magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On the topic of not-rocks, when I was growing up, I had a cassette tape that had a bunch of folk tales on it. One of them (if I remember correctly, which I very well may not) had to do with a king who was sick, and sent his three sons out looking for a magical cure. Two of the sons get bored of the quest and quit; the third actually found the cure and was bringing it back when his brothers found him, killed him, buried him, and took the cure home to claim the reward. But reeds grew where the good son had been buried, and someone cut the reeds and made a pan flute, and when the pan flute was played, it sang about the brother's death in his voice.

I mostly remember it because the song was creepy and got stuck in my head a lot.  I have never been able to successfully Google the story or its audio.  I really wish I could find it again, though, because nostalgia.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

As an exercise, to try to ease my brain up out of its months-long stress-induced no-writing slump, I sat down and copied out the first sentence (or two; the first lines of If The Mountain Comes really don't work if you only take the first sentence) of all the short stories I've had published in various markets, and then grouped them by whether I (personally) thought they were engaging or not.

 

Read more... )

In any case, it's something I don't think I'd really sat down to examine in any depth before, so now I can say I've done that.  And hopefully have a better sense of how this particular mechanic works in the stories I write in the future.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)

I have tofu marinating in a mix of balsamic vinegar, olive oil, honey, fresh rosemary, crushed garlic, black pepper, and powdered lapsang souchong. We are going to make it into fresh rolls tonight. (With green tea soba noodles because I have no rice noodles.) It is going to be delicious.

(Speaking of fresh rolls, I recently learned about how the skins for them are traditionally made, and the process is, as Joe Pastry puts it, "so ingeniously odd".)


My random thought upon waking this morning was that it would be really cool to make some kind of virtual coffeeshop. I think this was partially inspired by Coffitivity, and also by a bunch of articles on how the people you interact with most frequently palpably impact your performance, and thinking about how to form communities and foster community interaction when people in those communities might not be able to easily meet in person. But the idea that's rolling around in the back of my head is something like this:

  • On its most basic level, it'd be a chat site. Something along the lines of IRC, but it would take place in a kind of basic, bare-bones virtual "space", even if the only way the virtual space came about was through terminology. Frex: people could join "tables", which would be the individual chat rooms. They could also create their own tables and invite their friends. There'd be general tables for topics like politics, writing (or, more specifically, politics by region, writing by genre), and you could create public or private tables. Public tables could have short descriptions of the people "sitting" there: "I'm a writer working on the script for my first webcomic." "I'm a programmer working on a mobile app." "I'm here to meet new people; I'm a 34-year-old queer man in the Tampa area, into HAM radio and industrial music." People could join open tables based on who they might find interesting to chat with. Tables could set with upper limits on the amount of "seating" available, or let in as many people as they wanted.
  • People would be able to put things "on the table" for everyone at that table to have access to: documents, links, etc.
  • It'd be cool to integrate some kind of background audio like Coffitivity. It'd also be cool to integrate graphic design which supported the general coffeeshop theme; background images, maybe even something like LJ's gifts system where for some minimal amount of money you could buy people pictures of drinks. (I'd have to investigate how little money would be effective - not a lot to spend, but still enough that whatever processing fees wouldn't completely eliminate whatever micropayment the coffeeshop got. Like, it'd be cool to offer a $.05 virtual drink because most people would not balk at buying that, but after Paypal or a credit card processor or whatever took its cut, would there be a micropayment left?)
  • It'd also be cool to integrate optional voice or video chats.
  • You could have a little curated store where you could order tea and coffee and such – I'm thinking something like an affiliate relationship with an established tea seller, so you'd literally be ordering, like, the Adagio or David's Teas or whatever products, but (if you found the right company) they's give a percentage back to the teashop to cover hosting costs. And then regular users who ordered from the virtual counter could make the tea/coffee at home, and chat to each other about what they ordered.
  • There could be paid levels of membership which would give you things like archived chats, lockers where you could store files, dedicated tables, etc?
  • It'd be cool to make this a space which could facilitate virtual classes. Virtual lectures. Virtual open mic nights! Virtual readings! Virtual streaming of live music from "local" artists! Opt-in, of course; other people in the coffeeshop might get a notification or a sidebar listing public events and they could choose to listen to them, but the advantage of a virtual coffeeshop is that if you walk in on open mic night, you can choose not to make the audio exist for you.
  • It'd be kinda cool to have graphics for your status: a "hard at work and concentrating" icon, a "social; come interact with me" icon, a "taking a break from working" icon, a "deep in a conversation, please don't bother me" icon. Ideally, really easy to switch from a dropdown, and it'd show both in the table chat and on the description of the table. (So if two people at a public table both set their icons to "deep in conversation", people might think twice about joining them?) Ideally, also, there'd be multiple sets of icons that you could choose from. This one is an elderly black man! This one is a young Latina with a lot of piercings! This one is a robot! Here are generic smilies!

Now, a lot of this exceeds my current development skills, and I have no idea whether I'll find the idea as cool by the time I've acquired the relevant skills. But I wanted to get the high-level ideas down just in case it did remain an awesome idea, and also in case any other programmers showed up and were like "I also want to make something like this! Let's set up a GitHub and start hacking!" 'cause, hey, I may look back at this at some point and go "Ooooh." Or I may decide to dive into this as soon as my current teaching-myself-java fun times are done.

ONE NEVER KNOWS.

magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Finally got around to making carrot soup tonight, which was a process which started quite some time ago when I came home with ~2 pounds of carrots and a white onion, which progressed through soaking some chickpeas and then simmering them with a sprig of rosemary, and which culminated in me staring at this recipe for a while, then going "Fuck it" and making something up as I went along.

FUCK YOU I'M A CAT, basically. Except I'm only metaphorically a cat. Because cats don't cook. They have people to do that for them. )
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I had this post roughly sketched out in the back of my head, but then my week got all crazy, my basement flooded, and I got sidetracked by writing about space elevators and hydroponic roses, so here's the distilled essence of the Post That Never Was:

Anna Hazare is awesome. You should all take a look at "Escaping Poverty: The Ralegan Siddhi case," and then we should all get started on sensible watershed development here. And everywhere. Though possibly Iowa City needs a different sort of watershed development program than Ralegan Siddhi needed, given Iowa City's aggravating tendency to either flood the Arts Campus or flood my basement.

Omens

Oct. 5th, 2011 07:38 am
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
You know, I'm agnostic-skeptic when it comes to omens and signs. I think most of the weird coincidences we see are just coincidences, and not actually that weird. It's just that we notice them, and the billions of tiny co-occurrences that don't hold any special similarity go unnoticed because there's no reason to give them any attention. "I wrote a blog post about gluten-free desserts, and then I turned on the radio... and there was a story about an embassy bombing!" ...okay? That sort of stuff happens all the time, with overwhelming frequency, yet it's always the "I was thinking about quitting my job, and a copy of the newspaper classifieds blew onto the sidewalk in front of me!" events that get all the attention. "What are the odds!" As it turns out, just what it took for the event to happen, and all the dreg is still there in your peripheral vision.

But, you know, that doesn't stop me from going after the "signs" and "omens" that do crop up in my life. It's a magical-consciousness thing.

By which I mean: in my low-key, homegrown magical practice, a big central philosophy is bricolage: "to make creative and resourceful use of whatever materials are at hand (regardless of their original purpose)". So when I write a post about being afraid to move forward and then the next day I wake up to a Live Your Legend mailinglist email about how the biggest threat to your success is quitting, and once you get that under control, all the other risks are small potatoes, I still interpret it as basically a message from $god*.

*Here I'm using the PHP variable syntax – $variable_name – to indicate, basically, "god-of-choice". God is another thing I'm both faithful and agnostic on.

And that's because I've taught myself to glean meaning and inspiration from things. Meaning, motivation, inspiration, and direction are things I need in my life, and I know that I sometimes have to be creative in fulfilling those needs. So when I see a coincidence that I can use to feed into my motivation – in this case, it's a "sign from the universe not to give up" – the framework of my thinking goes something like this:

Something called itself to my attention. => Is there meaning I can ascribe to this? => Is the potential meaning helpful or harmful? Can I interpret it in a way that makes it helpful? => If it's helpful, DUDE! It's an OMEN! If it's harmful, whoo, look at that, it's another wacky coincidence, and I go on my way.

This is a pretty blatant logical fallacy, of course – it's the same sort of thinking that contextualizes a misfortune that happens to someone of $x_particular_faith as a "test of faith" and an identical misfortune that happens to anyone else as a sign of $god's displeasure. But I'd rather look at it as a mindhack. Yeah, it's spurious and completely arbitrary, but I'm aware of it and can watchdog it so its net effect on my life is positive and it doesn't harm anyone else. I can glean a spot of inspiration from my own coincidences, and if I ever come across an arrangement of rocks in a stream that seems to spell out KILL THEM ALL, I'll take a picture and share it on Twitter with a note about how wacky patterns in nature can be.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Yesterday's xkcd had an interesting challenge in its mouseover-text.


Wikipedia trivia: if you take any article, click on the first link in the article text not in parentheses or italics, and then repeat, you will eventually end up at "Philosophy".


So far, I've tried it with Spark Plugs, Banana Slugs, My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic, Chuck Palahniuk, Infantry, Carnarvon (Western Australia), and Fatal Hilarity. It all works. Usually inside of twenty-thirty clicks. After doing this long enough, you begin to see certain patterns and get a feel for when you're getting close to the Philosophy goal. For example, once you hit Natural Science or Social Science, you know there's no escape.

I think it has everything to do with the format of defining everything in more-general terms. So you can start with something that seems entirely unrelated to anything philosophical like Vilii, a "type of yoghurt (a mesophilic fermented milk) that originated in the Nordic countries," with a "ropey, gelatinous consistency and a sour taste resulting from lactic acid," but Viili is a kind of yoghurt, which sends you on through dairy product » food » plant » living (and here you start thinking, uh-oh, we're on the track for philosophy) » objects » physics (and here, the physics link is marked as already visited; you end up at physics in a lot of the paths) » natural science (remember how I said there was no escape?) » science » knowledge » facts » information, sequence, mathematics (admittedly, once you get onto the "information" leg, it does circle around a little), quantity, property, modern philosophy (uh-oh), and finally, philosophy.

There's already a significant amount of talk on the phenomenon on the Philosophy "Talk" page. People have found articles that put you into an infinite loop (as of this writing "understatement" was the first qualifying link in the Ernest Hemmingway article, and the first qualifying link in the understatement article was "Ernest Hemmingway"), but it seems to hold true for the majority of articles people have tested.

So, there's your random minor mindblow for the day.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
On Friday I'm shipping out for Wiscon!

If you want to identify me, I look like this:



I'm generally amenable to meeting new people, though I may stare at you for a while and attempt to place where I know you from, even if I don't. There's also a pretty good chance I'll foist a MOO Minicard on you, if you're out collecting minicards from everyone who's ever appeared in Fantasy Magazine or everyone whose name starts with a vowel and is not a palindrome, or something.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
I did something amazing today.

I didn't get as much sleep as I needed, woke up tired and hungry and cranky and finding it hard to concentrate, missed one bus and almost missed the one after it, got in, sat down to work, rammed my head against this apparently-unsolvable problem which I'd been wrestling with since Friday, and then immediately got set off by three or four unrelated things filtering down to my from the internet. All this before about 9:30, so, yeah, I was ready to have a really awful day where nothing went right and I couldn't focus on anything and I was stuck in a horrible mood all day. None of that is the amazing part.

The amazing part is that I gave myself 15 minutes – a 15-minute song, actually – to close my eyes, meditate and regroup at my desk, and remind myself that I didn't have to take responsibility for the things that were making me seethe, that I had inroads on how to solve the problem in front of me, and that I had tools like a pad of paper and a pencil to help me organize thoughts and work through them. And after those fifteen minutes I opened my eyes and I got to work, I engaged myself with my immediate universe, and I made progress.

And I felt better.

This is significant because, while I've been working on meditation and mindfulness for a while, this is one of the first times I've been able to use it to pull myself out of that bad a mood. And it worked.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Check out the new blog post on [personal profile] an_owomoyela for excerpts from and neepery about my second Write-a-Thon story, Redacted. It's the one with the oddly friendly church, and also memory loss and crime and disability and how to communicate stories. Sorta.
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
Check out the new blog post on [personal profile] an_owomoyela for excerpts from and neepery about my first Write-a-Thon story!
magistrate: The arc of the Earth in dark space. (Default)
My short story "Abandonware" is up at Fantasy Magazine today!

Abandonware is a work of science fantasy, which was favorably reviewed in the June 2010 Locus Magazine.

I'll have an author spotlight up on Fantasy Magazine in the coming days. I'll also have a look at and excerpt from my first Write-A-Thon story on [personal profile] an_owomoyela soon, and you can definitely still donate to Clarion West by sponsoring me.

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