Randomness for 4/8

1) What is NeoRealism? Video. Extraordinarily interesting contrast between neorealist and Hollywood movie techniques. h/t @RodneyRamsey

2) The Uncomfortable, a collection of deliberately uncomfortable everyday objects.

3) Sony gets Blender-made animated short pulled from YouTube even though they have no copyright claim to it. You can still watch it on Vimeo, though.

4) Vatican to digitize 41 million pages of ancient manuscripts. Of course, the manuscript pages themselves will outlast whatever file type the Vatican chooses to put them in.

5) Workouts inspired by your favorite fandoms. Heh.

6) What if the moon was a disco ball? Video. A question we’ve all asked at one point or another.

7) The Love Me Letters, Open Letters to Random People.

Randomness for 7/25

1) Weird Ways To Burn 200 Calories. Video.

2) Excaliber, the world’s tallest (121 feet) free-standing climbing wall.

3) First of all, how do the astronauts was their hair in zero G? Awesome! Second of all, female astronaut. Awesome! Last, hair care tips from the woman on board? Hmph. I hope she gets to play guitar or something next time. Video. (Still, zero g hair-washing.)

4) The terrible and wonderful reasons I run long distances, by The Oatmeal.

5) Favorite movies laid out as vintage treasure maps.

6) Ryan Gosling Won’t Eat His Cereal. This is so simple and absurd. I love it.

7) This is what happens when you try to take video of police in Sweden. Video. (h/t to James Nicoll).

This week sucks

It was just Monday that I blogged about how grateful I am that folks are supporting me in the Clarion West writeathon and that I was taking those pledges seriously and hoping to get a lot done.

Then, later that day, I broke a tooth in a big way.

Tuesday, I discovered that I could not get in with my dentist that day.

Wednesday, I learned that I will probably need a root canal that I can’t afford.

Today, my wife found out that a very old friend of hers passed away. She’s processing it as best she can and I’m trying to stay close in case she needs support.

Guys, this week sucks. As soon as we can put this one in our rear-view mirror, lets.

On top of that, I realized too late that progress on the book had grown sluggish because my subconscious was telling me that I’d made a structural mistake. The book felt flat and I couldn’t keep pushing through it any more. This realization felt almost Strossian.

So, it’s late in the day but I’m going to go back and redo those pages in the proper way, and hopefully they will help to build the climax the way it’s meant to be done.

Week’s not over! It’s possible that tomorrow will be non-shitty. Let’s hope so.

7 Feb 2013, 9:45am
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Things “everyone knows” about obesity that aren’t supported by the evidence

“Everyone knows” the best ways to fight obesity, but how much of that information is supported by evidence? And how much of it is flatly contradicted by the evidence.

The Washington Post highlighted a paper in the New England Journal of Medicine that examined common beliefs about weight loss and compared them with the relevant research. It’s amazing how much is simple presumption without any basis in evidence, and also how much is straight up wrong.

I wish I had access to the full paper.

Added later: Don’t read the comments.

In which I have opinions on recent publishing news

First, as per James Nicoll and Making Light, Games Workshop, the game company that makes Warhammer 40K, is asserting a trademark claim to the term “Space Marines.” They have the trademark on the term in the gaming world, supposedly, but now that they’ve started publishing ebook tie-ins they’re claiming a common law trademark over the term and filing DMCA notices to make Amazon pull books from the shelves.

Of course, the writer they’re doing this to doesn’t have the money to fight back because deep pockets uber alles. If you’re a fan and customer of the company’s games, maybe you should stop buying from them until they clean up their act, and let them know about it.

Second, yet another article about the slow-motion collapse of Barnes & Noble written for The Atlantic this time. Is there any surprise, really, that our slow-motion recovery from a nasty economic collapse is still taking a toll on out-sized companies? Or that the agency-price collusion lawsuit filed in Amazon’s favor would be another cinderblock in B&N’s rowboat?

I’m not what you’d call a fan of B&N, although I will say that I’m less-likely to be given the side-eye when I shop for SF/F in a big chain than in an indie store. Also, I love seeing huge sections of a store devoted to genres, something you rarely see in indie corner shops.

What would be lost if the last of the big chains go under? We would lose a physical space designed to sell according to readers’ tastes rather than the tastes of the bookstore owner.

Third, Chuck Wendig wants to make today International Don’t Pirate My Book Day. His thoughts about treating art as a thing of value are worthwhile, but here’s where he and I differ: when you read my work without paying for it, it doesn’t hurt my feelings.

It’s pernicious, yes. It’s harmful in the long term. If I am giving something away for free, read for free. Enjoy. If not, I would prefer you pay. However, it doesn’t hurt my feelings because my feelings don’t enter into it.

I’ve talked about this before: In the digital world, price is not constrained by supply and demand. Supply is/can be effectively infinite, so there’s no reason for people to pay extra to procure scarce goods. However, the constraint on price is actually “theft;” the balancing act has to be “How much will users pay for this?” vs “At what price point will people just steal it instead?”

Really this is an inevitable consequence of our advertising/consumer culture, in which you the consumer deserve whatever you want when you want and it ought to be cheap as possible. That’s the culture that vendors of every size, from mom and pop stores to massive corporations, have been pushing for generations. It’s thoroughly internalized in our outlook on the world, and now that machines in our homes allow us to cut the actual producers out of the equation, people do so with gusto.

It’s pernicious, yes. Also, I know people will respond with “Customers are willing to pay if you make it easy for them to do so and keep the price low enough.” Yes, that’s true. It’s also a calculation that occurs solely within the head of the consumer. What’s a fair price? How long should I have to wait for it?

There will always be people who think the smart thing to do is to take what they want and give nothing back, if you get my reference. The real issue becomes the size of that group of consumers and how the culture at large talks about them. In my opinion, the battle against book piracy will not be won in courts or legislative chambers, but in the culture at large; what behavior is normalized? That’s the question.

Fourth and last, I’m going to a reading tonight and my body is in full allergic freak-out mode. I don’t have anything life-threatening going on, but the patchy red marks on my face and (fading now, thankfully) hives on my arms turn me from ugly guy to full AVERT! AVERT! status. Oh well.

30 Nov 2012, 6:19pm
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Reuben Salad

The boy didn’t like it, but my wife did. I’ll be updating the recipe for next time.

IMG_1279

It’s fancy potato chips at the bottom, then lettuce, then corned beef, then sauerkraut, then swiss cheese, then thousand island dressing. I may heat the cheese next time so it’s more melty–the residual heat from the meat and kraut didn’t do it–but overall it was pretty good. Not great, but pretty good.

Best in small doses, I think.

8 Aug 2012, 4:39pm
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I’m on Marketplace APM

Yesterday I volunteered to be interviewed for a story for American Public Media’s radio show Marketplace. Today, that story is online.

It’s about weight loss apps, and as I expected, they used the segment in which I admitted to being ashamed of my weight.

30 Jun 2012, 1:10pm
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Tomorrow is my not-birthday

For new or forgetful folks, the not-birthday concept is pretty straight-forward: my wife and I have the same birthday, which sucks, so I moved mine back a month.

What this means: omelet with oven-roasted potatoes for breakfast, pizza at some point, possibly a bottle of quality beer.

Then, on Monday, I’m starting an unjuice fast. Health-related stuff behind the cut. more »

29 Jun 2012, 5:06pm
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Willpower is not a virtue

And by “not a virtue” I don’t mean that it’s a vice or it’s something awful. I mean, it’s not a wonderful thing that people have or don’t have.

Okay, so, I’m an NPR-listener. Yeah, I often hear this expert or that being interviewed… so many of them that they sometimes run together. Sometimes I’ll hear something that sticks with me and I have to go back to find it again. Like this interview with David Eagleman.

What Eagleman said, for those who don’t want to click through to the show, is that our brains aren’t this unified thing. We, ourselves, aren’t a unified identity. Different parts of our brain want us to do different things: Lose weight, exercise, sleep in, work hard, order the fries, watch that TV show… We’re full of conflicting impulses.

This is certainly true of me. I have long battled with myself over all sorts of indulgences, and different parts of me fight in different ways. When I get up early to work on my book, I feel a sense of accomplishment. When faced with the opportunity to eat something I shouldn’t, I feel a sense hopeless despair.

And in recent years, it’s been a tossup which part of my brain[1] would win, except for the despair. Hopeless despair has been a trump card in my life; I have a hard time beating it.

However! Lately I have stopped looking at myself as a complete whole. Lately I have tried to recognize that there are several different personalities living inside me, and that my brain plays dirty tricks on my to make me do things I shouldn’t. In essence, I’m accepting the fact that my own brain is often my enemy.

I’ve talked about this before: It can be hard to say no to food when the despair hits. It can be hard to get up early to work when I know I need sleep, too. But for the past few weeks, I have not been using willpower to win these internal battles. It might look like willpower, but it’s not. What I’ve been doing is keeping my goals in the forefront of my mind and treating all impulses that get in the way as an enemy attack. It’s not willpower to refuse to go over to my enemy camp.

It’s been working, too. For me, I mean. I don’t know how well this would work for anyone else.

[1] If you’re thinking of “parts of my brain” in an anatomical sense, you’re being too literal. I’m talking about competing impulses.

Randomness for 6/20

1) 25 Ways to Tie a Scarf in 4.5 Minutes. Whether you care about scarves or not, it’s an entertaining video.

2) The Stephen King story universe flow chart.

3) Creepy married actor hits on model during flight. She tweets about it, bringing him more fame than he might have wanted.

4) I guess if you’ve already spent the money on the photos, you might as well do this. Er, #35 is “special.”

5) Starbucks name fail.

6) Political attack ads in Westeros.

7) The ten most ridiculous rules in first ed. D&D. I see that no one will acknowledge the elephant in the room: armor class. via Mike Cole

11 May 2012, 8:53am
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State of the self, (not actually a weight loss post)

So, you guys know I’ve been working on shedding the pounds, yes? I’ve always been a big guy (When I was a teenager I had a 44″ chest, and it wasn’t muscle or fat–it was all rib cage) so I’ve always tended toward the heavy side of the bell curve. Then I got fat for real and reached, at one point, 304 lbs. Cut for triggery talk of weight loss and gross picture of cholinergic urticaria. more »

28 Apr 2012, 11:25am
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Stupid shoes, pain, and stalling out (a weight loss post)

Like a lot of overweight people, I wear running shoes. (Cut for triggery weight discussion) more »

Two blog posts in one day??

Unthinkable!!

Actually, I had no plans at all to write in my blog again, but fate intervened. Today was supposed to be a “large goal” day, but instead I hit the small goal only.

To explain: I try to do about a thousand words a day as my small goal, but on days like today, when I have no other commitments during the morning and afternoon, I slip out of the house as early as possible and try to do twice my usual goal. At least. This helps make up for the days when I typically can’t write at all.

However, today I was hit with a really bad histamine reaction. To what, I don’t know, but the itching was really bad and it slowly spread down my arms and then down to my knees.

This happens every once in a while, but we’ve been unable to find the trigger. It wasn’t clothes, it probably wasn’t food, and…

Really, what it seemed related to was sweat. I had started to move my body a bit, and the sweat on my torso started itching. From there it got worse and worse.

At one point I had my wife take a picture with the idea of posting it, but it was… er… too much. I didn’t want to gross anyone out.

My skin has mostly settled down now (thanks, Benadryl!), but it’s past time for me to take another long walk. I’m hoping I can make it home without peeling my own skin off.

12 Jan 2012, 8:38am
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Pain and Goals (a weight loss post)

Back in early November, when I was planning out all these posts, I threw “Pain” and “Goals” together because I figured I wouldn’t have a lot to say about them. But this is the last of the posts I had planned, and it turns out that these two things go together better than I expected. more »

I just don’t feel like leaving my apartment today.

Nothing else to add to that. My wife and son come home from their east coast trip this evening (they’re in JFK as I write this) and the place is all cleaned up.

But I’m sick of going to the same Starbucks all the time. I’m going to break out my standing desk and try to do my work at home. Usually that doesn’t work, but the hummingbirds are out and I’m bored with the usual walk.

Also, back in my post about the end of the Twenty Palaces series, I said that A Blessing of Monsters would be complete in one volume. Turns out that’s not going to happen. It’s just spinning further and further out.

Logging off to work.

22 Dec 2011, 2:05pm
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Why are they looking at me funny? Oh. Right.

For the past several weeks, people have been looking at me funny. Sometimes they grin at me like crazy. Sometimes they curl their lip. One little girl did an actual double-take just like you see in the movies.

Each and every time this happens, I think: What the hell is wrong with… Oh yeah. I forgot that I look like this: more »

Empathy, Stock Art, Eye glasses, Homeschool and Booze

Let’s start with Empathy. Everyone has been having a laugh at the Forbes writer who put together the “If I was a small black child” column. It was dumb, thoughtless, and actively harmful. Obvs.

But you can rely on Ta Nehisi Coates to talk about this stuff in the best possible way. One, Two. That second link contains links to a pair of Megan McArdle articles that are also invaluable. Excellent reading.

As for me, I was a total goof off in school–smart but continually bored and prone to do stupid stuff to impress my friends (like any teenage boy). There were whole years that went by when pretty much every day I did something that could have gotten me jail time.

And no, I didn’t want to work hard. I wanted to play rpgs, get high, smash stuff, throw a carpet over barbed wire so we could swim at the pool after it closed, etc, etc.

So it’s easy to say: “If I were a…” and then imagine the path you would take to success. It’s much harder to look back at your own self and realize what a lazy screw up you were, and admit that a more difficult environment would have defeated me.

Next is stock art, which is what I need right now. I have a sword and sorcery novelette almost completely ready to publish. All I need at this point is a decent(ish) stock image for the cover. Hard part? Finding something I think is decent.

Anyway, I plan to release this particular story only through my website. Why?

Let’s move on to “Eye glasses.” My son needs them. Not just one pair, either. He needs a reading pair and a non-reading pair. Add to that the sad fact that my landlord mailed me a little something–no, it wasn’t a Christmas card. It was a notice of rent increase.

Yay! Rent increase notice right before the holiday (but not so soon before that we could budget it into our spending.

It’s not a big increase and our rent is already very reasonable. It’s just hard timing and I hope enough people will want to buy this short story that we can cushion this blow. More about the story later.

Next: you know how public school teachers will sometimes show movies in class? Guess what! His homeschool family has found an excuse for the extended editions of LOTR! Starting tonight. More on that later, too.

Finally, booze. I just bought the smallest non-airplane-sized bottle of Jack Daniels I could get. Why? Well, I don’t drink like I used to (what with the kid-having and the belly-reducing and all) but I do love egg nog. LURRRVE egg nog. And it just doesn’t seem right without a little bourbon.

Plus, I couldn’t resist that cheap German spiced wine. I actually bought two bottles of it. You know the one I mean? You warm it on the stove and drink it until you’re loopy? I don’t care if it’s crap. I love it. And did I mention I only bought two bottles? That’s some self-control right there. (Tangentially related, the store only had two bottles left).

And that’s all for today. I was supposed to write 2500 words on A Blessing of Monsters today, but after all those revisions I only managed 1500. Oh well. There’s always tomorrow.

  • The prequel to Child of Fire: see here for more details

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Starred review from Publishers Weekly

  • Named to Publishers Weekly's "Best 100 Books of 2009" list. Get the audiobook here.

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