Goofing off is maintenance. Yeah. That’s it.

I have managed my sleep schedule poorly over the past few days, and here I am still awake. And it is not so much what I have learned but what I must remember: relaxation is maintenance.

There are studies. You’ll have to look them up yourselves – I’m on like 3 hours of sleep.

I have binge-watched the final season of House of Cards so you don’t have to. At it’s best it was kinda a mirror-universe West Wing with a little bit of Godfather. The last season is more Godfather than West Wing, until it just hits the side of the shark tank and descends into soap.

Spoilers: they are all eaten by sharks.

Is it wrong that I was kinda rooting for Doug Stamper? I guess because he was not beholden to any interests other than his own insanity.

Earlier this week, useful things were done.

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The enemy of productivity

If you are worried that I will drown poor Vet Bill in a bucket, don’t. We are warming up to each other. Currently, most of my problems with her are kitten problems rather than psycho-stalker problems. I have removed her from my desk four times while writing this post – and counting.

You can still have her if you want – but there is no emergency.

(I see that smirk.)

I have the house to myself, and mostly back to the way I want it. But I still have a lot of soda and chips that I will not eat. Open to suggestions.

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Point Reyes National Seashore

Over on Are We Lost Yet? I recall backpacking at the Point Reyes National Seashore.

I am about to throw the kitten off my desk again. Excuse me.

Over on Curious Continuity, we review the first half of the new Doctor Who season.

 

And on Fantastical History, I explain how folktales about Jack are based upon his autobiography. Or the other way around. 

 

Maybe I’m tired for good cause?

I have thrown Vet Bill off for the 6th time.

Now we know.

 

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Back to Old habits: sports and wringing groups.

Here are some things we learned since our last entry, in no particular order.

My daughter has gone back to NAU where she belongs.

Clay Buckholtz is now firmly the #3 starting pitcher for the Diamondbacks, who are inexplicably leading the NL West at this writing. You can point to Paul Goldschmidt if you want, but the real reason they are ahead of the Dodgers and Rockies is solid pitching and league leading interior defense. If Nick Ahmed doesn’t win a gold glove this year something is rigged.

Feels good to be jabbering about sports here again.

I have kinda committed myself to producing a distributable PDF version of Go Action Fun Time by month’s end, which may impair other projects. I am looking at making it a Drive Thru RPG product to test the market if no other reason. I’m pretty happy with the text (V 1.4) but there are a lot of details regarding layout that will suck up a lot of time.

We have some notes from tonight’s writer’s group.

One of our alumni has pushed a project into print!

Ivy Millicent Learns About Diabetes was work-shopped in our group a few years ago.

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Alas, the phrase “in the limelight” has nothing to do with plague bodies being tossed into glowing lime pits. That would be awesome, but the internet disagrees.

Limelight comes from the chemical lighting process that replaced gas lighting in theaters by the 1860’s, and was the standard for lighting vaudeville and melodrama until practical electric lights came about by the 1920’s.

Finally, the Zapfino font:

 

zapfinoone

Available here.

Now we know.

After the Shuffle

Before we begin, I need to shout something. Stand back a pace. Thank you.

I WILL BE AT CRIT HIT NEXT SATURDAY RUNNING GO ACTION FUN TIME!

Game 1, 10am Saturday: The Blistering Death of the Congo

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Game 2:  8pm Saturday: The Fox Who Hunted Back

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(These are the games I was scheduled to run at Comic Fest but did not go off for reasons.)

Ok. The actual blog starts …. now!

If you spend any time on Facebook following my antics, you will already know that Earl has moved back in. This time until November, and that required moving my life around.

For new readers, Earl documents most of his life on Facebook, and I have been dragged along in that wake. So one of many reasons I resist making this blog about Earl and his antics, is that they are recorded in reasonable detail elsewhere.

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Earl upstaging me, as is oft his habit.

In the process of moving furniture about and stopping to fix things that were hidden by the previous arrangement, I feel like a got a lot done, but not much of that was writing. However, that dust is clearing, and I hope to start making word count again.

I learned enough at Leprecon that it merits a separate post.

OK, one antic: Earl threw a party a my house and was kind enough to invite me. Again, I refer you to FB for any details. As a result, I have more seafood and beer than I am likely to consume before it spoils – and I am really quite fond of seafood and beer.

I recite this fact to soothe myself when I grow anxious about the bet I just made with one of my last credit cards.

Desert Financial doesn’t offer credit cards anymore, but I had one with their name on it and a fairly large balance. And I thought I was auto-paying minimum payments to that account for a good five months before the actual financial institution that runs the credit card called me wondering where their money was.

Let me save you an hour on the phone and three separate visits to the branch: they were stashing it in a savings account I forgot I had.

So I didn’t lose the money, but the minimum I was paying was about half the actual minimum, and now I’m five months behind. That put me in range of their settlement formula. I took that deal.

So now I have until the end of September to come up with just under a month’s pay to settle the card. Which is plausible but by no means certain. Success relies upon finding some side-work, and avoiding disaster. I have not relied on dumb luck like this for my finances for at least ten years – I am out of the habit.

But this week at least, I have plenty of beer and seafood.

If you take that as an invitation, well. Earl is likely home.

Some random facts:

Lamb poop does not particularly smell.

Firefly the boardgame is complex but well designed, and playable while still holding tight to the flavor of the show. It is a master-class in game design – that will consume your entire evening.

 

The Verse that ate your entire evening

Diet Coke can clean just about anything, among its many other documented uses.

But if you made it to the bottom I’ll confess a secret: I do not buy beverages for a party that I will not personally drink, absent of a specific, advance request.. If you poison yourself with diet soda, bring your own.

The Ladder of Poor Decisions

I dimly recall reading somewhere that, on a broooaaad average, half of US management decisions are wrong. I’d love to cite that source, but it was something I picked up working backstage at a university in  the early 90’s and skimmed through while waiting on a cue.

That’s poor documentation for an insight that has informed my approach to managing and dealing with managers most of my adult life.  Even so, I have found this to be roughly true. We are only right about half the time – on the first try.

In my RPG systems (I’ve written three) I assume that an average person will succeed at a common task (that they have no particular expertise in) about half the time. This more or less works out.

Now, this is hard to pin down because most of us do not keep score about when we are right or wrong. Some experts think we should start, but most of us don;t actually balance our checkbooks, so good luck with that.

At a recent writer’s group, we received well meaning if unsolicited advice about how we go about making poor decisions. Complete with a hand-out.

Ladder of Inference

Adapted from The Fifth Discipline by Peter Serge

We work our way up this ladder of loosely defined terms whenever we make a decision, or so the presentation went. Experience informs data which informs Meaning and so forth. On average, though, we go up this ladder in about six seconds, which does not leave a lot of time to fully consider all the steps, particularly the lower ones.

Which may go a long way towards explaining our half-wrong problem.

But there’s an even chance that’s not the problem at all.

Our friends the octopi (a frequent subject of this blog) have a completely different approach., as this well-animated TedEd video explains:

Now you know.

 

A Beanstalk Review and a Parade of Other Notes

First, the good news: My novel Beanstalk and Beyond received a review from a publication that people might actually read, namely the Nameless Zine.

Reviewer Chris Wozney writes:

I am quite impressed by this blending of fairy tales and historical setting. The author is himself a wanderer, and he imbues this story with some of the compulsion a wanderer feels for the roads and ways that lead out to the world beyond one’s doorstep.

I will choose to believe he has read some of my hiking guides, rather than discovering their existence while Googling my name. No-shh! Don’t wreck this moment for me.

Now the break even news, everyone forgot I was going to run Go Action Fun Time at Rincon, including me. I found the commitment in one of my many notes this afternoon, but was relieved to find I am not actually scheduled for any game or event.

I don’t have an episode ready to go. (And I’m likely out of money).

If you go, give them my regards, and no hard feelings, OK?

Bad News: the primary purpose of an HP printer is to extort ink sales from the user. If they happen to successfully print a document along the way, that is an unexpected bonus. My HP Deskjet 3520 is skipping every six lines because it believes I am using counterfeit ink (I’m not). Multiply this user experience by several million, and you understand why Carly Fiorina will never be president.

NOTES FROM WRITER’S GROUPS:

The #30 for the Arizona Diamondbacks is currently worn by LHP and bullpen resident T.J. McFarland.  Previous owners of note have been pitchers Todd Stottlemyer and David Hernandez.

The Devonian period began 416 mya, and ended with a as-yet-unexplained massive marine extinction 319 mya. Curiously, the first land plants that evolved during thgis age survived the extinction. Also, of note, the first distinct insects apear.

Flowering plants will not appear until 120 mya.

Free Companies were the only clear victors in the Hundred years War.

Finally, authors Jamaica Kincaid,  and PJ O-Rourke.

Now you know.

 

The More Things Change…

The more things change, the more they stay the same.

First, some rumor control. There has been a rash of stories about border guards detaining people for no good reason, and as much as I would like to attribute that to the Trumpster – this is not new. [Watts ended up convicted of a felony, is barred from traveling in or though the US and paid a fine.]

My wife has given notice at Rhino, and I will miss working with her very much, not only because I (obviously) enjoy her company, but because she was also good at her job.I don’t get into Rhino politics online, but from my perspective – which is abnormally well informed – this situation was 100% avoidable had anyone in charge been inclined to take action.

This is neither the first nor last good employee who has had this experience.

March 7th is her last day at Rhino. She took a new job which starts March 8th.

I have started going back to writer’s groups. I go to Central Phoenix one on Monday nights at Grand Central Coffee Company (where I’m work-shopping the sequel to Beanstalk and Beyond). and an independent one on Thursday Night at the Armadillo Grill – which seems really familiar.  (My old group met there for years, on Thursday night). Join us if your are inclined, and I will try not to spill beer on my copy of your first or second draft. [Links above are to the Meet-up sites which may require registration]

At Are We Lost Yet?  I report on outdoor retailers vs the Utah GOP.

The twice annual Outdoor Retailers Show has announced that it will pull out of its long time home in Salt Lake City Utah in protest of Utah officials support of eliminating federal lands by transferring them to the states.

At Fantastical History, we continue on with giants, exploring my strange (made-up) theory about the Muans and how they became Asuras.

Muans ( a term made up well after the fact) are a race of supernatural immortals native to southeast Asia. Their lost history informs the legends and myths behind the Asura and Devas and Jinn and Oni of more recent human cultures.

At Curious Continuity, I report both facts and wild conjecture about TRAPPIST-1 and its seven dwarves.

Unless we are captured by alien slavers and dragged there, we are not going to be around when (if) human starships reach the seven rocky dwarf planets orbiting tightly around TRAPPIST-1.  Why wait for that – when we can just make stuff up. Come on – NASA wants you to!

And I updated my writer’s resume to try and land a gig writing for Outer Places. So if they made it this far down checking me out – hi guys! The links were sparse because a lot of what I’ve written for the web has since evaporated in 404 unknown host country.

The more things stay the same, the more they change.

Now you know.

 

MORE ON PETER WATTS:

http://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guardhttp://io9.gizmodo.com/5497556/sf-author-peter-watts-found-guilty-of-felony-resistance-against-border-guard

https://www.thestar.com/news/ontario/2009/12/12/us_border_guards_arrest_author_peter_watts.html

http://www.tor.com/2010/04/27/sometimes-we-win/

 

 

Passwords are the enemy of progress

I have a new laptop and a new cellular phone and this has forced a renewal of my electronic life.

There are many places I used to go that I am no longer welcome because of unrecoverable passwords.There are other places I am seeing anew because I can no longer rely upon encoded habits. It’s somewhat like cleaning out a storage room and finding relatively important things you forgot you had. But first, the hardware.

Let’s start with my brand new HP laptop.

THE GOOD: more capacity, bigger screen, a non proprietary HDMI port

THE BAD: The “improved” touchpad is actually less responsive (though that might be a learning curve issue).

The keyboard is smaller than it needs to be given the surface area available.

The primary purpose of Windows 10 appears to be the delivery of adware.

Oh, and memo to HP: The reason I don’t volunteer to give feedback or anything like that is your reputation for flooding any seem with adware – as demonstrated by your printer drivers. I bought the thing already. Back off.

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A picture from my laptop of me taking a picture of my laptop with my new phone.

I was actually happy with my trusty Kyocera Torque until I dropped it just the wrong way and shattered the face. I was eligible for an upgrade, but Sprint no longer carries the Torque or anything like it. I valued the Torque’s smaller size and relative durability – but I would have had to go all the way back to a flip phone. . Don’t despair – I have insurance.

The insurance could replace my phone with an equivalent – in this case the Torque XT, which is the same phone with more internal memory. Only we discovered they gained that memory by filling the SD slot with their own card. And the camera would launch. So I took it to the Sprint store

And they restarted it, as they do, it came back demanding a password.

I don’t assign passwords to anything if I don’t have to. This was a refurbished unit, and the encryption was left over from a previous user.

So now I have a second replacement device: a Kyocera Duraforce Pro, which is like 5x the phone it replaces. (Also larger and heavier – so it goes). I just got it activated minutes ago, so we may come back to this.

http://www.gsmarena.com/kyocera_duraforce_pro-8268.php

Not so much a review as someone reading the tech specs verbatim:

https://youtu.be/dNAd0VHvtMU

An actual review:

http://www.phonescoop.com/articles/article.php?a=18607

Cool as this is, there is the problem is getting into my various accounts from devices where those passwords have not been saved. In that regard, I am the reason your IT guy grumbles about the liberal arts.

Here’s what that guy knows that we don’t:

Password security is more about length than variety. Media Labs explains at length:

https://www.ymedialabs.com/password-security/

LifeHacker has similar advice with pictures:

http://www.lifehacker.com.au/2017/01/why-your-brain-naturally-sucks-at-password-security-infographic/
Now you know.