29 September 2007

How to reduce your overall productivity to nil

1. I've mentioned Jigsawdoku before. It's sudoku as a jigsaw puzzle. Each puzzle piece is a square tile with a number on it. I like it better than other online options (such as Websudoku, Samurai Sudoku) because it's colorful and has sound effects.

2. Bloxorz will brutally exercise your ability to visualize things in 3D. Many people seem to get stuck on Level 7 - my hint: you need to land on that useless-looking bridge in just the right position in order to line yourself up right for the hairpin turn.

As puzzle games go, this one has an unfinished feel to me. There is no real ending to it; after the 35th level it just stops. Also, because each puzzle has only one solution, it feels limited. You also can't tell whether a soft button is helpful or "you've just lost, throw yourself off the edge" until you try it - and because the game records how many times you try the level, that seems unfair. Overall though, this game has potential to develop into something more interesting than it is at present.

3. Bloons is where you're a dart-throwing monkey who wants to pop balloons. If neither of the above games halts all other activities, this one will. :)

4. Then there's Bloons Tower Defense, which I personally like better because it's more relaxed. You set up your towers and then sit back and watch balloons pop, which is hypnotic and oddly musical, especially on the higher levels. I hope the fine folks at Ninja Kiwi will make more maps (and tower types, and maybe even mobile troop types) for this in the future, or even let players make some the way they can with Bloons.

Also, if defense games are up your alley in general, there is also Defender. It's rather more complex than the Bloons version and has a dark medieval feel to it. It doesn't work on all browsers/platforms, however.

5. And finally, my current obsession is Collapse. This is a frenetic-paced version of the game, where you have to eliminate colored blocks before it hits the top. As levels go up, so does the game speed... It has some similarities to Tetris, but the game it most resembles is Playstation II's Super Puzzle Fighter 2 Turbo.

6. Future obsession? A friend has passed me a link to ClickDragType. I think he's trying to find revenge for all the bloons.

27 September 2007

In-car entertainment circles back to the past

First, there was radio. Then there were 8 tracks. Then there were cassette decks. Then there were CDs. Now it's all MP3s. Which means that we're actually back to radio.

I bought an attachment for my iPod yesterday to allow it to play music through my car stereo. It turns out that it can actually play music through any radio - which should've come as no surprise, but I hadn't thought it through that far. It certainly saves me from buying separate iPod speakers.

26 September 2007

So ... what do marine scientists do while sailing the high seas?

(more info about the video plus a download link)

This is a montage of photos and videos taken from research cruises in New Hampshire. The whole thing is set to Ice, Ice, Baby. I've done virtually everything mentioned in it at some point or another. :)

25 September 2007

Star something

Starship Troopers is a book by Robert A. Heinlein, published in 1959.

Starship Troopers is also a 1997 movie directed by Paul Verhoeven. Allegedly it's based on the book. In practice, aside from the title and a few minor setting elements that are more flavor than plot-crucial, it has nothing in common.

Starcraft is a real-time strategy computer game. Rumor has it that it was inspired by the book. It has the same sort of gritty realism feel as the book does. It has humans in it (also called Terrans), some of whom are telepaths. It has a race of bugs (Zerg) that sort of resemble the book's Arachnids. It also has a third race (Protoss) that could conceivably be the same ones inhabiting that alien city that the book's protagonist was assaulting in the opening chapter (if one squints at it just right and doesn't think too hard about it). Beyond that, however, the storyline and characters are completely different.

I watched the movie because it was a sci-fi movie. I played the game because an ex-SO insisted I'd like it, and then when my brother found out, he dragged me into his online community. Personal history ensued... I read the book because of the game. I like all three. It probably helps to think of them all as separate entities, but I enjoy comparing the book to the game, as it adds to my appreciation of both.

Starcraft also has its own line of books, at least two of which are novelizations of the game's plotline (Liberty's Crusade by Jeff Grubb covers the first set of Terran missions, Queen of Blades by Aaron Rosenberg does likewise for the first Zerg missions) and one is a prequel (Uprising by Micky Neilson - released as an ebook only, swaddled in anticopy tech, no longer being sold by Amazon, may be impossible to find, was a damn good book). They've been putting out others as well, continuing to expand the universe in new directions; Speed of Darkness by Tracy Hickman is totally awesome, Shadow of the Xel'Naga by Gabriel Mesta totally sucked.

Star Trek was my main obsession all through my youth, resulting in a fairly sizeable collection of books (mostly TOS). No money was safe in my hands back in those days because I would use it to buy books instead of lunch/bus tickets/save for emergencies.

Stargate is my current biggest sci-fi obsession; I jumped to it as the Star Trek franchise went stale and sank. SG1 has since gone stale and sunk as well, though Atlantis is still decent.

Star Wars I-III is an epic story about the fall of a man who sacrificed himself out of love for his wife - only to find that in so doing, he lost her. Unfortunately, it was badly written and executed, so nobody noticed. IV-VI would probably have been about his redemption had I-III been filmed first, but they stand alone as their own complete story pretty well.

I think that's everything that has ever passed through my sci-fi life that starts with "Star."

24 September 2007


Indian curries are either sharp and tangy or smooth and creamy. Most people associate "curry" with "Indian."

Thai curries are tropical and sweet because they like to put coconut and lemongrass into everything.

Chinese curry is warm and yellow.

Sub-Saharan African curries are by far the best. Warm, full-bodied, down to earth with just a hint of well-grounded sweetness. Alas they are also the least known. I wish more sub-Saharan Africans would open restaurants in the U.S.

23 September 2007

The importance of lyrics

Nicole C. Mullen's Always Love You is well outside my normal preferences of music genre. First, it's what I would call "girly" - the kind of song that my female relatives would pick at a karaoke while the male relatives sit out. Second, it's somewhere in the "black" range - the kind of music that black people typically sing and enjoy, to which I've never paid enough attention to tell the difference between the various genres (rhythm and blues? reggae?). And third, the singer's style is in the direction of one that I really don't like - where it has an "ah-ah" sound breaking up the middle of the melody line rather than a straight-through "aaaaahhh" and breaks only at breaths.

It also turns out to be "gospel" - and the theme song for the Christian movie End of the Spear. Christian music is about as far outside my musical interests as one can get. This particular song, however, is about love rather than God, so I kept listening.

What caught my attention was the lyrics. They're unusual for having a three-line rhyme scheme, and the singer does a wonderful job of matching emotion to lyrics to melody. The song as a whole is very well constructed, and I have it as one of my current top ten favorites.

Meanwhile, Snow Patrol's Chasing Cars has everything I could ever want in a song, musically speaking. The slow, melancholic start, the gradual introduction of different instruments adding their parts to the greater whole, the strings that come in last, the way it all builds and falls and comes back in again, even the sound of the singer's voice.

But good lord, the lyrics make me want to stab myself in the head repeatedly with a fork. Each stanza sounds like it's going to say something profound ... and then it doesn't. Nothing goes anywhere. It's an insipid mess. It doesn't even slightly rhyme, and the choice of words is like fingernails on chalkboard. This is one song I would enjoy a whole lot more if it were in a language I don't understand. Someone needs to write better lyrics to fit to this song. :p

21 September 2007

Learning Croatian

"Bok" is hello.
"dovidenja" is goodbye. There's a small horizontal bar through the second d.
"Zdravo" or "pozdrav" can be either hello or goodbye, and means something like "be healthy."
"Bik" is bull.
"Krava" is cow.
"laku noc" is good night. "laku" is the gender-neutral form of "lako," which means "easy." There's a / above the c.
"dobro jutro" is good morning.
"dobar dan" is good afternoon.
"dobra vecer" is good evening. There's a v-shaped thing above the c in vecer.
("good" is: dobar, dobra, dobar; dobri, dobre, dobra ... dobar, dobroga, dobrome, dobrim, dobri, dobrim (singular masculine forms) ... about twenty total depending on case and gender o.O)
"dob" means age.
"i tebi isto" is "to you too." (i = and, tebi = you, isto = the same)
"uzivaj u stargateu" means "enjoy Stargate."
"sedam patuljaka" means "seven dwarves"
"hej haj" would be the equivalent of "hi ho"
"vidimo se poslije" means see you later.
"idem u krevet" means "to go (singular present) to bed"
"dobar tek" would be analogous to "bon appetit."

ja = I
mi = we
on = he
ona = she
ono = it
oni = they
ti = you
vi = y'all
Vi = formal singular you

"riba ribi grize rep" is "fish fish's bites tail" or "A fish bites a fish's tail."
"gore gore gore, a gore gore dolje" means "the high mountains are torched, but the hills are burning down there."

"stvarno si postao pravi mali Hrvat" means "you have really become a true little Croatian."

Croatian alphabet

25 Oct - Some from a Serbian:
(8:03:11 PM) serbian: breakfast=dorucak
(8:03:24 PM) serbian: lunch=rucak
(8:03:31 PM) serbian: dinner=vecera
(8:06:30 PM) serbian: cat=macka
(8:06:40 PM) serbian: girl=devojka
(8:06:48 PM) serbian: nice=lepa
(8:07:06 PM) serbian: beautiful=prelepa
(8:07:33 PM) serbian: love=ljubav
(8:09:34 PM) serbian: hate=mrznja
(8:09:42 PM) serbian: dog=pas
(8:09:59 PM) serbian: ugly=ruzan
(8:10:14 PM) serbian: terrible=strasno
(8:10:56 PM) serbian: and cool=opusteno
caos = bok :)

20 September 2007

Mmm... massage...

My chiropractor tells me that when he recommends massage therapy to people, men tend to balk, thinking it in the same category of frivolous pampering as pedicures. Women tend to be much more amenable.

I liken it to taking the car into the shop for servicing. The car lasts longer when it gets regular care and maintenance. The body does too. Eating well, sleeping well, exercising and taking it in for regular checkups are all part of it - and sometimes, so are massages.

18 September 2007


The opposite of love is indifference. Hate is a form of caring, which is a form of love.

Caring means sometimes becoming upset when things go awry. Strength is the capacity to continue caring afterward, knowing there may be more upsets to come. Courage means facing the upsets and not hiding away.

Apathy - the absence of caring - means it's time to find something else to do. (But check that it really is apathy, and not just an excuse to not do something.)

The opposite of light is magnets.

17 September 2007

The point of having a society

Someone built the house you live in, makes the electricity to power it, and pipes water to it so you can drink and bathe. Someone made the car you drive and the road you drive it on. Someone grows the food you eat, harvests it, trucks it to you, and sometimes even cooks it for you and brings it to your house. If these people were not there, you would have to do all this yourself every day. You wouldn't have time to do anything else.

It's in your own personal best interest for all of these people to be healthy (so they can do these things), happy (so they will want to do these things), and educated (so they can do these things well). That's what universal health care and public education are for. Even if you, personally, never use these services, you're surrounded by people who would benefit from them - and when they benefit, so do you.

Some might argue that these people should pay for their own health care and educations with their earnings. That's certainly one way to do it - provided that they earn enough to afford the health care and education. Take the people who build roads. Everyone knows that the building and upkeep of roads is paid for out of taxes. Well, the workers are also paid for out of those taxes. If we want to give them a fair chance at remaining healthy, they must be paid a high enough amount to afford the health care - above the amount they need for food and shelter. We can either raise their pay, or give them the health care separately from the take-home pay. Either way, it's still the same taxes.

Or maybe we don't care if they have a fair chance at remaining healthy. We can pay them as little as possible because what they do isn't important, and they aren't important either, and they should be happy to work for free. It doesn't matter if they perish because we can just find more of them from somewhere else. So long as they stay out of our sight, we can happily live our own very important lives, secure in the knowledge that the world is running along fine. If it's not fine for someone else, well, that's not our problem, now is it?

Society is not "every man for himself." Everyone contributes something so that no one has to do everything. People naturally want to contribute. See to it that they have the means, take care of all the people in it, and society as a whole will prosper.

16 September 2007


The patch of ground just beyond my patio looks like standard suburban lawn from a distance - but it's not. Here's what it would look like if you were 2 inches (5 cm) tall:

It's a jungle out there, and it isn't grass! Most of the greenery is actually some kind of fern. I have no idea what species.

There are also patches of moss, a few rare dandelions (which don't seem to thrive in the southeastern U.S.), and some tiny purple flowers. Occasionally there are mushrooms. Birds like to peck at the ground - I see cardinals, brown thrashers, and sometimes robins. And who knows what lurks under the leaf litter.

15 September 2007

The body language of roadside deer

If the deer looks up and is facing the road, get ready to slow down. Watch for tensing of its shoulder muscles, whether its head sort of drops down like it's going to spring forward. Inexperienced deer will often stand in that position being indecisive until the last possible minute, and dart out just as you get there to hit them.

If the deer looks up, is facing the road, but doesn't tense, it won't bolt. It might stand there and watch you pass, or calmly turn around and amble back into the trees. (But slow down anyway, just in case it's insane.)

If the deer looks up and is faced away from the road, it won't run out in front of the car even if it does bolt. However, there might be more deer on the other side of the road that will bolt after the first one. Those will be trouble. (Don't honk at them. It just makes things worse.)

If the deer doesn't look up at all but just keeps on blithely grazing right next to the road, it's so inured to cars that you can ignore it. Deer on I-16 (between Savannah and Macon, GA) are like that. Some of them even know how to look both ways before crossing the highway.

Some evenings as I drive through the multitudes of deer on my way home, I wonder: why hasn't anyone domesticated them like we have the cows, pigs, sheep and goats? Why isn't venison sold at every grocery store? How did they get to stay wild and everywhere?

13 September 2007

True Goths

Being goth is not about the clothes you wear, the piercings and body mods you have, the music you listen to, the cloves you smoke, the death and undead you're fascinated with. Being goth is a state of mind.

A true goth is someone who recognizes the validity of all emotions. A true goth does not see any one emotion (such as happiness) as superior to any other, but finds all of them equally worth experiencing and exploring, and ultimately understanding. A true goth does not hide from any of the other ones, but enjoys them all.

A true goth rejects denial and illusions. Yes, there is suffering in the world. Yes, there are tragedies and people who wrong other people. Yes, these things do happen and sometimes no one is at fault. No, the truth isn't always comfortable to bear. All of those emotions are worth experiencing too.

Many goths have a darkness to the soul that makes the world appear bleak to them, and in that bleakness they find beauty. But there are also fundamentally happy goths - those who see the same bleakness and the same beauty, but have found balance between them and in being true to themselves, and have therefore found peace.

An emo, so far as I can fathom, is a goth by another name. The next generation down is trying to proclaim their differences from those who came before.

Being goth (or emo) isn't wrong. For those who are true goths, especially the ones who have found their balance, it's real and it's right.

12 September 2007


Jim Wright asks in one of the comment threads: "What's the Blog name mean?"

Short answer: It's the name of one of my fictional planets. I have a whole fictional star system that I created in my early teens, called Swodonia. Alas I wasn't as good at coming up with workable characters and plots as I was at worldbuilding, so there are no stories set in that star system (yet?).

Longwinded answer:

Originally this was "The Blog of Sodor." See how the address is "kayara.blogspot.com"? Well, "Kayara" is the name I started using for all my writing-related online haunts after Nanowrimo 2004, including my gmail address where I intended to store offsite backups of my writing (but never did). The blogname suggester picked the address as its default; this was just a test blog while we figured out how Blogger works while finding a place to set up a private family blog. Kayara the Blue is from Sodor, so it made sense to call the blog that. (So is Nerwen the Green, incidentally, for everyone who knows me elsewhere as Nerwen (and no, I didn't steal that from Tolkien - it's a coincidence. I hadn't even read Tolkien by that point).) (Also, Sodor bears no relation to Thomas the Train's home island. I originally changed the name from Sodoron to Sodor to get away from them, but then they changed it too!! I refuse to change my planet's name again until just before publishing something that mentions it.)

Kayara and Nerwen have only been in one fictional place thus far, and that was an online freeform roleplay area set in an interdimensional space bar and grill called Indy's. It's long gone now; the forum it was on died in 1994. Someday I might get around to writing up my characters' story.

Anyhow, last June I decided to start a daily blog. Partly it was to see if I could actually do it on a daily basis, and partly because I had curious relatives who were apparently grilling my brother about my life. It's impossible to tell someone else about one's life in a couple conversations, so I figured a daily blog would show it to them in small glimpses. (Ironically, I don't think any of them are actually reading this.) As it happened, I still had this test blog lying around unused... But I didn't want to use "Sodor" because that name is tied in with my characters, and a blog about Sodor should rightfully be about the planet and stories set there and the rest of Swodonia.

So I went with Siram. Siram was the first planet, before there was a star system, created with my sister when we were children. The name is derived from Mars spelled backwards. It fits a lot better for something that's more about me and my life, rather than the life(lives?) of my fiction.

And that's how the blog got its name. :)

Thus far I seem to manage around 5 posts a week, which is close enough to daily for government work. I started with "stuff I think about while driving" to give me topic ideas, but it has broadened from there. Now I go with three guidelines: a) emphasize the topic and de-emphasize my relation to the topic; b) try not to talk about the same things too many times in a row, so that there's a broad range of stuff to peruse at any given time; and c) try to stay general, because the potential audience is very diverse (people who know about this blog include family, coworkers, a few roleplayer friends from RPoL, a couple small writing communities, the Whatever, former gaming buddies, and assorted other friends). It seems to be working out overall. Although I don't get that many comments (until Jim showed up :) ), I do get feedback via IMs and IRC chat channels; everyone seems to like different posts. And I'm always open to suggestions for topics, which ones people like or dislike, etc.

Also I try to write much shorter posts than this one. In my other blogs, I tend to just go on and on forever, and I'm trying to cut down on that. This'll (hopefully) be one of the very few lengthy ones.

11 September 2007

11 Sep 2001 - Ficlet Style

Six years ago today, a bunch of mean people flew airplanes into buildings. They were terrorists. They successfully terrified the American people. The U.S. was so terrified, in fact, that it flattened Iraq. I suspect this wasn't the result they were hoping for. To date, it's unclear who's winning and what they're winning.

10 September 2007

Pylon Bunny

pylon bunny avatar

This is an ASCII bunny made out of Protoss pylons.

Protoss pylons are from the real-time strategy computer game Starcraft. The Protoss are one of three races in the game setting, and pylons are their basic building for supporting troops and powering other buildings.

An ASCII bunny looks like this:

(\(\       <-- ears
(o.o)     <-- head with two eyes and a nose
(")(")    <-- feet bottoms (bunny is seated)

Although I wasn't the first or only person to draw ASCII bunnies in Brap's Battlenet channel, somehow they became my trademark.

One day, while I was watching a lengthy free-for-all game between seven other people (map was "Continental Divide"), I got bored and started drawing things. My bunny turned out large enough to be visible on the game minimap:

A while later, LittleMinions (in teal on the minimap) came along with his horde of Zerg (another Starcraft race) and wiped it out with great enthusiasm. He went on to win the game. Luckily for me, the game has a "replay" feature - where one can save an entire game to watch again later. I took numerous screenshots and assembled the bunny in Photoshop:

assembled pylon bunny

A few years after Brap ceased to be, I submitted it to RPoL's portrait gallery. They cleaned off the game-related bits and made the background a uniform green. And now I use it as one of my regular identifying avatars.

pylon bunny avatar

09 September 2007

Chinese Takeout: All good things must come to an end

Everything is different but it's all the same to him.
Everything is nothing like it was.
Before she came
Before she stayed
And went away ...
- "Johnny" by October Project

They tell me that nothing will change. I will still come to work at the same hours, do all of the same things, and get the same pay. Everything will be exactly the same.

Except that the people I work for won't be there anymore. The reason I go there at all will be gone.

It's basically impossible to both run a highly successful Chinese takeout and have a family. She's due in February. They've bought a seafood wholesale market on the other side of town, which will be less work for them. Next Saturday will be the last time I work with them. I'm unspeakably happy for them. I just didn't expect it would end so soon.

I've started the process of extricating myself from the takeout. I'll break in the new manager and teach him why it was as successful as it was. I'll hope he doesn't change anything that has been working so well, and I'll hope that all our customers, half of whom come to see her, will understand. And then by the end of the year, I too will be gone. Because I can't do for him what I did for them, when the takeout is just a takeout.

07 September 2007

On wise sayings

Wisdom is something that works best in context. Someone has a question, someone else provides an answer. If the same person provides useful, sensible answers enough times to the same community, others come to see them as wise.

A piece of wisdom out of context can also sound wise, but only in an abstract sense. For example, if I were to say here:
"There's a difference between telling a lie and keeping your silence. Sometimes the latter can be useful too. Knowing when to keep your silence and when to share the truth is an art form."*
People might nod along and agree with me. But if they didn't ask the question that caused me to say it, don't have a question that needed that particular answer, even if they know what the question is it won't have much meaning to them.

Or they might want to argue with me for how it doesn't apply to whatever is on their own mind, or bring in their own interpretations on what I mean. This can spawn whole separate conversations from the one that originally caused me to say it and have little to do with why I said it.

(Or they might be my little brother, who tries valiantly to find flaws in everything I say and do no matter what it is. :p)

Wise sayings in general - like the kind that sometimes get collected into books, or in my blog footer - are summaries of large collections of life experiences. The people who haven't gone through those life experiences will not understand the intended meaning of the saying that summarizes them. The people who have understand it already.

Wise sayings in context, applied as an answer to a specific example of the problem they're meant to address, can inspire epiphanies and change the course of the questioner's life.

*I said this in reply to an article about "Radical Honesty", via a question on the Whateveresque forum.

05 September 2007


She was the nosy busybody that pestered everyone to keep our patios neat, to not store paper bags in the utility closet, to not keep big wads of plastic bags at all, and to clean our fridges.

She knew where everyone lived and what we did, who our children were, what our schedules were, what cars we drove and where we liked to park them.

She didn't tolerate noise. At all.

She cared how well my carpet was installed and how badly the maintenance guy fixed my sink. She insisted on doing all the small tasks so that they wouldn't become big ones. She found it distressing that I seldom asked for anything to be fixed.

She provided replacement light bulbs and grease pans for free.

Our patio doors have three separate locking mechanisms, all of them in good working order.

Every month when the exterminators came, and maintenance replaced the AC filters and tested the fire alarms, she personally escorted them into every apartment.

She once caught a party in our swimming pool who were from the apartment complex across the street. They don't have a pool. She locked them in and had them arrested.

She stopped random passersby from putting their garbage into our dumpsters.

She stood up to loiterers and roaming thugs. They learned to run away when they saw her.

She was a dear, sweet little old lady. People moved here from the last place she managed, just to be with her. Our neighborhood was an oasis of safety in an area with frequent violent crime. Now she's retired and gone, and my reasons for wanting to live here are much diminished.

04 September 2007

Emerald Sword - happy endings

Robert wrote an entire 75k word novel. Alcar wrote about 26k. I wrote just over 6k. Gemm wrote somewhere close to 2k, I believe. Analog wrote a ficlet. Great fun was had by all. :)

02 September 2007

On perfection

The day the child realizes that all adults are imperfect, he becomes an adolescent; the day he forgives them, he becomes an adult; the day he forgives himself, he becomes wise.
--Alden Nowlan

Someday I hope I'll be wise too.

01 September 2007

The Cutting of Corners

Never, ever take shortcuts about anything. Ever.

It will always come back to bite you. If not right away, then later on when you are least inclined to be bitten. If not you, then someone else. You don't want it to bite someone else, anymore than you want someone else's shortcuts to bite you. Do not do unto others what you would not want done unto to you.