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Friday, September 28, 2012

F3 Cold and Hard

The hard-boiled greats could face down any challenge. Surly gunmen, flim-flam artists, the upper crust with skeletons big enough to rival the dinosaurs, and even the smoldering stares of femme fatales as they prepared to plant a knife between your shoulder blades. They took it all in stride. Another day at the job.
I wasn't those guys.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012


I've been watching a lot of Top Gear on both BBC and History Channel, and I love the show. But I'm not a gearhead. I've spent an extensive amount of time working on my cars through the years, but I'm not the kind of guy that relishes all things car. I'm just not into the ultimate performance some people are. I would never take an engine apart, clean it, then reassemble it. That's not me.
However, I've always been drawn to cars. I couldn't wait to reach sixteen so I could drive, and I've always felt quite at home behind the wheel, even on long drives. And that's probably as far as I go with cars. I want a car I can take on a long, comfortable drive. Like many a teenaged-boy I had a poster of a Lamborghini on my wall, but over time (and reaching a height of 6'8") I know that such cars are not for me. Instead I find myself drawn to high-end luxury cars that offer style over performance. I want the long haul. I don't' need a car that can go 200mph or with the fastest 0-60 time or the ability to drift. I want a car that soars down the road at 80, but doesn't feel like it's moving at all.
I suppose my car choice reflects what I want to use it for most, an extensive road trip. I can't imagine a Ferrari or Lamborghini remaining comfortable after ten+ hours on the road. But a Bentley . . . hey, a guy can dream, right?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012


I'm gearing up to go to Crimebake this year. I've been to precisely 2 writer's conferences, and both of them were romance oriented. Nothing against the romance writers, but I want to sink my teeth into a conference geared a little more towards the type of writing I want to do. I can tell Crimebake is my place simply from the workshops offered. Where else do you get to learn about describing a crime scene, writing about bodies, and police procedures? So I will hobnob with Bostonians for a weekend in November. Too bad I don't have time to take in as much of Beantown as I'd like.

Friday, September 21, 2012

F3 Tinkering

"I need to take the sublights off-line." Henry Sherman said.
"Why?" Flynn looked at him hard.
"I've got some improvements in mind. We'll boost the efficiency by twenty percent."
"You know, Hank, whenever you say that there's going to be an improvement in efficiency, it's by twenty percent."

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Running Man

As said before, I'm reading I've finished The Running Man. And my impressions while reading this book are that I've found the darker, grittier, spiritual successor to Bradbury's Fahrenheit 451. In many ways I can see King's book as an update to Bradbury, who pulls out the civility found in Bradbury to throw a truly horrible dystopia at the reader, one reflective of the violence and prejudices in society that we choose to shrink away from.
I find myself seriously considering using this book in part of my teaching. It's take on reality game shows is certainly predictive, and reflective of an era focused too much on spectacle, much as the plebians at the gladitorial games. Yes, I am considering teaching this novel most strongly.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pseudonym Death

I'm reading Stephen King's The Running Man, one of the infamous "Bachman Books". King's essay "The Importance of Being Bachman" should be required reading for anyone considering publishing under a pseudonym. Even as far back as the 80s it was impossible for someone to remain completely anonymous. Today, with the internet, social networking, and search engines, it's downright impossible to maintain any level of anonymity. Curious and enquiring minds will discover the true identity.
Is this a reason not to employ a pen name? Yes. Is it the final word? No. There are other considerations, but King's experience should be part of the decision-making process. Complete anonymity as a writer is a thing of the past.

Friday, September 14, 2012

F3 Inspirational Speeches

"Now I know great captains are supposed to be able to make speeches." Flynn said into the ship-wide comm. "You know, the kind that inspire people to do their best for your superiors. But I know you people. You're a bunch of cold sons of bitches out for money. I can't promise you all the riches of the universe, but I can promise you a good haul, enough to get you into the brothel of your choice."

Wednesday, September 12, 2012


The point of fiction, to me, has always been to pull me into another world. I want to be sucked in and experience lives and worlds apart from my own. I'll never have opportunity to wield a magic sword, command a space battle, or solve a case for a femme fatale, so I want to experience these things through fiction.
This can be through books, movies, television, or computer games. It's all the same when you get sucked into the world with the right writing. No matter how outrageous the concept, there is always the verisimilitude of reality, mostly through the characters.
I can forgive a lot of technical and factual failures if the characters are believable. After all, if I wanted to truly simulate these experiences, I would read up on all the factual information, but that is, frankly, boring. I suppose what it comes down to is for a few hours, I don't want to be me.
One of the truly great things about being a writer is I don't have to be me. I get to experience life through my own characters as well as what I read, watch, and play.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Working Relationships

We naturally gravitate towards people similar to us. We look for common interests in friends and spouses, and even in professional circles. We're closer to those family who are more like us, too. When it comes to professional circles and family, we're stuck. We don't get to choose all of them. We all have that family member that we don't get along with, but usually we can distance ourselves from them so that we don't get rubbed the wrong way except every now and again at family events.
At work, we're well and truly stuck. We have to see them nearly every day, and it can really wear. I talked about policies as a kind of guideline to the personality of an employer, and I think that's right. The personalities that come through in policies are an indicator as to how a particular person or employer works. They are policies that agree with your own personal policies, then all is good. If there is a difference, if there is a lopsided relationship, then there will probably be drastic trouble down the road.
I think it's important for people to know themselves (a la Sun Tzu) in order to know how to work well with others. What are the policies that will clash? Where do you agree? What about personality conflicts? What compromises can be made that won't compromise your sense of self?

Friday, September 7, 2012

F3 Set Sail

"Flynn, we've cleared the shock."
"Sensors." Flynn ordered.
"No ships close by. We've got several streams. Very high speed." Ann's enthusiasm was hard to miss.
"Set course for Antares Station. Cut system engines and deploy sails."

Wednesday, September 5, 2012


I've been thinking about my experiment to let students collaborate to make policies. I think one of the reasons is actually a check on myself. There's a huge responsibility teaching to make sure things are fair for everyone. As the instructor, it's on me. I can't pass the buck. I'm the one accountable. Moreover, chaos can't rule. No policies allow for exploitation and inequal treatment. With friends and lawyers in law (and having done my own share of research) the reasons for law is to order society and protect its citizens. It has to be done.
But at the same time, there's that temptation. There's that itch that simply says make the rules to benefit me. When it comes to contract negotiations, people vie for what benefits them the most. It's logical. We are, by nature, interested in ourselves first. As the person in power, it's very easy for me to simply declare things that are most beneficial to me under the guise of what is fair to all. I don't want to be that person. I know Machiavelli said it's better to be feared than loved, but that caveat at the end pokes at me. It's important not to become hated. It's easy for people who to turn an eye of hatred against those who are heavy-handed in their authority.
We've all been subject to that authoritarian hand, too. There are policies that employers have that benefit them over that of the employees. I've been subject to some of those in my professional career, and many of them are lousy. That's it. They're lousy. And I'm reaching a point that I'm becoming selective about employer policies.
Policies convey messages. They convey more than simply the letter of the limits the proscribe. They speak about the author of such policies, and describe the type of people that make them. They send the message about what kind of people you will be working with. I've run into policies in both my teaching career and writing career that speak to me about the people out there, and I've already begun avoiding those institutions whose policies speak to the types of people I know I would not work well with.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Interactive Fiction

     I've been experimenting with interactive fiction, the earliest pioneer of the computer game that used text, and runs, as Sheldon Cooper put it, "on the world's most powerful graphics chip: imagination."
      I'm glad to discover that interactive fiction never died out. There is quite the thriving community behind it. Their resources have made it very easy to repatriate to this oft-forgotten medium. I've been interested in using IF (as they abbreviate it) for teaching purposes, but now I have to consider the future of the publishing industry.
      The iPad has kind of kickstarted a revolution in reading by integrating media files and links into their books for a richer experience, and the old Choose Your Own Adventure style books are making a comeback through digital means. However, interactive fiction is finding its way to devices as well with interpreters that can run on any platform, including ereaders like Kindle. Interactive fiction is perfect for such a platform. The e-ink screens don't need to display complicated, moving graphics, and a keyboard (either a touch-enabled or physical keyboard) for input makes interaction simple.
      I'm really excited to think that interactive fiction could make a resurgence, where games emphasize story and imagination over raw graphics processing and special effects.
      Those wanting to know more about interactive fiction can check out the Interactive Fiction Archive and Inform 7.
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