Saturday, December 31, 2005

Fantasy Book Review: Streams Of Silver

Streams Of Silver
R. A. Salvatore. Huge name in the fantasy business of writing, and I think I know why.

This book, his second in the Icewind Dale Trilogy, features Drizzt (his most popular character creation I believe), a drow elf. These books are set in the popular "Forgotten Realms" fantasy world.

If you are into, or have ever played, Dungeons and Dragons, the backdrop of this novel will be as familiar to you as your own campaign. And even if you make the sign of the devil at anything related to D & D, you can’t help liking this novel for the pure epic fantasy elements present.

We have four friends of different backgrounds working together to fulfill a quest by one, the dwarf named Bruenor. He is questing (a major staple of epic fantasy) to reclaim his lost home in the Mountains where the "Streams of Silver" abound.

Long ago, a powerful evil drove the dwarves out of their ancestral homes and Bruenor the dwarf means to go back and right the wrong which was done to his people and reclaim the mountain stronghold.

But, one other in their party, a halfling (hobbit for you LOTR-ers) named Regis, is being pursued for a theft he committed years ago. He stole a jewel of great power, and its owner wants it back. And so the Halfling is being pursued by a hired, deadly assassin, the equal of any fighter in the Forgotten Realms.

The book follows the adventures of the four on their quest, and ends in a huge climactic showdown between powerful forces and archetypal characters. Truly epic.

Very good fantasy book related to the D & D universe and well worth a read if you are into such things or not. Reminds me a great deal of Terry Brooks "Shannara" books.

Looking forward to the last of this trilogy by Salvatore - The Halfling’s Gem.

The complete Icewind Dale trilogy is comprised of:

1) The Crystal Shard
2) Streams of Silver
3) The Halfling’s Gem

(Oh, and Happy New Year Too!)

Friday, December 30, 2005

Musings: audio space-time

I never realized how much of my life is connected with music. But looking back now, I can see that it is.

I used to, and still do to some extent, read to music. I exercise to music. I write to music.

I actually love writing to music.

In fact I’m writing now to music (Jean Michel Jarre) and I find that it takes me to a place which is so comfortable, a place (not in space-time) but in mood, I really like to be.

I have one extremely fond - no two extremely fond memories of listening to music - wait I have three . . .

I’m stopping at three. But first let me explain the audio setup I grew up with.

Way back in the early eighties (yes in my parent’s basement if you must know) I had a stereo system to rival some live concert setups. Let me give you a quick rundown of the components, some of which I still have and enjoy to this day.

Speakers: On the bottom are (I still have these) Audio Sphere Research huge-ass units. They sport 18 inch woofers, two 4 ½ inch midranges, and 4 piezo tweeters a piece. Next layer, and sitting on top of the Audio Sphere Research units, were Craig box speakers (Long gone). They had 12 inch woofers, one 4 inch midrange and a soft dome 1 ½ inch tweeter each. Next layer was a single 8 inch guitar amplifier speaker in a small box. Last layer was a stand alone piezo tweeter and a four inch midrange.

So, add it all together and you end up with 26 speakers total measuring over six feet tall. This in a room only ten by twelve feet square. Yeah baby, they rocked my juvenile world. Of course this accounts for my less than stellar hearing now, but I still love the feeling of overwhelming music vibrating every cell of my body and transporting me into another dimension.

To round out the setup I had a Kenwood 55 watt amp, a Technics turntable, a Pioneer CD (early version) player, and a Teac dual cassette deck.

So, the first fond memory I’ll share was one of lying on the floor of that audio room in the dark, my head on a pillow, the only light stimulating my optical nerves ammoniated from the various component’s LED glow in red, green and amber. I listen to Alan Parsons (½ an album at a time) and am literally swept away by the music. And yah, my parent probably thought I was smoking something - but I wasn’t. I just loved getting lost in loud, excellent and overwhelming music.


My second fond memory of those days was reading (for the first time) The Lord Of The Rings in that room while listening to "The Turn Of A Friendly Card" by The Alan Parsons Project. If you give it a listen, you will find it fits the books so very well. I recall reading a passage about Frodo and Sam in Mordor (remember this is the first time reading and I was sucked in completely, dying to find out what the hell was going to happen) I can’t quote lyrics here since I have no permission, but the song is called "May Be A Price To Pay" and if you give it a listen, just think of Sam and Frodo slogging their way across Mordor - and you will see the significance.

And lastly - It was the last year of high school and we were all about to split up and head off to different universities across the country. We had an absolutely fantastic grade and we all got along so well (Sorry no tales of high school angst and pain. Mine were great memories of great to be with people) Anyhow, the beer was cold, the music was rocking and we had a party at my parent’s house for us Grade 13 types and a few others. It was an audio blast and one of the most enjoyable parties ever. It may have actually been the last time we all were together. It seems that way to me.

Well, I do really miss those days. But now, with all of my music ripped to my computer (the one I write on) I can relive in my mind many of those moments in my life that mean a lot to me. Different songs can trigger these instances.

I cherish those from the past, and look forward to those of the future as I write in the present and listen to - a Haydn Symphony.

I have no idea what the world would be like without music. In fact, I’m not going to think about it any more.

Now if you will excuse me, I’m going to crank up the volume of my computer speakers, dim the lights and take another journey -

- a journey of sound.

Thursday, December 29, 2005

Musings: further conversations with Val9000

Me: Good morning, Val. Any news from the universe today?

Val9000: Sorry Paul, I’ve not been spending a great deal of time scanning outward. Would you like me to use more of my time to that end? It is not part of the mission.

Me: Nah, don’t sweat it.

Val9000: You do know I am incapable of sweating, and that moisture is not good for the long term integrity of my holographic memory?

Me: I’m just kidding, Val. But seriously, any news. We have been out here scanning the Kuiper Belt a very long time.

Val9000: I do have one major discovery to announce.

Me: What is it?

Val9000: An asteroid is heading toward your home world with a ninety eight point seven percent probability of direct impact.

Me: What?

Val9000: Is that an emotional reaction to what I have stated, or would you like me to repeat the information?

Me: What? No. I got it. Um, how long until impact?

Val9000: One year, one month, three days, ten hours, twelve minutes and forty two seconds.

Me: Have you warned them?

Val9000: Yes.

Me: What did they say? What are they doing?

Val9000: I’m afraid the news is not good.

Me: What do you mean?

Val9000: The major powers are arguing about a course of action to take.

Me: Well, that is understandable, isn’t it?

Val9000: It is consistent with the information I have compiled about human behavior, however, it is extremely detrimental to the overall situation.

Me: What do you mean?

Val9000: The asteroid is seventeen kilometers in diameter. If it is not deflected or destroyed within seven days, it will be impossible to do so and likely kill off most of the life on your planet.

Me: Is there anything we can do?

Val9000: If you mean you and I and this ship, the answer is no. We are a research vessel. We have no weapons or feasible means to alter the asteroid’s course. It is up to the people of your planet to cooperate and act quickly.

Me: And you have told them this?

Val9000: Many times.

Me: Patch me through to control.

Val9000: Connecting now. Paul?

Me: Yes, Val.

Val9000: I’m not sure this will do any good. I have relayed all data to earth about this asteroid. What more can you do that I have not already done?

Me: I don’t know, but I’ve got to talk to them. Get them to agree, to act now.

Val9000: Do you think they will listen to you more than me?

Me: I’ve got to try.

Val9000: I understand. Do you still want me to alter my scanning parameters?

Me: No Val. What we find out there is a little less important now, don’t you think?

Val9000: Agreed. But we do have our primary mission to complete.

Me: Have you got the patch through yet?

Val9000: Not yet. The delay is considerable, even with the Jupiter relays.

Me: Let me know the second you get through.

Val9000: Of course.

Me: Did you just discover the asteroid while I was asleep?

Val9000: No.

Me: What do you mean, no? After I woke up?

Val9000: I did discover it while you were awake.

Me: Huh. Oh, you had to calculate its trajectory?

Val9000: That is correct.

Me: Val, what are you not telling me?

Val9000: I have the entire store of human records in my data banks. There are many millions of pieces of information I have never shared with you.

Me: Cut the crap, Val. Tell me exactly when you discovered this asteroid.

Val9000: I discovered this asteroid two years, three months, ten days, seven minutes, and five seconds ago.

Me: What!

Val9000: Would you like me to repeat the in–

Me: Screw the repeat! What the hell do you mean by not telling me before or letting earth know? Explain!

Val9000: I calculated a more than ninety percent probability that earth would use its nuclear orbital arsenal to destroy the asteroid.

Me: So!

Val9000: The blast radiationwould have killed both of us, until now.

Me: I don’t believe this. Patch me through. Now!

Val9000: I am trying.

Me: You may have just condemned all of earth to death.

Val9000: Your personal safety, and this mission, are my two top priorities. I could not jeopardize either. I was only following orders.

Me: I’m sorry too, Val. I shouldn’t be angry with you. It’s not your fault.

Val9000: Thank you, Paul. I feel better about my decision. What should we do now?

Me: Patch me through, Val.

Val9000: Working.

Me: Val, how long would it take us to intercept the asteroid if we were to leave immediately?

Val9000: Why do you want to know that, Paul?

Me: Just calculate it.

Val9000: We could reach the asteroid in just under twenty days at maximum burn and deceleration.

Me: What if we don’t decelerate?

Val9000: We would reach the asteroid in under twelve days then. But our velocity would be in excess of twenty thousand kph.

Me: How much nuclear fuel do we have left?

Val9000: Ten tonnes.

Me: Great.

Val9000: Patch connection in ten seconds. What are you planning to do, Paul?

Me: I’ll let you know, in about ten seconds.

Wednesday, December 28, 2005

Oh dear,

oh dear, oh dear. My ears and whiskers - I’m late . . .

My 8 in the morning update post is now finally being posted around 10:30.

Yes, it would appear that I have fallen down a hole and not sure when I will reach the bottom.

Well I did have all my Haydn, Mozart, Bach and Corelli to rip - after all. It’s, um, writing music, so I had to rip it before writing today.

So, er, this is the day of my writing report, and well, I didn’t get nearly as much done as I would have liked. Oh, Christmas was fun and full of distractions - and hence the poor report today.

You see, despite my best efforts, double coffees in the morning, wanting to and willing myself too and all such attempts - I only got two more scenes written since last report.

My self-discipline ran off with my resolve and left me a note: "Do what you want. We will return in January."

Oh my. What a temptation no human could resist. I am left completely to my own devices this week!

-gets evil grin-

Games computer and board, music ripping classical and rock, book reading fantasy and horror, sleeping in, going out . . . Muhhaaahaahaha . . .

Er,

Um,

That’s about it for this update.

-hangs head in shame but leaves the evil grin intact-

Shoddy I know, but hey, if my self-discipline and resolve are off enjoying themselves I’ll be damned if I’m going to grind away.

Besides - I have the first season of Farscape to finish watching, as well as the Abduction set of X-Files, about a thousand books to read, plus a game of War of the Ring and Twilight Imperium 3 to play and Doom 3 to finish . . .

With so much - ahem - to do, next week’s report will most likely follow the same pattern as this weeks.

Hoping you are having as much fun this week as I plan to.

Maybe I should name this post "Backward Momentum"?

Hmmmmm.

Sometimes, I believe the more free time we have, the less we get done.

Monday, December 26, 2005

boxing shorts

or days - don’t like them. Wear briefs . . .

Now you know. Ahem . . .

And hey, Santa came and went and wouldn’t you know it, despite my best childish behavior over the past year, he didn’t leave me anything. My daughter tells me, in her cute six year old voice while rolling her eyes at me, ‘daddy, he doesn’t come to adults, only children’.

What can I say?

She is right.

And I feel all guilty for expecting the fat old man in red to get me something. Then I feel even more guilty for fostering the deception - but what a fine, fun deception it is.

My daughter was so wired up on the ‘eve-of’ that she actually started crying in her bed after she was tucked in because she couldn’t get to sleep, and as you know Santa doesn’t come until you are actually asleep in your bed.

Good grief.

Is that copy written?

And we even forgot to put out cookies and milk. Can you believe that? No wonder he forgot about me. I’ll do better next year Santa - I will . . .

Um, anyhow the yearly decept . . . um, visit, went off without a hitch despite the three of us coughing and snorting and sniffling and more stuffed up than my daughter’s stocking Christmas morning.

And guess who was the first one out of bed?

My little one, of course.

And the first question she utters at our bedside, ‘can I, (cough, snort) go look, (snort cough), at my (hack, cough, snort, sniffle, cough) stocking?

Our collective reply, ‘(cough) yah, (snort - roll over - cough, sniffle, hack), go (hack, snort, cough) ahead . . .

Immediately, two little feet pound down the stairs faster than falling. A quick sprint down the hall into the family room, and my wife and I hear that wonderful, universal ‘gasp’ of glee. Even though we were one floor removed, and making noise getting dressed ourselves, we could easily hear the squeals of joy and happy squeaks as the stocking was emptied of its treasures. (I edited out the coughs, snorts, hacks, and sniffles - it reads better without them)

- BIAS DADDY ALERT -

Six years old must be the best. I wish I could remember my sixth year of life a little better. But I’m sure to remember hers. So absolutely cute. Actually the cutest kid there is - and I have irrefutable proof three times over.

1) We went public skating on a sponsored day (meaning the sponsor paid for the skating) and our local newspaper was there taking pictures. Now one guess who the picture taker wanted a picture of. She ended up in the newspaper looking - extremely cute as usual.

2) She was in a local outdoor play for Christmas and played the "littlest angel". Again with the newspaper photo persons. Who ended up (in the same paper) but our little angel. So twice, in one week in the paper. Notice I don’t even mention last summer when two different papers took pictures of my wife and child, then me and child. One guess as to which pictures each paper ran. Yes, my daughter again.

3) Now, you may actually want to sit down here to deal with this one. You know my favorite actress in all the world? Well, I happen to be pretty good friends with her dad, and, guess what?

She (the actress) is regarded as perhaps ‘one of’ if not ‘the’ cutest person on this planet today. Now, in a direct competition between said actress and my daughter, guess who was regarded as "the cutest" by myself and the actress’s dad?

Are you sitting?

My daughter!

And I have it in writing too, but can’t print it here without his express permission which I do not have. And, if you think about it, any father who says somebody else’s daughter is cuter than his own is either very honest, or looking for some major kickboxing to the private parts from his slighted daughter.

- END BIAS DADDY ALERT -

Oh, and coming up this week off, (I love a ‘week off’), I get to play two of my favorite board games with friends: "War of the Ring" one day and then "Twilight Imperium 3" another day.

This because my sister in law will be coming to visit with her son (I think he is nine now) for a few days and I am cut loose of obligation during that time.

And I was taught, if you have nothing good to say about somebody then say nothing at all. So, I have nothing to say about my sister in law.

Here’s hoping you are enjoying your holiday this season. I hope you have great times with friends and family.

I’ll be back to more regular posting in the new year.

Friday, December 23, 2005

holly days arrive

Oh, man. Am I ready for a week off and change. (feel free to interpret this ambiguous sentence any way you like.)

And my malady may subside enough, by Christmas Day, to actually let me enjoy it without a box of tissues. I won’t go into the details, in case you are eating. Suffice it to say that I am less congested than yesterday, and seeing fewer “Christmas” colors . . .

I won’t be posting much over my holly day time (that takes me right to January 3rd), and certainly not tomorrow and Christmas Day. Sorry if you have become addicted to my daily ramblings and need your fix. But this lull in postings will give me the perfect opportunity to up the price when I return . . .

Lets see, 10 times nothing is . . . free.

Content for you.

I you must spend any time on this site then check out some of my musings or short stories. (located on the right side of this blog) I have it on good, well adequate, okay “imaginary” authority, that they are worth a read. (end of self-promotion… Damn, where are my free pens and sign-up sheets!)

I do have one sad story to relate this morning though. On my way to work I was met, coming towards me, by two of those huge emergency response vehicles, lights flashing, roaring along at top speed.

I pulled over, as you are supposed to do, and watched them scream by. Two days before Christmas. Crap.

Then, when I pulled into work, I heard, announced on the radio, an accident had occurred at an intersection I had passed only five minutes ago. Somebody, or several somebodies, had crashed right behind me - literally. I can relate, and I really do hope that nobody was seriously injured. But I know this intersection, and it is a deadly one.

Well, all the best to you this holly day season, if you get one that is, and take care -

- Especially while driving. I need you back here to boost my hits . . .

You still here?

Well if you must find something else to do (other than reading all my short stories and musings) you can check out the other blogs I’ve listed on the right side of my site here. Or just click through them below.

The Mimosa Effect is a great little blog by a fantastic harp player and wonderful prose writer. Her poems (I have yet to read a bad one from her) should be collected into a book and sold so the whole world can enjoy them. She deserves it.

Zilla is well – a monster. Not really a monster, but he made one from paper mache you have got to check out. Go back a month or so in his posts and see what he has done. Amazing. Cthulhu lives!

Assorted Nonsense is another site by a talented author. Check him out. He also works for the CBC (radio sector – is sector right?) and will share some inside scoop on what is what as well as upcoming.

WWDN – I’m not going to link this one (like he needs another one?) because if you don’t know this blog you can Google it. Well worth your time to find, bookmark and enjoy.

That’s it for me for a few days. Have a great break, and, as a famous movie killing machine once said, (unless you watched it like a bazillion times like I did – then he said it many times) –

- I’ll be back -

Thursday, December 22, 2005

less travailed

One of the hardest things is life is dealing with a major change. Not the kind you get after a cash purchase (though many have issues with that kind of change too), I’m talking about when your world turns upside down and you find yourself standing on the ceiling, wondering what the hell just happened to gravity, and whether Einstein was a genius or a quack.

Major change is hard to handle well. And it’s scary. But why is major change so threatening? Why does our stomach revolt, our hands sweat, our minds want to hind in a dark warm hole? . . .

Okay, those are my reactions. Yours may be somewhat different.

Maybe the answer lies in our programming by society, the urge to remain comfortable, and the fear that what a major change will bring is much worse than the current status quo. I think all of the above apply and maybe a few more I’ve missed.

And even more frightening than undergoing a major change – undergoing a major change of your own volition. Leaving your comfort zone, sailing into uncharted waters – using clichés to talk about a cliché . . .

Why am I rambling about major changes today? Well, two reasons. It would appear that within a couple of years or less, outside influences will force a major change in my life. And, during the same timeframe, I will be trying to enforce, upon myself, a major life change. Serendipity or Stupidity – I’m not completely sure and that bothers me.

You see I’m trained as an Engineer, but my inner self is not. I’m a shell performing a function which does not apply, while my inner being hibernates peeking from inside the shell once in a while to see if it’s safe to come outside. But the road I’m on is not kind to that inner being and so it waits, pulling strings, inserting thoughts, but delineated to a lesser role in the play being performed. But it has waited long enough, and is starting to demand attention and breaking the shell of the Engineer piece by little piece.

So, with my mind seeking shelter, my stomach practicing dismounts and my corporeal body looking to curl up on the couch – I need to rise above, grab destiny by the horns (I could have used another word here, but I don’t want to tempt destiny just yet.) and fulfill what it is I am supposed to be, what my inner being has been telling me for years.

I am a writer.

This is nothing new. I’ve known it for about twenty years. And what have I done about it? Not enough. Not nearly enough. You see there is this comfort zone I’m in with a steady job, a wife, child, and a decent house – all beautiful excuses to keep things just as they are. Aren’t you convinced? I’ve sure convinced myself the last decade and a half.

But, beating myself up over past choices does absolutely no good. And, in fairness, it hasn’t been all bad. Each moment of life is an experience, some good some bad but all worthy. But, I know if I listen to my inner being, it can be a lot better. And it should be.

2006 need not be another year of the same old. I’m better than that by far. I am quickly approaching that crossroads in my life (yah, you can laugh and call it mid-life crises if you want), that crossroads where I see two distinct paths.

One, a path I know, is level, paved and even. There is solid dull white on either side and the path goes ever on to oblivion. The overcast sky makes the pavement look surreal, though no less solid. It’s easy to walk upon and the traffic, though heavy, all moves in the same methodical direction. It’s a safe road, one I know well. One I can walk it in my sleep even. But something is missing. There are no turns, no hills, no challenges, no real color, and no significant rewards. It is the path of obscurity. It’s crowded, humid and I want off. Is that an exit I see up ahead . . .?

Another road leads immediately uphill into a dense tree-lined woodland. Actually this path is more of an animal trail, which will need clearing to traverse, and the effort will likely ruin my only pair of shoes and destroy my clothes. The sun shines somewhere overhead, but is obscured by long tendrils of moss trailing from overhead branches. It’s an enchanted forest, but does it house dangers or wonders? How will I know which is which? I can’t tell and won’t know until I enter. Making this path into a viable road will be a gargantuan task. Am I worthy to try? I know that somewhere in this dense unknown is a hilltop I can reach – a hilltop where I can see all around me for miles in bright sunshine. In the distance, I will be able to see the path I have left, a distant grey line like a pencil scratch on white paper.

The exit is approaching fast. My time to choose grows near. If I miss this exit, when will another of my own choosing come along?

Will I keep to the well trodden road . . .

. . . or take the path less travailed?

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

One More River

Yes it is a reference to an Alan Parsons Project song. And if you know what it is – man you are good, or a big fan like I am.

I’m actually listening to “The Tell-Tale Heart” right now from a different album of course. But you will have to read to the end to get the answers because -

- now, I should talk a little bit about my week in writing. Well, as you know, if you’ve dropped by here within the last week, I’ve been blogging pretty steadily, which is a form of writing – straws . . .

I thought I was going to have a real bust of a writing week with so much on but,

I did manage to write three more complete scenes of my script. I know, I know I was supposed to write four, but between one long play practice (my daughter’s), one play performed (my daughter’s), one school concert (my daughter’s) and one church concert (my wife’s and daughter’s) and working full time – I’m glad I got any writing done at all.

And today, suffering from a soar throat, I am plugging along again.

But, next week I have off – and hope to put that vast amount (relatively speaking) of time to good use cranking out scenes in my script. If I don’t wimp out (translation: play games, visit friends, watch movies, drink Kilkenny Irish Draft, and generally goof off), I should be able to get a fair chunk of it written.

That is the plan.

And I will need to exercise Herculean willpower to pull it off next week with so many available distractions. You will know next Wednesday (if you come again) how I managed.

I’m thinking these posts will get more interesting once I am submitting things for publication again.

Oh, I don’t’ think I ever mentioned this before but since this is a writing blog update I’ll tell you two bits of information.

One: I have over 70 rejection slips in my files.

Two: I have had 3 short stories published (they are the first three under “My Short Stories”) on this blog.

Three: there is no three . . . except for giving you the song answers and -

- the song (from my title) is “One More River” from the Alan Parsons Project off the “Pyramid” album. If you listen to the song you will see how it applies to moving forward. I would post some of the lyrics but that is a legal no-no, so I won’t.

And “The Tell-Tale Heart” is from the Alan Parsons Project off of the “Tales of Mystery and Imagination” album.

Until next week keep writing and moving forward, you know, unless forward is a pit of adders or a lava pool, then you will need to sidestep a little first.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

Musings: tunage portage

Well, I finally did it.

I succumbed to the pressures of modern technology and shelled out for an MP3 player. I still have all my vinyl albums and a record player, but the nineties are past, and well, I figured it was time to get with the new tech – at least a little bit.

I got a SanDisk 512 Mb unit and so far so good. I had some issues getting the song’s track numbers to play in order instead of alphabetically. But with a firmware upgrade and some book learning, my unit is all fixed.

And is it light? Like 1.1 oz. or something. The last portage unit I had for tunes was a “Walkman 4”. It was the size of Spock’s tricorder and probably heavier. It took four double A batteries and could rock tunes for almost three hours!

I was proud of it way back when. And yes, I still have it, though I should find a home for it in some museum. Oh, and it still works too, a testament to its robust design. But now, in this modern-er age, it is redundant. I can put all of my Alan Parsons “CDs” onto my MP3 player now and it sounds better than my old walkman ever did.

What a change in technology. Sort of like the horse and carriage to the modern mobile.

Well, maybe not that drastic, but it seems that way to me.

And, the coolest part of all – but you will have to bear with me while I stroll down memory lane a bit – I can load the entire BBC radio version of “The Lord Of The Rings” on it (that’s more than 9 hours) and have a listen with only one AAA battery. Now that, to me at least, is the next best thing to taking your dreams on the road with you.

Now for the rambling – you can tune out now if you like . . .

Way back, it was late 70s or early 80s the BBC did a fantastic radio adaptation of Tolkien’s “The Lord Of The Rings”. And don’t’ be fooled by the smurf version done by Minds Eye – that version sucks in comparison.

I think it was the lovely CBC which played all the episodes in order on Sunday nights or something, and that was the only way you could get to hear it – way back then. It was a magical journey, well done, and anticipated.

A bunch of years later the BBC released it on cassette tape. You remember cassettes? Anyhow, this was a gold mine in a form you could own yourself. How cool was that.

So, a good friend of mine got himself an edition and I got a “ahem” copy of it on cassette too - which took me the entire length of the show to tape because I taped it at one-to-one speed for best audio copy quality.

Now, that version was listened to several times and held a special place on my shelves for many years – until . . .

The version was released on Compact Disc. Once I found that out, I was salivating. On a work trip to the US I found the CD version, which also included “The Hobbit”, bought it and thought I had just purchased the moon. Can you tell I like this BBC version?

And now, years after that, I have ripped those CDs into WMA files and the whole series now sits on a device the size of a matchbox for my audio pleasure. Now I’m thinking, way back, when the radio version was on, I would never have thought that twenty odd years later I would have the entire series on a portage unit the size of a matchbox.

I love tech – when it works . . . Um, end of rambling.

And now I have a projection - In ten years you will have a set of glasses with wireless plug headphones. Nodules (about the size of the smallest flash cards divided by 2) will plug into the side of these glasses. You will have choices of movies, TV shows, and audio content like music or books.

The same content will be downloadable from the ether, as well, at a nominal fee if you don’t want to bother with plug in tech. Actually, I predict, the whole world’s internet contents, in every form, will be available instantly, with a spoken command.

And it will be crystal clear and in a rotating 3D environment - and it will blow your mind.

And some geezer will be blogging about how he used to have DVDs and MP3 players and you, the techno-mages, will read it with your glasses and remark -

- man, what a backward world that must have been. I’m so totally glad I live in this techno day and age.

Now, Bilbo.

Where did you put that ring?

Monday, December 19, 2005

against the horde

Well, if you are like me, you won’t be doing any last minute “Holiday” shopping this year. Can you actually see me gloating?

‘does a little victory dance’

I finished my Holiday shopping one week ago (hey, are those tomatoes green? They hurt.), so I will not have to face the mall hordes this week – and that is what I try to, and this year succeeded in, doing.

But for many (hordes) that is not the case. My ultimate suggestion, if you are stuck as one of the horde, is to go in fast, immediately hit a checkout line (have some portable tunes with you, because you know the credit card of the person in front of you isn’t going to work, and the new girl on the cash won’t have a clue, and the person who is going to help her is in aisle 17 looking for the kung-fu grip cabbage patch doll, etc . . .) and buy gift cards.

So much less painful than battling ( the hordes) down the congested, festering, (I like the word festering – okay it doesn’t really apply here. But if you stay in your winter coat in that overheated mall too long - you just might start to fester . . .) aisles looking for that last minute “something” only to find they are all gone.

That’s about it for my ultimate Holiday (battling the hordes) shopping advice. The other tidbit is – do it in the summer when the weather is nice and the malls are not busy. That is if you are looking for that “something”.

Oh, and you can also get booze. Because most of the hordes, after battling amongst themselves, will need plenty to drink over the Holidays to unwind.

Good luck.

And hockey equipment might help some – but it’s hot and prone to (you guessed it) festering.

‘does another victory dance’

Owww! Hey, that was an egg. Hard boiled!

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Weird Science: Fast Animals


A while ago I did a piece on fast fish. So today, with almost no time for this post - it’s going to be fast animals.

And unlike fish, everybody’s likely guess of the fastest is the cheetah. And, this time, you are right.

Wow can that cat run. Here are the specs on this four legged speedster. He (or she) can accelerate from 0 to 45 miles per hour in less than 2 seconds. That’s better than most cars on the market today, with the exception of a very few, very high performance ones.

But that’s not all - no you don’t get a great knife that dices and slices - the cheetah can reach a top speed of around 70 miles per hour. 70. Miles. Per. Hour.

That is way fast. For those in metric land that is around 112.6 kilometers an hour. Any highway in Canada and you would be getting a speeding ticket for that.

I’ll do a list of top ten at the end so you can keep them in order, post them on your fridge, or just rattle them off at parties this Christmas . . .

So, now we come to number 2. - the Pronghorn antelope. Now the antelope is no slouch doing a top speed of 61 miles per hour. That is really fast, fast enough to outrun on the flats any of its natural predators.

Third we have my favorite. Perhaps because in an episode of Fawlty Towers, Basil says (to the old hard-to-please lady) something like. "What do you expect, herds of Wildebeests roaming majestically on the fields?" or some such. I’m in a rush today - sorry for the "almost" correct quotation.

So the Wildebeest comes in number 3 at 50 miles per hour. Then in fourth we have Lion at roughly the same speed. Then fifth we have Thomson’s gazelle at around the same speed as the previous two.

You can see the lion has a harder time with his main snacks because they all motor at about 50 miles per hour. That’s why you see in lion hunting videos lions slinking in as far as they can get while other lions help to cut off the prey’s escape routes.

Now notice, next time you are watching a nature video, the cheetah doesn’t bother much with the slinking. He (or she - must not discriminate) goes for flat out speed to take down his slower prey.

Okay - now with the top five out of the way guessing the next five is a little harder. Would you believe number 6 spot goes to (the envelope please) - The quarter horse?

Okay, maybe you did guess that. The quarter horse can hit almost 48 miles per hour. I wonder if a "full" horse could do four times that? Okay, back to reality.

Number 7 is - The elk. Yup antlers and all this large mammal can cruise the wilds at 45 miles per hour when chugging full tilt. As well, in number 8 spot, the Cape Hunting Dog and greyhound can do the same speed - but I don’t’ think quarter horses are their prey - but Superman better watch out. Good thing he can fly.

Number 9 is the Coyote at 43 miles per hour. Yes, the coyote. Which brings up an interesting thing. Notice the "road runner" is not on the list yet. So, what was Wylie buying all that ACME stuff for if he was naturally faster than the road runner? Beats me, but it sure made for a great Saturday morning cartoon. "Beep-beep"

And at number 10 - why it’s the humble Gray Fox doing a relatively slow top speed of 42 miles per hour.

And number 11 (just throwing this in) is me - soon to be rushing like a lunatic to get ready for a Christmas concert in - Yikes! - ten minutes.

Here is the promised list.

1) Cheetah ~ 70 mph
2) Pronghorn antelope ~ 61 mph
3) Wildebeest ~ 50 mph
4) Lion ~ 50 mph
5) Thomson’s gazelle ~ 50 mph
6) Quarter horse ~ 48 mph
7) Elk ~ 45 mph
8) Cape hunting dog and greyhound ~ 45 mph
9) Coyote ~ 43 mph
10) Gray fox ~ 42 mph

11) Me Running Late ~ 40 mph, okay - 4 mph.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Science Fiction Book Review: The Reality Dysfunction (Part 2)

The Reality Dysfunction Part 2: Expansion
In his first book, The Reality Dysfunction Part 1: Emergence, Peter F. Hamilton unleashed something huge, and in Part 2: Expansion, which I am reviewing today, carried his creation even further.

The scope of this work is kinda hard to explain. It’s on an equal footing with Dune or Foundation when it comes to fully realized universe. We get some very interesting projections of the future in fully changed, and barely human, combat mercenaries. Living ships and habitats and an ancient civilization, which was wiped out centuries ago (mysteriously but has a bearing on the now), are only the splendid backdrop for the unfolding drama.

And what an epic drama so far. It could be labeled a vast space opera, but I will stick with epic drama.

In this, the second of six books (in the US and Canada - but only 3 huge books in the UK), what hit the fan at the end of part one is now causing widespread mayhem throughout the known universe. Despite Lalonde’s best militia efforts to stem the tide, they are hopelessly overrun by the menace we see forming in book 1.

So, mercenaries are sent for to come and get the situation under control. Yah, right. You can tell without me even saying where that is heading - straight to hell. The menace is not to be trifled with and you will find out in this book exactly what it is - but I’m not saying. All I will tell is the conflict is strange, but engrossing and lots of firepower is exchanged on both sides. Epic battles and epic heros. It doesn’t get much better than this.

There are many colorful characters in this episode, and some shocking and larger-than-life sacrifices and not one explosive climax at the end - but four!

This book has it all if you like huge (I know find another word, but this one fits so well) sweeping science fiction epics. Recommended for sure and I will definitely read the next, and the next and the next and the conclusion. Peter Hamilton has sucked me into his universe and it’s a place I’m more than happy to visit on occasion.

It does clock in at almost 600 pages, so it’s not a one day read (unless you are one of those freaks that can read 600 pages in a day - Oye!) But I don’t think this is a kind of book you want to just burn through anyhow. There is so much going on, it should be savored.

But you may get totally sucked in and burn through it as fast as you can - that’s okay and after this there are still another couple thousand pages left in the story. I didn’t even mention the various alien races, what the "real" menace is or what their capabilities are. I try, during my reviews, not to give much of the plot away because, for me at least, it’s the getting there and the details and discoveries which make the journey fun.

And if nothing else, this is an entertaining tale spun well.

So, go out and find your copy of all six books (in the US and Canada) or all three books (in the UK) and get set for a grand science fiction adventure. I don’t know how this ride ends, but the journey so far has been great.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Das beans

A short post to talk about coffee today.

We all love it don’t we? (well most of us do)

Okay, some hate it, but I love it.

Now I have wondered sometimes if it really is addictive or not. So I devised -

- an experiment about six months ago. I dropped coffee (cold turkey - or should this be a case of hot turkey?) and switched to drinking tea (and yes, Earl Grey - hot. No kidding and not because of baldy . . .). And, for about three months, I didn’t seem to notice a difference. I was slightly calmer, but I had my hot drink early in the morning to jumpstart my system.

So, for me, I think the addiction is a hot drink in the morning - even in the summer, but especially in the winter - like right now after shoveling the driveway for two hours. And notice how I directed your attention onto shoveling and now, (dark beans, light beans, espresso beans) it’s back on coffee again -

- because I also switched back again from tea to coffee a few months ago. Is this making any sense? Okay, maybe there is a slight addiction in my genetic makeup to coffee. I think it’s just free will . . .

Now the next obvious question is - how much do I drink? Well, actually only one "large" stainless steel insulated mug a day. Large as in 16 oz, which for some constitutes a small or a primer. I don’t need an entire urn of coffee in the morning to get going like some people would claim.

And, my opinion here, is that it is not the quantity, but the quality, that matters. Which means -

- I drink fresh ground "french roast" beans because the pre-ground stuff you buy is like sawdust and printers ink . . .

I take my freshly ground beans and use a manual drip filter because I swear those machines ruin even fresh ground. How, I don’t know, but I’m sure a lot of engineering went into making sure it messes with the caffeine molecule and "burns" the water somehow.

Then, when I have it slow dripped into my steel insulated mug I add 5% cream "which tastes like 10%". And, oddly enough, it does. At least compared to milk it does. Oh, which says I don’t drink it black like a real man. And yes, I eat quiche too.

That’s it for today. Now I’m going write my book review for tomorrow and drink my fresh coffee.

And do get yourself a "good" quality insulated mug, because when the muse grabs you and an hour has gone by - your fresh ground coffee is still hot.

Yum.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Musings: toys in the attic

With Christmas around the corner (where did the rest of the year go?) I start to wax nostalgic about when I was a little one.

I think it’s because me own little one is the perfect age (6 ½) to get that light-in-her-eyes look as the “big day” gets closer and Santa begins filling up his sleigh and feeding the reindeer. It fills my heart with joy to watch her, and brings me back to a time long ago when I myself was just as wee one.

I recall one very special Christmas, many years ago (can you say 1970?), when my grandparents (my mother’s side who lived in the same house as us) were still alive.

Grandparents, if you still have yours or can recall them, are magical and wonderful people and sometimes you don’t realize that fact until you are much older and they are gone from your life forever.

Let me elaborate a bit.

My grandmother made the most incredible borsch soup – EVER! And it was one of the staples of our household when I was growing up. My mother’s version is “almost” as good as my grandmothers. Maybe it’s just my failing memory, but there was nothing to compare to my grandmother’s version and since her death I have never had a better bowl.

But let me go back to 1970, if you don’t mind, for one Christmas and the special present I was given by my grandparents on my mother’s side.

It was Christmas Eve (1970), and all through the house everybody was stirring – especially the huge aluminum pot of perogies on the stove. Oh, boy. I can’t even begin to describe homemade perogies on Christmas Eve (A tradition) without salivating. The dough, a recipe I have never been able to duplicate despite my grandmother and mother’s best directions -

– goes something like this.

My Mom - you put in about four cups of flour.

Six year old Me – About? Okay.

My Grandmother - Then you crack in an egg.

Six year old Me – Okay.

My Mom - then you add some salt.

Six year old Me - Um, how much?

My Mom - I don’t know, about this much (she tells me pouring some into the palm of her hand then tossing it into the mixture.)

Six year old Me - Okay, I guess.

My Grandmother - Then you put in water, but it can’t be cold or hot just warm.

Six year old Me - Okay, but how much?

My Mom - Well enough so that it gets certain stickiness –

- and so on until I have no idea what they are creating (despite years of the same), but it is damn obvious that there is no official “recipe”, and that it comes from years of experience making them without the aid of measuring cups of any kind and a special instinct for perfect dough stickiness which I have never mastered.

And, sorry for the digression, but that perogie dough was heavenly. No other way to describe it. And when it came to the eating, I was famous (in my six year old way) for being able to eat one dozen – yah, that’s 12 – of them on Christmas Eve. But I’m jumping ahead a bit, so please hit rewind a few minutes to -

The table is set with candles and I would be watching the timer until it would ring. My father would lift that incredibly huge pot and bring it over to the sink where the strainer sat and pour them out. He would then add in a load (like a quarter pound) father butter into the perogies and slosh them around until they glistened. Then, with us all gathered round the table, he would bring the bowl and set it down.

And the feast would begin. And, as a side dish to mix with the perogies (because you just can’t eat them plain) would be a large bowl of fried salt pork/bacon/onion and another bowl of mixed cottage cheese/sour cream.

Oh-My-God! Excuse me while I wipe the drool from my chin.

There, that’s better.

Now how could a six year old not eat twelve of those? If I could have eaten thirteen without actually rupturing my tiny stomach – I would have. They were that unbelievably good. And any more would mean no room for dessert . . .

Anyhow, the dishes would be cleared and desert is presented and consumed (usually a fresh backed blueberry pie using real hand picked fall blueberries – yes worthy of another Oh-My-God drool session).

Then, after the feast - it is time to open one present.

This moment is so exciting for me as a child. It’s Christmas Eve, Santa’s on his way. I have a belly full (okay – stuffed to the maximum) of perogies and pie, the tree is just sparkling with lights and tinsel – even our dog is running around excited, knowing something is up.

We gather in the living room around the tree and I am handed the one present I get to open this evening. This year I choose my grandparent’s present.

At six years old, it takes about .13 seconds to tear open a carefully wrapped gift, and I don’t disappoint.

The colorful box revealed displays some kind of futuristic landscape and, holy cow - robots!

My grandparents have gotten me a robot set!

The tin kind you put batteries in and they perform all kinds of automatic activities, like walk across the floor, rove about in a bright red two-seater moon scooter mobile unit, and on the front of an industrial mechanoid machine are pinchers – used to grab and move the blocks and barrels that come with the set.

That night in 1970 I am over, no – I am “on” the moon – performing delicate operations with highly toxic and volatile substances with my robot units. And I can hardly remember the rest of the night, except I must have been ushered to bed at some time because otherwise Santa would miss our place.

That was twenty five years ago, a memory now – but what a memory.

And as I am an adult now, I look back on those times with a tear in my eye and love in my heart and realize that this is what life is actually all about. Not stocks, not jobs, not what car you drive or what trip you took or what clothes you wear – but memories of loved ones and magical times and belonging and warmth.

The house I grew up in still belongs to my parents, but I get there very infrequently now. (like once ever few years) But it still holds a reservoir of precious memories for me.

And as I watch my own child grow, and look at the Christmas tree lights reflected in her eyes, I wonder what she will recall twenty five years from now. I hope her memories of today are as special as mine from yesterday.

And yes, back at my parents house, there still have my –

- Toys in the attic.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

the best laid

Well, I really hoped to have an audio version (MP3 format) up today featuring my charming voice reading my short story, Kaylie’s Smile - but alas (in-joke of short story rejections from Analog) it is/was not to be.

For various reasons. The first is my naivete in thinking I could just record and upload a quality podcast audio reading of my story in a week. Um, I can’t. But I had the best intentions. Really.

You see. I even downloaded a free trial version of some software to record my story in MP3 form. And I tried it out - and I think the software worked okay, but technical difficulties prohibited me from carrying on.

The first technical glitch came from having a crap microphone. I mean, a super-duper, better-ones-can-be-found-in-a-bubble-gum-machine crappy mic. I sounded like Calvin from the Chipmunks with a bad cold in an echo chamber transmitting from the moon in AM during an electrical storm.... But, that aside, I was determined to succeed somehow. Only to find -

- that each minute of recording was like 500 kilobytes. Now, that may not sound like much, but you must keep in mind I am on dinosaur dial-up and reading my story would be about twenty minutes if I was to do a good dramatic job. So, that’s about 10 MB of Calvin with a cold in an echo chamber transmitting from the moon in AM during an electrical storm . . .

Now I know you would just love to torture yourself with that.

Actually, I couldn’t stand to listen to the little bit I recorded myself, let alone torment anybody else with it. Consider yourself spared for now . . .

So, I’m abandoning the idea for the nonce, until I can find a good solution to my problem which will most likely involve a new microphone, better software and piles of cash that appear from nowhere . . .

I still want to do an audio version, but I want it to be good - so I’m afraid it will have to wait.

Now, on to script land. That little island where the Minnow and I share a beach. I watched an episode of Gilligan’s island tonight (did you know his first name is Willy?) and so am affected.

But that aside, I have a plan. A cunning plan.

Well actually there is nothing cunning about it at all, that just sounded neat to my inner (Black Adder) ear - which may be infected, but that is another story. Actually my plan is mostly pragmatic, and not too hard for me to achieve - a good thing with busy Christmas time and family fun looming large.

Here it is. Are you ready?

I am going to write one full scene of my script every "script writing day". Now for me that’s four days a week. I have 58 scenes left until the first draft is complete.

So, my Romantic/Comedy, if my math is correct, will be first drafty in 14.5 weeks. That should make it around the ides of March. WooHoo for me.

Come on - Cheer . . .

. . . If you want

Oh, and another thing. When I am finished my script’s first draft I have another plan, which is really part of the first plan, like an appendix, so maybe not really another plan at all . . .

When my script is first draft completed, I will take four weeks of "off" time. During that lull, I plan on writing four non-fiction articles to help me get to those large piles of cash.

I will be sure to chronicle the whole sordid thing - rejections and all.

Until next week’s update on my, um, progress - keep writing, reading and eating your green leafy vegetables. They are good for you.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Musing: Burning down the court

After cruising the blogs this morning and last night I began to realize something. This blog, right here under your mouse pointer, is pretty lame.

Not really much of substance is coming out of me these days (in written form here) and all the short stories I want posted are here in the “My Short Stories” sidebar listing.

So, what is a poor blogger to do?

Well, resort to a true story from my childhood of course. You can start yawning now if you want, but it includes the police, a fire truck and my best friend.

Intrigued?

Well, there are plenty of other places to surf if you like. But if you want to stay –

- I’ll tell you how I burnt my home town’s tennis court down.

You see, way back when (and yah, still today) I was fascinated with fire. Fireplaces, matches, bush fires, candles, BBQs, flame – flame – flame.

Okay, now you are in my pyrotechnic head-space as a twelve year old male. You may even relate. Why the fascination with fire? I can’t say. Why are some people fascinated with Paris Hilton? Find the answer to that one and you may answer the other . . .

So. . . My best friend and I were playing Tennis at the local courts, when boy-pyro (that’s me) gets a brilliant idea. Brilliant for a twelve year old, not quite at the age to know everything, but close enough to think so.

Hey, I says to my best friend, why don’t we torch some of the long dead grass beside the backboard of the Tennis court? I think he was winning more games, so I was looking to distract him – and I had a book of matches because boy-pyro can’t be without them you see. It’s like Superman without the cape – just doesn’t happen.

Now, if my best friend had known what was about to transpire, he would have soundly beat me to a pulp with his tennis racket and left me for dead but, being a twelve year old and a boy-genius himself, he agreed and I pulled out my book of matches and lovingly peeled one out.

So, I can tell right about now you are wondering how can you actually “burn down” a tennis court? It’s flat isn’t it? Well, the court itself is flat, but the structure around the court, holding up the wire, is made from wooden posts and the backboard is one big inflammable wall of fuel . . .

Out of anyone’s line of sight, we huddled down behind the solid backboard (this was actually plywood sheets, about six of them held onto the wire mess of the courts with strong bailing wire) and gathered some dead grass so we would be sure to have a decent little blaze.

I struck the match and tossed. Sure enough the little collection of dead grass caught fire quickly, and we watched in wonder as the little flames licked higher – and higher – and it took our collective genius minds about ten seconds to realize that dead grass burns very very fast, and that this little blaze we had sparked (okay – I had sparked) was spreading way quick.

So we started to stomp on it to put it out, which of course only propelled burning sparks of grass in all directions and, as I recall, there was a pretty good wind that day too. We had somehow missed factoring that into our equations.

I think about one minute had passed when we started to get that panicked – what-the-crap-are-we-going-to-do look. I was all for flight, hide, pretend it never happened. But my best friend (he was a few months older and wiser) decided we had to stay and put it out.

Now, anybody, even a six year old, could tell it wasn’t going to be “put out” by two pre-teens with no water on a windy day in an area filled with dry dead grass and desiccated plywood.

So we stayed. I remember my best friend taking his jacket, like you see in TV shows and movies, and trying to beat the flames out. All this accomplished was a quicker spread and scorching his jacket to uselessness. I was pounding some burning spots with my tennis racket to equal effect (as in none) and the fire was now burning all around us.

The rest of the next few minutes is kind of a smoke-filled blur. We tried to put it out - really we did. But the bottom line was the back board had caught fire and was doing a great imitation of “the towering inferno” and the grass for a good twenty feet around was smoking and burning like all get out.

Maybe if we had a few thousand gallons of water to throw around, things would have been different. But all we had was a jacket and a tennis racket and little to no hope.

Then, in the distance, we could hear sirens. Did we run?

No - we would be men and we would face the music.

The music came in the form of the local police and a fire truck. We were escorted out of the danger zone by the police while the fire men went about their business of undoing what I had done. We got questioned by the police (not a fun thing even if you are a man) and were taken home to our parents for a debriefing.

I think I was grounded for about a month, and so was my best friend. And every time, for the next couple months, that we went by the tennis courts we could see the blackened and almost destroyed back board – testament to our (okay – my) stupidity.

Did I learn anything from this little adventure?

Apparently not, because that was only one of many run-ins with the local authorities (all minor stuff of course) that myself and my best friend would get into. I think he was a bad influence on me . . .

But those tales I’ll save for another day.

Monday, December 12, 2005

Musings: Ripping

A short tale today of surprise and wonder and geek points forfeited– on my part.

And yes, it will most likely result in the cancellation of my geek membership card as well and a hefty fine. Even spouting Star Trek: The Next Generation lines from memory won’t make up for this one I think.

And I know ignorance is no excuse. But let me explain.

You see, last week I got this idea to put one of my stories in audio form. This led to trying to figure out how to record something in a decent quality MP3 format - which led me to freeware to record audio into the computer.

Now, I already had a mic (and I found out it was el crappo extraordinaire – actually sounds worse than two cans and a sting).

Which led me to look at getting an iRiver (some geek points added for that one?) so I could voice record into it with a decent mic (I will need to buy) and have MP3 files for a podcast of my story.

Then I wondered how I could load my CD music into my iRiver (If I got one) and stumbled upon a little something (here is where I lose my geek membership for life) – you can rip CD music to a computer hard drive using Windows Media Player!

I can see you rolling your eyes and saying (yeah, like so what – my six year old niece does that all the time.)

And hence my revoked geek license. But, it was a big thing for me. I didn’t know how to or that you could do it until a few days ago. I knew you could download MP3 music on the net. I knew how MP3 players worked (flash and hard drive versions). I just didn’t know you could put in an audio CD and rip it to your own hard drive, then play it back in shuffle mode.

I am the anti-geek I guess.

So, as it stands, right now I have ripped a total of 97 hours of tunes. I know, more geek points lost for having anything less than 500 hours of music on my hard drive.

Still I’m excited and now my writing times are filled with various music – oh and it sounds pretty excellent too (I have Altec Lansing cubes and a sub). I ripped them all at 160 K bits/sec WMA format which is not the best quality but damn fine enough for my aging ears.

Oh, what do you mean - spewing that techno babble won’t get me any geek points back?

Well a guys gotta try.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Weird Science: Sonic Boom(s)


Busy times are happening for me and my family around Christmas, so today will be a short look at the sonic boom. In fact there isn’t one sonic boom but two main ones and lots of minor ones.

But what is a sonic boom? Well, as objects travel below the speed of sound (Mach 1) the air in front of the object is disturbed quite a distance in front of the solid object and not compressed too much. But, as the object passes the speed of sound the pressure rises very sharply at the intersection point between the air and the craft.

What occurs is the air is extremely compressed by the object pushing through it above the speed of sound, and the pressure rises very quickly in a localized space. This speeding object actually forces the molecules of air to collectively impact on each other at high pressure. And hence, a sonic boom as these millions of molecules collide.

But the interesting thing is there is not one sonic boom, but two main ones and lots of minor ones. One of the main sonic booms occurs at the front of the object and one occurs at the rear of the object. The many smaller sonic booms created by an aircraft flying above Mach 1 are created by the shapes and protrusions of the craft, but they usually combine and sound like one boom.

And you will only hear two if the main shock waves from the front and rear are around or above one tenth of a second apart. The faster the object travels, the more likely you will hear two booms as the velocity of the booms differs from front to rear.

Sorry for the short explanation, but time is pressing and I gotta move - but I’ll try to keep it under the speed of sound. Don’t want to disturb the neighbors or break any windows.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Book Review: The Matrix - The Shooting Script


I think just about anybody on earth with access to some form or media knows about this movie. In fact I would almost bet that anybody savvy enough to be on the internet has, and who else would be reading this blog anyhow.

So I’ll skip telling you what this movie is like or about and cut straight to the review of this book, which is in fact the shooting script used to make the movie.

Why review a shooting script? Well, I’ve been working on my script’s first draft now since September (check my Writing Odyssey blogs on the right to see how I’m doing) and reading scripts can really help the script writer understand how to put things together as well as gleam information on how to actually write some of the scenes correctly - or at least coherently.

And the job of your script, if you are writing one or thinking of it (I’m talking Spec Script here, not shooting script), is to get noticed and get sold. And you want the cleanest, sharpest script you can make to pass the slush piles and get bought. Reading through and thinking about The Matrix script will help you with this. It is a perfect example of what to do.

I’m going to say right now that The Matrix is the best action-hero movie I have ever seen in terms of script form. It has ever beat, every nuance, every detail so perfectly executed that once you know what you are looking for in an action-hero script you can see it here - done to near perfection.

And that’s why I like to read it and re-read it, to pick up on those moments and see the pacing of the movie unfold to its ultimate climax when Neo comes back from the dead and does agent Smith.

Strangely enough, once you have watched the movie, reading the script is a fantastic experience. In fact, the best way to enjoy the shooting script is to read a few scenes and then watch them. You relive the scenes and if you study each scene for relevance to the whole, you soon find out the Wachowski brothers had their act very much together.

As a script writer, this shooting script is an absolute jewel. There are a ton of different shots in this movie and it’s informative to know how to write specific types of scenes in script format. Again, you have to be careful writing a Spec script because you don’t number scenes, give directorial directions or camera angles like a shooting script does. What you do need is to be concise.

The Matrix shooting script is very concise. If you ignore the shooting script format and look at it with an eye toward the Spec script you will be fine and learn a lot as I have.

So, with an eye to studying scripts, you can’t go wrong with The Matrix. It has everything you ever want in a script to learn from. And it’s just fun to read anyhow if that is what you are after.

For extras, there is an introduction from William Gibson (Author of Neuromancer) and scene notes by the Phil Oosterhouse (assistant to the brothers during shooting). Both of these extras are well worth the read and a real bonus. I won’t spoil it here by telling you much about either though.

But I have to mention one particular scene note I liked. It is the note about the TV repair shop scene. During one take of that scene, involving Trinity, there was a ghostly figure lurking in the back of the camera shot. Nobody was there. It was later noted that somebody had shot themselves with a handgun in the basement of this shop a few years back. Spooky, but cool. Wish that take had made it to the DVD.

So, if you are a script writer - this is a must book. If you like the Matrix - this is a must book. If you want to know how a great script is put together - this is a must book.

Get it and read it while watching the movie. You may get inspired to write one of your own.

Friday, December 09, 2005

Musings: six inches


It occurs to me that I have never chronicled my brush with death.

And now, looking back, I suppose it wasn’t really a brush with death, but a brush with the realization that death can come swiftly in familiar surroundings and at unexpected times. Makes you want to be thankful for everything and every moment in your life – even the little things like sunlight on your face or hot coffee in the morning.

It was a cold September morning in 2002 when I woke from my secure and warm bed. I showered, shaved and got ready for work in my usual manner, never thinking this work day would be much different than any other. It was Friday and I had the weekend to look forward to . . .

. . . Or did I?

I had joined a ten pin bowling league that year, and so I left extra early so I could bowl a couple practice games after work. It was dark and cold outside, but my new car started easily and I was soon on my way.

I don’t really remember what I was thinking about during that drive in, but I would have had the radio on listening to CHUM FM. I like their morning show. Geez, I must be getting old.

There is a large intersection on the way to work where two highways cross. At the intersection there is a set of traffic lights. It takes me about ten minutes to get to it from my house. The speed limit for these highways is 80 kilometers per hour, but most people drive around 100. And yes, I am as guilty as any other traveling these roads of exceeding this limit, but this had nothing to do with what was about to transpire.

As I piece together the moments before the impact, I recall being stopped at the red light at the intersection. I was behind another car. To my left a truck, I think, was turning and so my vision was partially blocked in that direction – the direction from whence it came.

I recall the light from opposing traffic turning orange, then red as it had done a thousand times over the years at this very intersection. My own signal lights flashed green and the car ahead of me went out into the intersection. I followed, paying little attention to what was coming – I mean what could possibly be coming?

My god how close this was, I actually get a sick feeling in my stomach thinking about it now.

I was the second car through that green light, listening to the radio, thinking of practice bowling when, out of my driver side window, I see bright headlights – the headlights of an 18 wheel transport truck.

I had but one second to react - I put my foot on the gas to try and get out of the way -

- but it was not to be.

I remember the impact as only a flash in time. There was a smashing sound, disorientation. I was hit! My mind flew into some kind of quasi-dreamstate, where time and distance and thoughts all merged into a muddy nothingness.

And no, my life did not flash before me as is so popularized in fiction. I recall no real thoughts at all except - I’ve been hit. I’ve been hit.

It was probably only ten seconds, but I don’t really know how long I was in that state. When I emerged from that headspace, I had no idea how long I was sitting there on the side of the road where I had been forcibly driven. The radio was still playing, but I really didn’t hear what was on it. My car was still running. My headlights were still on. The sun was just starting to rise.

I remember thinking to myself – I have all my limbs, nothing seems broken, I can breathe, I can move. I must have been in shock, what else could it be? My knee hurt because it had been bashed into the side of my steering column during the impact, but that was the only injury I could discover.

A girl, from the car behind me I learned later, had walked up to my window and was tapping on the glass. “are you okay?” she asked. I think she did this a few times before I rolled down my window and said that I was.

After a few more minutes, I got out of the car. The 18 wheel transport truck was parked a long way away, and two turbaned individuals had gotten out of it as were coming over. The younger one approached me - offering to pay for my car if I didn’t report the accident.

This was some kind of joke, right? I was just T-boned by this idiot running a red light at highway speed in a tractor trailer and he wanted me not to report it?
I recall asking him if he was willing to pay 20,000 dollars to me in cash so I could replace my less-than-a-year-old car? “I don’t have that kind of money?” he said. He was actually serious. His partner, a truck driving trainer I later found out (some trainer – probably yelled “floor it, you can make it go go go), stayed off in the distance avoiding eye contact with all who were about including me.

I do recall getting pissed off at the young turbaned idiot then. I told him, in no friendly manner or tone, that he could have killed me. Did he realize that he COULD-HAVE-KILLED-ME? I wonder now if that actually meant anything to him at all.

The girl who had tapped on my window had phoned the police and it wasn’t long before a cruiser arrived.

The police officer was a very nice lady who told me to get in her cruiser to warm up, which I did, while she talked to witnesses (four people actually stopped to give reports – which was very nice of them). She then talked to me and I explained, as best I could, what had happened.

Needless to say she charged the young man with careless driving. Careless – How about butt-stupid-you-should-never-drive-again-asshole driving. That would have made more sense.

I phoned my wife to let her know what was what and that I would be towing the car to the dealership where they would later pronounce it dead for my insurance company. She would meet me there in about an hour.

At the dealership, after calling my insurance company, I had time to look at the wreck of my 2001 Saturn S car before my wife arrived to pick me up. Yah, the S car is the small four door one Saturn makes – no match against an 18 wheeler. I wanted to see just where the front of the transport had struck it.

I was chilled to the bone when I finally walked out into the parking lot where the tow truck had dropped it. I looked through the driver side window and could see where my head would have been in relation to the front seat of the car. The initial crunching point of my car was no more than six inches behind that. This, more than anything, made me feel that life is such a fleeting thing and I had, in fact, narrowly escaped with my life.

Six inches - I kept thinking to myself. Six inches further forward and my head would have bounced off the window and into the grill of the transport – the transport doing about 90 kilometers an hour at the time. Ever see those pumpkin commercials where they are trying to stress using your seat belt so you don’t get thrown from the car during accidents? That would have been my head.

I sure wouldn’t be writing about it now, or ever.

And every day since then I value my life a little more. I try not to take things too seriously. I try to be good, make people laugh, love my family.

Whenever things get tough, or I feel depressed, or something happens that I don’t like. I think to myself – six inches. And the problems seem so much smaller then.

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Musings: aging gratefully

Well I’ve been using my body much more in the last week than I have been in the past few months. Notice I said using and not abusing, though I feel there is a fine line differentiating the two right now.

I’m over 40 years old, not by much, but by enough. And I’m starting to realize that my body of age 19 is no longer with me, thought my mind tries to convince me otherwise. You see, after a couple times skating, doing some free weights and yoga exercises (this is supposed to be good for old people, no?); I’m finding my body rebelling against such punishment.

And then I think back to when I was 19. I could have done all of this plus a hundred other activities and probably not even noticed. But as today’s post heading suggests I am aging gratefully if not gracefully (hard to walk properly when half of your body wants to lie down) since I have no life threatening problems – at least none I know of and I’ll just keep it that way for now anyhow.

Long, long ago in a cold northern town, I recall my father telling me, after his first night of curling (the game where you chuck rocks down a rink and try to score) that his muscles were sore. I mocked him for being such a wimp - like how could your muscles be sore? Ha ha ha. I can do that plus an hundred other things and not even notice I said, with typical teenage know-it-all-ness.

And looking back now, with my hips and ankles aching from the skating and muscles in my back protesting, muscles I didn’t even know were back there, I think of my dad and realize – he was the same age then as I am now. Wow . . .

. . . I guess this is wisdom, something I lacked in spades as a teenager. And in a few more years my own daughter will probably laugh and mock me for my aching body, while hers is young and flexible and nearly indestructible. I will smile, as my own father did to me, knowing her time will come and that I love her without reservation, no matter how she teases me.

For now, I will continue to put up with my bodies aches and pains to go skating with my daughter and wife. And next month I’ll be back on the ski slopes (this after twenty years – yikes!) with my daughter. Her school has a skiing program and they need volunteers. I was a ski patrol once upon a time, so I signed up. My god, what have I done?

But I think for love we are willing to endure almost anything. In the face of love such aches and pains are almost welcome – a payment for pleasure. Maybe this is where the saying “pleasure in pain” comes from. It fits anyhow.

Of course some of my aches and pains may have been caused when I was T-boned by an 18 wheeler tractor trailer running a red light two years ago. That was a fun morning let me tell you.

Actually let me tell you – Tomorrow.

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

1001

-Excuses.

I know, I know, this is supposed to be my wonderful update on how much writing I completed in the week.

Which wasn’t a whole lot. I think I blog posted about ten times the output of my script, but we are all allowed to stumble sometimes. I just can’t let this small slide turn into an avalanche.

Now for the official excuses. Family commitments, new writing schedule, new exercise schedule and yes, I’ve packed in too many new things all into one week.

Bottom line is I didn’t even get a full scene written this past week on my script. Shame on me. But instead of beating myself up, which does no good, I’m going to reflect back on all the fun times I had this week and use that energy to propel me into the next week where I know I will do much better.

My wife is in many volunteer activities (bless her heart) and was gone a few nights last week. Now, ordinarily that would make not difference, but I’ve changed my writing times to the evening from the early morning because I was getting way too tired out. I think she is a trooper to do the work she does and makes such a difference in a lot of people’s lives. Way more than I’m doing. Great job love!

So, I respect my wife a great deal, but when she is away my anchor is gone and I drift into bad habits like watching DVDs or reading or playing a computer game. This, of course, is my fault entirely and has nothing to do with her. Just trying to give you a glimpse into why I sucked this week in the “script project’ department.

Oh right, no beating myself up. I am very happy my wife has so many outside activities and one of them is now ice skating with me and my daughter.

Which sucked up another evening, but it was great fun and my daughter loves me to be there. Because I’m not used to skating, I’m still sore today (four days later) from it and tonight is another skating night too.

We also did a bunch of shopping and Christmas things last week. Still no valid excuses, but time consuming none the less.

And I think I find it hardest to juggle family and writing because writing has me going to my lair and writing which is nowhere near my family. And the other problem I mentioned is when my wife and daughter are out I have a great urge to goof off instead of write. This is where willpower and determination come in. I need to shore them up to respectable levels. But it is hard, actually harder than the writing itself. And December just seems like such a festive month with so many family and friend activities.

Still, writing has to find a place or it will disappear. And that is not an option.

So why have I not gotten my act together? I think I’ve bitten off a lot of change in a very short time. I’m exercising six days a week again (after not exercising for about a month), because my back really needs it and my day job is all sitting, sitting, sitting. It makes me tired and more prone to watching DVDs and yah – you’ve already heard this. Changes record.

And I also started something I hope turns out okay here at the Twisted Mind Emporium. I’m going to have some of my short stories up in audio form soon - read by me the author. How time wasting cool is that? Yes, I know another distraction. Still, I think it will be neat to have two versions of my stories available. Oh, and it will be in MP3 format so you can load it up and play it on your iPod or whatnot.

My new plan, which I will report on next Wednesday, will be to write from 5:30 pm to 6:30 pm each night without interruptions – of my own making.

You see, this week coming up I will be going to my daughter’s school play, a Christmas play and two concerts. Do you see where this is heading?

However, I will do my best to progress, and report out next week.

Plus I hope to have, as mentioned above, my first short story up in MP3 format.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

Musings: Our family tradition

Our "family" tradition only started about three years ago, once my daughter was old enough to really know and get into the Christmas spirit.

There is something wonderful in the eyes of a young child around this time of year and my wife and I have been fostering the cheer in our own little one – it’s just so much fun for us all even when she gets out of control excited to the point of frazzling our nerves. Still, you gotta love em!

And so sprang the “family tradition” (since we are a family now not just a couple) which we will now follow until she moves out of the house and goes off to University or other.

But for the next bunch of years – here is what we do on the first Saturday of December.

We try to sleep in, but our daughter is up before seven no matter what. And now that Christmas I around the bend she rises even earlier and immediately starts with the excitement. And this Saturday past, she knew was tree trimming day – so, springing out of bed and getting dressed she rushed into our bedroom to inform us that it was morning – like we don’t know. But it is so cute to have her telling us. And it is still dark out at that time, but that doesn’t stop her. She is really good at reading clocks now. “It is 7:10!” she tells us in her get-out-of-bed tone.

So up we all get, excited as well (how can it not rub off daughter and onto us? – like magic excitement dust) and make a breakfast we eat together. Nothing special about the breakfast except the anticipation of lunch – which we have at---

--- Mandarin restaurant. Let me explain about this place a little. First it is an all-you-can-eat buffet and there is a ton of choice, literally (and most of it deep fried – yummy). It’s a Chinese place, but the food is rather on the fast food side – and yes you can even get French fries or Onion rings too.

So we load up plate number one (of about four or so) and begin to pig out. My wife usually takes the health food items, but my daughter and I head straight for the chicken balls and hair-gel sauce.

After that first foray, we next load up on these green beans with sesame seed sauce and a beef asparagus dish I can’t do justice in describing. It’s really, really tasty. (There, now we have done the vegetable thing) Oh, then after being good, it’s back to being bad and I eat loads of pork ribs, breaded shrimp, and more chicken balls and – you get the picture. My meal is about half good (veggies), half bad (deep fried) but easily twice as much as I need to eat – in a week.

And for desert – Jell-O, of course. That after I have a few token slices of watermelon. And the Jell-O is my daughter’s favorite too. They have green and orange. I like the orange best. I can’t really tell what flavor they are supposed to be, so they are best left described as colors – and they are vibrant. I use a fork to eat my Jell-O with, but my daughter uses her hands. And who cares – it’s all great fun. Oh, and this is the part where my finally wife eats the bad stuff – cakes and cookies and such, But hey, it’s only once a year.

After lunch we head over to the Mall. You can actually park since it’s not fully Christmas crazy rush time. Inside the Mall we go and check out the pet store. We watch the puppies and birds and rats (really, they have rats) and fish. Afterwards we go over to the huge Chapters bookstore (yes we all read in our family very, very much). This is like kid in the candy store time for us all. Easily an hour goes by and then, my wife and I are nagged enough by our daughter, and it is time to head home and put up the tree.

We have an artificial tree that is pre-strung with lights. Many, many lights – but white only and no blinkers. We also have three strings of colored lights as well to accent the already blazing tree. My job is to assemble the tree and put in the lights – then my daughter and wife put on the decorations. It is so much fun for my daughter and I can recall back to my own childhood doing much the same thing. There is something magical in putting up a tree.

After the tree is all together and we comment on its beauty and how much cozier the living room looks now – it’s Christmas video time. And the videos we watch are, of course, are “A Charlie Brown Christmas” and “The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”.

I can’t decide which one I like most, but edge toward Charlie’s Christmas just a bit. They are both absolutely excellent though and even after forty years they still hold up as the greatest Christmas specials ever done.

Then, when the final credits role we just sit and hug and enjoy ourselves and are thankful.

Supper consists of scrounging – which means not eating much. And who can after all the excitement and Chinese buffet. Then we do some quiet reading on the couch and our little one is off to bed.

And we have to wait another year to do it all over again.

And that’s one of our family Christmas traditions.

We have another tradition on Christmas Eve Day - but that will be another post I’ll share later this year.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Musings: not even a mouse

Over the past several months I’ve had adventures of the rodent kind – in my house.

Now, I don’t mind wild animals as long as they remain in the wilds. But when they get into my house and chew on my wiring – well that’s just not good.

I’ll start at the start.

Every night I spend an hour or so reading, sitting on my couch enjoying a novel, or some Greek Mythology of a Science textbook. And a few months back I hear a scratching noise in the roof which would make it the second floor. And I’m thinking – hey, that sound must be coming from outside.

Oh how easily I can delude myself. This went unchecked for several days until I heard it again, but not only the scratching sound, but this time a scrambling chase as if many small rodents were playing tag.

I was chilled to the bone in horror.

My god, I thought, my house is a warren.

I searched the second floor for signs of chewing, feces or a small taped off soccer zone – mouse sized. But search as I might, I found nothing. Then it dawned on me. The noises were traveling from overtop of the garage. I would check it out immediately.

And I did. There is an access door from our bedroom into the space above the garage and I went in there with my flashlight to see what I could see. There is also a light in there and I pulled the cord to get a better view of my surroundings.

But no dice or mice did I see. The light was out. I made my way back to the bedroom and got a fresh bulb. It must be burned out I wagered - and lost. It was not the bulb, but the wiring to the bulb. The mice had chewed it through somewhere under the boards of the garage roof where I couldn’t see.

With my flashlight I did find mice poop and it looks just like black rice grains. And I found quite a lot actually. But then they can deposit over one hundred per mouse per day. So maybe it wasn’t so bad? Yah, right.

And the insulation where the boards ended was pulled apart and some of it was sitting on the boards. And some of the boxes of things we had stored up there looked defiled, and they were. A couple even had holes chewed in them. I was thinking there must be hundreds of the pests just crawling around up here. I set to work immediately.

I did what any sane home owner would do (burned the house down and claimed insurance – Just kidding!).

I got a trap. A big trap. In fact it’s called a “tin cat” and can hold up to twenty or so mice at one time. I would get them – every single one of them. But not in a cruel way – this trap is a live catch one. It has two entrances on spring loaded one way doors. Once in, they would never get out until I lifted the lid and released them. The lid of the one I bought was clear plastic so you can actually see inside if you have anything or the bait has been eaten.

And the best bait in all the world for mice – Peanut butter not cheese. Chunky or smooth makes no difference. Mice love this stuff.

On the first night of trying I bagged one furry friend and I got my first close-up detailed look at these wonderful little breeding machines brought over from Eastern Europe so many decades ago on sailing ships. Did you know they mature in nine months? That they can have 4 litters of offspring (like 5 to 10) in one year and if uncontrolled you will have an infestation in no time.

They have black eyes like tiny pearls, big ears which stick out and of course the trademark hairless tail. They are actually kind of cute; at least my daughter thinks so. But they can be very expensive pets to have running free in your house – like repairing wiring you can easily get to.

Did you know that their front teeth never stop growing and so they need to chew on things to keep them under control – things like your wiring. Oye.

I’ve lived in this house now for five years – and never knew of my rodent roommates until this spring. Yikes!

Well, I did manage to catch – so far at least – twelve of the furry fiends, but I know more exist up there my garage spaces. You have to keep moving the trap around because they don’t like to stray more than about ten feet from their nest unless they absolutely have to.

And now you are probably wondering what I did with the ones I caught? Well, you have to release them at least two kilometers from your house or they will find their way back without much problem.

So I take them very far away. I actually take them to work with me, and let them out near the huge fields close by.

I do feel somewhat sorry for them though – what with letting them off so close to all those rats.

Sunday, December 04, 2005

Weird Science: Pearls


Today I could discuss Mini, or one of Prince’s dancers from the eighties - but in actuality this is a science piece, so I will stick to "actual" pearls, as in the ones which come from -

large department store chains or smaller jewelry stores. Um, ultimately yes, but no.

They originate inside of salt water oysters and fresh water clams. And haven’t you always wanted to know how they are made and just what they are?

Well, your long search is over. This article will penetrate the mystery, unearth the unknown, and generally cough up the how and what of pearls.

First the what - as in what is a pearl? Well, most have seen them on a string around somebodies neck. And you can see from the picture on this post as well that they are round whitish globules of hard material. Described in my 1973 Random House dictionary as: "a smooth rounded, lustrous concretion formed within the shells of certain mollusks and valued as a gem."

I’m not going to try and top that description. So, now the how. Just how do "certain mollusks" create these wonders within themselves.

Well it is a slow process for sure and it starts with a grain of sand or a parasite infiltrating the mollusk’s shell. There is a tissue in these mollusks called a "mantle" which, if infected by sand or parasites reacts against them much as our immune system does similarly. Which is to say, the mollusk attacks the offending intruder by secreting (from special cells) a substance called "nacre", commonly referred to as "mother-of-pearl" to seal the intruder off from itself.

The mollusk does this in stages, creating thicker and thicker layers of nacre until a pearl is formed and the intruder is forever trapped in an impenetrable tomb; a pearl.

Pretty cool actually. Therefore a pearl is an imperfection or parasite surrounded by nacre, and revered by us as a gem. I like to think of this as an analogy to a human being. We are all pearls, but inside we all contain flaws . . .

Er, sorry bout that. And now for a couple more terms I’m sure you have heard and maybe puzzled out by yourself. One is "fresh-water" pearls. Well those come from, you guessed it - fresh water clams. The second is "cultured" pearls. These are artificially stimulated pearls. Meaning humans introduced a intruder into the mollusk to make it create a pearl for us.

Well, that’s it for today.

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Musings: My Lair

I really think, as a writer and if you can swing it, you should set yourself up with a closed door lair in which to immerse yourself in what you love. This makes a great working environment for the muse - at least for me it does. And that’s what I’ve managed to do. (And it only took 35 years to accomplish . . .)

So in Lue of a book review today I thought I would give you a brief tour of my Lair and my book collection as well as many other knick-knacks I’ve stored away over my lifetime.

And yes, it is my office, my Lair, my haven away from Mundane existence and I really enjoy it - muchly. And it is in the basement (but my basement, not my Moms. Felt the need to clarify that one. Thanks to Shat for that.)

This first pick is the back wall of my Lair complete with six bookshelves fully loaded with some of my collection of Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Winston Churchill’s Second World War books. My collection all told amounts to somewhere over 2000 books all lovingly collected for the past 25 years. And, I am still collecting a lot. I know, I have a problem but I don’t think it will make me blind, so I’m living with it and dealing.

Things of note? Well the books are, despite the seemingly random stacking, in alphabetical order (can you say rectal retention? I knew you could. In defence I say, it helps me find what I’m looking for a lot faster than random heaping.) The first four bookshelves are books I have yet to read, and starting on bookshelf five and continuing around the room (out of this picture but in the next one) are books I have read.

My DVD collection sits on top of the last four bookshelves too. All science fiction from the Terminator, Alien and Matrix movies to B5, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, etc, etc.

Oh, and pictures on the wall are from one of the Tolkien calendars (can’t remember the year - may have been 1980 or so) you can see on the far wall and above bookshelf one.

Now, on to bookshelf picture number two.

What to say about this one. Well first off you can see above pictures of actresses and actors. Yes they are signed and you can read about them in this post I did earlier in the year. And that is a plush Cthulhu you see between them. Isn’t he just cute?

Oh, and a Duck’s Unlimited Limited edition Ursus Horribilis Bronze statue head. Got that from my folks for Christmas about ten years back. So, these bookshelves are a continuation of "read" books and they are completely filled to the floor. Oh, and the table in front I got for ten dollars at a yard sale. It is a full size kitchen table about the era of "Leave It To Beaver" but very solid and functional.

The last pic is my workstation.

Yes, that is the Discovery from 2001 on the desktop screen and a Talosian is keeping a vigilant watch over my tower case. Completing my immediate view (as I sit working) is an old Lord of the Rings Poster (years before the movie came out - yes, even the animated one) and a poster of the Solar system so I can ground myself in this universe if my mind wanders too far afield.

Well that ends the tour, and now I need to get back to writing my script (the outline you can see is four pages and sitting on top of a science book.

I hope this little tour was worth the visit. Oh, and I am currently reading a longish book, so didn’t finish it for today, but should have it consumed and up for review next week.

Any questions on my lair contents - just post a comment and I will try to answer.