Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Daunting Success

So I've lately been back on Codex after a long absence, and I notice several of the writers there are also putting out ebooks. And in one thread, they're posting their cover images.

Which gets me thinking about the Digger short story collection I want to publish soon. So yesterday, I start toying with a cover concept, and sometime late last night, I end up with something that looks actually sort of awesome. Which presents me with a problem.

What's the problem with an awesome cover?

Well, I'm currently struggling with revising some unpublished Digger stories to include in hte collection for extra value. I thought the stories were sort of pleasantly funny, but now I'm thinking, "Man, I really need to step up my game so people won't be disappointed that this story is in a collection with that cover."

Because I've been a victim of the cover bait'n'switch before, and it sucks.

So the editing and polishing may take longer than I thought.

Monday, April 18, 2011

Adventures in Retail

Politically, I lean toward the libertarian and the conservative, in the belief that it's better to let people figure out things on their own than impose some sort of top-down Soviet-style rule commanded by "experts." I also generally hold to the hope that people will act like adults if you treat them like adults.

Working at a large retail store is utterly destroying that belief. Because people are pigs.

Virtually all I do, all day long, is pick up after them. I remember in one Diner podcast about New Year's Resolutions (either this year or last), Lileks mentioned that one resolution was to put stuff back on the proper shelf in Target rather than just dropping it at random anywhere in the store. He meant it as a joke, but I actually started to get mad.

Because that's all I do. I find frozen food that someone didn't want hidden among the bottles on the shampoo shelf, now warm and ruined. I find full carts of stuff picked up at random by teenagers with nothing better to do, abandoned in the corner of the store, and now I've got to put all that stuff back. At the end of the day, you cannot walk through the shoe aisles, because the floor is so littered with shoes. One shopper yesterday set up shop in the patio furniture section, setting up chairs for himself and someone else, plus an end table, and then proceeded to tear open a box containing a wire mesh firepit and partially assemble it on the floor of the store. I found the half-assembled firepit, surrounded by cardboard and plastic strewn heedlessly about, abandoned without a word.

People are pigs.

But it is fun to laugh at them sometimes. A dude in the store yesterday was looking at a grabber, one of those aluminum things to extend your reach (not this one, but similar). And his kid, maybe three or four, is sitting in the shopping cart, and Dad is grabbing his arm with the thing, and the kid's going, "Do it again. Do it again."

And then, in that loud shouting voice that kids use as a default because they think it's the only way they can get attention (and it may be true), the kid yells, "Dad, grab my pee-pee with it. Dad, grab my pee-pee!"

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Rude Software is Still Rude

I should be used to this by now, given that I wrote a rant about it three and a half years ago, but every now and then it still jumps up in my face and bugs me. I walk into a fast food place and start to order.

"Hello, I'd like a number..."

"Will this be for here or to go?"

It's bad enough that they're interrupting me. That's rude, but people are rude to me all day long. What really gets my goat is that they don't intend to be rude to me. It seems to be the way their POS software is designed; they seem to be required to ask that question first before they can take the rest of my order. Thanks to this stupid-ass program, it is their job to be rude to me.

And as I said, I've been complaining about this for years. I should be used to it by now, except that not only is it rude, it's a bad design. This is just a guess, but I'd say nine times out of ten, the main thought on people's minds when they step up to order is what food they're asking for. That's my priority, that's what I'm thinking about, that's the reason I walked into your place of business in the first place. So why is it so hard to just let me order and then decide on the delivery details?

Imagine trying to order something from Amazon, and every time, before it lets you choose which book you want to buy, it makes you choose how you want it delivered first. It's ridiculous.

I'm looking at you KFC, Chick Fil-A, Arby's. Maybe also Long John Silver's and A&W; it's been so long since I've eaten there that I forget if they do it too. I like your food (some more than others), and with the exception of KFC, I enjoy visiting your restaurants. But seriously, even when I don't get interrupted because the person opened the conversation with the question before I could speak, I notice that the question comes first and that it's not the way I want to order.

If this bothers you too, pass it on.

Thursday, April 14, 2011


Well, after being profiled as arrogant, I went to take this rather disturbing test, and got this result.

Thoughtful to the extreme, you are often obsessed with perfection and the rules governing your own personal interests. Your world is black and white. You love to work within a logical system, such as language, computer programming, or mathematics. Manipulating a system that can be completely understood is a distinct pleasure to you, because of your confidence in the underlying veracity of your belief system. Because of your appreciation for logic and order, those who speak or think in a sloppy manner are apt to generate more than their share of wrath. Although very amiable, you are not drawn to friendships out of a sense of personal need. You are just as happy by yourself with a good book or puzzle. Because you are so involved with thought, you will on occasion have difficulty dealing with the day-to-day problems of a normal life. Taking out the trash, doing the dishes, these are often left until the last possible moment, if at all.

It's interesting, because on the one hand, I think I see the world in more shades of gray than most people. On the other hand, I do get annoyed very easily by relatively small things, and my house is indeed a mess, and I often forget about birthdays, holidays, bills due, and other obligations because I'm caught up in thinking about other things. It's one of the things that helped kill my marriage, the fact that I would drift off as my wife was telling me something, either thinking about something I had been wrestling with before she started talking, or toying with a story idea that occurred to me from something she said, or worst of all, chasing a completely random thread of connections, as something she said reminded me of something that reminded me of something else which reminded me of something else, so by the time she finished talking, I would be thinking about something three subjects removed. I wasn't trying to be rude or dismissive. It's just the broken way my mind works.

Then again, these summaries are often written like horoscopes, in that they deal in generalities that could apply to virtually anyone. So who knows? But the test itself is kind of disturbing.

ETA: One other thing that occurs to me, though, is the opening comment that I am drawn to language because I like working with logical systems. I must say, I became interested in linguistics when I was an Army linguist, and in the similarities and differences between languages. In other words, I was interested in language as a sort of abstract subject for study, but was much less effective when it came to actually speaking and conversing in the language with other people. So that seems to be pretty spot-on as well.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011


It's been a few months now since I stopped posting weekly features here and put all my eggs in the Hero Go Home basket. Now I'm about 2 1/2 months out from finishing the novel, and I need to start thinking seriously about where to go from there. Call it quits on the website and move everything back here? Or develop a new storyline and continue to hope it finds an audience?

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Electronic Attack and a Painful Memory Lapse

So I've mentioned that I'm now working part-time at a big box retailer. Last night, something odd happened that had me flashing back to the Army. See, we use portable radio transceivers in the store. Okay, walkie-talkies. So last night, someone came onto our channels and started saying he was Kermit the Frog, asking if anyone had ever made it with a puppet and talking about condoms and crap.

Which was annoying, but slightly entertaining. But as time went on, he interrupted more frequently, and by the time he announced he would be reading from Alan Ginsburg's Howl, I was seriously hoping they called the cops on the jerk. And I was hoping that when the cops caught him, they would give us all the chance to take turns kicking this kid in the balls. I mean, seriously, Howl? It's like the Starcrash of poetry.

Of course, later I felt a little sorry for the pathetic turd. I mean, it's Saturday night, and this is all you can think of to do with it? Sit in a shopping center parking lot with a walkie-talkie, reading Howl and fapping (one of the girls was sure she heard him doing that as well)?

But the Army flashback... I was in signal intelligence, and one of the jobs there was radio jamming. And basically all radio jamming is, is taking a stronger signal and using it to overwhelm a weaker signal. In true Army fashion, they have a boring official name for it, though this one's cooler than most: Electronic Attack. His signal didn't seem much stronger than ours, but it was strong enough that it would interfere with ours.

Another function of jammers is something they called ICD when I was in, Imitative Communications Deception. Basically, getting on the radio and pretending to be the enemy, calling in false reports and false orders. Which is what this guy was doing, sort of, at least when he started. After he'd been on a while, I started thinking back to my Army days, wondering whether I could rig up some sort of directional antenna so I could triangulate on his position.

But in the end, we settled on another accepted military practice, switching to a backup frequency and observing communications discipline, keeping communications to a minimum (which I kind of wish we would do all the time).

Oh yeah, and at some point, someone offered me some gum. I broke a tooth about three and a half years ago, which has been slowly decaying ever since. Every few months, I have another little chunk break off in my mouth. A few months ago, I had to stop chewing on that side, because it was bothersome. Lately, it's been downright painful.

But I hadn't chewed a piece of gum in a long time, and I thought, "No problem. I'll just keep it on the other side of my mouth." And I was fine for about five minutes or so. Then I absent-mindedly let it switch to the other side.

The pain was blinding. I seriously thought I might have to go home for a second there. But we were already short-handed, and I really need the money, so I stayed, and about ten minutes later, I was fine again.

But wow. No more gum until I get this fixed.

Friday, April 01, 2011

Sucker Punch AAR and Other Crap

So I went to see "Sucker Punch," and I'm really not sure how to evaluate it. It's a film that tells a sad, bitter, complex story wrapped within a loud, dumb story structured like an 8-bit Nintendo videogame. And there's a tension between those two things that keeps me from fully embracing either side. It's like "Brazil" without the satire, in some ways, but with sequences of awesome action punctuated by some really excellent music.

Although I still get irritated at director Zack Snyder in the way he cannot let an action sequence go by without slowing or stopping time every two seconds. It's like watching a football or basketball game where the refs are continuously calling penalties and stopping the action. At some point in the third or fourth action sequence, I was going, "Just let them play, already."

So anyway, it's not as dumb as the people who can't get past the surface dismiss it as, but I can't embrace it the way some folks I know have. And maybe that's just because I find the message disturbing, which seems to be, '"You can't ever win, but you can find happiness in illusions." Because though I'd like to, I can't.

But at this point, I should count myself lucky that I actually did see the right movie. Because when the trailers started, I wasn't sure I was in the right theater. First, there was a trailer for what was apparently supposed to be a romantic comedy starring Russell Brand. Never mind the fact that I still don't know what Russell Brand's supposed to be famous for, other than hosting the MTV Movie Awards that time or something. The few times I've had to endure him on TV, I found him to be fully as appealing and talented as Tom Green (Who? Exactly...). So I'm watching this trailer where British Lurch is trying to be all cute and appealing, and where they've actually cast Jennifer Garner as the villain (what's that about?), and then imagine my horror to discover that this is actually supposed to be a remake of the 1981 Dudley Moore comedy, "Arthur." No.

This was followed by a trailer for "The Hangover II," the sequel to another comedy I've never seen, and I actually had to turn to Sargon and ask if we were in the right theater, because the trailers seemed to have no common thread with the film we were there to watch, and certainly didn't appeal to me in any way. The next few trailers included "Fast Five," the fifth "Fast and Furious" movie, so at least we were in the right theater, although still not appealing.

And then there was a trailer for a new remake of "The Three Musketeers." I know this, because the trailer mentions musketeers, and that there are three of them, and also names D'Artagnan. But my God, the story hinted at in the clips was completely unrecognizable. There were explosions and bullet-time kung fu-type stuff and a flying airship and some kind of arrangement of dozens of muskets firing in sequence like a machine gun, and I think there may have been some kind of robot casting magic spells, I don't know. I do know that when they finally showed that the title was indeed "Three Musketeers," I turned to Sargon and said something to the effect of, "What the hell?" Which, by the way, let me clarify. What I meant was, "What the HELL?"