Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Back in Action, but for Captcha

Most of my grading is done until Saturday, when I give an 8:00 in the morning final exam. Yeah, really looking forward to it. I'm now figuring out all the grades to turn in, which will take time but is not so taxing as grading itself.

I even decided to visit blogs today and then found the captcha thing was apparently down.  After writing half a dozen comments on various blogs and then being unable to post them I gave up. Hopefully the verification system will be back up and working tomorrow and I will try any new blog posts that come up.

I'm looking forward to doing a little reading. Haven't had much chance in the past few days. I did write a flash fiction story yesterday. Only 438 words. It came right from a dream I had, with minimal changes. I'm calling it "See Your Night, and Raise You Hell."


Thursday, April 24, 2014

Blogging Absence

Getting my final papers in today (Thursday), and gave two tests this week that I need to grade. Will have another test on Monday. Senior Grades have to be turned in by noon on Tuesday of next week. This is a long way around of saying I'm going to be absent from the blogosphere for a bit, probably until at least Wednesday morning. I trust you will all be well.


Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Star Trek Dream

I dreamt last night that I was on the set for the filming of the final scenes of a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode. Picard, Troi, Riker and Crusher had beamed down to a planet and been trapped by a group of aliens whose ship had crashed there. These aliens were reptilian, an apparent offshoot of the Gorn. Something in the planet’s atmosphere was causing the Gorns to mutate into near-mindless alligator type creatures. The ones who were still OK insisted that the humans, who were unaffected by the condition, help them solve the problem before they were all lost.

In the scene I witnessed, the Trek crew discovered that the problem had something to do with unequal air pressures inside and outside the bodies of the aliens. These pressures were causing their skulls and bodies to distort. Once the Trek crew figured out the problem, the aliens had a device that was able to equalize the pressures and prevent the mutations from occurring.

It was clear to me that the actors thought the whole concept was very weak and they weren’t really enjoying themselves. As the last scene was filmed and the actors headed for the dressing room area, I was walking along with them and saw lots of head shaking. As Patrick Stewart was unbuttoning the top of his uniform he made the comment: “That was insane.” 

I guess that’s why this episode never aired!


Thursday, April 17, 2014

Our Yard

It’s Easter Break and I’m at my computer at home instead of at work this morning. That means I get to look out the window at our bird feeders, which I just filled about five minutes ago. I love our yard. The activity is nonstop. In the past few minutes I’ve counted 30 indigo buntings, a beautiful little blue bird about sparrow size, 5 blue jays, 5 doves, 3 cardinals, 2 brown thrashers, 2 red bellied woodpeckers, 1 red headed woodpecker, and 6 squirrels. There’ll be a lot more doves, cardinals, and squirrels across the day.

Last night we had our usual posse of raccoons. At one point after Lana had thrown out the scraps I heard something fall over on the back porch and went to look. A coon was up on the railing and walked right up to the glass back door and peered in while I was standing there. A little later I saw a possum in the yard.

I grew up in the country, of course, and have seen a lot of critters in my life. I think I’m enjoying them more now than I ever did before, though. I’ve spent most of my life either daydreaming or working. And whenever I’m doing either of those things, I do them in an intensely immersed state that doesn’t allow for many distractions. Finally now, in my fifth decade, I’m starting to look up occasionally from whatever has my attention at the moment and just watch the life around me.  I owe Lana for a lot of this. She’s taught me quite a bit about just experiencing without having to analyze. It’s rather a joy.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Skyrim Victory

I’ve posted here before about my favorite video game, which is Skyrim. This is an heroic fantasy game, in which one can play various types of heroes in a fantasy setting full of demi-gods, assassins, wizards and dragons. I’ve chosen to be a Nord warrior, although you can also take the thief’s route, the assassin’s route, or the mage’s route. The Nord are a hardy Northern race akin roughly to Vikings. My character’s name is Ruane.

There is an overall story arch to the game in which the player becomes the Dovakin, meaning kin to dragons. Dragons had disappeared from the land but something is now bringing them back to life, and the Dovakin has to solve that mystery and defeat the enemy causing it. Along the way there are lots of side entanglements, including having to choose between the southern empire (basically Rome) that rules the land or a local uprising that hopes to throw the empire out of Skyrim. You also have to deal with vampires and werewolves along the way, or become one, and explore many caves, grottos, and ruins that contain monsters.

I’ve now solved the major mystery of the game but am still playing some side quests. I really like the exploration part of the game, and there’s a couple of other elements that I like very much that Lana laughs at me about. First, you get to smith up your own weapons and armor from materials you find in your journeys. Then you can add enchantments such as fire or frost resistance, enhanced archery skill, added shock damage etc to the weapons and armor you make.  I’ve had tremendous fun doing this, and have continued it after the main quest is over.

Second, books exist in the Skyrim universe--all kinds of books, such as spell tomes, history texts, explorer’s journals and so on. And you can acquire houses in the game that have bookshelves in them where you can add or take away books. I’ve steadily been acquiring all the books I can find as I’ve gone through the game, and now that the major part is over I’ve started filling my bookshelves. In this aspect the game is much like my real life. And I take joy in it.

I’ll mention one more fun element of the game to end this post. A skill that players develop as they move through the game is the ability to “shout.” Shout is a magical attack and there are shouts that can freeze things, set things on fire, slow down time and many others. My favorite shout is one called “Unrelenting Force,” which hits the enemy with a intense blast of air that can send them flying. Lana also gets a kick out of this shout and has actually put up a video on You Tube of me using this shout on various targets. The music she set it to really makes the vid. If you’d like to check it out, it’s HERE.  (The horse you see in some of the clips is Shadow Mere, a pretty cool companion beast that you can get in the game.)

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Oh the Cruelty, or is that Cruelness?

Well, been almost a week since I posted on the blog. I don’t know how time gets away from me. For one, we had preregistration last week, and I gave a test on Friday and got 30 essays from another class on Friday. Lots of grading over the weekend.

I had also been doing some writing. I finished a short horror story called “Long Dead Woman in a Black Dress,” which I’ll be submitting soon. I’m about halfway done with an SF story that carries the working title “Electric Love in Blue.” And I’ve drafted the first scene of a new Krieg story, which I’m calling “Where All the Souls are Hollow.”

Then came Sunday. On Sunday, all the plumbing in the house seemed to clog up, and it’s gotten worse. Plumber is supposed to come today (Tuesday) and I hope the news won’t be too bad. I don’t know about you, but these kinds of domestic crises take a toll on me. I know I should roll with the flow (or non-flow considering our current issue), but I just find it hard to concentrate when dealing with this kind of stuff. I let it get to me too much.

On the review front, I think the interview over on Prashant’s blog came off well. I sure appreciate him putting it up. On the less positive side, I also noticed a couple of days ago that Bitter Steel has a new review and it is a 1 star stomp. Looks like it went up about a month ago but this is the first I’ve seen it.  I apparently achieved the notable level of “tripe!”  This is actually the first 1 star review I’ve ever gotten for anything so I have to keep it in perspective.

Whether reviews are good or bad, I always read them to see if I can pick up any insights into what readers like or don’t like. This one was not very helpful, though. Besides the “tripe” label, he adds: “Then I stumbled upon the word 'cruelness', and I knew that it was a lost cause. Out of all the actual words the author could have chosen, he picked 'cruelness'. The word is 'cruelty', Shakespeare.”

Of course, cruelness is a perfectly good word that is found in dictionaries everywhere and is even counted as a word in Scrabble. I remember considering “cruelty” in the context of the story but I felt that ‘cruelness’ had the better sound in that particular situation.  So, if the use of “cruelness” instead of “cruelty” can make such an impact on this particular reader, there was no way I’d ever reach him anyway. Frankly, I’ve been much more troubled by 3 star reviews that took the work seriously and found something lacking.

Wednesday, April 02, 2014

Reviews, Updated

Updated News:

Prashant, over at Chess, Comics, Crosswords, Books, Music, Cinema, has now put up the review of Killing Trail, and there is an interview with yours truly.  I hope you'll get a chance to drop by and leave a comment. I'll be checking back and forth during the day to answer any questions that folks might have for me.

Also, Aimless Writer (Jeanne) still has her review of Harmland: Dark Tales up over on her blog. I'm very glad to see she enjoyed it. If you'd like, you can read her review here. She has a couple of books of her own available that you should check out.