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Monday, November 30, 2009

Where the hell...

... did the last four days go?

I swear, it was Thanksgiving -- which felt like Saturday -- and then Sunday, and then Sunday again, and then Sunday AGAIN. And amazingly, the only thing I managed to get done this entire stinking weekend was put up Christmas lights.

I am so over Christmas lights.

Anyway. As of this moment I am busting my ass trying to wrap up Chapter 4 of Curse/Or for my mini-NaNoMo. And I figure that if I don't sleep until I'm done, then it's technically still Nov 30 and not Dec 1, so I'm not late.

Neener.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

One more thing

I meant to post this a few weeks back but I forgot.

What does this image suggest to you?


If you said "a map of the neurons of the brain," you're on the right track, but you'd be wrong. This and this are neural maps of the brain. The above picture is actually a "Visualization of the various routes through a portion of the Internet."

If you've ever wondered how I come up with my ideas, this is how. I see something and I go, "Huh, that looks like something else I know." I am constantly seeing patterns and associations that others don't.

It's a wonder I haven't gone insane, or become a conspiracy theorist. But I'm a writer, which is close enough.

More on Netty

OK, so some of you may have gotten a feel for how Netty -- the sapient anthropomorphication of the Internet -- looks and acts. If not, I give you these handy YouTubes for clarification.


This is how Netty sounds, in terms of vocabulary and cadence, though not specifically in timbre or pitch:


Link.



And this is how Netty looks, in terms of body language and androgynous fashion:


Link.


I hope this has been both informative and entertaining.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Curse/Or, Ch4 Sc2: Impossible

"You bastard." The tightness in Teresa's chest made it hard to breathe, let alone speak. Her bandaged hand clenched around the lighter burnt into her palm, sending delicious spasms of pain racing up her arm. She imagined Yarrow's phone burning, its screen blackening and case warping, as overheating electronics consumed it from the inside out. The toxic smoke would boil out of the speaker like a shark pup eating its way through its mother's womb, and once into the cabin of Esther's ridiculously oversized car it would choke the passengers with stinging tendrils of cancer forced down their throats…

And then Teresa's head jerked to the right as Esther slapped her, hard, across the face. The sound was thunderous and meaty, and it echoed in the closeness of the station wagon. It was the kind of slap a mother on her last nerve would deliver to the buttocks of an unruly child; the kind which would strip away all dignity from the recipient as everyone within earshot turned to see who was getting spanked. It was discipline in its purest, most primeval form.

Teresa spun, furious beyond belief, and –

"No," Esther said, softly but forcefully. "I am sick unto death of your temper tantrums, Reecy. There won't be any witchcraft in my car. There won't be any more fighting, or screaming, or breaking things." She raised her tiny hand in emphasis, and Teresa could see the delicate network of veins that crackled across the wrinkled skin. "Or so help me, baby, I will turn you over my knee, you just see if I won't."

Teresa just sat there, gawking. Her entire jaw ached, the skin of her cheek blazing like a fresh sunburn. She managed to nod, numbly, when Esther's raised eyebrows indicated the desire for an answer to her ultimatum. All Teresa knew at that moment was that she didn't want to be hit again. Her anger had been replaced with a cold inability to process what had just happened, and she struggled to assemble her thoughts into something coherent.

"I do beg your pardon," mumbled Netty from the floor, "but would someone mind terribly telling me what just transpired?" Teresa had dropped the phone when Esther slapped her and it now lay, face-down, on the floor by the old woman's feet. It left a scorched patch on the carpet when she picked it up, the warm plastic ripping out carpet fibers with a sound like Velcro tearing. Esther's nose crinkled disapprovingly and she shot a withering glare at Teresa.

"Brain reboot," giggled Yarrow. "Fulcrum gave her the three-fingered salute."

"Never you mind that, Mister Netty," Esther cooed into the phone, suddenly all sweetness and light. "Just had to do a little housekeeping. But that's all settled now, and Miss Reecy here is gonna sit quietly and listen to all you have to say." She pointed the phone at the woman in question. "Isn't that right, baby?"

Teresa nodded again. "Yeah. I wanna hear how you plan to raise the fucking dead," she sneered, then stuck her tongue out at Esther when the older woman frowned at her coarseness. Swearing was apparently still possible, even under the Voice-induced prohibition against misbehaving. She filed that away for future reference.

Netty cleared its throat in a decidedly prim manner. "Now then, I never said anything about Necromancy, just that I would be able to return your son to you. Allow me to explain." It held an impeccably manicured hand up in a conciliatory gesture.

A blackboard materialized behind Netty."Information is energy," it began, writing equations with chalk. "I can prove this mathematically but that will take longer than your patience will hold. Suffice it to say that Einstein has already proven that matter is energy" – with that, Netty tapped the familiar E=MC^2 equation – "so if all things are merely slow, solid forms of energy, then the manner in which those slow, solid forms are arrayed is what we would call information. And physics states that energy is neither created nor destroyed, just rearranged. Therefore, information is never truly lost." With a flourish, Netty finished writing equations and turned to look at Teresa, a triumphant expression upon its face.

"Uh," said Teresa eloquently. "What?"

Netty pinched its eyes closed and sighed dramatically. "Your son isn't truly gone, just in a different energy state. Given enough time, I can reverse that, and thus return him to you." Netty's smile returned, an impossibly brilliant white span of perfect teeth. "Would you consider that sufficient payment for your time and effort on my behalf?"

She considered this a moment, chewing on the chapped skin of her bottom lip. "Proof," she said finally. "I want proof you can do this, and not just blowing sunshine up my ass."

"I thought you might say as much." Netty looked far more smug than any human, male or female, in a flower-print frock had any right being. "Yarrow? The book, if you please."

Yarrow picked something up from his lap with his right hand and passed it over the seatback to Teresa. It was several inches thick, the spine laced together with blue ribbon and pages that felt like construction paper. She lifted the brown leatherette cover.

TOMAS LUIS REYES, said the birth certificate, and under it was the I.D. bracelet her son had worn home from the hospital. On the page opposite was a photograph of a newborn boy, and below that was the little knit cap which had kept his head warm.

It couldn't be, she thought, immediately dismissing it as a forgery. Anyone could have a bought a cap like that. But… there, near the brim, was the stitch she'd dropped when she'd made it and was learning to knit for the first time. And the way the peak was slightly stiff, because Tommy had liked to pull it off and chew on it.

She held it to her face and inhaled. It smelled just like she remembered, of baby shampoo and little-boy hair, a smell she had been unable to forget for the past two decades.

"Impossible," she said, choking on tears, her breath ragged. "This cap burned in the fire. Everything burned. There's no way you could have found this."

"Exactly," said Netty. "Impossible. But there it is, nonetheless."

The deal was struck.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

WNW: Sued for TWO BEEEELION DOLLARS!

Jeez, it seems like I am perpetually a day late. I should move to Australia, where it's already Tomorrow, and therefore when I'm a slackass and running late I could still manage to be on time.

Speaking of Australia, I wonder if they think of New Zealand the way we think of Canada? But I digress.

Anyway. This video... it's long. Like, over thirty minutes long. However, it's well worth the time to watch, because it's funny and informative, and it ties into ideas I want to follow up on with Curse/Or, like "On the Internet, nothing ever really dies or is lost, it just changes format".

So.... enjoy, and stuff.

That Awesome Time I Was Sued for Two Billion Dollars from Jason Scott on Vimeo.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Zzzzzz

Blarg.

I know I haven't been posting much, and that bothers me. I haven't had much progress with Chapter 4, either.

The biggest problem is that I'm so damn tired all the time. I swear, I'm sleeping between 12 and 14 hours a day and I still feel tired. It might be depression, but it doesn't feel like depression. I say that because I've been depressed on top of being tired, and then the depression went away, and I'm still tired.

So I'm thinking that either my body rhythms are totally fucked for some unknown reason, or I'm some kind of sick and don't know it, or possibly my mild hypoglycemia is getting worse. Just in case it's that last one, I've been eating snacks on a regular schedule. It seems to be helping, but slowly.

I'm seeing someone about this tomorrow, but it's not a "real" doctor (because I can't afford one), it's a chiropractor/nutritionist. It's the best I can do under the circumstances.

Anyway... I haven't forgotten about you guys. Still working on Curse/Or. Camel is still being a major bitch, because god damn she doesn't play well with the other characters. It's like every time I want her to sit nicely and ask questions, she throws a tantrum that involves things breaking or being set on fire.

Sigh.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Maneuver

Maneuver
(A short science fiction war story, written in observance of Veteran's Day)


We were launched from the Hive like thirty buzzing, angry bees which flew at hypersonic velocity.

We didn't know what our target was. In fact, up until this instant, we had no idea we were even in a battle at all; protocol called for all DF-12s (official designation: Apis) to be kept in a low-energy hibernation state, with just a trickle of power to maintain vital systems, in order to preserve longevity and battle-readiness. But the ships that held us could be armed and launched in seconds, and we their pilots would have plenty of time to wake up and assess the situation as we accelerated towards our targets.

Telemetry from the mothership streamed across my instruments. It was going to be a long flight; over 20 minutes of constant thrust just to close to interception range of my target, and then however long it took to maneuver through its flak shield and point-defense systems to strike its exposed engines. If I missed, turning around for a second pass would be all but impossible. I was accelerating at nearly 10 gees, and after nearly a half -hour of that I would have built up such inertia that it would exhaust my fuel reserves to overcome it.

Vector plotted, weapons armed, countermeasures at the ready. I would have only once chance at this and I knew I would make it count. With 15 minutes of mindless acceleration ahead of me, I dozed. I would need all the power I could squeeze from my Apis when we reached the Interdiction Zone.

Ten minutes out. My target, an Aegis-class Battlecruiser, was sweeping with active sensors and my instruments were pinging like mad. Our swarm had been detected. Acting on a hunch, I performed a one-second maneuvering burn, nudging me starboard and downwards. Three swarmmates performed similar operations. At my current speed, even a one degree change in my original vector will be significant.

Five minutes out. A flash of electromagnetic radiation shows that those members of my swarm which didn't deviate from their original vector have been destroyed by a nuclear-tipped interceptor missile. For the briefest of microseconds I ping my target with active sensors, hoping the EM noise of the nuke will mask my scanning. I plot a solution through the defense grid.

One minute out. My swarmmates and I deploy chaff and other passive countermeasures. We know we've been spotted; our only hope for survival is to hide our actual numbers behind sensor noise. Are there a hundred of us on this vector, or just one? The Aegis has no way of knowing, and there are more of us than she has interceptor missiles. We are the Apis, the Killer Bees of legend; we are legion but swarm as one. Fighting us is like fighting a cloud.

Thirty seconds out. A too-close strike has destroyed the three DF-12s with me, and most of the chaff. I survived only by luck of being on the side farthest from the explosion.

Ten seconds out. I kill the throttle. Inertia will carry me the rest of the way; no sense in lighting up their gunsights with an active plume of thrust.

One second out. Sensors active, weapons hot. Engaging. I launch counter-flak rockets ahead of me, clearing my vector like a shotgun blast with directed explosions of shrapnel. My lasers target gunnery-pod sensors and blind them. Particle guns scramble the delicate electronics of point-defense missiles.

I'm hit. Thrust and control are gone; the g-stresses on my compromised spaceframe will tear me apart in milliseconds. As my nose tumbles wildly, I make the necessary calculations. I have only one shot at this.

Target lock anticipated in 5 microseconds. When that happens, the nuclear bomb I am carrying will detonate, energizing the X-Ray laser in my nose and firing at the Aegis' engines. My mission will be accomplished.

That this will result in my destruction does not concern me, for I am not alive. I am an Apis DF-12 Drone Fighter. I feel no pain and do not fear death. This is my purpose, to die for my people rather than have people die for me.

Dulce et decorum est pro patria mori.

Friday, November 6, 2009

Anger mixed with anguish

My thoughts and prayers are with the soldiers of the Fort Hood massacre and their families.

I will try to post something more fitting when I can manage a thought more coherent than "Oh, those poor people" or "Torture the motherfucker who did this." I know that the latter is neither fair nor rational, but I don't really give a shit at this moment.

For those who don't know, I am an Army brat. I grew up on various bases in Europe during the 80s. In fact, my father helped develop both the Fulda Gap strategy and the ReForGer exercise.

I even had a brief stint in Army ROTC during college. I probably would have joined, but I was deemed medically unfit in my junior year.

So in a real way, these people are my brothers and sisters, and the rage I feel is the same as when a member of my immediate family is hurt. And I'm glad people with heads clearer than mine are in charge, because I wouldn't trust myself were I guarding Major Hassan.

True story: When I was a frosh in college, one of my classes -- I think it was Comp & Lit, but I'm not certain -- had the typical ethical exercise of "You've captured a terrorist who knows about a nuclear bomb set to blow up in a major city. Is it ethical to have him tortured?" (Note: this was back in 1991 or so.)

There was the expected hemming and waffling and hand-wringing about human rights and if the ends justified the means and etcetera. When it was my turn, I spoke my mind and I swear you could hear a pin drop in that classroom.

What I said was this: "Hand me the pliers; I'll torture him myself." And I meant every word.

So that should let you know what kind of person I am and what mood I'm in.

Stay strong, my brothers. HOOAH!

Thursday, November 5, 2009

A Week of Champions Online, part 3

Thursday (see what I did there?)
Having figured out where in the seething mass of radioactive hillbilly mayhem I am supposed to go, the rest of the second of the tutorial zones plays fairly easily.

Almost TOO easily, if you ask me, because it by the time you exit you have single-handedly defeated a supervillain, and this gives you the impression of actually being competent in combat. This is a dangerous supposition and in many cases could not be further from the truth.

This brings me to the first of my many gripes about this game: Unless you have exactly the right build and/or know exactly how to game the system, Emmert's Law is in effect. For those of you who never played City of Heroes, Emmert's Law is this:

Three minions equals one hero.

Prepare to get your ass kicked, repeatedly, in this game. If you think you can dive into a crowd of thugs and bust some heads like Batman or Daredevil, you are in for a long and frustrating ride.* Sure, you can get there -- eventually -- but from about levels 5-13 you will have to kite or pick off guys one at a time. I suppose this has the benefit of teaching proper tactics at an early level while learning is still occurring, rather than later when bad habits will have to be overcome, but it is damn frustrating when my martial artist, who is faster, stronger, and more agile than any Olympian, routinely has her ass handed to her by three or more toothless, radioactive hicks who use poor syntax.

Which is my second complaint about the game: Everything is so damn punny and self-referential and precious. Damn near every mission has some kind of cute title, even the ones in the tutorial. Case in point: when you go to the SWAT Sergeant to be taught how to block (why this is a mission, I don't know), it's called "Chip off the old." And if you think that's bad, wait until you get into the main instances, where (for example) you end up at an Old West-themed amusement park where you have to fight robotic cowboys. Or, in the frozen wilds of Canada, you can end up facing down a pack of vicious Velociraptors.

I'll say that again: cold-blooded dinosaurs in the snow. I don't know if the mission designers are deliberately trying to hearken back to screwball silver-age plots, or if they just don't give a damn and threw stuff together at the 11th hour. Again, I refer you to Shamus Young's excellent series for a more detailed look at this, including a plot regarding "Nanite-Infused Poutine Gravy."

I wish to Sweet, Buttery Eris that I was making this up.

The third thing which bothers me is that most of the missions are of the "Go do this deed in that outdoor area" rather than being a separate instance. Call me an antisocial troglodyte if you must, but I am appalled at the notion of going to a location for a mission, only to find that someone else has already done it and I must wait for it to respawn. Or even worse, I'm in the middle of performing my mission only to have some other player come along and cut into my action.

This is my mission, I think to myself. Kindly wait until I'm done before you butt in. If I didn't want to solo I would have gotten a team.

And given the extreme amounts of lag this game can suffer when lots of people are on -- like, say, during the weekend -- it seems to me that it would have been a good idea to have more instances. Instead, they "solve" this by having several instances of outdoor zones. I understand this lessens the server load, but does precious little for me when I'm lagging like crazy. If I have to constantly flee to fresher instances to get decent response time, something is dreadfully wrong, especially when it could have been avoided by having more "indoor" missions.

Given the level of computing technology in 2009, I'm astounded that I don't have the option for having the entire outdoor zone be a separate instance for me and whatever teammates I choose (not) to have along.

But then, I'm pretty obviously not the target demographic here, since I'm playing a massively multiplayer game solo. It's very strange, I admit. I complain about the zones being quiet, but I don't want to play with people I don't know. This is just how I am: I would prefer to get to know people through zone or chat channel, and then decide if I want to team up with them. I suspect the design philosophy of CO is exactly opposite that: they have large outdoor zones where you are guaranteed to run into other people trying to accomplish the same task, and logic suggests you all go "Hey! Let's all team up! We can complete all our quests faster and easier that way, and learn an important lesson about cooperation in the process!"

I imagine this approach works well for folks better socialized that I, but all it makes me do is hang back and wait until all these annoying people have left so that I can bust some heads in my own unique (and solo) style.

Screw you, multiplayer game. I'll be solitary if I want.


Coming Next: I grouse about powers (and lack thereof.)




* I'm not going to claim that City of Heroes is perfect in this regard, but I don't ever recall having a combat-centric character be thrashed so thoroughly by same-level mooks as in this game.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Some Random Curse/Or themed pictures

I tried to get in some writing today, but I ended up spending several hours wrestling with a character with little to show for it. Oh, Camel, why must you be such a stubborn, obstreperous bitch?*


To that end, I give you pictures!


Esther's station wagon, a 1974 Chrysler Town & Country.




Don't let Camel get her hands on these!

A method for smoking an entire pack of cigarettes at once, circa 1955.


A device for smoking a cigarette in the rain, circa 1954








*Because that's the way I built her. Sigh.

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