Pale Blue Dot

Phil Plait, over at Bad Astronomy, says that Carl Sagan’s essay, "Reflections on a Mote of Dust" (collected in Pale Blue Dot) ought to be required reading for every human being on the planet.  I agree, and add that this video, which combines Sagan’s beautiful essay with music and imagery, ought to be required viewing for all of us.

The video’s beneath the fold. Enjoy. Continue reading Pale Blue Dot

Zombie Elf Pics?

Although I have yet to find a good home for my short story, "Night of the Frozen Elf", it still has a special place in my heart.  I don’t suppose anyone out there can point me to a picture of a zombified Christmas elf that I can put on my home page?  I’ve hunted but I can’t seem to find one.

NaNo.*Mo

Okay, so I’ve decided that this year I’m going to officially sign up for NaNoEdMo, and use the time to finish up this current draft of The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster.  This isn’t quite what I had in mind for the year; I was planning on finishing up this draft in January, using February to write Part Two of The Return of Deacon Dread, and then use NaNoEdMo to begin the revisions on the finished first draft of Solitude.  But what the heck.  As long as I’m getting it done, that’s all that matters..

The Solitude of the Tentacled Space Monster has really taken over my life.  A few weeks ago, when I tried to do the weekend novel thing, characters from Solitude kept popping in and demanding scenes.  When I try writing short stories lately, all I can think about is the current scene in the novel.  I’ve got a couple of stories that are supposed to distract my inner editor with when it starts popping up its ugly head, but that little bugger has been pretty quiet these past few weeks.  I’m about 55,000 words into my rewrite, and I think I’ve got about 30,000 words to go.

Uh oh.  I wonder if a rewrite counts as part of the editing process for NaNoEdMo?

Meh.  Who cares?

My muse, Berthold, has been pretty talkative lately, which is annoying.  I’ve been reading a book about Genghis Khan lately, and Berthold is of the opinion that I could write some sort of story involving Khan, and possibly Christmas trees.  The book is fascinating so far; I had spent my life just thinking of Khan as a random barbarian leader, never considering the level of tactical and strategic brilliance the man had to possess in order to achieve what he did.

But Genghis Khan and Christmas trees?  You can see why I have a love/hate relationship with my muse.

In other news, I’ve continued messing around on my website, mostly learning how to better incorporate data objects with portable code, which helps me a lot with my job.  I’ve upgraded my blog software to WordPress 2.1.1, and cleaned up a bunch of code in the different libraries and stylesheets.  I think it looks very nice now; and I believe I’ve even finally fixed the bug that was causing it to crash in Internet Explorer (being a Linux/Open Source kind of guy, I use Firefox almost exclusively, and never even though to test it in IE).  I’ve also added a very simple forum; I don’t expect a lot of traffic to be flowing through my site, so the forum is mostly another exercise in code integration and customization.  Feel free to take a look and poke at it, though, if you like.

Last Friday, Jennifer and I and a member of my RL writers’ group went to Petaluma to see Christopher Moore, one of my top four favorite writers, talk and do a signing.  The man’s as hilarious in person as he is in his books.  At the end of his little talk, all three of us had sore bellies and faces from laughing so hard.  I’ve got a picture of Jennifer and me and him somewhere around here; I’ll post it when I get a chance.

He signed all the books we brought; six of his, and one science fiction novel by someone else entirely.  I’d heard he’d sign any book at all, even if he hadn’t written it; I’d brought along my copy of The Zombies that Ate Pittsburg (a non fiction book about the films of George Romero), but I left it in the car.

Before the event, we went to eat dinner at a little Irish style pub in downtown Petaluma.  The owners did a pretty decent job of making the place feel very Irish, though it was much brighter (it had windows, and it wasn’t raining outside), and seemed cleaner.  But the Guinness was great.

And in the final bit of daily news, we had Terminix come out to do another termite inspection, to follow up on the one that Clarke did a couple of weeks ago.  Terminix found no sign whatsoever of termite activity.  Now I’m thinking about having Orkin come out; best two out of three.

Don't Say I Never Gave You Anything

For a good time, visit Conservapedia, the "conservative" answer to WikiPedia’s "liberal bias".  The Random Page function is a thing of true joy.  You may have a hard time loading it right now, as it’s currently under attack by a number of science bloggers entering parody articles (though, as has been discussed elsewhere, it’s often hard to distinguish a parody conservative rant from the genuine thing).  From their front page (currently):

Did you know that faith is a uniquely Christian concept? Add to the explanation of what it means, and how it does not exist on other religions.

Uh.  Yeah.

Note that I don’t honestly accept this site as an example of real "conservative" thinking; it’s an example of the weird, Christo-fascists who have co-opted the term "conservative" from fellows like Barry Goldwater and Ron Paul, guys who actually embrace conservative values.

I remember Conservapedia’s founder, Andrew Schlafly, from the days when I used to hang out at Talk.origins.  His approach was very odd; he seemed to honestly think that the 1965 edition of the World Book Encyclopedia was definitive, and rejected any discoveries in any scientific field made since then.  He was quite the target of fun and parody in that newsgroup.

Found via Respectful Insolence.  Check out the discussion on that blog page for some more entertainment.

I Haven't Mentioned This Yet…

…but on Friday, Jennifer and I are going to go see Christopher Moore in Petaluma.  I just finished reading Fluke; like most of his other books, this is one that made me laugh, made me think, and made me go, "Aw, hell, I’ll never be that good a writer."

Moore will also be a featured guest at a writers’ conference in Foster City (near SF) on March 24, but I’m not going to be able to make it to that.

We Got Searches

On another note, I’m not sure what I’m more amused by: that my blog showed up when someone did a search for "DunDraCon hot chick", or that someone did that search in the first place.

I personally know at least one hot chick who did attend DunDraCon, but unless I’m greatly deceived about certain key elements of my life, I’m pretty sure it wasn’t me.

Today's Word

Today’s word of the day is "Coulrophobia", which means "fear of clowns".  Apparently there’s some discussion in certain circles as to whether coulrophbia really does exist, or if it’s a social phenomenon brought on by a media full of evil clowns (Stephen King’s Pennywise, for example, or John Wayne Gacy).  The clown as a symbol of jollity and hilarity and overall goofiness has been co-opted by the forces of irony; juxtaposing the image of the happy clown with the forces of darkness probably predates any song that Smokey Robinson sang, but it’s epidemic in our society now.  A few years ago I did an informal survey among some of the younger people I knew, and almost all of them said that they didn’t like clowns; clowns "freak me out", they said over and over.  I rest my case.

Which isn’t to say that I’m not interested in doing my part to further this symbolic degeneration.  The word "coulrophobia" is too delicious to pass up.  I’m thinking of writing a short story called "Coulrophobia"; it would involve clowns (natch) and zombies (because I am who I am).  And because I was listening to Steve Eley’s intro to the most recent issue of Escape Pod (where he bemoans the lack of love stories in speculative fiction), I’m thinking that my zombie clown story has to be a love story.

Maybe I can even get 1,000 words written down by the time our writers’ group meets tomorrow night.

In other news, I was amused by the little shout out to the nerd community at the end of Heroes last night, but I think they gave it away too soon by listing his name in the opening credits.  They should have left it out.  The joy would have been even greater.

DDC '07

To everyone who asked me if I was going to DunDraCon this year: well, obviously not. It just didn’t work out this time. Hope y’all had/are having a great time, though, and remember me when pondering the loathsome non-Euclidean dice of doom from Chessex. Hopefully I’ll be able to join you next year.

In Other News

This infrared image of the Helix Nebula, taken by NASA’s space-based Spitzer Space Telescope, is one of the most awesome astronomy pictures I’ve seen in a very long time:

The Helix Nebula, through NASA's Spitzer Space Telescope

Just looking at it gives me the chills. 

At one time I was quite the science geek.  I still have a telescope that my parents gave me for my birthday last year; it’s been quite awhile since I took it out a had a look.  When I was a kid, I had a telescope that I looked through a lot; I was particularly fond of checking out various nebulae, or looking at the moon, or at the sun (through the sun filter, of course).  And a couple of years ago I did take it out to look at Jupiter, and got to see its moons, for the first time.

I’m not so much the science geek anymore.  I still read blogs like Bad Astronomy and the Panda’s Thumb, and I still browse through the science section at Borders, and I think I know more than the average guy, but I’m not nearly as well informed as some friends of mine.  That’s probably due to my wasting my college years on role playing games, drinking, and a philosophy degree.

For tonight’s musical pleasure, I’m including Jonathan Coulton’s song "I’m Your Moon", which he wrote shortly after Pluto’s status as a planet was reconsidered by the international astronomical community.  Enjoy.  Go to Jonathan Coulton’s website.  Give him money.  He deserves it.

[audio:http://www.mossroot.com/worlds/audio/ImYourMoon.mp3]