30 November 2007

Nanowrimo 2007: Done!

Every year they design a new winner's certificate. This year it says "This literary honor is bestowed but once a year upon the bravest, most dedicated, and GIFTED of writers who have achieved their creative potential in ONE absurdly challenging month. The bearer of this certificate shall forever occupy a revered place in the firmament of HIGH-VELOCITY NOVELISTS, and his or her work shall stand as an INSPIRING testament to what can happen when one courageous writer triumphs over the naysaying and self-critical voices that stymie the flow of ART AND MERRIMENT in the universe."

I love it. :)

29 November 2007

American Indian Creationism

The American Indians are from America.

If you're like me, you read that and immediately thought about the Bering Strait, and how they came to the Americas some 10 to 40 thousand years ago via a land bridge. The American Indians aren't from America, they walked here and settled it from somewhere else.

Are the Chinese from China? Did they not also walk there from elsewhere to settle? If you're like me, that thought doesn't occur to you at all when you think about those people in those places. Why, the Chinese have 6000 years of recorded (written) history and culture, which is a really long time.

So is 10 to 40 thousand years.

Where is the difference coming from, then? All through grade school here in the U.S. (and probably Canada), we are taught that the native Americans came to the Americas via the Bering Strait. Scientifically speaking, this is not in dispute, because every human being on Earth originally came from Africa. But somehow this has turned into the notion that the native Americans are not from America and have no claim to their own land. (Just think about that one. Do the Chinese "have claim" to their land?) It's a notion that isn't based in science at all, but in politics, and specifically in something called Manifest Destiny.

Meanwhile, according to the American Indians, they have always been here. God gave them Turtle Island when the world began. This has led to a form of creationism that is every bit as irrational and anti-science as Christian and Muslim creationism, and focuses mainly on attacking the Bering Strait theory.

I'm a scientist. I can happily mock Christian and Muslim creationism until the cows come home. But from the American Indians, it just makes me sad that I can't think of a respectful way to defend myself.

So I won't, because I would rather agree with them.

Manifest Destiny was wrong. The American Indians are from America.

27 November 2007


One thing I miss about living in Indiana is the dried, crispy leaves in the fall. I love the way they sound and feel when crunched underfoot.

Here in coastal Georgia, we have acorns instead. Hundreds of them, hitting the roof and walls and windows like tiny gunshots every time the wind blows. Their caps crunch well underfoot, too, but they don't pile up to quite the heights that the leaves did in Indiana.

In coastal North Carolina we had giant pine cones, fallen from longleaf pines. Those were fun to collect and give to people elsewhere who could be wowed at the size.

22 November 2007

Things I am thankful for

I am healthy. My body is in good working order and I am fully mobile. I do not have to plan my days around whether or not I'll be able to get out of bed. I can afford health and dental insurance, and the time to visit doctors, so that I can stay that way.

I am fed. I can afford to eat three meals a day every day.

I am sheltered. I can afford the luxury of a roomy two-bedroom townhouse all to myself, in a safe neighborhood with good management.

I am employed. I have the freedom to choose my hours. I have the freedom to choose my clothing. I have the freedom to decorate my office space however I choose. I have the freedom of unlimited internet access for whatever I choose. I can do my work without being treated like a schoolchild.

I have a car. I can afford to keep it running.

I have a view. Twice a day every weekday, I drive over the most beautiful salt marsh in the world.

I have time. I can afford to pursue recreation and dreams.

I have good friends all over the world. They take me as I am without insisting that I be something that I am not. They share their days with me and allow me to share mine with them.

I have family. Some of them are beginning to understand that I am happy.

19 November 2007

Yet another picture of Indiana trees

These are at McCormick's Creek State Park. It was mid-October.

To be perfectly clear, my self-bashing in past trees posts is directed at the compositional qualities of my pictures - not the scenery that was in the pictures. Nature is always beautiful in southern Indiana. :)

17 November 2007

The World is Not Fallen

From an email I received over a year ago:
    ... but birth defects (and all illnesses and mental problems and meanness and......) are all caused by the fact that we live in a fallen world. There is a way that things are supposed to be (by design) and they are not that way because of sin. But given the fact that we live in a fallen world, birth defects are something we have to live with for now ... just because something is "natural" doesn't mean that's the way it is supposed to be.

My reply at the time:
    First, I think the world is beautiful as it is. It seems to me that you want the world to be something that it isn't, and I see the world for what it is and like it that way. God made it, and Nature shaped it, and it's chock full of neato wondrous things. Yes, human nature has its dark sides, but that's part of the splendour. There are light sides and dark sides to the world, and they balance each other out in so many cool ways. And that's exactly how it's "supposed to" be.

    So when you call it "fallen" and "wrong", well, that starts treading the edges of my own religious sensibilities. It feels like you're trying to insult it (the world, that is), and therefore Nature and God.

    Life isn't about perfection. Perfection is static and ultimately sterile. And worse, perfection isn't living. We were blessed to be put on the earth and given a chance to experience life and living. And learning from it. There is no "should" or "supposed to" in living. There is only "is." And only after you grasp what that means, and reach acceptance, can you truly learn what life is
    really all about.

She is some denomination of Protestant Christian, I'm not sure which one. She didn't reply, though we've exchanged other emails since then. I still don't understand how anyone can live that way. It seems to me the height of insult to reject the world God made because you don't personally like it, and the height of arrogance to then go on and think you know how it should've been instead.

We weren't talking about evolution vs. creationism, which is what reminded me of the email exchange. We were talking about gender dysphoria, a type of social birth defect. Both are fairly controversial topics here in the U.S. due to widespread ignorance, though I understand they are non-issues in much of Europe. And my reaction to both types of ignorance, when it comes to the kinds of rationalizations that often occur on the way to understanding (if it happens), is about the same.

14 November 2007

What water temperature looks like from orbit

This is what sea surface temperature looks like off the coast of the southeastern U.S. in the fall, as seen from space. The scalebar is in Celsius. Those +'s are a grid of U.S. Navy towers that used to be for flight training. We have sensors at the ones with squares. The red streamer is the Gulf Stream, which is a stream of warm water that comes from the Gulf of Mexico and goes in an enormous clockwise circle in the northern half of the Atlantic Ocean. While it's doing that, it moves a lot of fish around and keeps England warm.

Making this sort of picture is approximately half my job description (other half being that ton of cruise data that I've been banging together a SQL database for in the past several months). I also make them for chlorophyll levels, dissolved organic matter, light penetration, and a number of other more arcane things. It's fairly mindless work compared to learning how to code things, and the results are pretty.

13 November 2007

Ahhh... Real Life.

On Friday one of my tires was nearly flat due to a nail. I had that patched and also had them all rotated.

On Saturday the car had an epileptic fit in lieu of starting. I met a taxi driver who wants to someday go into the music industry, perhaps as a producer, but starting out as a DJ. Mr. Squirrel paid the fare with food. After work I drove home in his car (and a coworker drove it back to the store).

On Sunday I discovered that it only takes half an hour to walk between the far side of the mall and my apartment. Also, that flowers still bloom in Savannah in November.

On Sunday evening I discovered what it means to gladly be the omega of a good pack rather than the alpha of a bad one. Also, I desperately need to learn more Spanish than "goh-mah-loh" (shrimp fried rice).

On Monday I met a tow truck driver whose mother died three days ago, he can't afford to go to her funeral, his father is messed up on drugs, his little sister ran off with some guy when she was eighteen and hasn't been seen since, his firstborn son died in infancy, and his wife is five months pregnant. Meanwhile, the garage decided my main problem was a dead battery, when in fact the dead battery was caused by the car's epileptic fits.

Tuesday morning the car goes back to the garage. Maybe I'll manage to get some words written in edgewise.

10 November 2007

More Trees

These are still more pictures from Brown County State Park, Indiana, in mid-October. The lake is Stahl Lake.

As before, the overall composition is almost right, though I wanted to have more of the left. However, the subject tree on the right isn't entirely in the frame.

In order to get (almost) the whole tree, I had to omit most of the lake, and still the very top of the tree is out of the frame. For the perfect shot I would've had to step farther back. Unfortunately there was nothing to stand on and we didn't have a boat.

08 November 2007

On Earth - Samael

(Song is four minutes long. The other 3:55 of video is skippable silence.)

Samael is a black metal band from Switzerland. On Earth is from their 2004 album Reign of Light. What first caught my attention was the way the singer enunciates "dancing" in the chorus. After that I was hooked on the bountiful joie de vivre. Upon further research, it turns out that their music as a whole makes great theme music for about half of my Nanowrimo novel. Better, their Myspace page is set up to continuously loop five songs, which makes writing flow even easier. Life is good. :)

07 November 2007

How To Draw Everything

A friend of mine has been writing a lot of how-to-draw articles. As he's both a writer and an artist, and has successfully taught utter novices to become decent artists, these are a good read if you're even remotely interested in learning how to draw and how to add art into your everyday life.

He takes requests, too. Go check him out. :)

05 November 2007

'Tis the season

Every year around this time, Georgia passes out a Charitable Contributions form to all its state employees. The idea is that instead of having endless unsolicited charities go through our offices asking for money year-round, everyone can be put on one gigantic list and us employees are asked all at once, one time.

Every year they ask that if you don't contribute, you still must return the form with the word "no" written across it. As a guilt-trip, it probably works great. However, as I'm not a fan of emotional manipulation of that sort, I write "no" anyway. But I still give money to charities when I can afford to do so.

A decade ago when I was a naive young tree-hugging liberal who figured the plight of endangered species greatly outweighs anything that might possibly be going wrong with human beings (there are 6 billion of us, after all), my choices were:
    World Wildlife Fund (WWF) - there are dozens, if not hundreds of environmental conservation organizations that, as far as I can tell, are basically all the same. The WWF is very large and does all sorts of things worldwide. My rationale is that it makes more sense to focus my money on the ones that are obviously successful instead of scattering it to lots of different places. Pooling of limited resources et al.

    Nature Conservancy - these guys aren't big into political activism and lobbying. The basic philosophy is simpler, quieter, and in my opinion makes a lot more effective sense: they buy the land they want to preserve. Sometimes money really does talk louder than words.

Nowadays I've added "bleeding heart" to that.
    Modest Needs - this place provides emergency funds to the working poor. For example: being laid off with no health insurance when an illness hits; the car you use to get to work breaks down, and you can't afford to fix it, and you lose the job if you don't get to work; you miscalculate your bank balance by a few dollars, bounce a check, and must now pay ten times as much via bank fees for bouncing it and late fees for whatever you were trying to pay with that check. The idea is to help people avoid going into the downward spiral toward homelessness in the first place.

    National Relief Charities - The most recent place I've been scoping out. It's a group of organizations that help Native Americans, who are the poorest of the poor in the U.S., and the group done the most wrong by the U.S. Their method is to ask the communities what is needed rather than just give random stuff, some of which might be more harm than good in the long run.

My main concern with places that help fellow human beings is that they not be religion-oriented. Those always seem to have ulterior motives, wanting to turn the people they help into versions of themselves, and I refuse to have any part in that.

Then there are the "fun" places. It isn't a matter of life and death if they don't get money, but they've certainly done a lot to enrich my life, and I donate out of gratitude.
    RolePlay OnLine (RPoL) - I've been playing there since 2003. I give money every year to help with the server costs.
    Nanowrimo - Likewise (since 2004). Plus they build libraries in third world countries so children there can learn the joy of reading.

Eventually I'll probably add Pandora and Wikimedia to the list, but the above places are what I can afford now.

02 November 2007

Some Trees

These are more pictures from Brown County State Park in mid-October.

I like the composition on this one, but as you can see, it was rather cloudy and the lighting wasn't very good.

I like the way the sunbeam falls on the orange tree, making it very bright, and the way it stands out against the dark clouds behind it. But the composition wasn't so good. It should've included more from the top and the right to get the surrounding trees.

Just pretend like it's one photo with both the sunbeam and the good composition of trees. :) Click on them for the gigantic version - I didn't scale down the size, because Kitten42 mentioned wanting to draw from them.

01 November 2007


November is (Inter)National Novel Writing Month. It's an annual writing marathon wherein participants attempt to write at least 50,000 words toward a single story in 30 days. The quality of the words does not matter - there just has to be 50,000 of them. Winners get a lucky special certificate to print out at the end, but more importantly, they get an astounding sense of accomplishment.

That's what I'll be doing all of November. It'll be my fourth year and I'm looking forward to adding a fourth certificate to my wall. :) My progress will all be posted to my writing blog at Hobgoblin. Realtime chatter will be with SFFMuse, which has a small, cozy chat community on irc.worldirc.org (come join in, those of you who are also writing and aren't there already!). Nanowrimo has a chat channel on irc.goodchatting.com but I find it too big for my tastes.

My posts here might slow down a lot in the interim.