Month: August 2007 Page 1 of 4

Ponder of the Day.

Verus Gnomicon: The Book of Knowing True Names.

The reason, I think, science fiction is so bad at predicting the future is that it isn’t about the future so much as it is a commentary on the present, a commentary that uses ad absurdem as a technique. (Well, not really, but this is a ponder and not a reasonable essay, right? I write down a lot of crap to help me think things out.)

Something I’ve been pondering lately is RFID. How horrible it could be. How horrible it is already. And I’ve been thinking about how (supposedly) in medieval times, people thought that if you knew the true name of something, you had power over it, and how, right now, this is very close to the truth.

The problem is that the problem is so close it’s hard to make science fiction out of it.

Knowledge is power.
Knowledge wants to be free.
Power wants to be free.
Power corrupts.
Corruption is free.

Cheyenne Mountain Zoo Updates.

  • One of the elephants looked like she’d lost a lot of weight.
  • The old grandfather bull giraffe had died. He had so many knobblies on his head he looked like his horns had taken sprout, irregularly, almost down to his neck.
  • A swirl of budgies (one of whom regaled me with a wolf whistle) has been installed in the naked mole rat area.
  • Cotton candy is still good.

Right

(Doyce’s Story)

It wasn’t meant to be bad. The kind of people who come up with these kinds of ideas aren’t the kind of people who can mean for them to be used the way they inevitably will be used. Perhaps it’s a kind of protection for the human race: the creators can only be duped for so long before they cut off the source of their creativity. Ideas and ideals go together like…well, if I think of something, I’ll let you know.

But then someone comes along after them and says, “You know, that shiny thing over there? Now, that would make a great weapon.” Or, “a lot of money.”

My brother? He’s the first type.

I’m not.

Greg’s a neuroscientist. A genius. He made this headband that can somehow tell what it is that you most need to do–and then it compels you to do it. Hey, useful stuff, right? Imagine the kind of good you could do if you just put this in the hands of a psychologist. Or a priest. Or a doctor. Anybody, really. Because it doesn’t make you do what I (for instance) think you need to do. Just what you need to do. Greg has the prototype. He wears it all the time. Keeps him focused. He doesn’t have to worry about stopping to eat, because when it’s time, he’ll eat. Simple as that. There’s no pain or anything. It just makes you.

There are a couple of safeguards built in. It cuts out if you try to something majorly illegal (although not necessarily immoral), like killing someone or yourself, and it can’t be preprogrammed or overridden. Failsafe. Foolproof.

Right?

I may or may not go on with this…we’ll see.

Editing.

I hate editing. You’re not actually making anything, you’re just fixing your screwups (at least, that’s what my annoyed brain is telling me at the moment).

But, in the interest of possibly lessening the suffering of another writer out there…

I’m using a spreadsheet tool to help keep track of things (a tab for characters, another for settings, a third for scenes that also holds all the edits I want to make). Something I’ve added this time is a column for quotes: the best quotes by a character, the best quotes about a character. It’s making all sorts of little things go click nicely.

Talk the Walk.

What’s the “walk score” of your neighborhood? Does it have a lot of parks? coffee shops? bookstores?

Our house is a 37, which matches up with what I’ve been saying: I love everything about our house…except the neighborhood, which is kind of boring.

(via Biophemera)

Filing System of the Gods, Part IV

Back on Odin’s shoulders, Munin doesn’t so much as stick his beak in Odin’s ear before Odin starts ruminating about Baldur’s last day. The great, one-eyed face droops lower and lower, until tears roll down his cheeks and disappear into his beard, and he snuffles like a great, big beagle.

Normally, this is where Hugin takes over–Thought, you know. But not today. He has something else on his mind: The Filing System of the Gods.

Being Thought, Thought with a Capital T, Hugin likes to read books. Philosophy, physics, calculus…well, sometimes an Enquirer, too. Just for fun. He’d rather peck out eyeballs. But a tabloid is a good, close-second option. Sometimes he musses a page or two, but that’s because he’s using his beak, and, like all truly thoughtful people, he doesn’t really pay attention to what he’s doing.

Anyway, one of the books he’s read is about memories (lower case) and how to organize them: using a house or some other familiar structure, the memories are associated with mental images–mistletoe with Baldur, maybe–and gathered in rooms.

While the book was speaking (figuratively speaking) figuratively, there shouldn’t be any reason it couldn’t work literally, too.

The only problem is where…where…

Then a bright idea hits Hugin, and it’s such a bright idea that he completely loses his balance and topples off Odin’s shoulder with a squawk!

Mugin looks back at him, dangling precariously (and upside-down) from a tangle of Odin’s gray hair and dark cloak.

“What–” Caw! “–are you doing?” Caw! Caw! Caw! Munin’s laughing so hard he almost drops a fat one on Odin’s shoulder.

But then Hugin wraps his wings around himself and starts to cawkle, trying to keep the idea in and shaking so hard he finally does lose his grip and crash to the floor, and Munin begins to almost get frightened…

Avacado Ice Cream.

I don’t think I’ll ever make this recipe…boggles the mind, no? But I may always wonder.

Verbal/Art

The paintings of Alie Ward.

“Whatever” makes me think of Katie.

(via Neatorama.)

Book Review: The Steampunk Trilogy

by Paul DiFilippo.

Check out the cover at the link above. Three figures, each presented in three sections: one has the head of a woman (Queen Victoria), the torso of something resembling an albino frog, and the feet of a dance-hall girl. The other two figures are even stranger and more mismatched. Along with the other elements, I have to say this book is something of an exception to the rule that you can’t judge a book by its cover.

The book is supposed to be one of the seminal works the Steampunk sub-genre and this does seem to be the case. However, I do not recommend it for those people whose impression of Steampunk is The Difference Engine and Girl Genius.*

Like I said, book, cover, exception. It was so surreal that it drove me up the wall while I was reading it (too much nonsense, not enough feeling), and it gave me the strangest dreams afterwards. But after I was done, I immediately liked it more than I did while I was reading it. I stopped to look up several of the characters of the stories, which I should have done while I was reading. Now I get the jokes, and the stories are much more amusing in retrospect. And the disorientation less. Decent writing and interesting (if not necessarily likeable) characters.

The book is actually three novellas. My favorite section was the last one, “Walt and Emily,” about a meeting between Walt Whitman, Emily Dickinson, and the other side of the veil. DiFillipo seems to have trouble ending stories–I’ve read some of his short stories, too–and the ending here is very much like his others, disjointed and somewhat trite in that the characters act as expected: superficially. Here, however, that type of ending fits exactly and poignantly.

Very much a case of “if it’s the kind of thing you like, you’ll probably like it, at least somewhat.” It certainly isn’t forgettable, and I think it’ll last longer than most fiction. A unique experiment. Also, the person who did the cover should have received some kind of award, perhaps “Least Misleading Cover of All Time.”

*Specifically Dave.

The Coffee Tree & Monte Sano Park

(This was back in June.)

The Coffee Tree is this combination coffee shop/bookstore in Huntsville, pretty much off the beaten path as far as tourists go, and I had high hopes for it. I went in. It was like an old general store, with wainscotting and turned posts and mint-green paint. I was served by a man whose slowness was part of his charm. All the tables were mismatched; there was a sign advising you to watch your step as you entered the bookstore-half of the place; a black, painted iron bell hung over one table. The man talked me into New Orleans-style iced coffee and a chicken salad sandwhich on a croissant, and I sat under the bell.

One part of the room was set off with a half-wall: about twenty ladies, red-hat-clubbers without the hats, were playing mah-johngg. The sound of dimes crashing against the inside of the wooden boxes punctuated the pickety-clack of the tiles.

After a few minutes, the man came up to me, reached over my head, and rang the bell. The women all stopped their games and sang “Happy Birthday” to one of their number, without hesitation. The man brought out a tiny, yellow cake with a single candle, but I don’t think the woman stopped to eat it. They were all out of the place within two minutes.

After I’d finished eating, I went over to the bookstore side. It was run by a sloppy-looking man in an identical t-shirt, but his slowness was a matter of control manipulation rather than gentility. The bookshelves were half-empty and populated mainly by romances. The paint was old, and everything was covered in dust.

The split personality of the South, n’est-ce pas?

Monte Sano Park is set on top of a hill over Huntsville, high enough over the surrounding area to make my ears pop. To get there, I had to drive past ordinary houses, at least, houses ordinary for Huntsville: brick and wood. How do you make a house in Hunstville? Brick! and Wood! How to you make a different kind of house in Huntsville? Wood! and Brick!

I expected to be driving past the ritzy parts of town, to be honest — it’s been my experience that any kind of state park = nicer houses, or ones that give you the impression of paranoia and inbreeding. Or all of the above. Anyway, I thought I was lost for the longest time, even though I could see the signs, because the houses looked just like every other house I’d seen.

The park was filled with old stone everything. Old stone walls. Old stone buildings. Old stone gates. I drove past a few places until I got to an overlook: and then I had to stop, even though there was nobody around for quite a ways except for a guy in a truck. Not the kind of thing I would worry about, but the air was so hot and heavy and still, and the leaves were so smothering, and the view from the edge was full of quiet hills and still trees and so little else that I felt as if I could scream at the top of my lungs and never be heard, except by the incessantly calling birds. I have no idea what kind of birds they were, but it felt like a Hitchcock movie’s worth of them, just out of sight. So anyway it creeped me out that there was a guy with a truck. The truck was running with the windows up, and he was facing away from the edge. There was a cover on the back of the truck, the kind made of heavy plastic with a lock on it, and I could only think you could hide a body back there…

The trails were all marked with space shuttles, and under the enormous trees was a dense underbrush. As with everywhere in Hunstville off the main drag, there was a sense that nothing had changed since 1950 at the latest. At the very latest.

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