirt with her clinging to it and transfer her to a tall potted pine.

And I draped the shirt over her refuge so birds wouldn’t see her. This last shot is from behind the shirt — it’s not so see-through seen from the other side.

Luna is safe for now… but I’ll be watching my back.

Hey, Your Earrings Are Ringing

The title comes from a tweet about Apple’s “AirPods” and my response on Twitter earlier today:

The explosion of itty-bitty technological gadgets that would make 1970s Q from James Bond movies turn radioactive glowing green with envy…

super-mutant-homer-and-peter

Q is usually much more calm but you get the point

…has been absolutely amazing this last decade or so. It’s old hat to the teens and early-twenties set now but in my childhood my subsistence-earning roofer dad shelled out an unwise amount of money for a state-of-the-art Atari 2600 (it was 1978 if I remember correctly). Now… well. You know. Computer in the palm of my hand that outperforms everything NASA had for the moon shot in ’69 and I use it to feed virtual kibble to virtual cats and tweet smack about Donald Trump who severely deserves every word.

So I’d expect if Apple can make a wireless earbud that looks like what I wish I could take credit for thinking of but someone tweeted it to me before I could come up with the idea on my own…

…I’m sure that in 2 or 3 years you’ll be able to buy the same basic device as earrings. Earrings that aren’t even too heavy to wear. Pierced or clip-on. Another 2 or 3 years after that and they’ll probably look good enough that the more fashion-minded won’t be embarrassed to be seen in them. And then earrings will suddenly be all the rage and imagine how upset all the managers, teachers, professors, and parents in the world will be over their inability to tell when their kids are paying attention or listening to their earrings.

Word cloud for a work in progress, working title “Broken Rice”

Broken Rice Cloud 1.png

I’m about 8300 words in and I’m not sure how long it will go. Maybe only 9,000. Maybe a new complication will arise and it’ll go to 20,000. Or, way less likely, maybe I’ll accidentally write a short novel. You never know.

 

See if you can guess what “Broken Rice” might be about from the cloud.

 

If you want to make some word clouds of your own, here’s the generator I used.

 

Have fun!

 

Because The Internet Loves Cats And Science Fiction Doesn’t Have Enough Of Them

Space-cat-books

Who wouldn’t love Space Cat? You must love Space Cat. GO ON LOVE SPACE CAT

Little Observations…

S.A. Barton Writes on Twitter   When today s toddlers grow up they ll assume  left to their own devices  is a modern expression meaning  alone   playing tablet phone games

…are a big part of being a science fiction writer. Of being a writer in general, really. Some nonfiction writers might be exceptions — a writer of specialized technical texts, maybe, for example — but even most nonfiction writers are doing the same thing that fiction writers and poets are doing: writing things that are meaningful to their readers.

That means being observant and making connections between the real world and what’s in your imagination. It’s a tired, old, often mocked cliche to say that writers are always writing even when they’re not writing.

But it’s kinda true. I think being a writer has got a lot in common with being a standup comedian — feel free to correct me, because I’ve never been a standup comedian. But both professions live by imagination and by inviting the reader or listener to think about how weird commonplace things we do are if you look at them with an outsider’s eyes, or how mundane things are even though we think they’re weird.

That’s what the tweet at the head of the story is about. It popped into my head, this expression we take for granted and how it might look through the eyes of my grown little ones (1 toddler, 1 kindergarten age). To them, “device” will be more common vocabulary. If you buy an ebook on Amazon, it may ask you which “device” you want it sent to, if you have multiple “devices.” More and more of us do, even if we’re relatively poor — a computer and internet connection is vital to my work, and to the classes my wife and I take, so we have a desktop PC. I have a Christmas gift laptop (thanks, Mom & Hal!). I thought of that example because I read ebooks on my phone — another “device.” When your phone or tablet gets an updated OS, the prompt tells you there’s a new OS version available for your “device.”

The word “device” has still got the old wider sense of a mechanical or electronic doohickey, hoobajoob, thingamajig, whatever you like to call such things. It still has the old sense of plan, scheme, or trick. But those older senses that are still much in the mind of a Gen-Xer like me will be overshadowed by the repetition of the word “device” in the sense of the smartphone, tablet, or other computerized whatsis.

To my post-millennial kidlets, “left to their own devices” will inherently suggest something different than it does to me. We like to call that sort of thing “the generation gap” — or at least, my generation did, inspired by the Cold War nomenclature of “the missile gap.”

If you’re too young to get that one without referring to Wikipedia, that’s cool. We like to mock each other for being different sometimes, but I’m not doing that. That’s more the wheelhouse of some comedians. I’m being a writer, and for us, and for the more thoughtful face of the standup comedy genre, it’s about finding the differences between the past, the present, and the future that may come, and spinning a yarn to entertain, and to invite us all to have a good think together.

 

[This post first appeared on my Patreon Page on 3/27/16 — they saw it three days before it appeared here. Everyone who supports me on Patreon, even for a single buck per month, sees nearly every blog post three days early. PLUS patrons get a FREE .pdf, .epub, or .mobi ebook copy of every new ebook I publish or old story I substantially revise and re-release, THIRTY DAYS before non-patrons get to see it. It’s free for patrons even if I charge for it elsewhere. I think that’s a pretty good deal, and it helps my family and I a hell of a lot. Last month our family van broke down, and Patreon paid for the power steering pump it needed — without those pledges, we’d have had to slog to the grocery store on foot until we could beg or borrow that money, if we’d been able to at all. And our funds available for food are limited — my wife stretches what would be a budget for a constantly thin pantry into something approaching comfortable, with plenty of good fresh fruit and veg for our two youngest (turning 3 and 5 over the next 30-odd days — my, time flies) with the magic of coupons and sale-chasing. That takes a working vehicle to do; it’s very difficult if you’re limited to the store you can walk to, and you are limited to the amount you can carry home on your back in the event that a markdown or amazing deal allows stocking up on normally-expensive staples and toiletries.

And I’m rambling. Hope you’ll consider heading over to Patreon to pitch in. And if you don’t, I’m still very happy to have you here reading — you help me, too. At the very least seeing new hits on my blog every day gives me a little boost as a writer. Hey, someone is paying attention! Yay!

I’ll end this now, before this “little” note on the end becomes longer than the actual post.]