Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival LXXIII

Welcome to the seventy-third Storyblogging Carnival. Enjoy.

The Mouse Killer
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

About a cat who behaves much like a person.

The Return
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

Fallen angels seek a laborious, but poetic return to Heaven.

Conscience
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

Conscience as a skin condition.

Rogue Signals
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

In the future, containment is the only option, even at the expense of beauty.

A Lamb on the Lam
by Madeleine Begun Kane of Mad Kane's Humor Blog
A 100 word brief story rated PG.

News story in limerick form.

The Turtle and the Rabbit
by Phil at Phil for Humanity
A 212 word brief story rated G.

A fable about reverse discrimination.

Necklace
by Jolanda Dubbeldam at Reason and Rhyme
A 346 word brief story rated G.

A caring woman is angry at an uncaring man who caused her to fire a family man.

The Monkey’s Tail, as Told by Marcel Duchamp the Day After Charles Lindbergh Landed at Le Bourget Field
by Mark Rayner of The Skwib
A 500 word brief story rated PG.

The last Dadaist pursues his absurd desire to have a tail.

How Potter Ends...
by Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium
A 520 word brief story rated PG-13.

A vision of how the Harry Potter series might end.

Uprising
by Elvis D of 365fiction
A 1,553 word short story rated R.

Home robots keep the peace--sorta.

Chain
by Elvis D of 365fiction
A 1,882 word short story rated PG-13.

The story of a misplaced cigarette.

Generations
by Elvis D of 365fiction
A 1,917 word short story rated PG-13.

A young man discovers his grandfather's secrets.

Tales from the Riverbank
by Riversider of Save the Ribble
A 2,000 word short story rated PG.

In this humorous tale, two friends kayak their way down the river Ribble, then ride the tide back home again.


This concludes the seventy-first Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me. I am also looking for hosts. Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

Monday, August 30, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival LXXII is online

NOTE: This is a re-post of an old post, so I can't guarantee the link.

I meant to get this up sooner.  There was a problem with the permalink at first but it should be fixed now.  Anyway... the latest Storyblogging Carnival is up at Dodgeblogium.  Thanks for hosting it, Andrew, and I apologize for not getting the link up earlier.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival LXXI

NOTE: This is a re-post of an earlier carnival, so I make no promises about the links.

Welcome to the seventy-first Storyblogging Carnival. This one is a bit unusual as a number of entries come from a single writer, Jeremiah Lewis. Jeremiah's a great writer, but because of technical problems, some of his submissions to recent carnivals were lost, so we're putting them all in this one. Since they're all part of his fifty word series, they're all really short. Enjoy.

The Weekend After
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated R.

Reflections on a violation.

Marketing Education
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

An executive makes the evening news.

Ancient Vessel
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

A valuable antiquity, overlooked.

Entertainment is a Killer
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated R.

The secret life of clowns.

Marriage Proposal
by Jeremiah Lewis of Fringe
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

For some things, only a shotgun will do.

Jesussic Park
by Mark Rayner of The Skwib
A 800 word brief story rated PG-13.

Imagining what the Sermon on the Mount would have sounded like if there were raptors (and a T-Rex).

Crippled
by Elvis D of 365fiction
A 1,398 word brief story rated R.

The ultimate test of artificial intelligence.


This concludes the seventy-first Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me. I am also looking for hosts. Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

Figuring out the tricks

Old Post: I talked about buying a new laptop in this post.

So my new computer has arrived.  It is, as I mentioned in my previous post, a Dell Inspiron M101Z, running the  64-bit Windows 7.  I'm still figuring it out, which means, among other things, working out the tricks.  I have the cheaper version, with the slower processor, but so far it seems to do what I need it to, which is mainly web surfing and writing.

The first thing I did when I got it was install the software I wanted.  It comes with Internet Explorer and the starter versions of Word and Excel (which lack the full functionality and contain ads).  I've never been a fan of Internet Explorer.  That said, I've been playing around with the starter version of Word, and there are a lot of things I like about it.  The continuous ad in the bottom right corner gets on my nerves, however, and it hasn't been enough to convince me to buy the full version.  Maybe someday I'll be willing to shell out $120 for it, but not yet.

So for now, I've downloaded Firefox and OpenOffice, an open source browser and office suite respectively.  Firefox is top of the line, and OpenOffice has the same functionality of Microsoft Office 2003, so it has the advantage of familiarity (it also has some odd quirks, but I've managed okay so far).  I also installed Framemaker, an old Adobe word processor that I like, and which is still the core software I use for writing my novel.  It gave me some trouble, as the install program wouldn't run on the 64-bit Windows 7, but I was able to get it working just by copying the files.

Speaking of Adobe, I wasn't able to install Adobe Acrobat 6, which I had lying around.   There are known compatibility issues.  I took a look at what a compatible version, Acrobat 9, would run me, and quickly decided that $300 was outside my price range.  Instead, I installed PrimoPDF, which gives me the PDF printer for free, which was the main thing I needed. I still miss Acrobat, but I may try NitroPDF (free trial, $70 to buy) rather than Acrobat.

Anyway, I said I was figuring out the tricks, didn't I?  Well, here's a few I'm finding useful.
  1. The touchpad accepts more than simple gestures.  For example, if you use two fingers at once you can scroll through documents.  You can also use gestures to zoom, rotate, and flip forward and back, but I'm finding that most software is not compatible with those.
  2. While these features of the touchpad are nice, I find that when I'm typing, the heel of my hand has a tendency to brush the touchpad.  If this is interpreted as moving the cursor, then that's not much of a problem.  However, the touchpad sometimes interprets it as a two-finger touch and scrolls the document, causing me to lose my place.  Fortunately, pressing F6 will turn the touchpad off and on.  I find myself using that to deactivate it while typing.
  3. Pressing F3 will call up the battery controls, and under the Battery Life tab, you can turn off battery charging.  Why would you want to do that?  I've ruined batteries before by constantly charging them, due to using my laptop plugged in.  Batteries have gotten better, and laptops smarter about charging, but I like having the option.  The computer reminds you that charging's turned off every time you wake it up, so you're unlikely to forget to charge it.  You're much more likely to forget and leave charging on.  (In an ideal world, there would be a setting that would prevent the battery from charging until its charge dropped below 90%.  Then it would charge until full, and turn off charging again until it dropped below 90%).
So those are the tricks I'm using to get my computer running how I like it.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival LXX

NOTE: This is a re-post of an old carnival, so I can't guarantee the links.

Welcome to the seventieth Storyblogging Carnival. If you're wondering, I did delay this carnival by a week in order to get a few more entries. That was enough to bring us up to five entries. Enjoy.

Only in Queens, New York
by Madeleine Kane at Mad Kane's Humor Blog
Less than 100 word limerick rated G.

Story in limerick form about a Queens, New York encounter with a cop.

Thag Grok Cow!
by Mark Rayner of The Skwib
A 351 word brief story rated PG-13.

Thag continues his sabbatical with the Drunka Grunka tribe, where he learns that everybody is a critic.

The Quiet Bar
by Elvis D of 365fiction
A 925 word brief story rated PG.

The new boss puts in an appearance.

But there were times, Dear...
by Postmodern Sass of Postmodern Sass
A 1,083 word short story rated PG.

It's about the Dean of my college, who died.

Displaced in Time
by Patrick G Cox at Dodgeblogium
A 2,977 word short story rated PG.

A time travel story.


This concludes the sixty-ninth Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me. I am also looking for hosts. Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

It's not just terrific, it's tenebrific

I find that I know most of the words which thefreedictionary.com publishes in its Word of the Day.  Today's word, tenebrous, was no exception.  It means dark and gloomy.  What caught my eye was the word listed as the synonym: tenebrific.  Now that's a word I've never seen before.  So I checked the definition: thefreedictionary says it means dark and gloomy.  Well, I guess that's to be expected, since it was listed as a synonym to a word that means exactly that.  Not completely satisfied, I went to dictionary.com, where I got a significantly different definition: producing darkness.  I like that.  That I can use.  But I'm not so sure people will understand what definition I want when the dictionaries say different things (I will point out that another source, which gives the definition as "dark and gloomy," then goes on to use tenebrous, rather than tenebrific, in their example sentence, but I think the source is more thesaurus than dictionary).

Ah, well.  I still like the word, and I hope someday to make the "producing darkness" definition the accepted one.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival LXIX

NOTE: This is a re-post of an old carnival, so I can't guarantee the links.

Welcome to the sixty-ninth Storyblogging Carnival. We have four entries this time, but a number of them are significantly longer than usual, so there's plenty of reading material. Enjoy.

Loneliness
by Fred Vaughan at Reason and Rhyme
A 650 word brief story rated PG.

Ray finds himself minimizing his good fortune with statistics and analogies to discovery.

The Ark
by Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium
A 956 word brief story rated PG.

So you thought you knew what Noah was on about...

At Recess, There will be Worms
by Mark Rayner of The Skwib
A 2,500 word short story rated G.

A semi-autobiographical story about April worm-flinging and other childhood rites of passage.

Bangkok Adrenaline
by Conan Stevens of World's Biggest Action Hero?
A 25,075 word screenplay rated G.

"This is a script I wrote, which has been filmed and is due for cinema release in Sept. The script is about 4 broke foreigners living in Thailand coming up with a plan for some easy(?) cash."


This concludes the sixty-ninth Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me. I am also looking for hosts. Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

Blogging or Writing?

Mike Duran has a post on writing and blogging:
Do you have Schizo-blog? Here’s some of the symptoms:
  • You feel guilty for blogging because you should be writing your novel
  • You feel guilty for writing because you haven’t updated your blog in a week
  • You feel guilty prioritizing one over the other because with some creative management, or self-discipline, you should be able to do both
Please note that the common denominator of Shizo-blog is “Guilt”. Closely related to the guilt of Schizo-blog is the guilt you may be experiencing as you read this — because you probably should be writing. I haven’t found a name for that condition yet, but I suffer the symptoms as well.
I know that feeling.  He then talks about whether a writer should be blogging.  A while ago, I let this blog languish while I worked on my writing.  It still hasn't recovered from that.  But I thought that writing, and getting published, was more important than this little, low-traffic blog I had going here.

Which is why this part of Mike's post caught my attention:
But there’s something else I can’t deny: Despite the demands it creates, blogging can really benefit an author. That’s the conclusion I reached in Blogs and Brands. A writer’s books support his blog, not vice-versa. Your blog does more to further your “brand” than your novels do. Of course, this shouldn’t diminish the necessity of a good book, but heighten the importance of a good blog.
I actually hope that's not really true.  I'd prefer for my books to define my brand, not my blog.  But it's hard to deny that readers connect more personally with a blogger than with a writer.  And that personal connection can be parlayed into getting people to buy your books.

Tragedy and the Arts

Is it wrong that this gives me a story idea?
Over the last year, more than 40 albinos have been murdered in Tanzania, some as young as six months old. Many more have been attacked with machetes, their limbs cut off while alive. Their body parts are used by witchdoctors in potions and remedies as they are believed to bring wealth and success in business.
I do have an albino character in some of my stories, ones which haven't been published yet.  In the stories he's an adult, but the idea of something like this happening in his past could definitely be made into a story.  I'm not sure how well this would fit my world's society.  Not that I think they're above this sort of thing--just that they have a different concept of magic than what gave rise to this macabre harvesting.

But the first question I have to ask is whether it's right for me to draw on this tragedy for a story. Tragedies always give rise to stories.  There are stories about 9/11, the Titanic, the Holocaust.  Why?  The crass answer is that tragedy has emotional power, it has drama, it has all the ingredients that go into a good story.  It's why the simple factual accounts of tragedies, such as the video above, have such power.  There's more to it than that, though.  Stories are one of the ways that we try to make sense of the world.  It's one way we process tragedy: to try to find something redemptive in it, to learn some lesson from it, even just to let others share in the pain.

So my hesitation in writing the story has little to do with whether art should deal with tragedy.  It has more to do with the type of story I write.  Would a fantasy adventure story really be a good way to try to make sense of this tragedy?  I have my doubts.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Stoicism and Psychology

Jeremy Pierce has an interesting post on Cognitive Behavior Therapy.  It's a topic I know pretty much nothing about, but what caught my attention was a short discussion on how it relates to Stoicism:
Powlison bases a lot of his critique on the fact that CBT uses (sometimes consciously) methods that can rightly be described as Stoic in that they do have a strong enough similiarity to key ideas of the ancient Stoics that I don't think the comparison is inapt. Stoicism, at least on the issues relevant here, involves one key claim. The Stoics didn't think it's worth worrying about something outside your control. The reason is that your life is made worse off by your worrying, but you can do something about the worry. You can't do anything about the fact that George W. Bush won the presidential election in 2004 or Barack Obama won the presidential election in 2008. You can't change the fact that lots of people died recently in China from landslides. You can do something to help those who remain, and you can do something to change people's minds on policy issues and perhaps help elect a different sort of person next time, but there's no point in worrying about something you can't do anything about.

That element of Stoic philosophy seems entirely reasonable to me. The Stoics do go on to say that we should remove all emotions, but it's important to be clear on what they meant. They defined emotions more or less as bad reasoning. Things we call feelings that aren't bad reasoning and are compatible with good reasoning would not be emotions for the Stoic. So there's no reason to complain about that view on the ground that it's healthy to have emotions and inhuman not to. We should eschew the things they called emotions without actually eschewing emotions as we understand the term. They had a strange view about what we should call emotions, but the substance of their view is mostly right, as Augustine so deftly argued in his critique of the Stoics. Feelings of any sort should be submitted to reason, and those that are irrational are best removed. Augustine shows that the Stoic view, when reworked into ordinary language without their odd view of what counts as an emotion, is largely correct and fully compatible with Christian teaching.

Where the Stoic goes wrong, as far as Christianity is concerned, is in not submitting things to the lordship of Christ. I can't even say that they don't equate submission to reason with submission to God. They do. They just have a false view of what God is like. Does that affect the practical level? Not so much. Does it affect CBT? Not remotely. The reason is that CBT is really a method, a placeholder in which you insert the content you intend to replace the unhealthy and irrational beliefs. The Stoics insisted that irrationality comes from false thinking. They may have been wrong about that as a fully adequate explanation of all irrationality. But they were certainly right that a whole lot of irrationality comes from false beliefs. I know at least two cases of chronic depression that in large part involves flat-out false beliefs, even if there may also be neurological causes. In one case it's someone who consistently interprets any possible information that could be stretched to show that people don't like him or that he's a failure as if everyone doesn't like him and as if his abilities are the problem, when in many of these cases no one is even evaluating him negatively, and often enough their evaluations aren't seen that way by the people doing the evaluating. Such a person might benefit from neurochemical supplements, but CBT would encourage him to replace those false beliefs with a more hesitant approach to such negative interpretations, one much more like how most people would respond.

CBT is offered as a correction to the biggest problem [of] Applied Behavior Analysis therapy. ABA insists on treating only behavior without dealing with anything internal, e.g. unhealthy beliefs. It stems from the behaviorist model of psychology, according to which we shouldn't postulate anything internal that can't be measured empirically, and thus any psychologist who talks about beliefs, desires, and so on is engaging in unscientific behavior (notice that even the way I've constructed that sentence admits only to the behavior of such a psychologist; a behaviorist shouldn't even say that such a psychologist has false beliefs about how psychology should be done, just that the speech and methods of such a psychologist are unscientific).
It's an interesting analysis, but I know too little about psychology to have much to add.  I do know a little about Stoicism, although not enough to correct a professional philosopher.  As I understand it, at its core, Stoicism was fatalist.  I don't mean that in a necessarily negative sense, but in the technical sense.  Stoics believed that the future was set, that it had indeed happened before and would happen again, in an endless repeating cycle.  This didn't mean that anything you did was meaningless.  You, too, had a part in that cycle, and what you did had meaning and relevance.  But you had done it before and would do it again.

At least, that's how I understand their beliefs.

Storyblogging Carnival LXVIII

NOTE: This is a re-post of an old carnival, so I can't guarantee the link.

Andrew hosts the latest Storyblogging Carnival, with six stories, at Dodgeblogium. Go read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival LXVII

NOTE: This is a re-posting of an old post, so links may be broken.

Welcome to the sixty-seventh Storyblogging Carnival.  We have five entries this time.  I won't bother writing a long introduction, and instead we can jump straight to the stories.

Small Packages
by Jeremiah Lewis at Fringeblog
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

A man contemplating suicide sees something that changes his mind.

Loneliness
by Jeremiah Lewis at Fringeblog
A 50 word brief story rated PG.

A girl sees her singleness as a measure of time.

Taxing Times
by Mad Kane at Mad Kane's Humor Blog
A 570 word brief story rated PG.

Humorous adventures in tax return preparation.

Faithful are the Wounds of a Friend
by Donald S. Crankshaw of Back of the Envelope
A 970 word brief story rated PG.

While technically more of a homily, this story recounts some painful, yet helpful, real life events.

The Shaft
by Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium
A 1391 word short story rated PG-13.

It takes place just after the Norman invasion. A man gets an odd knife from a Saxon raider.

This concludes the sixty-seventh Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me.  I am also looking for hosts.  Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival LXVI

NOTE: This is a re-posting of an old post, so links may be broken.

Welcome to the sixty-sixth Storyblogging Carnival.  We had five entries this time, one from a new authors.  I didn't have a lot of time to put into this one, since I'm gone for today and had to get up really early.  Still, I'm sure the authors put plenty of work into it, so enjoy.

Glitch 100 words
by Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium
A 100 word brief story rated PG.

It's 100 words and the title says it all.

Real Friends
by Anonymous at Zechary White
A 273 word brief story rated G.

A war story.

Thag not grok big bottoms!
by Mark Rayner of The Skwib
A 350 word brief story rated PG.

The continuing saga of Thag — in which he learns the penchant the Drunka Grunka tribe has for an overabundance of rump.

The Long Journey Back
by Mama Kelly at A Blog of Two Witches
A 3,261 word short story rated PG-13.

While this story is a work of fiction, elements of the abuse are inspired by real life events.

Leprechaun Love
by Charmaine Frost at Reason and Rhyme
A 3,403 word short story rated PG-13.

A painfully shy new employee lifts the fortunes of a dating service.

This concludes the sixty-sixth Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me.  I am also looking for hosts.  Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Dreams

It's sad, but Kristin's dreams are more coherent than some of my stories.

Storyblogging Carnival LXV

This is a re-post of an old carnival, so some of the links may be broken.

Welcome to the sixty-fifth Storyblogging Carnival. We had five entries this time, one from a new authors. I didn't have a lot of time to put into this one, since I'm gone for today and had to get up really early. Still, I'm sure the authors put plenty of work into it, so enjoy.

Plates of Meat
by 100 Words of The Centurion Diaries
A 100 word brief story rated G.

A shoe story.

[Although I normally reject submissions that don't include a blurb, I let this one slide since it was so short... plus, we were short on stories this week. -DSC]

Steaming
by Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium
A 100 word brief story rated R.

100 words of steaming... er.

Mist Magic 22 (Beginning)
by Dave Gudeman at Doc Rampage
The next 271 words of a 7,000 word story in progress rated PG.

In which I learn the origins of the story of the Minotaur.

Thag not got milk!
by Mark Rayner of The Skwib
A 600 word brief story rated PG.

The latest chapter in the humorous saga of Thag — prehistoric everyman — in which he learns about milk, and asks the Elder's council to let him go learn to make beer.

Surmounting Marriage
by Madeleine Begun Kane at Madkane's Humor Blog
A 700 word brief story rated PG.

What happens when a couple who has no business mountain climbing, does it anyway.

This concludes the sixty-fifth Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me. I am also looking for hosts. Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

What a let down

Glenn disappointed me with this one:
TALKING CARS with the Car Lust guys.
Here I was expecting a post about talking cars, and instead I get a post talking about cars.

Monday, August 16, 2010

E-book Book Help Desk

I thought it couldn't be done. I didn't think anyone could combine two of my favorite things: computer humor and the Middle Ages. I was wrong.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

More on Christian Horror

I've already touched on this subject, here and here. But Mike Duran, who's a Christian horror writer whose first book is coming out soon, has more on the subject:
Likewise, the “dread” invoked by the Christian writer is dissimilar to that of the atheist. Scripture warns, “It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God” (Heb. 10:31). This “fear” is pivotal to “Christian horror.” Whereas the atheist author invokes the fear of the absence of God, the Christian invokes the fear of the presence of God. The “horror” is in His existence, not His non-existence. Of course, this “horror” is for those who deny Him, ignore His warnings, and refuse His mercy. Sadly, terror awaits those on the “wrong side” of the Universe.
...
Perhaps there is no greater horror than that of an atheistic worldview. Forget blood, gore, and ghoulies. A world without meaning and purpose is the ultimate horror. A universe that arose by chance, exists without meaning, where lives plummet toward annihilation is the worst kind of horror. The child huddled in bed, fixated upon the dark closet, becomes the adult gaping into the void of what, he believes, is a godless universe. And unlike the Christian novelist, the atheist author has nothing but more “dark closets” to offer their readers.
It's an interesting post, but there are some things I'd quibble with. For example, the argument that only those who "deny Him, ignore His warnings, and refuse His mercy" have any reason to fear God. The Bible's account makes it clear that anyone who meets God feels dread. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom." (Proverbs 1:7) We tend to whitewash this, to say what the Bible really means is respect. The word, though, also means terror. And terror is probably a better description of what people feel when they meet God, or even an angel, than respect, in the Biblical accounts.

Why is that? What is scary about God? It's not that he is capricious or abusive. It's that he's unfathomable. Completely beyond our ken, and because we don't understand him, yet are completely under his power, we fear him. What's more, we realize that we are unworthy of him. We are fallen and sinful creatures, who by all rights should be the subject of his wrath. Thus fear is the natural and right response--it simply acknowledges the truth about who he is and who we are. That is why fear is the beginning of wisdom.

Now if I only knew how to capture this in a story...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Now accepting submissions for the next Storyblogging Carnival

The next Storyblogging Carnival will be the one hundred and twelfth. It will be our sixth anniversary, and I'll host it here, at Back of the Envelope. The carnival will go up on Monday, September 6th. If you use your blog to share your fiction, then the Storyblogging Carnival is your opportunity. Here we host any and all forms of storytelling in blog format. If you're curious about what this looks like, have a look at some examples of previous storyblogging carnivals.

If you'd like to participate, please e-mail your story submissions to me at dscrank-at-alum-dot-mit-dot-edu (or post in my comments), including the following information:
  • Name of your blog
  • URL of your blog
  • Title of the story
  • URL for the blog entry where the story is posted
  • (OPTIONAL) Author's name
  • (OPTIONAL) A suggested rating for adult content (G, PG, PG-13, R)
  • A word count
  • A short blurb describing the story
The post may be of any age, from a week old to years old. The submission deadline is 11:59 PM Eastern time on Saturday, September 4th. More detailed information follows (same as always):
  1. The story or excerpt submitted must be posted on-line as a blog entry, and while fiction is preferred, non-fiction storytelling is acceptable.
  2. The story can be any length, but the Carnival will list them in order of length, from shortest to longest, and include a word count for each one.
  3. You may either send a complete story, a story in progress, or a lengthy excerpt. You should indicate the word count for both the excerpt and the complete story in the submission, and you should say how the reader can find more of the story in the post itself.
  4. If the story spans multiple posts, each post should contain a link to the beginning of the story, and a link to the next post. You may submit the whole story, the first post, or, if you've previously submitted earlier posts to the Carnival, the next post which you have not submitted. Please indicate the length of the entire story, as well as the portion which you are submitting.
  5. The host has sole discretion to decide whether the story will be included or not, or whether to indicate that the story has pornographic or graphically violent content. The ratings for the story will be decided by the host. I expect I'll be pretty lenient on that sort of thing, but I have some limits, and others may draw the line elsewhere. Aside from noting potentially offensive content, while I may say nice things about stories I like, I won't be panning anyone's work. I expect other hosts to be similarly polite.
  6. The story may be the blogger's own or posted with permission, but if it is not his own work he should gain permission from the author before submitting to the Carnival.
If you'd like to be added to the e-mail list, please let me know. Finally, I appreciate folks promoting the carnival on their own blogs, and I'm always looking for bloggers willing to host future carnivals.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Writing Sanctuaries

The other day, Instapundit linked to this article on Man Caves at The Art of Manliness. A "man cave" is defined as "an area within a house frequented by a man, as a workshop, garage, basement, or den." It's really a sanctuary, where a man goes to be alone and do what he enjoys doing, whether it be tinkering, playing guitar, or writing. It's supposedly a play on "caveman," but I wouldn't be surprised if there was a bit of Batcave (the name of Batman's hidden base) in the etymology.

The man caves in the article include a number of writer's studies, including Ernest Hemingway's, Frederick Douglass's, and, my favorite, Mark Twain's. It got me thinking about my own man cave. My room in my apartment serves as bedroom, work area, and writing studio. It's spacious, if nothing else, but hardly orderly:

This is just one corner, but it tells you most of what you need to know about me. There's an air conditioner, because I live on the third floor and it can get pretty hot, and the curtain is pulled closed over that window. There are the boxes that I haven't gotten around to after a month of living here, and the bookshelf containing just the books I felt that I most needed to unpack. The higher shelf contains books that I've either started reading or plan to soon, while the lower shelf contains the writing reference books I thought that I needed right away. The remaining shelves are filled with junk. Next to the shelves are some filing drawers, containing important papers in the top drawer, and printouts of stories with revision notes from my writing group and myself in the lower drawer. The bed, which is unmade, is set on a frame that was in the apartment when I arrived. Atop it is an inflatable mattress, because I'm too cheap to buy a real one.






This side of the room is where I do all my work. There's my computer and my business class color laser printer. Most importantly is my comfortable desk chair, an absolute necessity considering the number of hours I spend in front of that computer a day. There's a fan nearby, and bottles meant for recycling on the shelf above. Beside them is a black case with my tools. And on the floor is another box I haven't gotten around to unpacking.

Somehow, I doubt I'll be making anyone jealous of my man cave.

UPDATE: Fixed the links, which had somehow gone missing.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Storyblogging Carnival CXI

Welcome to the 111th Storyblogging Carnival. Enjoy the stories.

Not So Clean Limerick
by Madelein Begun Kane of Mad Kane's Humor Blog
An under 100 word word brief story rated PG.

The tale of a bachelor who hates to clean, told in a two-verse limerick.

Spot the Differences
by Mohit Salgaonkar of Still Waiting to Wake
An 539 word short story rated PG.

In a photo album of an old trip, I noticed picture of a person who never was on the trip! Bizarre? Creepy? Read on!

The Disciple
by Terry Haferkamp of Shadow Dwellers
A 2,400 word short story rated PG.

Supernatural / horror. Police question a young writer about his connection to a series of gruesome murders.

Cyberteapunk
by Andrew Ian Dodge of Dodgeblogium
A 5,080 word short story rated PG-13.

A tale of the future of the tea party movement (20 years). Cyborgs, anarchists and neo-luddites with a touch of humor.

This concludes the one hundred and eleventh Storyblogging Carnival.

If you'd like to take part in a future carnival, please contact me. I am also looking for hosts. Other carnivals can be found here.

The Storyblogging Carnival can be found at The Truth Laid Bear's ÜberCarnival.

UPDATE: Wow, the Storyblogging Carnival got an Instalanche. It'd be nice if we'd had a few more entries for this one, but hey, I'll take what I can get. See here for more carnivals. You may notice that it's slightly out of order--that's because I've been moving old carnivals over from my old blog, and I haven't put them all in order yet.

FURTHER UPDATE: I'm now accepting entries for the next carnival, our sixth anniversary version. The details are here.

Monday, August 09, 2010

Laptop hunting

My laptop has been dying a long, slow death. My monitor's been acting up for a while now, freezing the lower part of the screen until I tapped it. A couple days ago, it acquired wavy black lines that won't go away. So I figure it's time to either repair my laptop or get a new one, and I'm leaning in the "get a new one" direction. The reason is that the laptop is out of warranty, and repairing it will require replacing the monitor. I can't imagine it costing less than a few hundred dollars, and I can buy a new netbook for that much.

Therefore I've been looking at netbooks. They generally run in the $300-350 range, and are small. They don't have great screen resolution or speed, but they make up for it in low weight and long battery life. Since I primarily want it for writing (and web browsing), that should be fine. I particularly like the Dell Inspiron 11z. I've looked at the reviews, and they almost universally say not to buy it, because the touchpad is unusable. Fortunately, Dell got the message and replaced the touchpad a couple of months ago, but I haven't seen many reviews done on it since then (customer reviews on the new touchpad are generally positive, though).

At $350 the cost is reasonable. Unfortunately, $350 is for the very basic model, and it'll probably end up costing more than that.

I've been trying to figure out what I really need and what I can do without.

First, there's the non-negotiables:
  • Windows 7 ($30 for upgrade) - The default is Windows Vista, and I'm unwilling to inflict that on myself. All the reviews say that Windows 7 is better in every way, so I'll shell out extra for it.
  • External DVD drive ($65 separate) - As it doesn't come with an internal drive, this is necessary if I want to install any of my old software on it.
So it's already $100 extra. Still reasonable, however.

Then there's the definitely want:
  • Processor upgrade ($75 for upgrade) - According to all the reviews, this makes a definite difference. It certainly sounds worthwhile, and it's the sort of thing that's not easily changed later.
  • 6-cell battery ($35 for upgrade) - This I'm a bit more hesitant on. I want the battery life, but this apparently sticks out a bit and makes it heavier. However, longer battery life helps it to fulfill my main objective--a portable computer for writing.
And finally the cheap nice-to-haves:
  • WiFi n card ($25 for upgrade) - Not that I have an 802.11n network, but it'd be nice to be able to use them.
  • Internal bluetooth ($20) - This one would be nice to have, but I can do without.
So if you add that all together, it comes to closer to $600 than $350. I'm still trying to convince myself that that I don't need the processor and/or the battery.

UPDATE: And... I've changed my mind. This review convinced me that the M101z is a better choice. It has a more expensive base price, but many of the features I was willing to pay extra for, so the total price is lower.

Sunday, August 08, 2010

Cirque du Soleil

Kristin and I went with some of her friends to see Cirque du Soleil. I'm sure you're familiar with it... it's a circus that's well known for its spectacles. Bizarre costumes, a narrative, very artsy. It was my first Cirque du Soleil performance. And the thing you realize is that, although it's very artsy, it is indeed a circus. There are no animals, but there are jugglers, acrobats, a tight-rope walker, and even clowns. In fact, the clowns are the driving force behind the narrative, which is actually pretty slim. The show I saw is called Ovo, and it has a very vague narrative about insects (each performer played an insect), a stolen egg, and a love story between two bugs. But the story was really just an excuse to set up various performances.

Despite my lack of excitement about the insect story, I was very impressed with the performances. There was some very good juggling, and the high wire and the trapeze act were both very good. One thing I noticed is that the performers occasionally slipped up. One of the trapeze artists fell into the net, and the jugglers occasionally dropped what they were supposed to be juggling. But each time they simply started again as if nothing had happened, which I think was exactly right. Considering the very fancy things they were doing, perfection's pretty much impossible, and recovering from mistakes well is important. I'm sure there's a life lesson in there somewhere, but I'm equally sure that it's a hoary cliche, so I'll just leave it alone.

Overall, it was worth seeing.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

A writer pick-me-up

If you're ever feeling bad about your own writing, you should listen to this podcast with Brandon Sanderson. In it, you'll hear just a few sentences from the first novel Brandon ever wrote, back in 1994. For some unknown reason it remains unpublished. Well, technically speaking, it's pretty obvious why it's unpublished. While Brandon is now a well-known and well-respected writer who was asked to finish Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time, in 1994 he was just an amateur, and it shows. What this demonstrates is that even good writers start out pretty bad. The difference between a good writer and the bad writer he began as is time and practice. And if he can do it, so can you.

Update: And thanks to Mike Barker's transcript, here are the first few sentences from Brandon's novel:
The wind blew carelessly and freely. It caressed the stark dunes with its whispering touch, catching fine grains of sand between incorporeal fingers and bearing them forth like hundreds of tiny charioteers. The sand, bone white in color as if it had been bleached by the sun's harsh stare, seemed to shine for a second with a sharp inner light. Then it dulled in color to a deep black.
And as you can see, Brandon's come a long way.