Tuesday, August 28, 2001

A Quickie in the Middle of a Hectic Week

In yet another example of my predilection for hopping on bandwagons others find, I present my results from's testing:

Like Sarah, I am a Submissive Introvert Abstract Thinker (SIAT), or Mastermind/Schemer.

Apparently I shouldn't learn German. Oops - too late. Bwahaha. Vollständig verrückt, seit dem Anfang.

For the record, you are:
47% Un-telligent!
which is significantly lower than the current average of 60%

Here is the custom report of your personality that led our team of geeks to conclude (with confidence) that you are hopeless in the pursuit of manhood:

"Interesting. While the subject shows an astounding level of intelligence, his sense of observation is somewhat below average. We attribute this to the egotistical nature of the subject. Actually, cats behave in the same manner, but he's smarter than any animal.

"Finally, the subject displayed a healthy (better than most net freaks anyway) sense of humor, a down and dirty sense of morality, and a lack of self-confidence. The balance of these three traits is important; high levels of confidence, medium levels of morality, and a good level of humor make for the strongest individuals."

Death Test:
Mark your calendar or Palm V. You can expect to die on:
January 8, 2043 at the age of 72 years old.

On that date you will most likely die from:

Auto-Fellatio (19%)
[Um... eww. Shades of Clerks. I guess the pattern hinted at by 500+ days
without sex
at age 31 can be expected to do that to a male of the species.]

Heart Attack (17%)
Cancer (14%)
Public Execution In a Third World Country (11%)
Suicide (8%)
Horrible Accident (5%)

In Other News...
I'm 36% bastard,
24% gay,
61% pure,
...and slated for a grand total of 5 lovers, lifetime.

Damn. I'm behind. One and counting.

Oh, and for my results, click here.


Thursday, August 23, 2001


Was out from work sick yesterday. Spent most of the day sleeping, but in the afternoon, after I'd slept myself into wakefulness for a few hours, I slotted a few long lost Zip disks I found in an as-yet-not-unpacked box the other day. One of them, as I'd expected, held my old (old old) creative writing efforts from years ago, as passed from machine to machine and hard disk to hard disk; some bore dates as early as 1991, which was the year I bought my first IBM PC after years of TRS-80, Commodore 64 and Macintosh work. Junior year at the University of Richmond.

It was an educational few hours. Some of the pieces were predictably painful to accept as mine, but many others (more than I expected) showed a surprising amount of promise. Some of the poetry, especially, surprised me with how sophisticated I used to be in terms of meter and rhyme use. I can't make either work to save my skin, lately, but atrophy's to be expected after eight years or more of neglect, particularly since I was a wet-behind-the-ears English Lit major back then with Milton and Shakespeare on the brain.

There were some letters in there too, some thorny, some warm & fuzzy, many unfinished; all good to bring back to the forefront of the old noggin. Some perspective on a failed-but-recently-reinstated friendship here, some memories of newlywed life there; recollections and old emotions galore.

(Funny how something as ephemeral as digital data has proven more enduring than any of my paper records. I've probably got some of the hardcopy replies I received to those letters somewhere, but for now they're buried and presumed lost.)

It was also good to remind myself that I was on my way to becoming a decent writer way back in 1994-ish; I produced a respectable amount of material, unfocused and self-indulgent though most of it was. There were even some good story ideas germinating back then, some of which might not even now be considered overdone by the SF establishment.

Ah well, feeling better today, and back in the saddle.


Tuesday, August 21, 2001


Well, it's nice when things burst the dam and get moving again. For once I had a busy weekend.

My Earthlink DSL modem finally arrived Friday (after eighteen months of questing for some flavor of broadband), and after three hours of tech-support purgatory, by 10 PM Friday evening I was finally surfing at something like an acceptable speed. Grabbed several QuickTime movie trailers. Bwahahaha. :-)

Saturday morning: connecting the iBook to this firehose of bandwidth, and (ahem) latency and bandwidth testing, courtesy of Hunter and Counter-Strike.

Saturday noontime: dog-walkin', lunch, the beginnings of the Laundry Subplot.

Sat. afternoon & eve: eight blissful TiVo-buffered episodes of Babylon 5, interspersed with twistings and turnings of the Laundry Subplot.

Sat. night: hammered the characters and plot for the novel a bit. Started a Prologue, only to realize I needed to do more fleshing out. Fleshed out. Walked dogs. Slept the sleep of the just. ;-)

Sunday morning: slept in. Yet more laundry. Watched the first quarters of the Redskins/Ravens and Rams/Titans preseason games, prepping for the two-person Fantasy Football thing I do with my brother Matt. The 'Skins appear to be destined simply to suck, and the Rams appear to be getting a slow start to the year, as the Titans did a fine job.

Sun. noontime: while waiting for the NASCAR Michigan race to buffer up sufficiently on the TiVo to blow by all the commercials, read a few short stories from The Year's Best Science Fiction, 2000 edition. Made a point to work body-implanted transmitters into the story.

Sun. afternoon: watched the first hour or so of the race, then skipped out to meet a fellow home-theater enthusiast who needed to borrow a blue filter to calibrate his new 43" rear-projection TV. Human contact! Wow! Chatted for 15 or 20 minutes; said our goodbyes.

Found myself in the Far West End of Richmond with nothing to do. Hey! I can look into broken/extra movie theater seating.


One of the (ahem) "quirky" things about my theater room is that after filling it with ultra-spiffy A/V equipment I've been too busted to invest in good seating; I've been through steel-tubing lawnchairs, inflatable recliners, the works, but my ideal would be to scrounge some seats out of a local movie theater, refurb and install them. Been done before; I've read stories. It's on the Internet, it must be true. ;-)

So anyway, I drop by my local Regal and UA theaters, and neither has any broken seating they can spare, but the UA manager gives me a lead: a theater just closed on Midlothian Turnpike, and it's good odds they've got oodles of seats they'd love to get rid of. So I hitch up my belt, armed with the vaguest of directions, and set forth for the South Side of Richmond, a 45-minute round trip.

(To make a long [long] story short, I didn't find the place, but on casting about the web for a few minutes later I did come up with a number or two to call, and addresses to look up, for two recently closed theaters. Further bulletins as events warrant.)

Wound my way home as the Sunday sun began to set, did some grocery shopping, and came home to discover that the BLOODY DOGS SHREDDED MY ORTHROPEDIC PILLOW. Wrath of Daddy. Dogs in cages. Pillow shopping at 8:30 PM on a Sunday. Finally found suitably firm pillows at Target. Grabbed a few mints (Certs Powerful, Trident Advantage, Smint) for experimentation. I love mints. :-)

Sunday night: finished drying last load of laundry (bedsheets), folded and put everything away, slept the sleep of the warm, toasty and exasperated.


Thursday, August 16, 2001


Oops, completely forgot to post yesterday. Ah well.

Very pleased with myself - I've been getting a lot of reading done, and did some good fleshing out Tuesday night of the idea list I'm compiling. I don't think I'll have anything like a full plot outline by the end of the week (how long should a draft of a plot outline take?), but I should be able to get one started at least. Also wrote down some promising concrete short story ideas; can't have too many of them.

I'm sure that some people reading this (assuming anyone is; I figure I alienated the whole Mary/Andy/Sarah triangle with my scintillating impression of a misanthropic ass) are thinking, "Jeez, what a goober - just start writing chapters, already! Why all this planning, reading-up and dithering around?" My answer to this is that it's my first novel - much as I'd like to just plow in and see where this all takes me, my head doesn't work that way. If I don't have a set of tracks to drive this train down (or at least guardrails for the road), the trip just looms too large. All this meticulous planning is helping me eat the elephant a manageable bite at a time.

Also, I've decided to explore the history and technology that will eventually be in the larger work in some of the short stories. So, method to the madness.

And yes, there might be a little bit of trepidation showing as well. In the SF world, short stories are anything up to 7,500 words, while (salable) novel length is north of 60,000 words. An eight-to-one ratio there, and of course the formats are scoped differently as well: short stories should ideally focus on a single major character, theme or concept, and ideally a fairly discrete moment in time; novels should (again ideally) take several characters, ideas and/or themes through a longer period of time, developing and interacting along the way.

Anyhoo, gotta go.


Tuesday, August 14, 2001

Yawn. Another boring day at work. Time to go spice things up with directed activity at home. Yeah. That's it. :-)

Life as a Writer, Day 2

Contrary to way things should work, the world at large continues on its merry way and largely cares not a whit about my fledgling career. Ah well. :-)

More to the point, life gleefully interposes itself between one and one's targeted routine, and as such (due to necessary post-vacation grocery shopping and various catch-up efforts) I got neither much reading nor much writing done last night. But life is long... I can take up yesterday's slack tonight, and get some concrete work done. Nothing is on my calendar to foul things up, and unless the world sits up and takes notice of me for a change, the mechanism is clear.

The good news is, I'm still stoked. Plenty of creative juices flowing.

A shout out to Sam Greenspan, BTW. You're an inspiration, and your willingness to dash yourself against the rocks of "breaking into the business" has been a big help to me in getting off my two-cheeked inertia and slogging forward. You da man.

Less talk, more action. Will update later.


Monday, August 13, 2001

Home Again, Home Again, Jiggety Jig

It's good to be back.

Maine was a refreshing break in the routine, and a good hard push for my reboot switch. I got a lot of reading done, interacted with actual humans, and aside from missing Sushi and the dogs everything was great.

I discovered several things while in Maine:
  • The sound of screaming kids doesn't bother me nearly as severely as I assumed it would
  • I've really really really been doing myself a disservice by not reading a novel a week
  • Doing a half hour of stretching exercises every morning makes a world of difference
  • There can be entire weeks in Maine wherein the daytime temperature never dips below 85 degrees
  • It's possible to be conversant with the details of Rugrats and Blue's Clues without a kid to show for it

Wing and a Prayer

This is a little scary to say (the revelation is still fresh, new and fragile), but I think this trip finally managed to kick the chocks away from my writing wheels. I've got the (very) basics of a world and a few characters roughed out, and I'm gonna try to hammer together a plot outline for a novel over the coming week.

<cabbagepatch> Schweet </cabbagepatch>

Since I'm looking to start in the SF field ("science fiction" or "speculative fiction," depending whom one asks, but never "Sci-Fi"), I'm also looking to assemble a few short stories to get into magazines like Asimov's SF and/or Analog SF&F. Short-story publication is a proven means of greasing the rails when shopping around a novel in the SF genre, so that's the tack I'm going to take.

Tripp will be familiar with this plan; I tried to commit myself to it several years ago (1997-ish), and wound up crashing & burning with one mediocre story because I solicited some peoples' opinions whom I had no business asking. Friends (as I'm sure Wendy's aware) sometimes make the very worst critics, because (a) they love you, and thus can either gush praise when ruthlessness is needed or overcriticize to prevent you falling on your face, and (b) their opinions count way too much.

More to the point, I wasn't ready. I was felled by a few slings 'n' arrows; my skin lacked thickening.

So anyway, it's a few years later now, in many ways I've been to Hell and back, and some editor half a continent away isn't as likely to knock me flat with a rejection letter anymore. I've also learned Sturgeon's Law, which reads (charitably), "Ninety percent of everything is crap." In other words, be prepared to write a lot of crap, accept it as crap, and keep an eye out for the non-crap ten percent.

...And when all is said and done, especially after a hot & humid week in an otherwise beautiful vacation cabin, central air rocks.


Friday, August 03, 2001

And He's Off!

Another slow day for blogging, apparently; at least among the ones I hit daily.

Today's been consumed with fixing month-closing problems (as I predicted), and lunch was errand time. Things are trailing off, though, and I expect the rest of the day will lean more toward the usual slow pace.

Portland, ME is looking like low-to-mid 80s all week and sunny. Should be about five degrees cooler than Richmond, but without work.

Will try to post from Maine, on the off chance anyone's reading...


Thursday, August 02, 2001

More on AbioCor

Wow. More great news. This guy's going to be a poster child for the new artificial heart.

It's wonderful to hear all the ways that getting circulation back to normal in this guy's body have helped him out. Breathing, mobility, optimism... I have to admit, this is one of those breakthroughs that is inspiring to me. The guy's not exactly doing cartwheels around the IC ward, but the fact that he's gaining strength so dramatically 30 days after being diagnosed with less that thirty days to live is a real achievement.

Look for Abiomed (Nasdaq:ABMD), AbioCor's parent company, to go absolutely nuts in the coming years.


If You're not Part of the Solution, You're Part of the Precipitate

I know I've mentioned it at least once before, but I like rain too (though I've only seldom been privy to the sort of torrents they're apparently getting in Chicago). I know exactly what Sarah's talking about when she mentions grinning like an idiot through the downpour. Rain is a happy thing, the earth's atmosphere closing the loop on all of our sweat, shower steam and pasta pots.

On the other hand, we have Mary, who sees ill portent in the deluge. Bummer. Here's hoping the gods are all just washing off.

Richmond could use some serious rain. We had a day of pretty constant showering this past Saturday, but on the whole it's been really dry this summer, and we've got the brown lawns and occasional water restrictions to prove it. Not as bad as some parts of the country, I'm sure, but still, some real rain would be welcome.

It got up to 89 in Maine yesterday. Why was I going again? ;-)

Cool Tool Find: Grabbed directions from Richmond to Dulles Airport to refresh my memory from MapBlast! today. Their new "LineDrive" map format is a wonder of concise completeness, and it even fit everything on one page.

Wow. 9 AM on Thursday and Sam Greenspan's the only one of us to have updated his blog since yesterday afternoon. Must either be a very busy day or a very boring one. Or you all have lives, or something. ;-)

Today I am moving fully to the new machine our admin's provided for me. Of course my putting this in writing means that I'll actually be given lots to do and figure out today, thus precluding getting the move done. Oy.

Prepping for the Maine adventure at home - there's entirely too much to do before flying out Saturday morning, and of course I agreed to go see Planet of the Apes tonight with a friend. I need a time-altering pendant like Hermione's from the third Harry Potter book.


Wednesday, August 01, 2001

Once Again, the Little Things

So nice to discover that absent my attention things continue to go well in the world.

Case in point: with the release (a year or so ago) of the "Rapier" version of Microsoft's Windows CE, M$ added a feature called ClearType™ to their document reader. This allows for better horizontal resolution when displaying text on color LCD screens by using the red, green and blue sub-pixels that represent every "full" pixel on such a display. This is tough to get your head around, so if you're in need of clarification at this point, here's an excellent explanation of the theory and practice. In short, in the horizontal dimension (the most important one for purposes of text rendering), the three-pixels-in-one design of color LCDs amounts to a happy accident that allows the savvy programmer to effectively triple display resolution.

All well and good, and a spiffy hack to boot, but this tech was only available for Microsoft devices (with their 240x320 screen resolution that barely needed it) so far as I was aware, and I'm a Palm guy. Ah well, I thought; someday this will be the standard, and until then I'd better get used to my chunky 160x160 display and like it.

Today I stumbled upon WordSmith, a PalmOS word processor from BlueNomad that purported to bring a similar text-smoothing algorithm ("FineType" in BlueNomad's lingo) to my little Palm IIIc. Downloaded, installed, marveled. This is good stuff. Suffice to say that 160x160 benefits from the process a lot more than 240x320 does. I'll try to make some screen shots myself, but for the nonce, check out the explanation at the above link. I'm actually considering not taking along my iBook, and just relying on the Palm IIIc on my coming vacation.

I'm easy to please. Just teach an existing toy of mine a new trick. :-)