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Steroids in Entertainment

April 17th, 2014

There’s been a lot of talk in the last few years about the use of performance-enhancing drugs, and steroids in particular, in sports. But while two of the major sports in the US get most of the attention, what is carefully NOT said is that steroids permeate the entertainment industry.

This entire episode is really an aside for a thought I was developing a while back: Superman does ‘roids. As steroid abuse became prevalent in sports, we the couch potatoes began to form an entirely different idea of what ‘ripped’ was, and the bodies of superheroes naturally had to live up to that ideal. Our heroes, even the fictitious ones from other planets, have been sporting ever-more-sculpted bodies, keeping up with Schwarzenegger and Ferrigno and all the other ‘roided-up bodybuilders of the ’70′s.

Today, while sports-related PED use gets all the press, other branches of the entertainment industry are desperately clinging to a “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy. The entertainment press has no interest in exposing steroid use among actors; infidelity and coke are mainstays of scandal but let’s not talk about how Actor X got so buff for his last movie. Scandal sells, but only the sort of scandal that perpetuates the Hollywood Myth. In a land of smoke and mirrors, only the smoke and mirrors are sacred.

That’s not to say that the sports franchises have come clean.

This is where the picture of Elmer Fudd sitting on a powder keg, fuse almost burned away, with his fingers in his ears and his eyes shut tight would be if it were legal for me to put an image like that here, and/or if my searches for such an image had borne fruit.

Take the NBA, for example. The leadership of the league will tell you that steroids are not a problem in their league. This isn’t based on any sort of science, or on a rigorous testing policy (testing in the NBA is a joke), but rather on the assertion that steroids don’t enhance the type of activities that basketball players do.

Um… say what?

Let’s imagine for a moment that we could jump in a time machine and go back to the ’80′s, and have a chat with one of the greatest basketball players ever to have donned a pair of sneakers. We know Michael Jordan is motivated by winning and pretty much nothing else. So let’s imagine what his answer would be if we told him, “there’s a chemical you can take that will allow you to jump a tiny bit higher, last a little longer on the court, and to recover more quickly from the inevitable sprains and bruises that are part of your game. It’s not exactly within the rules of the game, but you definitely won’t get caught.”

Michael Jordan had that choice. Knowing how driven he is to win, which choice would surprise you more, that he did or did not use steroids?

What a potential nightmare for the NBA.

I have to assume that the use of PED’s is also rampant in hockey. Since an individual star has the least impact in hockey compared to the bigger three sports, the does-he-or-doesn’t-he discussions are less common. A hockey player could juice up until he turned into a minotaur and commenters would say “that line has had some great shifts lately.” Over 82 games the performance boost would be measurable, but wouldn’t stand out so flagrantly. So I think it’s safe to assume that ‘roids are in use, even though no one talks about it.

Then there’s the sport-like entertainment product brought to us by the WWE, called, euphemistically, “wrestling”. You want to see what max-boost steroid use will do to a human? Look no further. Image is what they sell. Back in the day some of the biggest names in the ring were also big tubs of goo. Strong men, and passable actors, but hardly ripped. Now, take a moment to look at the headliners for the next WWE event. Pretty crazy, right? Everyone knows these guys do steroids. As long as no one talks about it too loudly, all parties are allowed to let things continue this way.

So why are we OK with these guys using steroids, but not the athletes in ‘real’ sports? The generally agreed upon reason to ban these drugs is to protect the health of athletes. But is the health of a baseball player inherently more valuable than the health of a pro wrestler? If health were the real reason, then outrage would be consistent across the entertainment industry.

And, you know? I can get therapies for my sore knee that professional athletes can’t. Does that make sense?

If not health, then what is the reason? Is it fairness? I think mostly yes. As the system stands, people willing to break the rules have an advantage over those who behave ethically. Particularly in my favorite country, the United States, that rankles. It sure bothers me. So ‘real’ sports, where there’s actual competition, try with varying levels of success to catch the cheaters.

Unless you consider the NBA a real sport. (It’s borderline for me.) There’s really not much effort to enforce their drug policy. They do have random testing, sure, but they can only test a player four times each year. After the fourth test, a player is off to the races. Even before that, the tests are easy to beat.

Interestingly, this continued state of denial, of not doing anything meaningful to police the use of performance-enhancing drugs, puts the NBA in a position to bring about meaningful change. Were I king of that league, I’d pass the following edict: People pay to see the top performers in our sport. We will provide that product. To maintain fairness, we’ll allow all athletes in our league to take whatever PED’s are legal in this land, and we’ll even provide responsible medical supervision.

Bickety-bam, prohibition is over. And while there will still be cheaters who do unhealthy amounts of performance-enhancing drugs, the advantage they gain by doing so will be diminished. And when your favorite athlete comes back from an injury more quickly, everyone wins. Seriously, how can it be a bad thing when someone gets well more quickly? There are some big-name athletes with shadows over them because of ‘miraculous recoveries’. They must have cheated, right? What kind of messed-up system makes recovering from an injury too quickly a bad thing?

So let’s put on our Goggles of Reasonableness and question the assumptions behind the prohibition of performance-enhancing drugs in sports. And while we’re at it, lets recognize a simple truth: We want to watch enhanced performers.

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I’m back!

April 12th, 2014

Well, more or less. The months-long grind at work is over, culminating with a swift kick to the professional groin as I missed my deadline despite working every waking hour (after a while I enforced a five-hours-of-sleep rule) for a couple of months, and even before that at least ten hours a day, weekends included, since January.

My apologies to those I’ve snubbed in the last while, especially those passing birthday wishes my direction. What I had planned as a glorious celebration of my half-century on this planet turned out to be a really shitty day.

I’ve taken a little time off from work since then, to get my feet under me, to get my health habits restored, and to generally feel human again. I still dream about the project, and find myself lying in the early mornings going through the solutions to some of the pending tasks on a project that no longer exists. It was so very close to being so very very cool.

The last few days I’ve managed to get a little bit of creative juice flowing, and perhaps soon I’ll be ready to write that retrospective on the last fifty years. April 2th (rhymes with ‘tooth’) has come and gone, but still deserves some observation. In the meantime I’ve got The Monster Within, which by God I’m going to see in book form this year if I have to publish it myself.

Next week I might be ready for human interaction again, so those I’ve been ignoring should be hearing from me soon. Thanks for your patience!

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The Working LIfe The Working LIfe

The Sound of Crickets

February 14th, 2014

I made a foolish commitment at work, and now I’m paying the price. The big day for the project is April 2, 2014, which some of you might recognize as 10.0 on the Muddled Calendar. A Big Day indeed.

In the meantime, things will continue to be pretty quiet around here. Sorry about that.

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Reading Reading

Drowning Mermaids

January 31st, 2014

I just finished reading a book called Drowning Mermaids. I’m not sure why I finished it; several times I set my electro-book thingie down and asked the ceiling, “Why am I still reading this?”

I don’t have a good answer. My first warning came on the second page, when a veteran sailor refers to the ‘washroom’ on the boat. First note to writer: If you’re going to write scenes on a boat, take a little time to learn about boats, and the vocabulary of sailors.

This may seem like a nitpick, but it’s an indicator of the poor polish and care of the writer. Later, we learn that this industrial fishing boat had a bathtub. I don’t expect everyone who reads these words to know how absolutely ridiculous that is (although… come on), but I expect the writer of this story to know.

On the other hand, I was entirely able to accept the genetic branch of the human species that enabled under-water breathing. Scientifically it’s preposterous, but in this context played just fine. Crazy species are popping up all the time. I needed one more mutation to make this story work, however — a human in arctic water has about thirty seconds to live, and it has nothing to do with oxygen. Odd to make underwater breathing scientific, but resistance to cold magical.

Structurally, the story isn’t bad. If each chapter were rendered with half the words, we’d have a good start on a decent yarn. Those chapters, they need trimming. They just drift along, whacking on the same points over and over. Just when you think there couldn’t possibly be another way to beat that horse, you’re treated to another few paragraphs of the same stuff. Even the individual points reviewed repeatedly are unnecessarily long-winded with each iteration, often using the same language each time. It just keeps going on. Kind of like this paragraph. It gets annoying fast, doesn’t it?

I am fully aware of the irony of me accusing others of rambling, but when Main Dude asks Main Chick for forgiveness for the third damn time in the chapter, and gets the same answer each time, you have to think that maybe things could have been tightened up a smigde. Here’s a digest of that conversation:

“I’m sorry I was such an asshole.”
“It’s all right.”
“Are you sure? I mean, I’ve been a monumental asshole.”
“I love you, and I have to take the good with the bad. You are forgiven.”
“But… I’ve been preposterously assholish. You can’t possibly forgive me.”
“How many times are we going to go around this subject? Believe you’re forgiven and shut up, or call me a liar and get the fuck out. Asshole.”

That last line is not an accurate representation of the story. At all. That conversation? It took several pages (whatever ‘page’ means these days) in the book, as each party internally reviewed stuff we already knew, reacting the same way they did the last time they internally reviewed it, picking at the scabs over old wounds. Sharply-written dialog, a couple of telling gestures, and all those pages of smoke can be compressed into a half-page firecracker.

Tightening the narrative would have reduced the number of times I paused to look at the ceiling to wonder if I should go on. By the end of the book my pauses were longer and more frequent, and the only answer to “why am I still reading this?” became, Because it’s almost over. I’d made it this far, I would see it to the end.

Even that motivation almost wasn’t enough. The big confrontation is going down and our main mermaid has an opportunity to spend five frickin’ seconds to simplify her situation dramatically. The narrator tells us “Aazuria knew that she should stop and XXX, but…” and a lame excuse follows. (Five frickin’ seconds!) You know what that phrase really says? “The writer knew she should find a better way to resolve this situation in a way that propels the plot forward, but she didn’t bother.”

Those are the moments that separate the pros from the amateurs.

To tie with my comments about brevity above, Aazuria stops to review her unbelievable decision in the next chapter as well, accomplishing nothing but chewing up words to remind us that we got to this point in the story through artificial means. The writer’s guilty conscience peeks through again.

Ultimately this is a romance story, so all that other stuff is subordinate to the relationship between Main Mermaid and Boss Fisherman. There’s good news on this front: There was a point that I actually doubted the outcome of the romance. That’s a huge compliment for the writer, considering the contract romance writers make with their readers. Love damn well better conquer all in these stories; that’s why people read them. Probably if I was a more regular consumer of the genre I would not have had my (enjoyable) moments of doubt.

Uh, I guess that was a spoiler. But come on. Love conquers all.

Side note: it’s almost comical how much the people on the cover don’t resemble the descriptions in the story. Especially the dude.

Hey, do you mind if I slip a couple more spoilers in here? If you think you might be reading Drowning Mermaids then you’ve probably already stopped reading this review, so I’m not too worried. But things get even spoilier from here on out.

The writer flirted with daring on a couple of occasions. Big Names Die… almost. They will all be back for the sequels, but now we know that they are safe. The writer has squandered the ability to make us worry for the fate of the major characters; they could be boiling in acidic lava while sharks eat their entrails and I’d be pretty comfortable betting they they would be back before the denouement for that episode.

Speaking of episodes, here’s something I must recognize: This story had an ending. Kind of crazy that I have to mention that as a plus, but these days it’s no slam dunk that a story will reach some sort of conclusion when the pages run out. There’s plenty of stuff still going on, Big Danger on the horizon, but we get to a place where specific issues have been resolved. It’s a good stopping point, and the underlying structure shows favorably.

I wasn’t going to bother providing a link to the novel on Amazon, but the cover is worth a chuckle. I’ll be adding the image shortly. Unless I don’t.

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Observations Observations

H & R Crock

January 21st, 2014

I just saw an ad for a major tax-preparation company. Perhaps you’ve heard of them. They have a series of ads out right now that assert that if every citizen in the United States would just let them prepare their taxes, then taxpayers would recover an extra one billion dollars of cash money. That’s a lot of dough. The ads are centered around trying to get people to understand just how much money that is.

So in this particular ad, palettes of (fake) money are displayed on the flight deck of an aircraft carrier running at full steam. The stacks of money are, one by one, pushed into the sea. Because that is what happens to unclaimed tax refunds.

They are illustrating a reasonably good point, in an effective way.

BUT…

How many tax dollars were spend making that ad? I’d bet dollars to donuts that the tax boys did not pay the full operating cost of an aircraft carrier for a day of filming.

Sure, the whole thing could be CGI these days, but while I’m no expert I didn’t see the signs. I think they managed to “borrow” an actual frickin’ aircraft carrier (at taxpayer expense) to tell us that they could save taxpayers money. Nice to have them looking out for us like that.

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If I Ran the Sharks Tonight

January 20th, 2014

I’d tell Calgary beforehand, and I’d put my fourth line on the ice for the first shift, as a gesture of solidarity. Tortorella is the best thing to happen to the Canucks for a while, but sending his troops in for an all-out brawl before the puck had time to hit the ice is going a little too far. Sure, he has to protect the Sedin sisters, but I think he could have found some balance.

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Reading Reading

A Quest of Heroes

January 9th, 2014

I have just read the sixty-fourth virtual page of the 400+ virtual pages of the first volume of a series of ten (and counting!). I have just met the Sword of Destiny. I have some predictions.

First there’s Thor. No, not the Norse God of Thunder, but a farm boy less strapping (and less loved) than his brothers. Let’s give the author credit for not even trying to hide the fact that Thor is the Chosen One. Argon the kick-ass druid told us so, in that wizard-not-revealing-things-that-will-break-the-plot kind of way, before vanishing. Thor seems like a good kid.

Interesting wrinkle: When Thor first discovers his power, it’s after praying (at a time of distress) to Big-G God. Not very druid-like; it remains to be seen if that’s going to be a theme or if that was just the writer accidentally slipping monotheism into the text.

And yes, the Top Druid in this story is named after an element. I’m waiting for Xenon to show up and challenge him. But while that remains unknown, there are many certainties.

Thor is a loyal subject of Good King. The lands of Good King have known peace for a long time; geographically, the kingdom is well-protected. Good King rules half of a circle of territory surrounded by a circular valley and a magical barrier, which keeps the unwashed barbarians without at bay. Inside, Good King has only one rival: Bad King. In the story they have different names (Scottish ones, actually).

I’ve read to the point in the story where the King is regarding the Sword of Destiny, which is almost literally the sword in the stone of Arthurian legend. Good King hoped to be the guy to lift it from the spikes or whatever-the-hell is restraining it. No dice.

So here’s what’s happening right now: Good King’s elder daughter is getting married to Bad King’s son. It’s happening in the capital city of Good Kingdom. Lots of Bad King’s people will be in Good City. Barbarians seem to be gathering for an attack outside the magical barrier. Somewhere far away, Thor has decided to say “Fuck you, dad! I’m going to force the army to take me!”

So, the predictions: Treachery! Bad King uses the happy occasion to overwhelm Good City! Somehow, his Evil Druid (Xenon?) finds the magical switch that turns off the barrier that protects both their kingdoms from the hordes outside. Our kid Thor arrives to find the city in turmoil. Events, fortitude, and whatnot bring Thor to the palace.

Good King will be killed. He will die with honor.

Remember when I said Good King’s elder daughter is getting married? That implies a younger one. There has been no hint of her in the narrative so far, but it’s a slam dunk that Thor will be in the palace, assholes will be sniffing around her ankles, and the Sword of Destiny will come to hand. And shit will go down. A princess will be impressed.

All of which has me ready to be a little disappointed. You see, Thor’s brothers are all about living by the sword, while Thor has developed a near-supernatural skill with the sling. I’m going to be a little sad when Thor surpasses his brothers by being better at the sword rather than rendering the sword obsolete.

I might hope that the writer could surprise me, but a key formative moment has already been lost. Thor doesn’t like killing things. He’s a gentle soul. When a terrible creature has one of Thor’s sheep in its jaws, Thor’s first bullet is to kill the sheep, to end her suffering.

So then it’s ON between Thor and this huge-ass killing machine. Thor’s taking a right beating until he prays to big-G God and finds the power he needs to survive. This was a pivotal moment for me, as a reader. “How much do you value life?” I asked through the text. Thor killed the thing. Given the time and context, an obvious decision. Not even a decision, really, just the way things are done. Mankind asserting its dominance over the world.

But in that context, how powerful would it have been if Thor had let the predator go free?

It’s not fair, really, to ask those questions of someone else’s work. It’s just that Thor has been presented as a champion of life, and when faced with the ultimate predator he has to accept that most lives feed on others.

____

Time has passed, pages have turned, and while structurally things are moving in the inescapable grooves reserved for fantasies like this, grooves that have been gouged in the rocky soil of storydom over the years, etched in the very bedrock by the passage of countless interchangeable plots, many of my predictions above proved, while not wrong, to be impatient. Bad King and Outer Hordes are definitely going to attack. Sword of Desitny will end up in Thor’s hand. Younger princess (who has been chosen to rule the land when Good King dies) has arrived and is definitely sweet on Thor.

The story reads like a novel aimed at middle-school kids; the sentence structure is very basic and the vocabulary is limited. More than that, the plot seems more geared toward gratification than conflict. Thor’s trajectory has been steadily upward, and he’s started to collect plot tokens.

Ojects appear out of nowhere when needed and disappear again when inconvenient. One of Thor’s mystical plot-token pets, a white leopard cub, has only been fed a mouthful of beer as far as I can tell, despite Thor worrying about caring for the beast.

Then there’s the second sun, which doesn’t seem to have a name, and doesn’t affect the world much at all. It may be some sort of variable star, because plenty of times, the day is delimited by the position of ‘the sun’. Singular. Note to the writer: if you’re going to add a romantic detail like two suns, you need to work it. For instance, some days Big Sun (man sun?) will rise before Little Sun (woman?). Other times, it will be the other way around. In a world bound by prophesy and destiny, you can get a lot of mileage out of stuff like that.

Despite those warts, I’ve been enjoying the read, up until last night. What can I say? Sometimes I like an easy read geared toward gratification. But last night…

This is going to be a spoiler, if such a thing can possibly happen when discussing a story like this.

… last night as I read, Thor learned that Good King was going to be poisoned. Thor must warn GK! He goes to the castle, but Good King is out. The warning will have to wait.

Not long after that, Thor is talking to Good King’s youngest son. Thor doesn’t mention his fears to someone particularly well-suited to help prevent the catastrophe. Then Thor talks to another guy who could help, but doesn’t bring it up. Instead, Thor volunteers to spend the entire fucking day riding far from the castle – so far he might not get back in time to deliver his warning.

Oh, and he easily could have passed word to Good King’s Eldest Son somewhere along the way.

In exchange for this horrible plot contrivance, we do get a very good treatise on the nature of chivalry and heroism. Rough paraphrase: “Don’t work to be better than the other guy, work to be a better person than you are now.” I liked that part. The titular Quest, it turns out, is more internal — the quest to always be better than you were yesterday. That, kids, is how you turn the theme of your story.

But then I thought about the context. While Thor is hearing this lecture, he’s being incredibly derelict. When he learned the King was not in the castle, did Thor go and try to find him? Nope. Sure, ditching his training might have got him kicked out of the army, but that’s exactly the kind of sacrifice he should be willing to make.

I’d actually talked myself into paying for the second installment of this escapist fluff, but now I’m not so sure. It’s the convenient forgetting-of-things that’s undermining my pleasure. The last one, forgetting that Good King is in deadly peril and that Thor’s every act should be to thwart the plot, is the killer.

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Just say No

December 27th, 2013

Google just asked to be allowed access to fairly low-level functionality on my computer. There’s a chance I might have benefitted from saying yes, but there was no explanation at all given for why the Goog should have that access. No value proposition whatsoever, just “Google wants to use the accessibility interface”. (That’s not the exact quote, which I now regret not saving.)

Honestly, I don’t even know how to prove the request came from Google. So if you get something like that, do like I did. Say no.

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One Damn Mile

December 19th, 2013

We all know that turning off lights in unoccupied rooms is not only economically smart, it’s good for the planet. Lightbulbs use electricity. Electricity costs money and its production harms the environment. Turning off lights is a simple win-win.

But here’s a thought experiment for you: How much does your car’s mileage change when its headlights are on? Is it even measurable? Even when your car is idling?

Let’s do some quick math. Based on sources I cite here, a gallon of gas is considered to be the energy equivalent of 34kWh of electricity (34.02, actually. You know this ridiculous false precision is the result of politics, but this is the number that MPGe is based on.) That’s the amount of energy needed to light 340 100-watt incandescent bulbs for an hour.

But to make the comparison fair, we have to factor in the energy required to get the gas into your tank, and the energy lost to bring the power to the socket in your wall. The math I used in the previous episode resulted in a gallon of gas requiring 5 gallons of gas to reach the pump (refining takes a lot of energy), while it takes 2kWh of additional electricity to bring you the 1kWh you burn. We then divide the gasoline energy by six, and the socket electricity efficiency by three, and that brings us to a slightly-more-honest conversion factor of 68kWh of wall-socket electricity per gallon-in-tank of gasoline. Let’s call it 70 to avoid any pretense of false precision ourselves.

That number will move violently depending on where your gasoline and electricity comes from. 70kWh/gallon is just some wild-assed number based on broad averages, but it’s a number less false than most.

Let’s say, to keep the math easy, that you drive a car that gets about 30 miles per gallon (most of us don’t). That comes out to about 2kWh per mile. Roughly speaking, all the lights in your house, on all night, is about the same as driving one mile in your car (if your car is relatively efficient).

One damn mile.

Unless, of course, you’ve converted to compact fluorescent and LEDs in your home. In that case one damn mile could light your house for a week.

Let’s look at things another way, as long as we have our calculators out. The question: how much energy do I save if I choose a car that gets one slim mile more per gallon?

Of course, that depends on how much you drive. But let’s say you tune up your car and inflate your tires and your mileage improves from 30 to 31. And entirely doable scenario.

We’re going to have to go to unsupported decimal points here, so the numbers that pop out are only valid when compared to each other.

70kWhpg/30mpg = 2.33 kWh per mile
70kWhpg/31mpg = 2.25 kWh per mile

Savings: 700 Watt-hurs per mile

Improving your mileage from 30mpg to 31 saves about as much energy as burning a 70w incandescent bulb for an hour, every damn mile you drive. Improving from 20mpg to 21 saves more than twice that. Have your checked your tire pressure lately? That simple act could mean a lot. All your other good-energy-citizen choices are dwarfed by your choice of car, and the way you maintain it.

The takeaway here is simple: Yes, please do buy energy-star appliances. Turn off the lights when you leave a room. Be smart. But don’t go the extra mile. Not in your car, at least.

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Christmas Time, Tool Time – Advice for Tool-Givers

December 12th, 2013

I just saw an ad for a tool that didn’t interest me much, but I noticed that the neatly-bearded spokesman in his flannel shirt was standing in what was declared by the subtitles to be the “Tool Research Laboratory”, or something like that.

The set was clearly NOT a tool research laboratory, competing with CSI:Miami for “Least Practical Lighting for a Place Where People Use Their Eyes On the Job” award.

But… Somewhere there actually is a facility where people work hard to produce new, better tools. The people sitting at the workbenches aren’t necessarily wearing flannel; many of them likely have advanced degrees and spend their recreational hours reading about new alloys and fabrication techniques.

An example challenge: Make a better wrench. No biggie, it’s just a tool that has quietly matured over the centuries. But now, with math and engineering and gol-danged science, people are making better wrenches. Most of the emphasis in this new tool revolution is on convenience and one-size-does-more designs, which are all right, but then you get an ingenious device that puts the force on the flats of the bolt, rather than the corners, allowing you to apply a lot more force. A genuine improvement on an old standard*.

Christmas is the time these devices get to strut on the television, as women try to find gifts for men who don’t seem interested in things that are knitted. (Hint: many of those guys are looking forward to holiday leftovers more than they are to the gifts. Because there’s something magical about holiday leftovers. Just sayin’.)

You know, upon further review that last paragraph was pretty sexist. To the guy looking to buy tools for his husband, or the woman trying to figure out how to leave some hints as she cleans the grime from under her fingernails, I say rock on, and don’t forget the leftovers. Forgive me as I perpetuate the stereotype with my use of pronouns to follow.

Hey, remember the SnakeLight? It’s just a rechargeable flashlight with a bendy section, but many years ago when I got one for Christmas I was amazed at how useful it was. There’s a whole SnakeLight product category now. That’s a win.

Finally, the promised advice for tool-givers: beware the one magical wrench that’s as good as a whole set of traditional wrenches. It’s probably not quite as good, and your tool-appreciating gift target already has a whole wrench set and knows how to use it. When Tool User opens the package during your holiday ceremony, he will likely exclaim with happy surprise, but you will know he’s faking it.

But later, in the shop, on many occasions that every-wrench-in-one device is the one your beloved tool user will reach for rather than take the time to find the exact right wrench out of his set. Well, unless your tool user is like me. I’m a frightfully slow worker, and part of that is not just choosing the right wrench, but getting it positioned optimally. So give me a wrench that can reach a nut I couldn’t reach before. That is the one that will make he hairs on the back of my neck stand up — almost as much as a turkey sandwich with all the fixins.

Oh, and battery-powered tools are fundamentally inferior to ones you plug into the wall. The 120 seconds lost to laying the cord and coiling it up again dwarf the loss of power, the time lost messing with batteries, and the general better performance of the tool. Hippies and true craftsmen agree: batteries are no good.

Go Tool Research Laboratory! I’d apply for a job there, but I’m wretchedly unqualified.

* I’ve never seen sockets that embrace this innovation. Get on that, Tool Research Laboratory!

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NaNoWriMo Debrief

December 4th, 2013

Whew! November’s over and I put another 50,000 words behind me. 50,032, to be exact, finishing with six fat minutes to spare.

Not of all of those words were worth reading again, by any stretch. Still, it was an interesting exercise this year, one I seemed hell-bent to make more difficult for myself. Here are a few of the elements that made this novel different:

  • Very few characters – Four, to be exact, and one of them dies around chapter two or so. The one who made it possible for the remaining characters to communicate is kidnapped, leaving two characters for the rest of the way, and they can only talk to each other on special occasions. Since I’m a guy who lives for dialog, that made things tough.
  • A dying world – bad things have happened, and the world has been mortally wounded. The oceans are drying up, or draining, or something. Even where there is still water to be found, Life (big-L life, the ecosystem as a whole) seems to have given up.
  • The remaining two characters were constructed – One was built to assassinate wizards. The other was built to protect a wizard from assassins. The wizards are all long gone, but their creations live on.
  • Guaranteed Furry audience – Wolf is pretty cool, and not someone who just looks like a wild animal much of the time; some of my favorite parts of the story are when she shows her true wolfish nature.

Will I pick up where I left off and fill out the story? Let’s just say there are a couple of other stories on top of this one in the to-do pile.

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Big Sale at Poetic Pinup Revue!

December 1st, 2013

Exciting times over at Poetic Pinup Revue! For one razor-thin day, you can score a huge discount on the upcoming issue, and even on a subscription for the next year. Details are at The Revue. To get a feel for what the mag is like, you can check out a few samples here, but you will have to imagine the pages big and glossy and super high resolution and in your hand.

And if that’s not enough, for tomorrow only, we’re selling back issues at half price! Woo! Some of the issues are in short supply, and when they’re gone, that’s it, most likely forever. If you like poetry and/or art photography (both in a wide variety of styles), you owe it to yourself to grab at least one of these big, glossy, beautiful magazines. Here’s a couple of my favorite covers, but you should head on over to the The Revue to take advantage of this clean-the-closet special. The special prices are available on the sale page; just scroll on down and choose your favorite back issues.

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Idle Chit-Chat Idle Chit-Chat

My Goofy Dog

November 30th, 2013
Or is she?

This has become one of Lady Byng’s favorite places to hang out:

Pot dog!

Lady Byng, hanging out in the back yard.


Yep, she’s a pot dog! (Yeah, I know, sorry. I had to do that.) This behavior seems pretty strange until you realize one thing: There’s only one place with sunshine in the whole back yard right now, and if Byng’s going to have to climb into a flower pot to find that sunbeam then by jing that’s what she’s going to do.

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Writing Writing

Different Planet, Same Sky

November 26th, 2013

As I try desperately (and occasionally despairingly) to cross the 50,000-word mark for the thirteenth year, I’ve been pondering the world my story takes place in, and the following question: Is this our Earth or some other Earth? How many stories have you read that take place on a world with completely different geography, but the same moon as ours? Is it Earth or not?

My story takes place on a world that has been blasted to ruin. The civilization before the cataclysm was very different from our own (at least on the surface), but there’s that big ol’ moon lighting the way for Wolf and Joe as they cross the wasteland. Is that riverbed the former course of the Rio Grande? The Vltava? The Nile? Or is this some otherworld that just happens to have a big, fat moon like ours?

Or maybe I should just stop thinking so much and get to typing. I have a lot of words to go.

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Idle Chit-Chat Idle Chit-Chat

Parking Postits

November 18th, 2013

I’d like to have a set of post-it-style notes printed up, with a variety of messages for a variety of parking situations. Some of the messages might include:

  • By what definition could this vehicle possibly be considered a compact?
  • This is a nice car! It would be a shame if it was damaged because you never learned to park. Just sayin’.
  • One slot per car, asshole.
  • I don’t care if the Amazon Kindle team is packed into way too small a space. That doesn’t mean you can use our parking garage.

The last one is fairly specific; and honestly if I were in charge I’d cut a deal with Amazon and lease them bottom level of our garage. The others, though, I think you can appreciate.