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Heavens. I can’t believe I let this sit for 10 months. A quick run-down of the things that have happened since my last update:

  • I won the 2012 Laine Cunningham Novel Award from The Blotter with my novel Perishables. It’s three connected stories about various experiences of a zombie apocalypse. In one of them, a vampire is at a meeting of his homeowners’ association when the dead rise. It’s a little silly and a little funny and a little serious and it has terrible recipes in it.
  • I published Perishables via Smashwords and Kindle and then decided to edit and publish the sequel, called Tooth & Nail. It’s built on a heavily edited NaNoWriMo I did some years ago about the same vampire.
  • I worked the partisan primary runoff election and my staff never mentioned the O’Keefe video. I’m sure they had seen it, but no one brought it up. I was intensely grateful.
  • I worked the general election in November. Jesus H. Christ on a platinum surfboard, what a day. I’ve never been so busy. It was busier than the partisan primary but the county gave me lots of staff and we all survived. There were partisan observers from both major parties in my precinct but they were very kind to me and to one another. Again, I’m sure lots of those people had seen the video but no one said anything. I was at least ten times as grateful because I had plenty more to think about that day. I also passed the election without any major run-ins with campaigners though I did have a couple of really amusing conversations with them.
  • I spent much of last autumn thinking about Tooth & Nail while I did a few promotional activities for Perishables: interviews on blogs and podcasts, for instance, and a few Google Hangouts with a group devoted to zombie fiction fandom. It was nice, after all the stupid bullshit of a year ago, to have a fictional world in which I could curl up and forget reality.
  • I ran my first 5K fun-run last October and my friend who is 6’7″ and ex-Army Airborne had trouble keeping up with me.
  • I spent November, December and January editing Tooth & Nail and dealing with my next-to-last class in the graduate certificate program I’ve been pursuing. I was kind of a stress ball.
  • I’ve spent the spring semester dealing with my last class and I still am kind of a stress ball.
  • I tried to play in two games of Call of Cthulhu at Dragon*Con last year, both of which were disastrous busts. I ended up running a one-shot for the Scourge of Nibelheim (aka “the Vampire group”) a few weeks ago. I enjoyed it but it ran too long and I didn’t get to include like half the stuff I came up with for it because I am just terrible at managing a game and remembering, you know, the poignant bits.
  • I had Shadowrun pretty much ruined for me, and for all my friends, by one really terrible game of it at Dragon*Con. Way to stay classy, totally-separate-and-self-isolating-and-aggressively-dickishly-insular Shadowrun Dragon*Con gaming track.
  • I ran my first timed 5K a few weeks ago and on a cloudy, rainy morning of running uphill at ~40F I clocked in at 25:13.6, 7th out of 46. I am extremely happy with that!
  • I’ve learned to love Twitter. Seriously, I used to say it was the diametric opposite of what I wanted the Internet to grow up to be but it is pretty great.
  • I gave a five-minute lightning talk at the opensource.com #cc10 get-together celebrating 10 years of Creative Commons:

  • I’m approximately two years behind on reading comics. I plan to catch up as soon as I finish this graduate certificate program next month.
  • I’ve been asked to contribute a short story to an anthology built around the theme of “invasion” and am currently mulling some ideas. I am super-excited!
  • I attended my twenty year high school reunion and survived it and even reconnected majorly with some really wonderful people I knew back in the day. Facebook and life in general have gotten a lot more entertaining as a result.
  • I’ve joined a queer softball league.
  • I’m going to be a guest at ConCarolinas in Charlotte the weekend of 5/31 through 6/2!
  • I want the word “marriage” and I want to win the Supreme Court cases, absolutely, but I am also a little bit afraid that the queer communities will be divided into “normals” and “freaks” if we win and that the Right will use our victory as an opportunity to draw a line between those of us who are already primed for idle conformity: relatively moneyed, adhering more closely to rigid gender roles and identities, white, middle-class, “safe”. It will be vital, if we win this, to remember that it still must be okay to be different. Difference is what has given us the culture we create and celebrate together and difference has given us the advantages we are afforded by outsider status in the larger culture around us. We must continue to value people who have different families, different identities, different relationships (or none at all), different goals, different priorities and different beliefs. We do not all have to settle down into quiet, monogamous, dom/sub, top/bottom dichotomies defined by doggy day care and dinner parties. We have to stay freaks somehow.
  • My house is ruled by my cats and sometimes I find that really frustrating but mostly I am thrilled beyond measure at their benevolent dictatorship.
  • I’ve been watching Star Trek: Deep Space 9 while at the gym and it is really fucking good.
  • Last year I skipped NaNoWriMo – what would have been my tenth – to focus on editing Tooth & Nail. This summer I’m doing My Own Private NaNo to work on the first draft of a science fiction novel, the setting for which was developed in a two-session game of Microscope played by Scourge of Nibelheim.
  • We tried Fiasco this year and it is so. Freaking. Fun.
  • I bought a new camera – an Olympus – and I loooooove it.

Is that everything? I think that’s everything. A year of blogging in a single post. Heavens, indeed.

Dark Stores from the site Not If But When.

Particular People (PDF link), my NaNoWriMo last year, was set in the very real 100 Oaks Mall – a wonderfully ironic name that made me wonder if that’s how many trees they cut down to build the place or if they instead had installed 100 saplings in containers inside the mall. 100 Oaks was a Nashville, TN, shopping mall that opened and closed repeatedly over the course of its life. It’s now been bought by Vanderbilt and is being redeveloped as medical offices or something. When I asked KJ to get me pictures of it last year she couldn’t because it had been closed off in preparation for that work.

On a practical level, of course, it’s always preferable to see existing spaces redeveloped instead of new projects take up new spaces but were I king tomorrow I would decree that a certain percentage of dead retail and development spaces had to be kept around, unmaintained, as silent monuments to… something. Hubris? Ecology? I don’t even know what lesson is to be learned there, just that there is a lesson there of some sort. That the CitySearch page for 100 Oaks is still up is both amusing and insufficient.

I spent part of yesterday morning and afternoon fiddling with the WordPress theme I use on this blog. Originally – years ago – I used Connections, but then over time I started fiddling with the colors and the font and that turned into fiddling with the banner image at the top (the current one is a scanned photograph I took in the early ’90s while driving from somewhere or another back to my hometown). There is an updated, widget-enabled version of Connections called Connections Reloaded but when I tried applying it I found that some of the sizes of things had changed and I just didn’t feel like spending all day trying to turn it back into my modded version of Connections so instead I stole its sidebar.php file and started fiddling in order to Widgetize my now heavily modified version of old-school Connections.

In the course of doing so I also (finally – it’s only been, oh, five years since I started using this theme) cracked open the stylesheet sufficiently long to find the text-alignment and blockquote settings so now everything is justified and blockquotes are gloriously unitalicized. You have no idea how long I have hated my theme’s italicized blockquotes. I have abandoned posts containing blockquotes because I decided I couldn’t handle staring at that much italicized text. Seriously. Yes, I am a little insane.

Now I have a widgetized sidebar, though, which was fun to play with. I also have a mystery “Meta” box that doesn’t seem to come from anywhere in particular in my theme so I’m a little confused about how to get rid of it. Ah well, I’ll probably figure it out in five years. In the meantime I am ridiculously pleased to have a last.fm widget. I started with the last.fm widget in the WordPress widget database – the one that’s old and doesn’t work anymore – and manually replaced the last.fm script it called with one I generated using their create-a-widget tool, then fiddled with sizes both within the last.fm widget and within my theme to try to get the widget and sidebar to more or less fit together. Whee! Sometimes I remember that I enjoy being a nerd.

3,791 words. My main character, it turns out, is named Jason Marks and his office (he’s an independent insurance agent in Nashville, TN in 1983) is in a dying shopping mall. At least a part of last night’s writing time was spent reading deadmalls.com, a site that is every bit as awesome as its name suggested it would be. His only work friend is a screaming queen who works at the Orange Julius. Jason Marks is also, it turns out, not nearly as nice as I had thought he would be but I suspect that’s going to be his arc: learning a little empathy in the course of having his entire world completely fucked over by one dead country star.

I’m going to try to cross the 5,000 word mark tonight before bed since I won’t get to do a lick of writing on Tuesday. Truly, I love November.

mrh has started what is basically the coolest thing ever: a blog that tracks pundit predictions in order to gauge the (in)correctness of pundits. Today he lines up a couple of posts about Apple’s now-present-future and some older political predictions we can now properly measure.

I crossed the 50K word mark a week in advance of the deadline though I still haven’t finished the story. One more chapter, maybe two, and an epilogue. Period. I’m estimating 60,000 to 65,000 words as the final final count. Regardless, year five has been a success. I feel much better about this one than I did last year’s.

On a completely unrelated note, my gallery gets a fair amount of comment spam I have to go in and delete every now and again. These are almost universally from .cn addresses advertising two things at once. As such, tonight I received a comment spam (sadly, now deleted) which tied the concept of Tr/ama/dol together with Castlevania and my first thought on reading it was, Wow, that sounds awesome!

This showed up in moderation as a comment on this post:

Bush goes ballistic about other countries being evil and dangerous, because they have weapons of mass destruction. But, he insists on building up even a more deadly supply of nuclear arms right here in the US. What do you think? How does that work in a democracy again? How does being more threatening make us more likeable?Isn’t the country with
the most weapons the biggest threat to the rest of the world? When one country is the biggest threat to the rest of the world, isn’t that likely to be the most hated country?
What happened to us, people? When did we become such lemmings?
We have lost friends and influenced no one. No wonder most of the world thinks we suck. Thanks to what george bush has done to our country during the past three years, we do!

Now, normally I’d completely buy that’s a real comment. Not here, necessarily, as time has revealed the “politics” category to get smaller and smaller as an overall percentage of what I post about. This is a blog that can get political not a political blog. Still, I’ve seen worse. The URL field for the comment gave it away as a spam comment, but this is what fascinates me: that spam would be so adaptive.

I know, I know, realizing them spammers are some clever chaps is so 1999. Still, I’m intrigued. Was there some enterprising spammer out there who wrote a commentbot and had it hit anything that turned up in, say, a Google search for “liberal blog?” Or – and this is what interests me more, though I’m not sure why – have the winds changed such that a spammer somewhere just wrote up a generic Bush-bashing comment and shotgun-blasted it in hopes it would be more successful than the usual “Nice post… !” spam commentary?

In other words, is it just clever targeting or a sign of the times?

Unrelated: Is it just me or have the Bush years just flown by compared to the Reagan era? It just seems like Reagan spent a lot more time bumbling around the Oval Office trying to find the corners so he could cut them, too. Bush seems so… fast. Of course, it could just be that I was in, um, elementary and middle schools for the Reagan administration whereas I’ve been a late-20’s/early-30’s person for the entirety of Bush.

In honor of the best apostropher.com thread ever, I give you this:

Do a Google Image Search for 'andre the giant' if you don't get it.  Jeez.

UPDATE:  Now that I’m on my desktop and have better tools, I’d probably go with the one below; Gaijin Biker is right in that it needed to be more contrasty.  Well, in truth, I’d probably make one image out of both of them to preserve the lettering from the first draft but use the more stencil-looking portrait of the second:

And, having seen Gorbachev mentioned in the thread linked above, I did this one while I was at it:

Honestly, this takes like five minutes.

1998 rang and they’d like their Internet meme back, so I guess I’d better stop using it now.

Have you seen Bascha’s pictures of Dorian? Holy. Cow. My brain just blew a cuteness fuse.

Also, the whole Fortuny thing. That link goes to a Wired blog, from there you can get to the (ahem) raw data if you want. In other words, the link in this post, the one you’re reading right now, is work-safe, but anything past there is totally uncharted territory. My take? Fortuny’s a tool and I don’t wish actual physical retribution on him but I do expect he’ll spend a while hiding behind someone or another’s couch every time he happens to see some huge ‘roid-hound looking his direction at the mall, and he deserves every ounce of fear he suffers for it. I mean, seriously, pick a better target if you’re going to play stupid bullying pranks, kid. I thought RandroidsObjectivists were supposed to be all rational and shit, but he couldn’t work that one out for himself? Really? That maybe it wouldn’t be smart to piss off a couple hundred guys who derive sexual gratification from inflicting physical and verbal abuse? Oy! Ayn should have gotten a smarter batch of disciples.

Now, a few notes for people whose Google searches lead them here:

  • Please, for fuck’s sake, I’ll say it again: Just buy The American Astronaut if you want to watch it, there’s even a “Buy Now!” link right there on the goddamn page, I cannot believe you would rip off an indie movie by trying to download it. Jerks.
  • Are you ready for one giant skate for derbykind? This weekend sees The Carolina Rollergirls take on the Sin City Rollergirls (of Vegas, naturally) in their first ever bout at Dorton Arena.
  • No, really, I have no idea what happens to you if you hide from a cop in Virginia. I’m betting it means eventual arrest, however!

In videogames news: LEGO Star Wars II. The original trilogy. Aw yeah!

I have also signed up for NetFlix recently, and so we’re working our way through a whole slew of noir mysteries and documentaries on a variety of topics. I’ve finally rated enough movies that NetFlix is starting to recommend things that might be to my liking – such as Depeche Mode concert DVDs – but it’s also making some surprising remarks on my entertainment tastes. I currently have Wigstock in my queue – I cannot watch that movie enough times, I should just buy the damn thing – and have highly rated a few other queer-themed films and chosen “Not Interested” for the plethora of Bible stories they wanted me to watch. This apparently means, in NetFlix’ opinion, that I should watch a saucy teen drama from France titled Come Together. Ahem. The cover has two teenage boys shirtlessly making eyes at you. I did not add it to my queue, because if I want porn there’s a whole internet of it out here, but I was amused by the user review that concluded the film, which offers a richly acted, tense and complicated drama, “sadly does not include as much nudity as the cover suggests.” Eek.

At any rate, if you want to “Friends” me on NetFlix – which I take is all the rage on these webbertron things – then email me and I’ll let you know the address by which I signed up.

Finally, I’ve spent much of this week playing with my User Interface in World of Warcraft. My new flavor is Insomniax, a combination of Discord Unit Frames, BibBars and CT_Mod. Bottom line: I’ve totally smashed my old UI to pieces and rearranged it to buy back a lot of real estate on the screen. Tasty. I’ll have some before-and-after screenshots up sometime, probably tomorrow.

Just a test post, as I appear to be having issues today.

My absolute favorite things about having a blog is the search strings that lead people to it.  Of recent note:

  • “kitten names,” over and over and over again
  • “penalty for hiding from a cop in leesburg va” – let me assure you, whoever you were, that you should get an attorney
  • “manly c/ocks,” Googleproofed because, really, I don’t need those people leaving comments
  • “morphed c/ocks,” see above (and what the hell, exactly, is that about anyway?)
  • “conspiracy theories proven true,” which really makes me want to ask what their angle is

Yes, it’s a slow week.

Speaking of conspiracy theories, I’m currently reading 2012 by Daniel Pinchbeck.  I read Breaking Open the Head last summer, and this summer his new book is either a brilliant work of spiritualism or he’s gone off the deep end.  I’m just not sure.  Either way, it’s fascinating, and I have like ten things I have to Google already out of the first 75 or so pages.

I also recently added the new Moon Knight to my bag at Chapel Hill Comics, which I highly recommend (both the book and the store, actually).  And I picked up Five Fists of Science while I was there, and loved it.  It’s basically the graphic novel love-child of Adventure! and Deadlands.

OK, so I’m seeing something in my referrer logs* from a specific site within pbwiki.com. Is that you? If so, I’m just curious about what you’re linking to. Please feel free to drop me an email by clicking on my name at the top.

* I added the italicized words later; funny how it helps when what you say actually makes sense.

Today, mrh posted the 1,000th comment on my blog. Holy crap. That seems like such a mammoth number for such a dusty corner of the webbertrons.

Also: this weekend The Boyf and I went to see The Da Vinci Code, where we ran into Joey and Carl. And I finished The Subtle Knife, the second book of His Dark Materials. I’m currently two chapters into the final novel, The Amber Spyglass. Thoughts below the fold, for spoiler-avoidance.

Seriously, if you’re going to read these books or see this movie and you don’t want spoilers, just know this: if you liked the book The Da Vinci Code, see the movie. If you thought the book TDVC was forgettable crap, guess what? The movie is forgettable crap. If you hated the book TDVC, don’t waste your money. If you haven’t read the book, but are curious about it, save yourself some time and watch the movie. Sir Ian McKellan is worth it, and you will have effectively just read the book because there is not a thing different between them.

Also, His Dark Materials rules us all, and you should read it.

(more…)

I am having far too sleepy and bored of a day to blog, and my brain is far too consumed by hatred for this NSA wiretap thing to write anything original. In the spirit of relaxing in anticipation of the weekend, I wish to share with you that b. and Deadblob are food-blogging at the moment, and they are making me so hungry.

Inspired by Bascha, I have updated my book meme entry to include books I loved and books I love so much I’m pretty much always reading them or about to read them.

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