Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Pant, pant, pant...

I'd love to write a nice, long, detailed blog post today...but it's so hot INSIDE with the a/c on I'm sweating from the effort of typing.

So...I got nothing. Not the most productive day, either.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

A shout out to all of our veterans...and to everyone who risks themselves for others, in whatever capacity. Saw quite a few of the Rolling Thunder types about town...now those are some nice sets of wheels.

I'm not a biker, but I can sure as heck appreciate a well cared for machine.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Fear of falling

I had a little bit of an accident last night. My trainer's admittedly rather difficult and stubborn Quarter Horse decided to express the opinion of 'I don't want to be ridden any more'. (SOMEBODY is heading for earning himself some tough sessions on the lunge line).

He expressed this opinion by means of sudden rapid acceleration followed by two huge bucks, the second of which was a 'corkscrew' (where the horse twists to one side). Needless to say...I wasn't riding him any more at that point.

At a guess, I slammed into the unforgiving ground at about twenty miles per hour... I promptly picked myself up, caught the dratted horse and got back on. I'd warrant that quite a lot of people would not be doing that after hitting the ground that hard. My right hip...which happened to be the part of my anatomy that made contact first...is a little sore.

So. How do you take a flying fall like that and walk away from it with basically no damage? The answer is knowing how to fall. You flex your torso inwards at the stomach. This pulls your extremities inwards and reduces the risk of breaking a long bone (and also the risk of being stepped on by the horse. You don't try to keep hold of the horse...in fact, there's a point at which you just have to let go and go with the fall. But I was thinking...that's just the physical aspects. There are mental ones, too.

1. There's a saying in England: 'It takes ten falls to make a good rider'. Some riders are determined they are NEVER going to fall off. A horseman accepts that falling off is absolutely inevitable. You prepare for it, you learn how to do it correctly, and you never take it personally. Most of the time it isn't the horse's fault and even when it is, getting mad with the horse and punishing it is escalating a fight you can't win.

2. You always get back on (unless you're actually injured). If you get back on and carry on like nothing happened, then the horse never learns that shedding his rider will get him out of further work. (If you're injured, somebody ELSE should get on the horse). You don't take it personally. You carry on. You put it out of your mind.

So...in what way is all of this relevant to a writing blog? Let's reword things a little.

1. It takes a lot of rejections to make a good writer. Some writers are determined they are NEVER going to get rejected. A good writer accepts that rejection is absolutely inevitable. You prepare for it, you learn how to handle it correctly, and you never take it personally. Most of the time it isn't the editor's 'fault' and even when it is, getting mad with the editor and responding is escalating a fight you can't win.

2. You always submit again. If you keep submitting and carry on like nothing happened, then the editor knows you are a professional who does not take rejection too shard. You don't take it personally. You carry on. You put it out of your mind.

And you learn to roll with the fall so you don't get hurt.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

One way trip to Mars?

Would you take it? I would warrant that the average science fiction writer would be more likely than most. But a surprising number of people said they would go to Mars even knowing there was no return ticket.

Of course, NASA would never contemplate such a thing, but the Chinese have been genetically screening their astronauts. If we aren't careful, they will have a colony on Mars within five to ten years because they are willing to take risks.

And we can't afford to have Mars colonized by only one ethnic group. We need to get as much human biodiversity up there as possible. If NASA won't do it, paralyzed by committees and safety concerns, who will?

And would you go?

Tuesday, May 24, 2011


It is officially summer. The Farmer's Market is open and a wall of heat hits every time I step outside.

I have very mixed feelings about summer here. Much prefer spring and fall, I think, overall.

Monday, May 23, 2011


So. I finally saw this movie yesterday. Verdict? Pretty good for what it is. There are some things I'm willing to give comic book movies a pass on (like camp levels) that I would find problematic in more serious productions.

This should be spoiler free, but things I liked:

1. Loki. Incredible casting...the actor was visually perfect with a great voice. And *somehow* they managed to pull off Loki's goofy costume on the big screen without it coming over as completely laughable. He was both sinister and sympathetic.

2. Watch the Thor versus SHIELD scene for a couple of nods to the fans. I won't say any more than that because that IS a spoiler.

3. The bridge! Steampunk gods for the win! (The SFX in general were excellent, even though I didn't pay the extra to see the 3D print).

4. Mjolnir. Perfect. Absolutely perfect.

Things I didn't like:

1. There were a few cases where characters acted in ways that made little sense in terms of what went before. I almost feel as if they had length problems and ended up leaving stuff on the cutting room floor that should have stayed in the movie.

2. I realize it's true to the comics, but Hogan came over as 'Token Asian' to me...


Giving this one three stars. Well worth a watch, but should not be taken seriously.

Friday, May 20, 2011

The end of the world again...

Saturday. Supposedly. It had better not...I haven't seen Thor yet!

(I'm a little annoyed that serious Bible scholars are bothering to waste time on refuting this guy...come on, people, he's not worth the effort if *I* can tell he's wrong).

Thursday, May 19, 2011

I am really...

...proud of these pictures. Check them out.

 Especially the bottom one, which may or may not be clear on all monitors.

(If you're curious, that fellow playing with the boat is a male coastal bottlenose dolphin)

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Turn right...

...at the B52.

So...the United States Air Force Armaments Museum doesn't just have bombs. And it's really hard to miss with that parked right outside.

Big and spectacular...actually rather intimidating especially when you're standing under the wing. One might think it is the most significant thing in the museum.

It's not.

Inside the square military-style building that houses the smaller exhibits is an artifact of far greater value and significance...tucked away in a corner on the upper level. A large, slightly yellowed, sheet of paper.

I don't have a photo of it...these things are impossible to record with my little point and shoot. But it's a military Request for Proposal, detailing the required specs for an aircraft they wanted to buy.

The successful bidder? The Wright Brothers.

Yes. They have a contemporary copy of the RFP of the very first military aircraft purchased by the United States of America. And whatever else one says about the military, it is the military who pushed the envelope of aeronautics until that envelope became larger than the Earth's atmosphere.

(And did it in a better and more efficient way than NASA, for that matter).

To the Wright Brothers, for proving it could be done.

And to every test pilot, including the ones that work at Elgin AFB...and especially those who fly until the sky turns black.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Another Review: River of Gods

The other book I got through while in Florida was Ian McDonald's River of Gods. Unfortunately, 'got through' is rather more accurate in this case.

The story itself is very classic cyberpunk with a mystical flair and some interesting thoughts on quantum theory. And McDonald has clearly spent time in India researching this book...but it is still possible to tell that this is a white man writing a non-white story. (As an example, I was far more convinced by the South African-ness of the movie District 9, despite Peter Jackson's involvement). I'm not sure I would personally attempt a story set in India like that without actually living there for several years. And the key part of the story could almost have been set anywhere. Its Indianness was backdrop, rather than integral, even though the book is taglined as the Indian centennial (never mentioned). Sorry, Ian, but it really did read like you researched India, not lived it.

I also found his voice in this book somewhat trying. There were elements of style that threw me out of the story. Oh, and there were a couple of times when I thought there was just a touch too much sex, although much of it was necessary and none was really explicit.

However, his knowledge and understanding of multiple universe and brane theory was solid. The science worked, even as it threatened to cross the line into fantasy. The bittersweet ending made sense with regard to the rest of the story...although nobody really got their happily ever afters. I would also have liked to see a certain extremely important character introduced sooner than halfway through the book.

Flawed, but worth a read for the philosophical elements.

(Again, no bribes involved...I'm finally reading through some of my collection I haven't gotten to yet).

Monday, May 16, 2011

Blackout and All Clear

So. I'm back from Florida. And I will have some pictures, just as soon as I have time to get them off the camera and sort through them.

For now, I found the time while away to read Connie Willis' excellent Blackout and All Clear. (Really one book, split into two for the sake of publication costs).

If you don't know, Willis writes historical novels within the speculative frame of time travel. Her characters are historians from 2060, traveling back in time to directly observe events in the past. Of course, it's the common belief that historians cannot affect past events. The continuum will not let them, either by throwing off their temporal-spatial coordinates (called 'slippage' in the books) or by causing coincidental events that prevent them from affecting the past. It's also recorded that if a historian tries to be in two places at the same time, the continuum will not allow them into the past...or may even literally kill them.

There's the background. Blackout and All Clear are set during the London Blitz. Three historians have assignments in the past. Merope, under the name Eileen O'Reilly, is studying the psychological impact of wartime evacuation on children. Polly is studying the Blitz itself, in the guise of a London shopgirl. Michael, calling himself Mike Davis, is interested in heroism and plans on interviewing the fishermen and other civilian sailors who assisted in the evacuation of Dunkirk. Neither of them plans on staying in the past that long, but, of course, everything goes wrong...including, possibly, their cherished beliefs about time travel.

Time travel is the frame here for a brilliant historical novel about the Blitz and the Home Front, and in some ways, it's Michael's assignment that is the most relevant: This book is about heroes. Real heroes. Heroes like the St. Paul's fire watch, the London air raid wardens. The women who drove ambulances, took factory jobs and worked the land. The ordinary Londoners who faced night after night of sheer terror, yet never gave in, never surrendered.

The book is well researched and written in a clear, transparent style. I've always liked Willis' work and this pair of volumes is amongst her best.

(And no, I was not bribed, with a copy of the book or anything else ;))

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Thoughts on 'new and different'...

I was reading an equestrian blog and somebody talked about side saddle riding as 'new and different'. Uh, right.

The first side saddles date back to the 9th century, and while Medieval women often rode astride for every day purposes, side saddles were used for formal occasions as they allowed a woman to ride in an elegant gown. Riding aside was seen as more ladylike. In the 19th and early 20th centuries the modern side saddle, with its leaping horn, allowed women to safely do anything aside they could do astride and women rode almost excusively aside...not new and different at all! Old fashioned might have been more to the point. Also invented was the 'habit'...the backless apron that preserved a woman's modesty but had less risk of being caught on the saddle in a fall than full skirts. Some Muslim women prefer to ride side saddle as it's easier to keep up Islamic standards of modesty.

So. What other things do people somehow think are 'new and different' but which actually have ancient roots are out there?

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I have...

...the strangest ideas. Some of them I can't talk about in public, but I've done zombie exterminators (exterminators of zombies)...so, maybe I'll do something about zombies who exterminate? Pests, that is.

See...that's where my mind goes when I'm not focused. Ahem.

Monday, May 9, 2011


I won't be posting on Thursday or Friday this weekend. Why? Because I'm in Florida for a wedding (don't look at me like that - it's somebody else's wedding).

Sun screen is acquired, bathing suit has been dug out of the closet (dunno if I'll have time to go swimming, but eh, it's light). Now for the bad part...

...changing planes at ATLANTA. Shudder.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Happy Cinco De Mayo

...I know, it was yesterday. I forgot. But hey, any excuse for Mexican food is a good one. (Although not tequila. I don't do tequila).

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Return of airships?

Yes, I know Lee Hamilton beat me to this one, but I've always had a weakness for the idea of airships. Too much steampunk, I suppose.


Wednesday, May 4, 2011

A little gift for Wednesday...

I'm in one of my unpleasant moods...when I get like this, I feel as if nobody will ever read my stuff. So I'm pulling out an old drabble that I know I'm not likely to sell and offering it to everyone. Hey. It's cheering me up a little.

The Immortal Rose

It was perfection itself, the deep red flower, its rich scent. In the vase it sat, not wilting or dying. For that was its secret, a rose that would not die, could not die. It waited on a windowsill, turned slightly towards the brilliant sun outside. Bred and spliced for this, forever to brighten a woman's life and echo a man's love. Yet it was still a rose, with thorns. She reached to pick it up, to hold it where the scent could reach her. The thorns pricked her, and she fell. Nothing can live without food.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

More thoughts on Bin Laden and terrorism...

I wasn't there. I was actually at a small religious freedom rally outside the White House yesterday. By that point, the celebrating crowds had drifted away except for one small group that tried to get a desultory shout of U.S.A. going. It didn't work too well.

But on Sunday night, a crowd of mostly college students took to the streets to party. To celebrate victory.

On September 11, 2001, crowds took to the streets to celebrate a victory over us.

Ah, but, it's different! Bin Laden was a bad guy. Not an innocent person. Except...is it? It pulled people together, it caused many people to forget internal differences for a moment. But at the same time, there is something deeply disturbing about celebrating anyone's death. And something deeply disturbing about the parallels.

At the same time, there was no violence. As yet, there has been no retaliation. Al Qaeda, of course, is denying that Bin Laden is dead, and with the body already buried at sea, it might be hard to prove. (A rapid burial is required by Muslim custom and, as it turns out, he got the full rites some would say he did not deserve...for which I give kudos to the servicemen and to the chaplain involved). On the other hand, he was apparently identified by at least one of his wives.

So, here is the question. What is victory? And should we celebrate it? If we do, then we have to acknowledge that others will celebrate what they see as their victory over us. We cannot have one without the other and the other side of shouts of USA will be flag burning. Always. Perhaps what we really need to do is simply accept that fact.

Monday, May 2, 2011

Ding, dong...

...the guy is dead. Assuming he is. (Excuse me for skepticism, but dumping the body in the sea seems a little weird to me).

It's bad that it takes this to get people to actually pull together and not be hideous partisans.