Blog Archives

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!

A Couple Of Centuries Makes Aliens

I had some fun with this hashtag, but the underlying idea is pretty important: it wasn’t the case in the distant past so much, but these last couple of centuries our rate of technological advance has been so rapid that time makes aliens of the people of the past quickly. It’s hard to conceive that they’d be so different from us, that we’re so different from them, only two or three centuries separated in time. The language has changed, but not so much we couldn’t understand it. We still run the USA on the basis of the documents they wrote. But the worldviews of people now and then are so different, I wonder if they’d even grasp how we interpret them now, or if we even truly grasp what they meant when they wrote. Certainly we have some clue. Certainly our legal scholars do. But really, one would have to be a historian and a lawyer and an anthropologist and maybe a psychologist and a few other things to really get it.

We have a vague idea of who and what people from a past so far removed from our present in time and technology and ideas were. But it’s a shallow idea, like a US founder might have had of the culture of Beijing at the time. A tissue of stereotype and rumor.

They’re aliens in a very meaningful sense. Or we’ve become aliens to them. The people of the 2300s will be just as alien from our point of view, whether they’re more advanced or the survivors of a civilization-destroying apocalypse.

Even if we never meet extraterrestrials, we walk in the footsteps of aliens every day of our lives.

When An Author Turns To Spam

SPAM

(This post originally appeared on my Patreon page on the 5th of this month. Patrons get to see my posts 3 days early — and when I publish a new ebook, they get to see it 30 days ahead of time. PLUS they get a FREE .pdf copy EVEN IF IT’S FREE ELSEWHERE. They also get the satisfaction of helping a creator create — you’d better believe an extra income stream helps me spare the time to write more. Patreon is helping me buy a power steering pump for the family minivan this month. Without it, I’d likely be spending most of my precious writing time walking or taking the bus to the grocery store (because we, like many people, like to eat food a few times daily) — or watching the little ones alone while my wife went — instead of writing.)

 

I do a goodly amount of Tweeting, for those reading this who don’t know. I’m going to talk about spamminess there, mainly, because it’s my social media backyard. But what I’m talking about here applies just about anywhere online. WordPress, Facebook, Tumblr, and so on – even comments sections and old-fashioned forums.

The TLDR version: nobody likes a spammer.

The thing that inspired me to sit down and write this: the Twitter lists (“PeopleWhoWrite” 1-3) that I use to aggregate and read tweets by and about writers and writing were becoming unusable. By “unusable” I mean a couple of things: the tweets I really wanted to see were becoming lost in a sea of promotional tweets, and I was finding myself avoiding reading tweets from those lists. I’d think, I should look in on the writing crowd and my mind would immediately shoot back, UGH IT’S FULL OF THE TWITTER VERSION OF JUNK MAIL WHY BOTHER.

Now: let me be clear. I’m not saying there’s no place for promoting yourself as a writer – or whatever else it is you might do – on social media. As a matter of fact it turns out social media isn’t quite as helpful to writers as it is to, say, people who create visual art in all its wondrous forms. Sometimes I’m a bit jealous, but what am I going to do? Not suddenly switch to a new art form. I’ve gotten goodish at this writing thing.

Back to topic, social media is a godsend for the little people, the just-starting-outs and the indies. It’s pretty damn good for the already-made-its and the traditional-route-to-success crowd as well, or you wouldn’t see so many spending their time and promoting their various projects on Twitter and other social media.

Twitter happens to be my personal favorite among the not-a-blog-or-forum crop of online modes of communication. It’s great for conversation, something everything else other than a decently-designed forum is crap at. I started using it before I started to write seriously again, and like many tweeters I twote about whatever was on my mind or happening in my life at the moment. When I started self-publishing I tweeted about my efforts sporadically, with no real plan or anything beyond a rudimentary consciousness that it might be a good idea. Eventually I started scheduling tweets about blog post X or short story Y every two or three hours. Lately I’ve come to see that as too much promotional stuff and I’ve settled on an interval of roughly four hours and fifteen minutes – the fifteen minutes to prevent my tweets from appearing at the same exact six times every day because if I have the option to be a little bit unpredictable I’ll take it. I’m allergic to ruts, which, paradoxically, is my rut.

For some peoples’ taste, that’s still too much promo. Too much, they might say, spam.

Well, that’s a personal perception, and I can’t do anything about it except make sure my tweets have more me in them than amateur marketing. Sure, I could do less. Some folks with work to publicize and/or sell keep it down to one or two tweets about their work, or none at all – they prefer to just let a link in their bio do the talking for them. That approach, I think, works best if your name is already out there. If you’re Wil Wheaton or John Scalzi, a ton of people already know who you are and go looking for that link if they want to see more of what you do. If you’re Joe Schmoe, that’s not something that really happens to you, so maybe you make my Joe Schmoe inspired choice and tweet up the promos a little bit.

And sometimes, if you’re Joe Schmoe and not really into this social media thing too much, you kind of miss the point, or buy into some marketer’s admonitions that all that matters is your promotional whatever being seen, so you need to tweet only promotional tweets. Preferably with big colorful images attached. Attention getters: shirtless beefslab dudes, big boobs, big explosions, big spaceships spurting flames, whatever. There are organized groups and services, for which you can elect to pay a chunk of money each month. And they tweet your promotions and retweet other folks’ promotions to the tune of thousands of tweets weekly. They “churn” (follow a bunch of accounts daily and unfollow anyone who doesn’t follow back right away) and automatically follow each other to gin up big follower counts, like attention-starved pufferfish – HEY LOOK AT ME I’M BIG AND NOISY.

Some of these people don’t want to bother running their own social media accounts, so it’s all automated (I recently booted one of those from my lists because, no kidding, the bio asked me to look for his new novel coming out in October 2014. Dude, update your shit. Pretend to care a little.) They are spambots roaming cyberspace, shotgunning anyone who looks at them with a big, fast mess of BUY MEs. Other writers might tweet on their own once in a while to offer some safe, bland tweets. Recent examples, altered slightly to protect the guilty: “What do you like to eat for breakfast?” “Where is your favorite place to read?” This person had a response or two to some of those tweets – but wasn’t answering any of the responders. The first word in “social media” is “social.” Be social. If someone talks to you, talk back or at least “favorite” or “like” what they said (unless they’re being horrid, which is a different ball of social media wax) so they know there’s someone alive over there. And who knows, what I was taking for an author trying to inject a little personality, however feebly, into their Twitter persona may have simply been a bot carefully crafted to lend the appearance of life to an entirely automated account. Whichever is true – who really gives a damn? It’s not interesting.

Some advice occasionally given to authors looking for an audience is to avoid contentious subjects, just be personable. And some authors agree with that advice to a fault. It might be wise to avoid talking politics and religion on social media. I’m afraid I’m not that species of wise – and writing, fiction or non-, has long been a politically and socially charged field. If I’m not wise, then at least I’m in good company.

But struggling back to the point again: an all-promo Twitter account is at best boring, and if not at its best it’s an annoying turnoff. These promotional groups retweet each other all over the place, and I’m sure the authors sit back and go, “look at those numbers! Twitter says I got 100 retweets today! And 100 favorites! And 50,000 impressions (how many times tweets were, not seen, but POTENTIALLY VISIBLE to a follower or a follower of a follower)! I’m kicking ass!”

But they’re not kicking ass. They’re just stinking the place up and those retweets and favorites and impressions were 99.99% just other bot-run accounts, writers not looking at their own automated account, and random bystanders who quickly scoot by thinking, “Oh, god. Another spam tweet from that jackass.” The saying goes that all publicity is good publicity, but it isn’t. Not when you’re trying to persuade people that what you do is worth them shelling out a few shekels and your “marketing” just teaches them to wrinkle their noses at the very mention of your name.

Some time ago, I went through a phase where I put a bunch of them in my lists thinking, charitably, hey, maybe they’ll actually start tweeting for themselves at some point. And they do write. And if they shut up with the promotions for a few seconds, push the bots out of the driver’s seat, maybe I’ll get to see who they are. So what the hell.

What the hell is, I want those lists to be filled with human beings, so I can see what human being writers are writing about on this Twitter thing. And I can’t do that if a dozen clusterbombing spambots are stinking the joint up. So they had to go.

If you’re a writer or other creative, don’t turn to spam “marketing”. Just be a human. Be yourself as best as you can be. Honestly strive to find a balance between “hey look at what I wrote” and “hey look at my opinion on stuff” and “hey let’s have a conversation.” Tweet (or whatever) about what’s going on with you. Sure, mention you have a story coming out. But also talk about what’s in the news or what’s going on in your favorite genre of whatever or bitch about the weather or car repairs (uncoincidentally, I’m trying to repair the family car now. Hoped it was a belt, then hoped it was a pulley, now hoping it’s only the power steering pump which my brother in law and I will be installing, hopefully, in the next few days. In a minivan, which are the very devil to work on. Because I can’t afford to have it towed into a shop and pay shop labor rates – or, for that matter, to own a vehicle less than 20 years old).

It’s advice so old and cliché that it has virtually ceased to have meaning – but be yourself. Be “authentic,” as the marketing crowd likes to say (I think they do – I’m not a marketer).

Unless you’re a dick or a spammer (they’re often the same thing). In that case, try being someone else.

Eulogy For An Internet Badass –OR– Why I Cut Arguments Short And Don’t Hesitate On The Block Button

WebsiteRageKirk

A 13 word story:

Decades arguing at strangers

Found dead on his laptop

Stroked out on trollrage

————-

I’ve had my share of internet arguments. Some of them were lengthy, acrimonious, and frankly, in hindsight, utterly ridiculous. Happily, I haven’t gone full ridiculous in quite some time, and I don’t think I’ll be going back in the future.

I still don’t hesitate to disagree online, or even to argue. But these last few years, I have come to understand that no matter how outrageous I find the other person’s position or statements to be, there’s no profit in giving in to anger. “Argument” doesn’t have to be about rage. It’s possible to argue with a bit of sense. And when it’s apparent that the other person is trolling and raging, well, that’s what the block button is for. Just about every place you can have an internet argument has some version of blocking.

I used to avoid using block functions, as if doing so was some badge of open-minded honor. Well, I do take some pride in maintaining an open mind in general. But that doesn’t mean I have to waste my time dealing with abusive people, or with people whose primary or even sole recreation is making other people angry on the internet, or with people who just want to argue to argue.

There are enough trolls online that the trolls can find their own kind to bother after I’ve blocked them, and enough reasonable people, even reasonable people with whom I have deep and fundamental differences of opinion, to find good conversation online no matter how many thousands of people I block on social media and elsewhere.

For as long as I can remember, I have been quick to anger, and my anger can burn very hot. My father was the same way; some of it is my disposition, but it is also a behavior reinforced by his example in my childhood. Later in life, he began to learn to step back from his anger and engage his brain before his temper got him in trouble.

As I recall, he started to really ‘get it’ in his 40s. Well, that’s where I am now.

I guess the apple only fell so far from the tree.

Anyhow. I have no intention of ending up stroked out from rage in front of my computer — because I know how easy it would be for me to end that way if I were to give in to the troll side of the Force.

Comments On The Culture Of Black Friday Presented As A Series Of Science Fiction & Fantasy Movie Tweets

From my Twitter feed, @Tao23:

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Operation Moon The NSA

Preface: this is childish.  I still like it.  I encourage those of you who use Twitter to use the #OperationMoonTheNSA hashtag.

 

Here’s what I’m talking about, in a series of my recent tweets kicked off by my passing along a message from @RevBobMIB:

 

MoonTheNSA

 

Here’s a link to the petition that Robert ‘RevBob’ Hood was referring to.  Signing it is probably WAY more effective than my followup of a crudely rendered facsimile of a butt.

 

Not sure what I’m talking about?  It has been recently confirmed, what many suspected: the NSA archives pretty much everything every single US citizen does via any sort of telecommunication.

Info link 1: Wikipedia on NSA monitoring program PRISM.

Info link 2: The Washington Post shows us an NSA slideshow explaining NSA telecommunications eavesdropping.

Info link 3: A somewhat editorialized explanation at ExtremeTech.

 

In closing, I would like to add:   (_|_)

 

 

The Great Easter Chavez Google Bing Twitter Flap of ’13

Today, one of the bigger Twitter flaps… and apparently a flap in general among USA right-political-wing conservative types of the blogosphere… has been that today, on Easter, Google has an image of Cesar Chavez in honor of Cesar Chavez Day (March 31) instead of something Easter-y in favor of Easter.  So there has been a great cry for conservatives to shun Google and flock to the proud conservative banner of Bing, which page is displaying an array of Easter eggs today.

Which makes me chuckle.  Here’s why:

One: this flap is partially religious in nature, and although Cesar Chavez was definitely politically left and therefore conservatives in general aren’t big fans of him, he was quite the religious sort and worked closely with his fellow Christians who did agree with his politics and stated time and time again that his inspiration in activism was Jesus Christ.  Now, I’m not a religious guy at all and I don’t share the beliefs that Cesar Chavez held, but I have great respect for what he did with his religious beliefs.  He said he believed in a figure who told his followers to respect and care for the less fortunate, and to act with love and peace, and he walked the walk; he didn’t just talk a good game.  He lived it.  I respect his self-honesty and I respect his attempt to be good to other humans—he seems to have done a pretty good job at it.  So here we have the spectacle of Christians on Twitter talking trash about a guy who tried to live his Christianity, over politics.  That’s a nice start.

Two: Bing is displaying Easter eggs.  Well, those are a pagan symbol of fertility associated with the pagan festival of Eostre.  Yep, that symbol, along with the fertile bunny, got carried along with the Christian Easter holiday.  But it’s certainly not Christian.  While the right wing of Twitter is complaining that Google doesn’t have a Christian display today, well, Bing doesn’t either.

Three: Bing is a Microsoft company.  Bill Gates is the founder and current chairman of Microsoft.  Bill Gates is an atheist and both he and Microsoft have made donations in support of campaigns to gain legal recognition for gay marriages—notoriously a cause that conservative US Christians are opposed to.

So Bing it up, guys.  You make me laugh so hard.

Socrates, Unafraid

I’ve just published this piece of flash fiction on Smashwords, where it makes title #35 I have published with them.  Over the next couple of weeks it will percolate through the virtual distribution pipeline to various venues, links to which I keep over to your right, in the sidebar, at the very top.  Socrates, Unafraid is short, sweet, and free.  Since it is free, I thought I would share it here as well.  If you enjoy it… well, I’ve just told you where to find the rest of my work, haven’t I?  🙂

 

 

SocratesCover

 

Socrates, Unafraid

By  S. A. Barton

Copyright 2013  S. A. Barton

The cup slips from my fingers, as it always has.  It shatters between my feet, losing itself on the marble as the fragments scatter, white on white.  For a moment, the shards persist.  Then they become faded, then translucent.  Then they are gone, and I am alone.  There is me, sitting before the garden that wreathes the edges of the portico in flowers, my chair, the table, the empty flagon.  Were I solid, the poison would churn through my guts.  I sit, regarding the nodding heads of the flowers, and imagine it burning.  Instead, unseen, it nevertheless fades into invisibility, into nothingness, as the cup has.

Did it exist?  Did the cup?  Did I?  I smack my lips at the saccharine and heavy aftertaste the poison has left as I watch yellow sulfur moths stitch unsteady paths among the dusty red of the roses.  A chime sounds, high and tinkling: once, twice, thrice.

My body is ready.  The chime has sounded each day as my body has stood ready, untouched, as thirty thousand days and thirty thousand cups have passed.

It, this body, stands among ninety-nine others; none have stirred.  I can sense so.  They stand motionless and ready in ranks, in a square, in a ruined acropolis meant to stand at the center of a new and untarnished humanity, spit out at last into the stars from the rotting, collapsing womb of a spoiled and dying Earth, a last paroxysm of the self-preservation urge of a species.

Around the ranks of these carbon-tubule humanoid frames engineered to endure eons and bear the minds of we the last teachers of Earth, arrayed against the smooth concrete walls, are honeycombed a thousand incubators.

Within them, thirty thousand days old, long turned to motes of dust, are a thousand thirty-two-cell human embryos, selected to bear the genetic diversity needed to seed a new humanity from among them.  All poisoned by the subtle traces of heavy metals and radioactives in the atmosphere, undetectable from an Earth which sent this last doomed gasp.  Perhaps there were a people here once as well, alien and yet enough like us to drown in their own waste and violence as we have.  If there were, they have left less of a trace than we have.  Only the poisons that have destroyed our final offspring remain.

I stare at the blank marble floor, contemplating the sunset not yet here that my virtuality will bring, and the sleep, the waking, and cup thirty thousand and one.

It is enough.  Finally enough.  For the first time, I answer the chime.

I have spent thirty thousand days in hiding, in grief, in a solitary despair at the fate of humanity.  I sense the others have left their bodies inactive as well, for the same reason, I assume.  I cannot imagine another.

But there are still we final hundred.  Our bodies, our fleshly human bodies, are forsaken.  But our minds, our thoughts: we are human in those.  At long last I accept that it must be enough.  It must: it is all there is.  We still might build and grow, construct new bodies and load them each with one of our hundred minds.  Time and experience will change all of us, new and old, and finally as centuries pass we will diverge, until from a hundred seeds there will be thousands and millions of us, different enough in time to be called different individuals, if sprung from the identical hundred roots.

I open my eyes; carbon laminate eyelids unshroud lenses of flawless and smooth diamond.  I look out across the ruined acropolis, the still forms of my ninety-nine inert companions, the thousand dust-shrouded incubators become tombs.

None of those things are there.  I stand, robotic limbs locked in place but warming with current, loosening, in a cylinder of industrial diamond mounted upon a modest pedestal of plain marble.  My eyes, not needing the action but driven by the appendix of a biological reflex embedded in my virtual mind, blink once, twice, thrice in surprise, diamond regarding diamond.  And my focus shifts, and I look beyond.

There is the acropolis, clean and smooth, the concrete hidden behind marble façade.  Lights, aimed into the great vault above, reflect a comfortable and warm sunlight upon the thousand incubators, standing open and doorless to display the guts from which sprang the last thousand human beings.

Of my ninety-nine companions, no sign at all.

Before me, a dozen children mill about a single adult.  One of the children reaches up and tugs at the dusty red rose of her blouse.

“The Unawakened, teacher.  His eyes opened.  Does that mean he’s not The Unawakened anymore?”

The teacher turns to me, eyes widening, mouth forming an O of surprise.  I smile, finally.

Even late, teaching is what I am for.  And there are children here after all.

 

 

 

See more from S. A. Barton:

On Twitter at http://twitter.com/tao23

And on Facebook at  http://www.facebook.com/pages/S-A-Barton/312607662122218

Like Arguing on the Internet

AdVintageMarijuanaKiller

 

This post isn’t about legalizing or not legalizing marijuana, despite my choice of picture—that’s a topic that’s way off topic for this blog.  Suffice it to say that I’m in favor of applying rational thought to our various concerns.

 

The reason I used this image is that it employs hyperbole.  Many of us know enough about marijuana to know that it doesn’t cause “Murder!  Insanity!  Death!”  And that reminded me of arguing with people on the internet.

 

I check in on Twitter every day.  I probably check in on it a bit more than I really should.  One notable thing about it is the same thing that is notable about other social platforms and discussion forums online.  As well as much of our politics.

 

Over and over again, people resort to hyperbole.  Overstating their various cases for effect— or, very often, on the assumption that the person who reads the hyperbole won’t investigate for themselves and might be fooled.  People tell themselves that hyperbole serves a purpose, that it’s a good idea if the cause is good, and other nonsense like that.  It has its moments when used for comedic effect, but when it’s presented as truth to deceive it’s a different matter.

 

The fact is that hyperbole backfires in the long run.  Because it’s a lie, and people don’t like it when they discover they’ve been lied to.  It’s easier than ever for people to find the facts for themselves since the internet became a big thing.   Maybe it’s time to give hyperbole tactics a rest.  Maybe it’s time to admit that persuading people with half-truths and overstatements and distortion may be part of the advertising arsenal that we’ve been culturally trained in, but they’re ultimately unproductive.   They produce cynical and jaded minds.

 

Sometimes I feel pretty cynical myself, wading through the sea of propaganda that is a large part of the online (and offline) world.

 

And I’d rather not.  So do it for me: calm down, and let the truth speak for itself.