Degrees of Epiphany

 Posted by at 13:24  No Responses »
Aug 192011

Every so often, I have minor epiphanies about the stories I’ve cooked up. They’ll fundamentally alter some underlying aspect of the story, giving it greater depth or more meaning. I love it when moments like this happen. I did not have such a moment today. Today, instead, brought a major epiphany that stitched together dozens of plot threads and ideas that were before only loosely coherent.

Of course, I can’t tell you about any of that.

I can say this, though. Misfits (which has been tentatively re-titled several times, but that’s still its working title) started as a one-off for-fun inversion of fantasy tropes. It intermingled with another story idea, which created the antagonist for the tale. That intermingling gave rise to a Vader-esque arced story; that is, the protagonist of the first story wasn’t the “main character” of the whole story. Then I had some ideas about how magic actually worked in this universe. Then I had some ideas that augmented those first ideas, making it even deeper.

Today, I had an idea that welded all of those pieces into a giant, coherent whole in a way that had me literally bouncing in my chair several minutes after I thought it up. I thought it up while walking to the restroom.

The idea may truncate my four-book chronicle into a trilogy or even a duology, but I’m okay with that. I’d rather have the more awesome story told in the right size than the less awesome story told over more books. Who knows? It may still end up being four books once I sit down and properly outline it all.

Also, Degrees of Epiphany is totally the name of my next album.

Welcome to December

 Posted by at 13:06  No Responses »
Dec 022010

November has come and gone, and with it so has another NaNo. This year, I didn’t “win.” In point of fact, I chose not to win after a pile-up of circumstances. I started the month without a clear idea of what I wanted to write. Then, I started writing about a half-formed idea that intrigued me. About 10,000 words in, I realized that the idea wasn’t sufficiently thought-out in its current form to sustain a novel, so I tabled it. Instead, I decided to try and write what amounted to fan fic in a genre wherein I would have no trouble at all going on for 50,000 or more words. I reached 10,000 words yet again, and then it was time to drive out of state for Thanksgiving. That’s when I forgot my laptop bag in the house. At that point, I decided that spending the holiday churning through 40,000 words that I would never actually try to publish wasn’t worth it and abandoned it.

I’m okay with that decision. The first NaNo novel I wrote is unpublishable (probably ever), but it proved to me that I could write that much of a single story in a short timeframe. I had the second NaNo novel’s concept in mind well before starting, and was excited about writing it. I’ve only just started the massive editing work required to make it something I feel is agent-worthy, but I continue to be excited about it. In other words, my second NaNo novel proved to me that I could write something I was proud of and thought worth publishing. That set a new bar for novel #3, and when it became clear that the things I was writing weren’t going to be at that level, it lost its worth. Besides, there’s always next year. There’s also every other month in the year.

So, there’s that.

In other news, the guild has been tackling ICC of late and we’ve been running smoothly until we hit Sindragosa, who we’ve been stuck on now for three weeks! However, we got very close the last time we attacked her1, so I’m confident that we’ll down her next time. Then it’s on to Arthas. We’re all hoping that we can take down both Sindragosa and Arthas this time2, because that’d mean we achieved the entire point of Wrath of the Lich King just before Cataclysm comes out this coming Tuesday.

NASA is set to announce something in a few hours that a lot of people are speculating is the discovery of bacteria here on Earth with DNA that differs from every other known lifeform on the planet. Namely, this bacteria has arsenic in its DNA rather than phosphorous. If this is true, it fundamentally changes our concept of DNA and means the possibilities for life are much broader than we’ve known until now. It also means that at least two distinct types of life evolved on this planet alone, which in turn dramatically increases the chances of it happening elsewhere. My favorite quote from the article is this:

To my mind, this is the one of the major differences between science and religion: scientists get wildly excited and happy when someone proves our basic dogma wrong.

To round out, I want to share this blog post. I haven’t mentioned it here before, but the more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 were completely successful. I don’t mean in the sense of toppling the WTC towers, which were also obviously successful; I mean in the sense of defeating us. On 9/11, we were attacked by terrorists. We had, essentially, two paths to take on that day: we come together and continue living life as Americans, or we cave to the fear of another attack and throw away our way of life. The recent, absurd “security measures” implemented by the TSA are just another nail in the coffin that prove we caved. We lost. They won.

  1. Only 2% health remaining! []
  2. That’s a tall order. As hard a fight as Sindragosa is, Arthas is even worse. []

Virtuosity and RPGs

 Posted by at 15:20  No Responses »
Dec 022009

Wait, what?

A friend of mine is restructuring the 3.5 edition Dungeons and Dragons rules to be more to his liking. He’s calling it D&D 3.75. Though he and I disagree on some fundamental RPG theory stuff, I wish him the best in doing so and look forward to seeing what he comes up with.

On Facebook, he mentioned having recently finished setting up the requisite mechanics for the first level. This reminded me of an issue I have, in general, with the concept of level. I sent him the following bit, mostly as fodder for him to pick through as he desired. However, it also prompted me to think about the issue a bit more, too.

Continue reading »

Moonshot Insanity

 Posted by at 16:57  No Responses »
Oct 092009

I’m upset.

This happens when people exhibit kneejerk reactions without first trying to understand the details. In this case, I’m referring to LCROSS and the moon impactor study.

I value science and the pursuit of knowledge. As such, I’m going to make a point-by-point rebuttal of one of the more egregious reactionary articles I’ve read concerning this topic. That article may be found here*.

On Friday, NASA is planning to crash into the moon. I’m just wondering: who gave them permission to crash into the moon? Not once, but twice.

The USA is a democratic republic. The people elect representative officials to legislate, execute, and adjudicate. NASA, a government agency, owes its budget to the whims of congress (legislative) and answers to the president (executive). The people working at NASA do so because the representatives we’ve elected have chosen them as the best candidates for the job. This trickles down from the guy in charge to the lowest intern, with all the intermediary managers having delegate responsibility.

So, in short, we gave NASA permission to pursue scientific endeavors as they best see fit by electing our current representatives.

Further, the people at NASA are qualified. Very qualified. They know what they’re talking about and they’ve gone through a lot of schooling. I’m going to quote the excellent Atomic Rocket.

So you know, university Physics is essentially three years of this discussion among like-minded enthusiasts.

Done with supercomputers, access to the textbook collections of five continents and thirty languages.

On four hours sleep a night.

With no sex.

You’re not going to find the loophole these guys missed.

Continuing on with the absurdity…

The rocket and satellite will smash into the moon at 5600 mph (more than seven times the speed of sound). The size of the explosion will be equal to that of 1.5 tons of TNT and will release 772,000 pounds of lunar dirt into a 6.2 mile high spray of debris, NASA’S own version of shock and awe, in a purported experiment to see if any ice or water is released.

I’m just wondering, who signed the paper? Who did the risk assessment? I mean, what if something goes wrong?

Remember that first paragraph? These guys are experts. They did the risk assessment. Trust them; they don’t have their job “just because.” We often refer to less-than-complex matters by saying, “it’s not rocket science.” Well, guess what: this is rocket science, and these are rocket scientists.

It’s a big explosion. Suffice it to say that any amateur astronomer west of the Mississippi with a home telescope will be able to view it from their backyard.

I could say something scientifically lame and ask, “What if it gets thrown off its axis?” or something funny and suggest something (that I actually sort of believe), like, “What if it somehow throws off the astrology?” Or that we’re not risking — as we have the earth with continued experiments of this kind — sending the solar system out of balance.

This is a failure to understand scale.

The moon orbits the Earth once every 27.3 days at a distance of 384,399 km. This works out to an orbital velocity of about 3,700 km/hour. The moon has a mass of 73.5 billion billion metric tons. Thus, the moon has a total kinetic energy (relative to the Earth) of 7.76 x 1028 Joules, or the equivalent of about 18,500 billion megatons of TNT.

And you’re worried about an impactor with 8.09 x 10-18% (that’s 8.09 billion billion billionths of a percent!) the kinetic energy?


The moon is under constant meteor bombardment, as well. You need only look at its pockmarked surface for confirmation. A common 5-meter ferrous (i.e. iron) asteroid crashing into the moon at the same speed as the impactor is going to have 250 times the kinetic energy.

The irony is that one of the purposes of the experiment is to assess whether there is any water on the moon and is it worthwhile to send another manned mission to the moon. If we’d just send up two guys with a bucket and shovels, we wouldn’t have to bomb the moon at all.

The amount of money and planning that goes into every manned mission is enormous compared to unmanned missions. Getting people into space, along with all the required support equipment (atmosphere, water, food, etc.) is hard and requires a great deal of fuel. Keeping people alive in space is harder. Sending up unmanned probes is comparably easy.

I’m not a big fan of explosions, anyway. In Iraq or Afghanistan or the South Pole of the Moon. But who does have a territorial prerogative there?

The explosions in Iraq and Afghanistan are chemical explosions meant to kill people. The “explosion” on the moon is an impact-derived plume of dust meant to learn something and potentially help people. Big difference.

Who has jurisdiction?

By international decree, no one has jurisdiction over space territory. Yet, anyway.

Who has the right to say that it’s okay to blow up a crater on the moon? Or Jupiter? Or Saturn, for that matter?

See above about experts.

If we think there is water there, how do we know we’re not affecting some life form, as well?

Do you worry about wiping down your counter tops with a disinfecting wipe? You are, after all, deliberately killing off microbial lifeforms when you do so. Any form of life on the moon is going to be extremely simplistic and if it exists in one location, will likely exist in many.

It sort of reminds me of two kids in a backyard with a firecracker that they don’t really know how to set off.

This comparison implies that NASA scientists don’t know what they’re doing. Frankly, it’s just insulting.

It’s causing great excitement in the astronomy sector. NASA is running a live broadcast on its website (wonder if they’re selling ads). A NASA spokesman announced, “It’s going to be pretty cool.” The Fiske Planetarium in Boulder is serving free coffee and bagels. “People like explosions,” the Planetarium director is quoted as saying, “and this is going to excite them.”

There’s a good reason for this: it’s an interesting, visible experiment that may lead to revolutionary results.

Well, I for one, don’t like explosions. Call me a pacifist, call me cautious, call me an environmentalist, or call me something worse, I don’t really care.

This is a non-destructive explosion in the pursuit of better understanding of the world. Better understanding is at the heart of pacifism and environmentalism.

The only thing you can be called is reactionary and ignorant.

ADDENDUM: Here’s a YouTube clip showing the impact.

* This article may or may not be a humor post, but if it is, it accurately illustrates widespread sentiment I’ve seen expressed on numerous websites.


 Posted by at 11:41  No Responses »
Sep 252009

Chirality describes a state in which something cannot be superimposed on its mirror.  It’s often used in chemistry, but the human hand is a good example as well.  Chirality is the reason you have to use the same hand as the other person when shaking hands.  The “opposite” hand cannot clasp.

This word popped into my head while in the shower this morning. I have no idea why, but there you are.

Unrelated, I started wondering last night if I should have been a doctor, and whether or not becoming one later in life would be remotely feasible. I suspect not. Alas. It’d be nice to help people and get paid for it.

Writing and Ideas

 Posted by at 14:13  No Responses »
Sep 012009

It’s an old cliché that aspiring writers* will often ask established writers where their ideas come from. The equally cliché answer is that their ideas come from all over, which leaves the poor aspiring writer wondering why they are so defective, since they do not appear to have the same wealth of ideas from which to pick and choose. The truth is, they do. Everyone does. It’s a matter of recognizing it, tapping into it, and executing on that idea once you’ve identified it.

I’m being presumptuous here, not being an established writer myself. In the course of attempting to become one, however, I make habit of reading the personal writings of several authors (namely Gaiman, Scalzi, and Lisle) and have also read a number of books concerning the craft. The authors of these books always bring this particular question up, and always express how flabbergasted they are when they hear the question. The barrier between the two is that one party has a wealth of ideas, knows how to access those ideas, and has the skills to hammer the raw material into something that a publisher will buy, while the other doesn’t realize that their deep pool of imagination is right there, waiting to be used. If you’re capable of reading this blog entry, you have an imagination equal to the task of inspiring a work of fiction. “I don’t have any ideas,” is the mantra of those who don’t know how to recognize their ideas for what they are.

Any idle thought can turn into a story. Walking into work today, I saw a tall, thin post with a hole through the top emitting smoke. I can only assume that this post, with its hole, was meant for cigarette butts. But that image can be enough to inspire an idea. Perhaps it was the start of a fire that consumed the building. Perhaps there’s a story about a guy trapped in this fiery building. Maybe this pole is part of a laser security grid, and it just vaporized the last person to try and walk in. Maybe it’s one of several exhaust vents for a fire-breathing dragon that lives beneath the building. Any of these could become a story.

Ideas are everywhere. You just have to let yourself see them. The hard part isn’t coming up with an idea; it’s turning the idea into something other people will want to read. For that, you have to push beyond the paralysis associated with the desire for approval and just write. See where the idea takes you. If it starts off rocky, with turgid prose and flat characters, that’s okay. Keep going. Writing something is better than writing nothing at all.

* “Aspiring writer” is a bit of a misnomer. The second you put pen to paper (or fingers to keyboard), you are a writer. An aspiring writer implies someone who has yet to actually write anything. Aspiring published writer would be more a accurate phrase.


 Posted by at 16:55  No Responses »
Jan 092009

It’s been a while, so it seemed high-time to talk about some of the things I’m working on.

Novel: Gold (tentative title)
This past November, I participated in and “won” NaNoWriMo by completing a 50,000 word manuscript.  It’s the story of a young woman that wakes up in a strange, burning office with an unfamiliar voice in her head urging her to jump out of the window…to save her life.  Once I completed it, I sent it to a number of people for a first review.  I haven’t touched it since, taking the advice of Stephen King to let the first draft sit in a drawer for a while before returning to it.  My parents have recently finished reading it and are going to be sending me their feedback this weekend.  I’m still waiting to hear Cody and a few others’ thoughts as well.  Once I have the combined feedback of everyone, I’ll set to work writing the second draft.  My hope is to publish it sometime this summer.

Film: Wec: The Sequel
Wec 2 has been in stasis for a while, superceded by work, more immediate hobbies and diversions (Xbox games, Fallout 3, novel-writing, etc.).  However, I do still plan to finish it.  It’s hard to bring myself to work on it specifically because it’s a film that deals with an entirely different era of my life.  I’m not that guy anymore, and so the movie’s personal relevance to me is greatly diminished.  However, with Ron’s help, I still think the movie itself is salvagable and will actually be interesting.  I recently showed Wec: The Movie to a co-worker of mine in preparation for a new project (see below), and I realized (again) how inane that first movie is.  I want the second one, as silly as it is, to actually be enjoyable for more than the sheer lunacy value.  I think it can be.

Film: Untitled Star Wars Fanfilm
I’ve played with the idea of doing a Star Wars fanfilm many times in the past.  A few weeks ago, an image formed in my head that caused inspiration to strike: an X-wing, floating “hidden” behind an asteroid, and then maneuvering like a real spacefighter (a la BSG).  This prompted the idea of creating a film based on a some X-wing pilots, in the vein of BSG.  It would play with established SW conventions (i.e. X-wings would actually maneuver like space fighters) and make a more “hard” sci-fi version of Star Wars.  

Co-worker and fellow SW fan Steve was intrigued by the idea when I told him about it and with a bit of convincing I’ve gotten him pretty enthused about the project.  We recently asked Ron to help us with the writing, and the last week has had us working through the first draft of the treatment he wrote up for us.  He’s now busily working on the second draft that Steve and I will use to write the first draft of the script.  Once we’ve done that, it’ll go back to Ron for a dialog polish (George, why didn’t you do this?) and we’ll start material pre-production (set building, costumes, etc.).  So far, the film will star Steve, Cody, and myself, along with a cameo by Steve’s wife and children.  

Other Novels
I have several other novel ideas that have been banging around in my head, begging to be written.

  • A mostly-hard science fiction novel dealing with the rammifications of space warfare after the advent of practical defense shields.
  • A science fiction novel dealing with the setting that I’ve had in my head forever, first implemented in any practical form as the UEDF Illustrious Defender e-mail RPG.
  • A sword-and-sorcery fantasy novel wherein a character joins a guild of assassins and uncovers a plot that led to her father’s murder.

There are more, but those three are the most fully-formed.

RPG: Vampire
At some point in the near future, I also plan to resume my Vampire game.  I’m not totally sure when this will happen, though it is likely to take place on Saturday evenings.  The timing is up in the air right now because many of the players are currently in unstable situations (as it pertains to regularly meeting on IRC, that is).

So, that’s about it from my neck of the woods.  Going to be a busy year!