Tuesday, April 27, 2010


What a wonderful, lively, photogenic place.

Such a wonderful trip...my wife and I celebrated our anniversary there, and it was well worth three years wait.

The first day, the weather was just beautiful. Bright and warm...


The second day, the weather was cloudier and rainy, but still worth the trip.


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Monday, April 19, 2010

Only a couple of decades late.

I grew up in Southeastern Kansas. There's not much I can say about it, it's a quiet rural place. And I was never interested in it, until now...

Recently I've been thinking about the landscape I grew up in. It's a flat place, not the mind-numbing flatness of western Kansas, there is some roll, some hilliness as the land rises toward the Ozark mountains of Missouri and Arkansas, but still smooth with a horizon that stretches forever. The sky is unbroken apart from the electric poles and the hedgerows...it seemed utterly unremarkable until recently. Now, living in Japan, the horizon is cut short by mountains.

So now, I look back with a little bit of nostalgia on those wide open plains. And what's more, I find myself contemplating the history of the place. A part of the landscape is an interesting phenomenon; in amongst the endless fields, you will find the occasional lonely hill, rising abruptly from the earth and coming to a broad flat top...utterly alien in that flat land, and upon reflection, very hard to explain. So of course, being the place that Kansas is, the explanation people found was "Indians!" (At the time, 20-odd years ago, "Native American" wasn't what people were saying.)

Most everyone believed, or at least said, that these must be artificial, and so the product of those people who had lived on that land before us. As I grew, I dismissed the idea as the result of hick ignorance (something that became a habit to a know-it-all college boy...) and forgot the idea.

But now, in my nostalgia, I've done some research about the idea, and it turns out to be utterly plausible. There are a large number of Native burial mounds throughout Kansas and Missouri, apparently made by people who populated the midwest as long as 2,500 years ago. Unfortunately, I haven't been able to find any way to tell if a mound is, indeed, a burial mound apart from digging into it--and I don't see that happening anytime soon.

So yeah, it's fascinating. Research is fun...

And if anyone can tell me about those mounds, I'd love to hear it.
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Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Suspension of Disbelief....Failing...

I'm a fan of "genre fiction", meaning things like SF, Fantasy, Alternate Histories, etc. This means, I choose (for the length of a story/novel/movie/etc.) to believe something that is not true. Some times it's easier than others...
One of the essential elements of writing fiction is getting your reader to trust you. You can tell a huge lie as long as it's told convincingly; you can make utter nonsense sound plausible, as long as it sounds good.

This is usually done by balancing fact and fiction--especially in something like science fiction, which SHOULD be an oxymoron. Science is all about facts, and truths, and things that people have worked very hard to test and check and prove to a pretty reasonable extent are true.

But sometimes, even in the realm of fiction, some lies are just too big. I mean, no matter HOW HARD YOU TRY you can't believe it. This might be the result of poor story telling, poor research, or just stuff that don't work at any level, fictional or factual. For example, the climax of Stephen King's "Insomnia" was utterly ruined because the hero talked about a scaly catfish. It was a FAKE catfish, not a real catfish at all, but...CATFISH DON'T HAVE SCALES. SO I lost all ability to suspend my disbelief, and the beautiful lie of fiction just became nonsense.

This brings me to something that has been bothering the hell out of me. There is an anime on Japanese TV called "Element hunters." My mother-in-law loves anime, and watches it without any apparent regard for genre, style or quality. This one just happens to come on at dinner time, so I am often forced to watch it...and this is the purest example of an utterly impossible lie to believe. I mean, from the VERY BEGINNING, I can not accept the premise of this story. Now, I know this is a cartoon. It's fiction for children, and of course, it should simply be accepted as nonsense, but...this is the limit.

Let's use the Wikipedia synopsis to explain:
In the year 2029, a large scale ground sinkage occurred in the Mediterranean Sea. Chemical elements such as oxygen, carbon, gold, molybdenum, and cobalt disappeared from the Earth's crust suddenly. The human population was decreased by 90% in sixty years. Researchers found out that the disappeared elements were drained into a planet "Nega Earth", located in another dimension. To save the Earth, a special team called the "Element Hunters" is organized. All of the members are under 15 years old, because young and flexible brains are needed to perceive "Nega Earth". As the story progresses we learn that the cause of the element dematerialisation was caused by a child shouting to the heavens "I wish the earth will disappear" this awoken something that was in the 11th dimension which has cause all the elements in earth to dematerialise and move to nega earth.



All of them. And what is the result? The earth is dying off. NOT, as one would expect, the immediate and total absence of EVERYTHING. I mean...wow. I can accept a lot in fiction--A LOT. Talking trees, faster-than-light travel, lots of impossible stuff. But...I mean, come on. All the elements are gone? What the hell kind of idiot thinks that's a good idea? And you know the WORST thing? The show purports to be educational.

Educational! Because the theme song teaches kids the names of the elements...and indeed, my MIL can now name a lot of elements. But, while teaching kids the names, they completely and totally fail at giving any idea at all of what they actually are. Meaning....EVERYTHING. Everything that exists is made of elements, and nothing else. If elements disappear, EVERYTHING does. Good god. The stupid, it hurts me...

Any time people tell me that Anime is valuable as a cultural item, I will throw this in their face and then point at the inevitable fall in Japanese science test scores and LAUGH AND LAUGH...
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Saturday, April 10, 2010

Classic SF FTW

I have to give a big thank you to John Scalzi.

He's apparently written a new book that's a reworking of an old SF novel, Little Fuzzy, written by H. Beam Piper. Piper is not one of the writers I'm rally familiar with, but when I saw Scalzi' post, and found out that Piper's work is in the Public Domain, I whipped out the old iPhone and downloaded the original . I LOVED it.

It's a fun story, not particularly deep, about a man finding cute, fuzzy, intelligent aliens and doing his best to protect them from the nasty company men out to exploit their planet...think Avatar meets the Ewoks. Though it was written in 1962, it's aged fairly well, though some of the passing "girl" comments touched off a wince or two. What I found most enjoyable, though, was how smoothly everything flowed--how naturally the characters acted and how much I CARED about them. I was enthralled by the fuzzies, and I found myself teary eyed more than once.

I went on to read more of Piper's stories this weekend. They ahve been without exception excellently written, engaging and enjoyable. Some of the stories do run up against the social changes we've encountered in the last 40 years or so (Uller Uprising, especially, stuck me as borderline tolerable in it's politics, but was so exciting in execution I still finished it).

So I unreservedly recommend you read some of Piper's work, especially Little Fuzzy, and hey--you can't beat the price.

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Thursday, April 8, 2010


I'm feeling against. Anti.
I can't say why but hey, it happens. People piss you off, the weather changes, you don't get enough sleep, whatever, and you just get out of it. So I'm out of it.

Part of the problem is that I honestly don't have a community. I'm fairly isolated here, I've got my family it's true, and that is a wonderful place, but nothing else. No friends, no drinking buddies, no bullshit pals. Just...my wife, and the net.

And the net is...the net. I haven't found a real community that fits me online, either. There are hobbies, but it seems like so many people in those hobbies just don't really match me emotionally or mentally. Too much ignorance, too much ego, too much aggression and petty little nonsense. It turns me off. I have no PATIENCE for it anymore.

It's not even a political thing, though that sets it off. It's just...people. Being dicks.

Of course, the response is to find a community here, with real people, but that's not much worse. The English speaking crowd here is even worse than the internet communities, a bunch of immature drunks. And the Japanese? Apart from the language barrier, there's the interest barrier. I have NOTHING in common with anyone I know. I despair of dealing with people.

I miss Andy...
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Wednesday, April 7, 2010

To remember I: April 2010

This month I am restless, tired and distracted. I can't think about the things I SHOULD think about, work and "serious" things. I am flighty and in search of something new and unique.

SO maybe I'll write a little, maybe do some more reading. And in order to prevent me from losing track in my madness, I thought I'd wake this old blog up. Good morning, old blog!

Speaking of reading, I'm reading George R. R. Martin's A Game of Thrones. It's an interesting read, but I can't see the mad fan nerding out it apparently inspires (leading, of course, to things like Neil Gaiaman's admonition that Mr. Martin is no one's bitch, and the like. But as I just started, perhaps I'm just not deep enough.

I'm also well into Tim Powers' On Stranger Tides, which is Tim Powers writing about pirates, zombies, and voudou...ahhhh, Tim Powers. I love that guy. The Drawing of the Dark is still one of my favorite books. Seriously, how many books are there that conflate Arthurian legend and BEER!? ONE, that's how many.
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Work in Progress: April, 2010


“We sail tonight,” she said. She didn’t like me, I knew it. For that matter, I didn’t like me. I was a coward. Seeping fear and desperation, I was, and she could smell it as well as I. "It's too late to take on a passenger, and we don't need any new hands."

“How much?” I asked, for the third time.

I knew she wasn’t going to answer. I knew she didn’t want me on board, and that I would never be able to get away. Even now, I could see the monks gathering, whispering and plotting, sending out the black-robed temple guards to drag me to that dark pit gaping in the very center of their twisted, cyclopean temple. I didn’t want to go.

So I poured all the money I had out on the table between us, the captain and I. It was a lot. Chiaki and I (oh poor Chiaki, I’m so sorry…I hope they don’t take you instead of me. But if they do, well, at least it's not me.) had been saving a long time. There was almost enough to buy that bigger house we’d been looking for.

She looked at the pile, arms crossed, tapping a little tatoo on the tabletop, and eventually, explosively, sighed.

“Get your bag and get on board. Quick now, we’re busy. And you’re running, any fool can see that, so if you bring any bad luck on us I’ll slit your throat and toss you over myself.”

I didn't hesitate. I grabbed the little bag with what clothes I had managed to pack and sprinted to the gangplank, hoping she wouldn't change her mind in disgust.
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