Thank you for visiting!

You are invited to read Marcus of Abderus and the Inn at the Edge of the World, the first novel in my fantasy adventure series. Visit the Edge of the World! Come for the view, stay for the adventure!

Friday, January 21, 2011

The Future of (my) Writing-

When I got my Nook ebook reader there were a lot of free books offered. One was from the Spinward Fringe series by Randoph Lalonde. I read this book and hope to get on to read the rest of his series. His style of writing is interesting, and I enjoyed the story. Good pacing, lots of action, shallow characters which (at least some of them) display a potential for development over the series. In the case of action packed space opera, shallow characters are not an impediment.

Indeed, depth of character development can severely impact pacing, and some readers just want the story to move along. Indiana Jones is not a particularly deep character, and any depth is developed over the whole film series. The story is action, plus a lot of pretty good comic bits.

Back to Lalonde, and the future of books. Lalonde offers his books in electronic format, and keep in touch with readers through his blog, Facebook, and other developing media options. His works are evolving, and he recognizes that. He has reached a point where the series provides a living, and enough money to hire professionals to help polish what might previously been considered a finished work.

Yes, his whole series is getting a polish. Since it is electronic media, it is possible to update the original works after the fact, and for free. Essentially, you get version 1.0, plus updates. We have grown accustomed to evolving media. Computer programs get updated all of the time. They evolve. Books learning how to evolve is a natural development in a universe where plasticity is the norm.

I am not sure what model my own work will follow as I move from writing to publishing. I don't know that I have the chops for the 'big league,' where you pitch to an agent and if you land an agent they pitch to the publishers and maybe you get a nominal contract and maybe you get a good promotion package. I really don't have the patience to work so hard for potentially so little. Probably for nothing.

These days, however, we are seeing a writers minor league which is more than community college classes and writers clubs of various forms. Publishing is easy through a growing number of venues. Sure, you won't see any million dollar advances, but the likelihood of that remains small even for established big league writers.

If I can put my work out in an epublished minor league format and get some return for my efforts, I think that is great. If my work is really worthwhile I suspect it will eventually fetch me something more than a cup of coffee and a sandwich. I at least intend to try.

Book two of my series is approaching completion of the first draft. Then I go back, polish book one, and then polish book two, as I write the third installment. Additionally, I am compiling a lot of my short stories to publish along side these other works.

I am making progress. I am writing as if it were my career. I find it fulfilling unlike any other previous professional endeavor. My past jobs were jobs. This is more, and I am motivated.

Lalonde is doing pretty well. Minor league? Arguably so. Still, a minor league salary to play the game of your choice is not a bad thing.

I think I will go for it.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Theft of Choice-

I recently finished reading Perdido Street Station, by China Mieville. It is a big book. A very big book. Six hundred pages plus. I say that in the case you are daunted by really big books. It is big.

In the course of the telling of the tale Meiville's protagonist, who lives on the fringes of his culture, aids a person of a different racial and social group who has been cast out of his own culture. The crime for which the outcast was cast out was "theft of choice."

I don't know if Mieville intended for this to be the central element of his tale, or not. In the wiki bio cited above he states that he is just telling a story. I can buy that. I write stories, and they are often just that; stories. Anyway, to me the idea of "theft of choice" is a critical issue throughout the book.

It is an interesting idea, defining crimes by the degree to which they affect the victim's ability to choose and make choices. Murder robs the murdered of all of the choices they might have ever made. Robbery robs the robbed of the choices they might have made regarding the use and enjoyment of the things stolen. Theft of choice.

There are other thefts of choice in the tale. A repressive government robbing the populace of their choices. An opposing set of criminal factions robbing people of their choices. Unrelenting poverty and squalor robbing people of choices. The bad choices of individuals robbing themselves of better choices.

The essence of liberty is the power to choose. To decide for yourself what is right, and good, and worth your personal investment. That investment of time, energy, emotions, and material wealth. When someone robs you of your choice, that is a significant theft. It is a crime.

Of course, inversely it is paramount that one make choices that do not rob others of their choices. If you think about this, this is not an easy thing to do. Choice has consequences. A pebble in a placid pond makes ripples, and forever alters the state of the pond by increasing it by the presence of the pebble. A lot of pebbles make a lot of ripples, and can have a huge impact on the pond.

I value liberty, and the more I contemplate liberty the more aware I am of my choices. I strive to choose wisely, not just for my own sake but for the sake of all who might be impacted by the consequences of my choices. Even in expanding my awareness of choices I must make choices. To choose not to choose is a choice, and also has impact. Even in inaction one acts.

If I choose my values with care, and act on those values consistently, I still cast my pebble into the pond. It still has impact, and will have impact unseen and unforeseen. Yet to choose not to act is also a choosing, and has impact unseen and unforeseen. It compels those who act wisely and with care to assume all of the responsibility. It is criminal, because it robs them of choice.

What of those who wantonly cast their pebbles into the pond without concern for the consequences? Those are the true criminals, who steal choices by their own choosing. For them to lose their liberty is not theft, as their loss of liberty allows those who act wisely and responsibly to make their choices with liberty.

Life is complicated and full of choices. I choose to believe that acting out my values with care is the better choice.

Choose wisely. Choose well. Live free.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Fear and Insecurity-

The state of fear and the sense of insecurity are not unreasonable emotional conditions for a human. The world is dangerous, and the future is not assured. Oh, some of us have confidence of a place in Heaven once we have run this race, but while engaged in the business of life the future remains obscured.

The perpetual state of fear and insecurity is unreasonable, however. Absent any immediate threat or eminent disaster, such a state is dissipating. It wastes energy that can be otherwise spent. It places valuable resources in the wrong place. It is wasteful.

One tool of psychological warfare is to heighten that state in the corporate minds of the enemy. It is the tool we used to drive the Soviet Union to dissolution. They could not afford the investment in managing their fear and insecurity. We drove a perceived enemy and unquestionable rival in the world economy into an unstable state, and their state dissolved as a consequence.

We can argue that we won the cold war. I suppose that is a good thing. Now we can concentrate our resources on rebuilding our infrastructure and making our people corporately and individually strong. Oh, wait. A perceived enemy has made us feel insecure and fearful.

More than a perceived enemy. They attacked us, and on our own lands. Now we are pouring resources into huge pits that have no know bottoms. Costly secretive government agencies have proliferated like the weeds they are, and now I have not only some vague enemy to trouble me, but concern about those who don't see a problem in curtailing my freedom to "protect" me.

How can we feel individually secure in times that are not?

I am reminded of a story told me by a friend. He is an Englishman, who served in the British Navy during World War II. He participated in liberating the European continent from the Nazi occupation. In his small ship they sailed to France. They followed the earlier invasion. The role of his vessel was a supporting role.

When they arrived at the coast of France they took on supplies. Some of those supplies were fish caught by French fishermen. One of the British sailors said to one of the fishermen, "I bet you are glad to see us."  The French fisherman replied, "When the Germans were here, I sold them fish. Now you are here. I sell you fish."

The future is not assured. The world is a dangerous place. Even those whose purpose it is to protect you and me are not always what they seem. We could choose to be fearful, and feel insecure.

Or, we can be strong in our skills, in our selves, and know who we are. We can trust in ourselves, and for those of us who so believe we can trust in our God.

Live to the best of your ability, and sell your fish.

Monday, January 10, 2011

"It's a sweater!"

I took up loom knitting this year. I needed a little something to do with my hands. Stop thinking that! Hmph. Anyway, I took up loom knitting because it was creative, clean and I could actually make some things I would use. I enjoy the act of loom knitting, and I like the products.

Anyway, keeping my hands busy does not necessarily keep my mind busy. So, I sits, and knits, and thinks a bit. Sometimes I work on the story line for the novel I am writing. Sometimes I think about blogs I could write. Sometimes I think about travels, or things happening in my life.

Sometimes I even think about knitting. Really. Knitting. It is really just a technique for constructively tangling yarn into useful forms. Where did this whole thing come from? Well, if you read the link, you have about as much idea about that as I do. Of course, this whole thing as I write it piques my curiosity and  I want to learn more about all sorts of clothing. But not right now.

I got to thinking about sweaters. I wondered about all that might be involved in making a sweater. For example, a wool sweater begins with sheep. Somebody has to raise sheep. Now, for a sweater we are interested in the wool. It has to be sheared from the sheep. The wool must be cleaned. Then it is carded (a form of combing) to break the fibers apart and make it fluffy. Now for the spinning. This is a long link, a series of videos, but well produced and informative. Spinning is quite a process.

Prior to spinning the wool can be dyed, as in "dyed in the wool." Spinning can also be done on a wheel. Single threads can be spun together into thicker yarn. This is plying. Eventually you have a yarn that can be knitted. In the case for this blog, knitted into a sweater. There are a lot of videos out there to help teach knitting and how to make knitted things. This information is but a taste.

The point I am making right now is the amount of work that went into creating a sweater, as well as the hours invested to gain expertise in the various production methods. In an era like ours it is possible to go out and get a sweater at a discount house or used clothing store for a few dollars. In just a couple of generations past (and many generations before) making a sweater was a big deal. It was a production that required planning and execution over the course of months. I find that interesting to think about.

So, there you have it. A bit of an answer as to where sweaters come from.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Profound Trivialities-

All of history culminates at this moment, right now, with you reading my words. I call this a profound triviality, because I just don't have the necessary ego to assume that anything of much significance shall come to pass as a consequence of your reading my words. They are just pebbles in the stream of your consciousness, causing ripples that shall quickly dissipate into the general flow of your experience.

It is profound because it is true. Wars were fought, kingdoms gained and lost, empires built and collapsed, a singularity exploded, and much more came to pass to bring about this moment. You, and me, and my words. Profound. Trivial.

I recently read Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. In it Gladwell confirmed something I had previously thought about, an idea that is the consequence of my narcissistic reflective nature. Each of us is very much the culmination of our time and our immediate culture. Profound. Trivial. We don't stand alone, and forces seen and unseen shape us.

Additionally, he points out that we are the culmination of our extended background. He provides anecdotal evidence and various supports for this protracted formation of you and me, and refers to research that supports his ideas as written. The cultures of our progenitors influence who and what we are, going back for generations. Cultures far different from the one that immediately shapes us.

His examples include several relating to the Scotch-Irish who migrated to the United States generations ago. My progenitors, though not exclusively so. Consequently, I was able to relate quite personally to the examples offered. Some holes in my self-concept were filled in, and I understand myself a bit better as a consequence of reading the book.

As I said, I am narcissistic and reflective by nature.

This kind of information could, of course, form the basis of an excuse. "I can't help who I am. I was just made this way." To some degree that is true. However, it can also serve as knowledge and a tool for change. Knowing who and what I am can put the reigns in my hand and I can determine who and what I will be. I can use the forces that shaped me to shape myself further.

That is profound, and not necessarily trivial.

Each of us is only responsible to a small degree for where we are and how we got here. However, we are not powerless in determining where we shall go from here, and we have considerable power in determining who we shall become. We can make choices, and not all choices are as trivial as they may at first seem to be.

Imagine yourself standing at the North Pole. Right smack on top of it. The geographical North Pole, not the magnetic one. I don't want to add too many variables into this illustration. Oh, wait. I just did that, didn't I? Anyway, you stand on the Geographical North Pole.

What direction are you facing? If you turn ninety degrees to your left, what direction are you facing? If you turn around, all the way around, and then turn 22.6 degrees to the right, what direction are you facing? Keep in mind, you are standing as far North as anyone can go.

At the North Pole there is only one direction you can face. South. Yet turning just a tiny bit in any direction would radically alter what places you would visit as you traveled South. Just about any of them would probably seem appealing. The North Pole is cold and not particularly interesting.

It is profoundly trivial, just like this moment in time.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Insurance Insanity-

Our net on our pension check was a bit smaller this month. The new adjustments for our health insurance kicked in. Really kicked. The cost of insurance is way out of hand. It is insane, and not in a fun way.

Alternatives? I am exploring them. However, the options aren't all that hot. It is mostly choosing who will bend me over a barrel and tell me how much they are doing for me.

One thought is to take that premium and put some of it in a dedicated health savings account rather than giving it to insurance companies. That could pay for doctors visits and such. Dental? Pay cash and just have problems extracted if the cost is too high otherwise. Vision plan? What's the point, if you can't even see over the edge of the hole you are in? Some of the chain stores seem to offer deals. That might work.

Next, join the other poor and use the emergency room as your primary care facility. If something serious comes along, have the work done and stiff the hospital on the bill. What if the hospitals go bankrupt due to all of those poor uninsured people? I suppose if it gets to that point and nobody has actually found the nature of the problem and come up with a solution, then the system should fail. And, fail in a big way.

I wonder what would happen if terminal patients who can't afford insurance or any kind of treatment would march (albeit in a rather shambolic fashion) on D.C. and immolate themselves in front of the White House? The politicos would have to solve the problem, or at least hire homeless people to stand around the area with fire extinguishers.

If that outlandish hospital bill drives you to homelessness, you could move into your car (the beater you would have to buy after they repossessed your good car) and live in the hospital parking lot. They might even let you stay there. Just think of the bad press if they pressed you into homelessness and then kicked you out of their parking lot. They would look quite unkind, and probably drive you back into the emergency room due exposure to the elements.

It should not be necessary to sacrifice your firstborn child just to give birth to your first born child. Will back-alley health care providers push drug dealers and hookers out of all of those nice back alleys? Extending my life through sacrificing the quality of my life to excessive medical costs does not look much like a winning exchange. The medical industry is the ultimate drug dealer, and if the insurance companies are the ones screwing you financially I suspect you can find the other analogy.

The problem is huge, and our government still seems too busy throwing American warriors into a bottomless Middle Eastern cesspool to really address the problem. For all of those law degrees they are either not all that bright or else they belong in those back alleys with the hookers and drug dealer.

No. That's not right. I have known a number of hookers and drug dealers. It wouldn't be fair to them.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

On being Asocial-

Asocial creatures are essentially the non-herd or non-pack animals. Bears, for example. Bears don't live in large social groups. They socialize, but they don't live in a pride or pack or herd or flock.

I am an asocial human. I don't hate humanity. That is anti-social. I like interacting with other humans, but in very limited doses. Now, as an asocial I have had to make some adaptations. To succeed in any viable form of human life there has to be some association with other humans. However, I am not a pack-member.

Interestingly enough, other humans can sense the asocial human. Some who are in authority can recognize and respect that the asocial is making a compromise by joining a team. They are not a full member, not being emotionally attached to the pack/herd/pride/flock. Still, if they have acquired the necessary skills they can function in a team reasonably well.

Some pack leaders, however, sense the asocial and find them threatening. The asocial is the lone wolf with the wrong scent. They are dangerous and need to be driven out or destroyed. Strange as it may sound, I have way too often had to deal with these creatures. It is not fun, and requires a considerable amount of energy.

As humans we generally function in some modified form of the tribe. Whether Iroquois or Mombasa, Democrat or Republican, American League or National League, we function in tribes. The asocial human is a misfit and a threat.

In a world with sufficient frontiers and open perimeters it is easy to push these asocials (and anti-socials) out to the edges. However, the world is running out of frontiers and the perimeters are pushing up against one another. Living as an asocial human will probably just get more and more challenging.

We are hard to understand. For example, when I say "I don't like people" I am not saying "I dislike people." Yet the more socialized socials find this "don't like" and "dislike" to be equivalent, and somehow threatening. As an asocial I in turn cannot understand such responses.

Unfortunately, or perhaps fortunately, asocial humans cannot/should not act like bears. As apex predators bears can be as asocial or anti-social as they want, as long as there is enough room. Let them try to go all asocial in most cities, however, and they get a dart in the ass and a free ride out of town.

Asocials are not particularly good at social games. As an asocial I despised the games as I grew up, and only adopted as many as necessary to maintain a more-or-less adequate life. Due to not playing the games asocials are not granted ready access to a lot of the "good stuff" that more amiable tribe members get to share.

I, as an asocial, could complain about how unfair this all is. I suspect I have occasionally done so. However, I recognize that fair is a nebulous term. Really, if you don't play the game you shouldn't have any claim on the prizes. I have learned to compromise. For example, it is fair that I must buy a lottery ticket to have any shot at the prize. However, I also recognize that buying more than one ticket does not much mitigate the astronomical odds against my winning.

Even in playing the lottery I live on the perimeter.

What is my hope in writing this? I certainly don't expect the socials to understand. I am sure that the socials that feel threatened by asocials won't feel I am less of a threat. Indeed, I am more dangerous because I am calling attention to the games that are supposed to be played in secret.

My hope is that this will at some point reach another asocial who will recognize themselves for what they are. Not to use an asocial nature for an excuse, but to gain understanding of self and why the world doesn't seem like a good fit. It isn't. Use the awareness to recognize the games, learn to duck at the right times, and find a niche on the frontier.

A bears gotta do what a bears gotta do.

Monday, January 3, 2011


I have a fondness for horizons. Metaphorical or real, horizons appeal to me. I am endlessly curious about what lies between me and any horizon I can see. I am endlessly curious about what may exist beyond the horizon. Beyond the horizon may dwell dragons and lost cities and everything that populates the imagination. Horizons are not limiting, they are the promise of adventure, experience and learning.

I recall reading in one of Henry David Thoreau's works a similar fascination on his part with regard to horizons. I can't recall which one, though Walden or A Week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers are high on the list of contenders for the honor. Anyway, the theme of wandering and exploration in Thoreau strikes a common feeling between that author and myself.

The horizon played an interesting part in Larry Niven's Ringworld, as well. Due to it's unique structure the fictional Ringworld appeared to those who dwelt upon it to have a great arch reaching up into the sky. The arch appeared to touch the horizon at two points on the visible world. The mystical draw of this horizon plays a part in the story line, and certainly fascinated me.

I am striving to put my life in order to allow me to finally succumb to the call of the horizon. The Mobile Man Cave (my camping conversion van) will give me mobility with reasonable comfort. The (eventual) sale of my house should provide adequately for my family in creature comforts and security, once the whole plan comes to fruition. I then hope to have the freedom to do some exploring.

With a little more freedom in the way of time and money I hope to look beyond other horizons, as well. There are still many things to explore through reading and study. With money for books and time to read, I hope to explore up to and beyond some intellectual horizons. I have used up at least half of a lifetime so far, so I am somewhat limited by time regarding such adventures, but then I have always found life too short to allow the level of exploration for which I hunger.

Then again, the end of life is just another horizon. I may be half way there, more or less. And then comes the adventure of traveling beyond the horizon. That's pretty exciting, as well.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Outliers- a book report (of sorts)-

For Christmas I received a gift card for Borders ebooks. Now, my choice of ereader was the Nook, which is a Barnes and Noble product. I was unsure as to how well the Borders ebooks would download and work on the Nook. I didn't anticipate problems, but I recognized the potential.

So, I selected a book I had planned on reading, Outliers by Malcom Gladwell. This guy writes well, and Outliers does something that I really enjoy. Gladwell examines the idea of success, and examines some of the interconnections that bring about this nebulous condition. I say "nebulous" because success is a word loaded with emotional content well beyond any simple definition.

I downloaded Outliers from Borders to my Nook through what is called "side loading." The process is to order the book from, fire up the Borders reader application on the computer (which must have been previously downloaded,) and plug in the Nook to a USB port. Then just hit the "synchronize" button on the Borders reader on your computer.

This process places the book in the "Documents" section of the Nook. It does not show up in the "Library," which only houses the Barnes and Noble books. This simply means that I now have two stacks of books in my Nook. At present this presents no problems, and managing my growing elibrary is not difficult.

Outliers proved thought provoking. Gladwell is an interesting thinker and excellent writer. I do not know if his conclusions would hold up against heavy critical scrutiny, but I did find his ideas interesting with regard to the nature of opportunity and timing relative to particular people and their relative successes. Of course, he is working from a popular notion of success in which wealth, power and fame are significant. I recognize other modes of success as equally viable, if not always so readily recognized.

If you like your thoughts to be provoked, this is a pretty nice book to spend some time reading. I found that some conclusions I have reached regarding Life, The Universe, and Everything are paralleled and vindicated and otherwise supported in this book. It is not a guide to success, however. If you are seeking Success in big bright lights this is not your guidebook.

The idea of people and events being heavily interconnected for both good and ill is strongly supported in this book. Concepts like "opportunity" and "hard work" are also examined. Not surprisingly, classic success is the consequence of timing, opportunity and hard work. I rather like examining the interconnectedness of things, and Gladwell does this quite well.

At $9.99 for the ebook, this was not a bad investment of either money or time. If you are interested in the subject of success and how it comes about in particular people, this is your book. If you are suffering from some sense of senseless failure in your life, this book could put that in perspective, as well.

If you are still hesitant in adopting ebooks and ereaders, let me assure you that in the case of the Nook, sourcing your books from Borders as well as Barnes and Noble is not a problem. I cannot address any of the other readers, but I can say that my Nook is proving quite satisfactory. The portability and easy reading are delightful. I carry a library with me, and the e-ink screen can be read in full sunlight. Like a paper book, however, it requires a source of light to read in low/no light situations.

Oh, and free books. There are lots of free books available, both through Barnes and Noble and Borders. Probably through other sources, as well. Lots and lots of books. Once you get past the initial cost of the ereader there is a world of very cheap reading out there. Cheap in cost, not necessarily in quality. I have only found one free book to be of dubious quality, and even that was worth reading.

The cost is dropping. The features are improving. Ereaders and ebooks are a good thing. That is success in my book.