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Empty Calories
Content Free Since 2001
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Thursday, 31st-Dec-2009 09:33 am - 2009 In Review
It's been quite a year. I've had a lot of ups and downs, but as we get to the end of the thing I'm feeling generally positive about 2009. Why? Because I've finally realized a life-long dream. Since June, I've written a short story, a novella, and a novel. The novel is in final editing stage before I put it up for sale on a print-on-demand site. I know I haven't blogged much recently, and I hope that can be forgiven in light of my redirected energies. I am canceling my paid account here but will keep the unpaid one open, hopefully checking in a little more frequently.
Tuesday, 27th-Oct-2009 11:21 am - The Cutting Room Floor
Here's something a little different. I originally wrote this passage four years ago when I first started Errol's Folly. It's from Chapter 2, and describes how Errol discovered that the world was going to end. When I came back to the project this summer I felt pretty good about most of it except this section. I cut this and re-wrote it but decided to preserve stuff I cut out like that, in case there's something in there I want to use later.

The journey that ended in a terrified sprint down a dock to a converted container ship began, for Errol, when a photographer took a tabloid shot of him coming out of a movie theatre. It ended up in a paper that claimed he was walking out of an adult film. If a cartoon about a fish looking for his son was pornography, Errol had some serious culture issues to resolve.

What bothered him was not how the photo was used, but why it was taken. Why did anyone care? When confronted with a problem, Errol's first instinct was to model it out, simulate every detail and let the computer tell him the solution. That's how he approached the tabloid photo.

Computer modeling was Errol's game. His big hit piece of software, the code that made him rich, modeled businesses. Plug in a company, as much data as you could find for it, and his little marvel could tell you where it would succeed, where it needed improvement. He sold to hundreds, then thousands, of companies. They were all struggling to find a path in the frantic pace of the digital age, and when Errol's software showed real results, they clamored all over themselves to get their hands on it.

It's easier to model an object than a question, so he began by finding the most obvious answer he could. They cared because he was famous. So the solution lay in modeling fame. The complexity of this task was deceptive, and before he realized it he was branching out, extending the parameters. His fame lead naturally to his wealth. His wealth inexorably to all wealth. The project began to consume him and it was at this point that he withdrew from all his other concerns.

For months he labored, and still the project grew wider. National economics, national politics, global politics, global economics. Society and culture, population pressure.

One day he stepped back from his keyboard, the banks of machines humming all around him. He finally saw what he had created. He had modeled the world. The whole world. And he saw it was coming to an end.
Monday, 19th-Oct-2009 10:09 am - Alby
Well, it took a little longer than I thought considering this material has been unchanged for a few weeks. Anyway, I'd like everybody to meet Alby, a little boy that lives on a spaceship.

Albert Isaac Dyson pressed a series of keys on the number pad set into the bulkhead in front of him. The numbers were lit from behind with a soft green light. That and the light coming from his wrist computer were the only sources of illumination in the corridor. It was ship's night.

"Alby, I really think we should go back to your quarters," said Zil from Alby's wrist. "We're going to get in trouble."

The number pad let out a honk of denial. Alby frowned. "Relax, Zil," he said. There were only two combinations to try in the first place, so the second had to be the one. Four of the numbers had a pinkish pattern of swirling lines on them. Alby had found an entry in the ship's library about twentieth century police work and learned how to make fingerprint dust. Using it, he had learned what numbers were pushed to get into this room. After watching Mr. Hendricks carefully during their last school visit, he knew what the last two numbers were.

"Seven... eight... three... six," Alby said as he used his smart-pen to press each key, so he wouldn't mess up the fingerprints. The keypad gave him the same honk. "Huh?" he said. How could that be? It had to be either eight seven or seven eight, but neither had worked.

"Okay, it didn't work. We should go," Zil said.

"Just a second," Alby said. He leaned closer to the numbers and looked at the prints. The one on the eight was more smudged than the other three numbers, and it looked bigger. As he studied it, he realized it wasn't one print, it was two. The eight was used twice. "Seven... eight... eight... three... six," he said. The pad changed from green to blue and a soft tone sounded from inside. The door slid open with a quiet hiss. "Yes!" Alby said as he stepped inside.
Friday, 9th-Oct-2009 11:30 am - Well...
Yeah, I know what I said, and I know how long it's been. I've decided to just stop worrying about how much I post here and do it when I feel like it, such as today! Lucky you!

I only pay $20 a year for this space and I think that's a good value even if I go a month without using it. It gives me a location where I can do whatever I want in a more long-form setting than Facebook allows, and I don't have to own a domain and manage a server. These are good things.

Yes, I will be posting an excerpt here soon. Part 3 of Errol's Folly is in the editing stage and I have made a deliberate decision to take a break from that story when that process is finished. There is one more part to write but I want to come back to it fresh rather then trying to ram it through. The conclusion has a lot of things still to flesh out it my mind and I don't want to just blunder through it. I have another project that's been building up steam in the image factory, something different than anything else I've done so far, and I'm going to start that. The aforementioned excerpt will be the first page or two of that, so stay tuned.
Wednesday, 9th-Sep-2009 12:10 pm - Excerpt from Errol's Folly, Part 3
Cult of the Kaiser
Here you go, a little taste of what I'm working on now:

“I got an idea,” the Texan said, as cool and casual as ever.

Errol looked at him, smiling a little. “Okay.”

“Floatin' around on our own was great, but floatin' around in a big clump like this is just dangerous. Too much can go wrong.” He took a sip of his tea. “Hell, too much already has.”

“That's not really an idea.”

“Slow down, I'm gettin' to it. What we need is a place to stop, someplace we can walk around. Where pickin' up dinner don't mean a boat ride over choppy water.”

Errol sighed. “Come on, Jones. We've seen twice already how bad going ashore can get. You wanna try for a third?”

Jones put on his signature grin, took another swallow from his mug, and then said one word. “Midway.”

That was confusing. “Midway to what?”

He shook his head. “Midway Atoll.”

Errol stared at him. “As in Midway, the battle of?”

Jones nodded slowly. Errol shrugged and raised his hands in resignation. “Okay, tell me about Midway.”
Wednesday, 9th-Sep-2009 09:40 am - Oh wow
A whole month has gone by since I've written here. My guess is that between my daily writing activities and the incredibly easy way to update my friends with Facebook, I've just let the blogging slip. I had an idea that I might try to implement here, since there's more room than elsewhere, which is to post short excerpts from my writing projects for fun. Give people a little taste of what's coming. I'll try that out and see if I can keep it up at least once a week. Stay tuned.
Monday, 10th-Aug-2009 09:58 am - The Natives Are Restless
I was informed by a reader that my post about the heat wave was obsolete. The situation has changed, weather patterns have moved on from that dark time in our history.

I'm moving along on my current writing effort. Sometimes I'm amazed at how it works out. For example, I wrote my characters into a situation one day and then spent several hours pondering how they would get out. I didn't really come up with anything so I just sat down, started writing, and the solution just sort of showed up on the page. Incredible.

Facebook has gotten a little out of hand. Last week I got myself wrapped up in three more games on there and it's just taking up way too much of my time. I deleted one this morning (it was buggy anyway) and adopted a strategy on another that should allow me to check it once or twice a day instead of four or five times. Depending on how things go in the next few days I may back out of another one that I'm on the fence about.

Last night I was sitting with the Monkey in my lap looking at family pictures. The Midget was upstairs putting the Kaiser to bed. He gets a story every night and I usually don't pay much attention to what they're reading. Last night was different. He was doing the reading. I heard her say one word here and there, but he did just about all the work. These child creatures are pretty amazing.
Tuesday, 28th-Jul-2009 10:51 am - When sweating becomes a competitive sport
We're having a heatwave situation here, and I can't help but wonder if perhaps there's some kind of warming effect happening to our globe. The building where we have our office is air conditioned, but the west walls with their wide windows get very warm by the end of the day, and that's where my desk is. This turns out to be an arctic paradise compared to our house. I would think that the Northeast corner of the first floor, where we spend most of our time, would be the coolest part. Not so. I've tried a lot of different things to help but nothing has worked terribly well. A few minutes ago, defeated, I submitted some contact info to Home Depot's contracting department to get an estimate on installing central air.

It's not all bad. Saturday morning I completed my first novella, as many people already know. This was an incredibly rewarding experience and I plan to continue. I've already begun reworking some material I started a few years ago and hope to develop into a complete story. I'll give you a hint: my favorite flesh eating monsters might make an appearance.
Monday, 20th-Jul-2009 11:47 am - Life Lessons
Last week the Kaiser had a mishap with some plastic furniture and ended up getting three stitches in the bottom of his foot. A stool that came with a desk we bought him had a poor design element on the feet resulting in a point sharp enough to gouge. I contacted the company that made the piece and got a personal call apologizing for the accident and offering me a replacement stool that's been redesigned. It's more than I expected and am thus impressed. Honestly, the only reason I contacted them was to tell them about the sharp point and get them to take a look at the design so it wouldn't happen again. Kids are going to knock themselves around and there's no way to prevent injuries like this from ever happening, nor should we. When I was a kid I got a shard of glass the size of a Dorito stuck in the bottom of my foot. And I'm talking about the good Doritos at the top of the bag, not the crappy pressure smashed ones down at the bottom. I won't go into all the details, but that night I learned it's important to clear the space if you're going to do some dancing. Our blood and bruises are how we learn not to do stupid things. But I digress. Even if we can't keep them from every dangerous situation, we can try to limit the most egregious ones. I don't even want to think what could have happened if the stool had been positioned beneath an eye instead of a foot. I don't think rounding the corners off furniture meant to be used by kids is overdoing it.
Thursday, 16th-Jul-2009 01:29 pm - A Smattering of Unconnected Paragraphs
I've gotten into this Mafia Wars game on Facebook. For me it's a nice balance of periodic short distraction and persistent state math game, with set collection and a pretty decent theme to back it up. I'm currently trying to build a good size cash engine so I can afford better equipment and focus on missions in a week or so.

We got Mom's apartment all cleaned out at last, and they also had a pretty successful garage sale out there in Newberg. I went out one day to drop a few things off that were at my place, and saw Mom's Casio keyboard sitting out for sale. I had wanted it if nobody else did, but when it vanished between one visit to her apartment and the next, I figured Sissy wanted to keep it. No big deal. When I saw it sitting out for sale I asked if I could buy it, and she very graciously just gave it to me! I'm very excited. I enjoy playing music, but in recent years squeezing the neck of my guitar has become a chore on my poor programmer worn hands. I think playing stuff on a keyboard may be easier. Bear in mind, I haven't the first inkling about how to play, but I'm going to try to teach myself. Also, having it around for the kids will be great. It's never too early to learn an instrument and develop a love of music.

I'm still writing, which impresses nobody more than me. I passed 15,000 words on my current effort today and have no idea exactly how long it will go. I'm continuously amazed at how I can sit down, ponder where I left off, and have new material come pouring out without much effort at all. It's very rewarding.

I highly recommend "Fantasies" by Canadian band Metric. I picked it up last week and was surprised to find I liked every single song on the album, something of a rarity.
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