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.

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A Few Quick Links

Hey there, you can follow either of my Tumblr blogs (separate from this one)

Notes from the Meeting

and/or

Travels with Bongo

Both are mostly about images, which WORDpress doesn’t handle without drama (as in storage space).

The origin of Geeks infographic.

I think they fail to differentiate between Geeks, Nerds and Wonks. You could make an argument that Nerds and Wonks are sub-categories of geeks, but I’d disagree.  I think they’re separate.

Inventor James Dyson is definitely a nerd, but since he recently told Time magazine, “I hated fantasy as a child and I still hate it. I don’t like science fiction either” – he is disqualified as a geek.

From the same publication, Fareed Zakaria personifies wonk (I could literally define it as anything FZ would talk about on his CNN show or website), but I really doubt he could tell you the difference between Hal Jordan and Guy Gardner.

Maybe he can.

On  a more weighty subject that FZ would approve of,  the Washington Post has collected 40 Maps that Explain the world

Related: Bored Panda’s 40 Maps they didn’t teach in school. Less educational- more weird.

Now you know.

Moving forward is hard enough without looking back (with maps included)

I don’t apologize for long droughts of posts. If you don’t like it, here’s yer money back.

Due to the lock-out shortened-no camp-compressed nature of this NBA season*, we could see a record in 20+ point victories per game played. While that’s better than no basketball,t should not be confused with good basketball.

*It’s not a real season.

Don’t spend money when you’re drunk. What I’mabout to describe are not bad decisions, but I still kinda wish I was sober.

I’m going to Darkcon – which is the pirate/party con of the now 4 major Spec Fic cons in the Valley. And the one I would normally be least tempted to spend money on. But we were at a party at CopperCon, and a bit drunk, and I had cash in my pocket and I got a really good rate – but yeah. We shall see. Spent the money. I’m going.

I also own the domain sillypenguin.com. Don’t bother checking it out today – there’s just a GoDaddy placeholder. My wife wants to make and sell custom greeting cards. I’ve fancied the notion of doing a webcomic of some sort, just to force myself to get back into drawing.So the Plan is to post comics about a silly penguin as a lead in to the greeting card page.

Silly Penguin was a whim. I searched the term and saw that ti was open. I was a few beers down and didn’t want this “unique domain opportunity” to be lost. As if random gibberish is somehow challenging for me to come up with.

Now we need a webhost. My front-runner is Fat Cow, but I’m open to input if any of my IT buddies has a strong opinion.

And I signed up for Code Year – because I’m tired of having no clue about things that are becoming more and more important to my work.

Now some links (we have a few backed up here):

A Slate case study on how Second Life failed the milk-shake test, and how this informs the theory of marketing.

“Neuroscience is still unable to provide a clear and direct explanation as to how the microcircuitry of the brain actually functions,” says Hugo De Garis, a cognitive science professor and director of the Artificial Brain Lab at Xiamen University in China. “We know that the basic circuitry is the same all over the human cortex, but just how the circuitry works is still largely unknown.”

This from an article in Sloan Science and Film about the frustrating future of artificial intelligence. The authors go on:

One main sticking point for AI research is the idea of consciousness or emotion—vague concepts that aren’t easily quantifiable or scientifically proven but are essential for creating a supermachine because, many scientists claim, feelings are integral to handling our thoughts.

 

Coincidentally, among the four books I’m currently reading is The Universe in a Single Atom by the Dalai Lama. Within, DL asserts that western sience will never satisfactorily explain how consciousness works because objective measurements miss what is an inherently and unavoidably subjective experience. He argues that we must also consider the “rigorous, focused and disciplined use of introspection and mindfulness to probe deeply into the nature of a chosen subject.”

To put it another way, although the experience of happiness may coincide with certain chemical reactions in the brain, such as an increase in serotonin, no amount of biochemical and neurobiological description of this brain change can explain what happiness is.

[pg145]

For some people (myself included) true happiness can come from a really well-crafted map

And tying is all together, you can find this map of Scientific Exploration here.

Now you know.

Vigilance against vermin

My dogs have ticks and my kids have lice and the internet isn’t much help.

On ticks, I’ve learned that anything you buy at the pet store for less than a month’s salary is fairly useless. We have not found a spray for less than $30/bottle that does not leave me pulling at least 6 ticks off the lab every time I pet him. The $40 stuff is coming – but its gotta wait for payday. (The healer, OTH, has been more effective at removing the ticks herself. I only find them in places she cannot reach.)

Ticks don’t live on dogs, they latch on to feed, hide and grow, feed again, and then lay 10,000 eggs. You’ll never find them in all the tiny cracks they can hide in, but cleaning the house  front to back seems to help. They all have to come to the dogs, however, and that is where I have concentrated my surveillance.

Brown dog ticks, which is what we have (I think), don’t feed on humans. They’ll bite though. At least a hundred have gone down my toilet.

I’d link to a website here, but let me save the time: Remove them carefully, buy some products, ask your vet.

The internet is similarly obvious about head lice: Remove them carefully, buy some products, ask your doctor. And wash everything with hot water.

This is what we’ve learned from other parents: If you put a pillow or stuffed animal in a garbage bag and leave it out in the summer sun for two days, that kills everything. Mayonnaise is just as effective a hair lubricant as conditioner, and a ton cheaper. What’s going to do the most good is removing the lice and eggs with a fine-toothed comb. We own the one that came with the lice shampoo, but flea combs (for pets) will also work well. Boil it all (combs, brushes, hair clips) afterwards. OTC shampoos and treatments are hit-or-miss. Some strains of lice are just resistant. The comb is a sure, if labor intensive, thing. The spray is for the bedding – don’t use it on the kids.

The lice I think we’ve beaten back. The tick wars go on.

A segway into politics seems too easy. Let’s just do some links.

Steven Pinker, writing in the Wall Street Journal explains that – despite the news – we are actually becoming more tolerant and less violent as a species.

“Believe it or not, the world of the past was much worse. Violence has been in decline for thousands of years, and today we may be living in the most peaceable era in the existence of our species. “

Feel better? Not so fast. Farhad Manjoo (real name) asks in Slate “Will robots steal your job?”

What I found was unsettling. They might not know it yet, but some of the most educated workers in the nation are engaged in a fierce battle with machines. As computers get better at processing and understanding language and at approximating human problem-solving skills, they’re putting a number of professions in peril. Those at risk include doctors, lawyers, pharmacists, scientists, and creative professionals—even writers like myself.

But can they blog about urinals?

I updated Are We Lost Yet on my adventures up and down Mt Elden.

And finally something cool: (From APOD)

 

Now you know

 

 

Planets and urinals and an excuse to link

It be Talk Like a Pirate Day! Which is the same day as threaten your co-worker if he doesn’t stop talking like a pirate day.

It’s not Blog like a Pirate Day. Maybe we should start a movement.

A few quick links before the toilet humor starts:

A post-mortem of my book signing can be found at Are We Lost yet

GAFDE on blogging (which I am ignoring right now) at Writing Made Visible

The discovery of this planet isn’t monumental, (see last post for more on this process)  but the artwork is cool:

NASA has a new on-line tool to explore planets in our own system. The LA times describes it here.

“You are now free to move about the solar system,” Blaine Baggett, a manager at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in La Canada Flintridge, said in a statement. “See what NASA’s spacecraft see — and where they are right now — all without leaving your computer.”

The actual tool is here.

Eyes on the Solar System

Here ends the respectable portion of this blog entry.

So, according to the WordPress dashboard, one of the top searches leading to this site is “unicorn pooping marshmallows” which leads you to thi

 

That post also has one of the few clean photos of yours truly on this blog, and a video explaining the importance of the First Follower.

This post features something equally classy:

That is a Lady J – a portable urinal for women. That’s right, we span the globe to find weird urinals all over the world – even in your over-sized purse. Franly, I’m kinda disappointed the device isn’t pink.

So you know, women use these things in adventure and other travels. I learned about it from Kelly, who went around the world in a boat.

If you follow the D-backs or the Mercury, playing hard all the way through the game can get you a LOT farther than any of the talking heads would have expected.

Now you know.

 

CopperCon 31 and a few other lessons

First – I’ve actually updated other blogs.

Are we lost yet profiles Elden Springs and my upcoming book signing / workshop.

DIRECT LINK TO THE REI EVENT

And at Writing Made Visible, there are some reposts about the accelerating sales of  e-books.

Small cons are great – because you can actually talk to people!

Buy some light groceries and keep them in the hotel room.

The art carries the story in a comic book (or graphic novel, or any variant). Words only get what little space is left over, so every word has to count. No small talk.

There is no standard for comic book scripts. Unless you’re writing for Dark Horse Comics. Their format is here.

Marketing (or anything else) via social media – a few rules:

1) Be social first! Pitch your crap second. The other way around just gets you deleted.

2) If you’re not comfortable with the format, don’t use it. You’ll likely suck at it anyway.

3) If you’re marketing yourself as a writer – write well. Spells words correctly.

4) No amount of social media presence will make up for a shoddy product.

The current estimate is that half of all star systems have planets, and the average may be 1-10 planets per star.

We find an awful lot of “Hot Jupiters” – gas giants closely orbiting a star – which goes against our model of how solar systems form. We know why we keep finding them – they are relatively easy to spot. We have no idea why they would exist at all.

Planets orbiting pulsars are very easy to find, even as small as the Earth. But the pulsar’s radiation makes life pretty much impossible.

Piratey sword-fighting was all about shorter movements with shorter swords (crowded ships and all).  And footwork – you live or die by footwork.

I’m over adapting anything to D20. It’s no longer supported for 3.5, and I have no urge to learn 4.0. I’m pushing forward with the game. Amen.

I’m thinking about writing it in Tiddlywiki. Seriously.

There might be a separate blog for that later on.

Finally New Scientist looks into the quantum-mechanics of human thought.

Now you know.

Graphic displays of hope and fear (and some words for the writers)

From the NYTThe top bar is how wealth is actually distributed in the US. The middle bar is how (via survey) we commonly believe it is distributed in the US. The bottom bar is how we think (again via surveys) wealth should be distributed, given the choice.

That’s right – in reality, the top 20% of the income bracket owns 85% of the country while  the bottom 40% of us own nothing. When liberals whine that our defecit is at least partially caused by not taxing the rich enough – they actually have a case to make. But, as the New York Times article this was pulled from points out:

Why would the poor oppose taxes on the wealthy? Because many believe that they, or at least their children, will eventually be wealthy, voting for taxes on the rich may feel like voting for taxes on themselves. As a result, even the word “redistribution” has negative connotations.

So hope contributes to our national debt as much as fear. Good to know.

We’ll come back to hope. On the subject of fear – here’s the graphic truth about radiation levels courtesy of XKCD:

So you don’t take HP damage until you absorb a full Sv. And you don’t get that much accidentally.

What’s happening in Japan is pretty much a worse-case scenario about nuclear plant disasters. If this is all an 8.9 quake and a Tsunami can do to a coastal nuclear plant (so far, no one outside of the plant itself has taken harmful levels of radiation) – then its simply not that dangerous. How many people die every year mining coal?

Thousands (worldwide).

Vintage Russian safety posters – from English Russia. It translates “Don’t clean the cylinder while it’s in motion.”

Some links and notes (mostly words) from Writer’s Group – and elsewhere:

Join  or meet our gang at First Friday tomorrow night. Chaos of the Earth Cafe and Art Collective – 910 N. 5th Street (downtown Phoenix) – from 6pm to 10p.

One of our own – Greg Clifford –  has published a story in Golden Visions Magazine.

Literotica is a real thing – and NSFW.

A sample of Eudora Welty’s southern literate charm: Why I Live at the Post Office

Kelly and Kelly’s Moorea website. It was all true – with photos.

Finally, James Gleick explains to Wired magazine how everything is information and information is everything.

Now you know.